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whack for the daddy 'ol [daddy-o]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sami33, Apr 3, 2012.

  1. sami33

    sami33 Senior Member


    Please what does "whack for the daddy 'ol" mean in this lyrics?:

    musha ring dumma do damma da
    whack for the daddy 'ol
    whack for the daddy 'ol
    there's whiskey in the jar

    Source: Dubliners - Whiskey In The Jar

  2. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    Conjecture: It means nothing.
  3. sami33

    sami33 Senior Member

    Thank you so so very much Beryl.
  4. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    It's the title of an old Irish rebel song, written by Peadar Kearney and famously recorded by Liam Clancy of the Clancy Brothers in 1959; the proper spelling is "Whack Fol the Diddle". As far as I know, the words don't have any specific meanings but are just nonsense syllables. (I don't claim expertise, though, and someone else may have better information.)
  5. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    There is a long history of including nonsense words in English folk songs. "Hey nonny nonny" in Shakespeare's "Sigh no more ladies" refers to this tradition.
    Then sigh not so,
    But let them go,
    And be you blithe and bonny;
    Converting all your sounds of woe
    Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

    I suppose that nonsense words allow the listener time to reflect and listen to the music alone, rather than taking on new verbal information.

    However, it might be worth while posting Sami's question in the "Other languages" forum to enquire if "Whack for the daddy ol'" or "Whack fol the diddle" refer to any expression in the Irish language.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  6. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    There are many attempted versions to explain this as Irish. Google "Whiskey in the jar" and follow the various links to obtain more information than you want.
  7. Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    The title of the song is Whiskey in the Jar or There's Whiskey in the Jar, it was not written by Peadar Kearney, and it isn't a rebel song. This Wikipedia article seems to give a reasonable summary.
  8. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Andy, my information in post #4 came from the notes accompanying the Clancy Brothers/Tommy Makem 1959 album (The Rising of the Moon) that included that recording. Take your choice! :)

    Added: I've now read the Wikipedia account, and there's something a bit amiss, since I've got Liam Clancy's 1959 recording. But of course the album notes labeling it a rebel song written by Peadar Kearney refer solely to the lyric, not to the traditional folk melody.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  9. Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    @Parla - PM sent. We're going off topic - the song Parla is referring to is not Whiskey in the Jar, it is Whack Fol the Diddle, hence the polite disagreement over author and classification.
  10. Randwulfen New Member

    English - Canada
    Although there are "nonsense" words interjected into songs to carry you through a chorus, "whack for the daddy 'o", or whatever version of the words are given, are most likely an abberation of something once meaningful whose accurate meaning has been forgotten: ie., a "Cajun" is someone whose lineage dates back to French "Acadian" ancestory...or, the word "Yankee" and "Honky" (ie Honky Tonk) come from the word "Anglais", the French word for English (whiteman). It is entirely possible that the phrase "whack for the daddy o" is and abberation from the Irish language, which makes it even more difficult for us English persons to research. I am also curious to know its original meaning, and its reference to there being "whiskey in the jar", which is a clue no doubt.
  11. Oleg68

    Oleg68 Senior Member

    <<Moderator's note: New question, merged with an older thread. Please scroll up to read the whole thread.>>

    How do you understand the line "Whack for my daddy-o"?

    Whack for my daddy-o,
    There's whiskey in the jar-o.
    (Smokie, Whiskey in the jar)

    I choose between "strong shock", "I gave part of the money to my dad".
    Someone supposed "and another glass of eggnog".
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2014
  12. Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    You mean "Whack fol my daddy-o". I learnt the song almost 50 years ago. It means absolutely nothing, just as does the previous line which you may see as "Mush-a ring dum a do dum a da" or something similar.

    The words in the version you found are wrong.
    Cork's 100 km from Kerry, and there's no mountains anywhere near Cork. A more reliable version of the words can be found if you include the word "Dubliners" in your search.
  13. Oleg68

    Oleg68 Senior Member

    Anyway "my daddy"= "my father". I know that the word "Mush" means nothing.
    Do you want to say that "whack" is the same as "mush"?
  14. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    He's saying that these are just meaningless syllables put in the song because they fit the meter and sound nice. I think that's it. The fact that two of those syllables happen to be "daddy" doesn't give the phrase any extra meaning.
  15. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    Here's an earlier thread on this very same song: "whack for the daddy ol' [daddy-o]." You'll see that you aren't the only one having difficulties with these lyrics, and also that there are many variations on the spelling and so on. :)
  16. Sparky Malarky Senior Member

    English - US
    Mush and whack and daddy are all words with legitimate meanings. But in this song they are just nonsense sounds.

    Are you familiar with the Beatles' song Ob-la-di ob-la-da?

    Ob-la-di ob-la-da life goes on bra
    La-la how the life goes on

    I promise you, this song has nothing to do with a brassiere.

    Many songs use nonsense lyrics such as shoop de doo and hey nonny nonny. Sometimes sounds that are actually the same sounds as real words are used. They still have no meaning.
  17. Oleg68

    Oleg68 Senior Member

    I got. Thank you very much, Andygc, JustKate, Sparky Malarky!
  18. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Irish songs are replete with lines that meet the rhythm and mean nothing. You should feel free to re-invent the nonsense syllables, provided that you keep to the rhythm and general sonority of the song. See also lilting :)
  19. Fiddle Cluber New Member

    Maybe nonsense, maybe not. In British English, which this song is, "whack" has definitions at least 400 years old meaning "to get the better of someone" and "to portion out a share of," as in "a share of loot." As a noun, it can mean "a portion or share," as in "my whack of the loot." Likewise, "daddy" dates to the 14th Century as a diminutive for "father," but took on many slang meanings still in use today, including "a man who is a 'keeper' of a woman" not necessarily his wife. Hence, "whack for the daddy" may mean "loot I'm taking home to Molly so we can get drunk and... you know...." Some versions have it as "whack on my daddy" or "whack for my daddy." To take it further, the following line and title doesn't make much sense in context if the preceding line is merely nonsense. "There's whiskey in the jar" could be analogous to "I've got money in my pocket, I'm going to buy some whiskey and then... you know.... with Molly." Unfortunately, he's betrayed to the British by his lover (she probably got her "whack" out of it), he's forced to kill the brute in self-defense, and now, off to the gallows.
  20. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Well done... after all this time. Where were you two years ago come April when the question was asked? :D

    PS welcome to WRF.
  21. Fiddle Cluber New Member

    PaulQ, two years ago I was re-learning to play the banjo with my son's high school "fiddle club," aka "Pickle Alley." This past week, we were learning "Whiskey in the Jar" and I thought I'd do a little research to see what it was all about. I was as puzzled about "whack for the daddy" as anybody!

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