Tuesday, 18 March 2008


...de la Star Gazette News:

"Tyke" caught me by surprise. I grew up hearing my mother apply it affectionately to children and hadn't bothered to check it out.

When I finally did look it up, I discovered that it's an old word that came into Middle English from Old Norse, and wasn't (and still isn't) awfully complimentary.

The first meaning of "tyke" is a mongrel, an inferior dog, or a clumsy and ill-mannered person. Only after it's all those things is it a mischievous child or, perhaps, just a child without the mischief. Other related forms of the word appeared early in Celtic languages, such as Welsh, where it designates a villain.

Or in Cornish, where it signifies a rustic or a farmer. This sense is the one William Langland used in 1393 when he wrote of "tikes and cheorles" ("tykes and churls")...

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