I assume that most of you are familiar with the word 'bloke' (informal British English for 'man'), but you might not know where it comes from. I didn't until yesterday.
I was doing some background research for a Daily Mail-style gypsy-bashing story – we're not the most PC of publications – when I read on Wikipedia that the word 'bloke' comes from the language Shelta.
What's Shelta? "An ancient secret language used by Irish and Welsh tinkers and gypsies, based on altered Irish or Gaelic words," according to the OED, which dates 'bloke' to the 19th century. You might know Shelta as Pavee, or The Cant. Parts of the Irish Traveller community (gypsies if you like) still speak it.
Some more digging shows that the term 'bloke' (or 'bloak', as it was sometimes spelled) was even once popular in America. This may or may not help the next time your American friends laugh at you for using funny words...
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