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    Scholar sees hidden Irish in emigrant song

    By Noreen Bowden | May 15, 2008

    “Paddy Works on the Erie”, a song that appears in different versions throughout the Irish diaspora, is a secret song that has an Irish-language message in its chorus, which was previously believed to be comprised on nonsense syllables.

    Dan Cassidy, who wrote the acclaimed book, “How the Irish Invented Slang”, says that the song dates back to famine-era immigrants. Up until this time, the meaning of the chorus, “Fil-i-me-oo-re-i-re-ay” has been lost. Cassidy says it’s an English phonetic spelling of fillfidh mé uair éirithe? meaning, “I’ll go back, time to get up.”

    Cassidy says,

    Fillfidh mé uair éirithe, (pron. fill’ih may oo-er í-ríheh, I’ll go back, time to get up), is the hidden refrain of working and rising, rising and working, that is the sanas-laoi (secret song) of Paddy and Colleen and all immigrant workin’ stiffs to America.

    The article is a great reminder of Cassidy’s book – well worth a read for anyone interested in how the massive migration of Irish people in the 19th century affected the development of American slang.

    See the article on the Counterpunch website.

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