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 Senior Member

    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

    London but from Yorkshire
    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

    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

    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 by a moderator: Oct 25, 2014
  12. Andygc

    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. Sparky Malarky

    Sparky Malarky Moderator

    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.
  16. Oleg68

    Oleg68 Senior Member

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

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    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 :)
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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!
  21. tango222 New Member

    You all need to use dictionaries. Per World Book:
    1. to strike with a smart, resounding blow or blows.
    2. Slang. to divide into or take in shares (often followed by up):
    Whack the loot between us two.
  22. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Ref post #19 and #20. The song isn't British English, it's Irish English. The girl's called Jenny, not Molly. Nobody gets murdered, and nobody goes to the gallows. The text attributed to the Dubliners is incorrect (they never sang "whack for the daddy", and neither did the Clancy Brothers). There's several minor variations of the wording in different versions of the chorus, and given that the first line is complete gibberish, there seems little point in trying to make sense of later lines, especially given the background to such songs mentioned in post #18. There's also no "us two" to share the loot. Jenny betrays him, and by the time he gets to his "brother in the army", Colonel Farrell has his money back and there's no loot to share.
  23. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Wikipedia has a reasonably well documented history of the song, which seems to date back to the mid-19th century as "Whiskey in the bar", with claims to the 17th. There's been many versions of it. When I used to sing it, the hero was a highwayman; musha ring was musha-ree and it was "Captain Farrell" (he must have been promoted since.)
    And to confirm tango's comment: OED
    Grose's Dictionary is particularly good with thieve's jargon and I expect that the meaning was extended to general theft/robbery.

    The "the daddy 'ol" could be a corruption of anything... "daddy" according to the OED, was recorded as having only its literal meaning until the mid-19th century, and thereafter there is nothing that would fit the context.
  24. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    PaulQ, quite right, it's "Captain". My brain slipped as I wrote.
  25. CunningSparkMage New Member

    I am by no means an expert, however... I believe the answer is quite simple. Many Irish folk songs I've listened to have similar phrases...
    They seem to have no meaning...more like a feeling associated with them. You wouldn't hear them in conversation because they aren't "words" per se... more like popularly used nonsensical expletives.

    for further reference:

    "Me Grandfather Died" (Clancy Brothers)
    "Whack Fol The Diddle" (Clancy Brothers)
    "Courtin' In the Kitchen" (Gaelic Storm)
    "Gypsy Rover" (Seamus Kennedy)
    (XXX) does not denote original author, only preferred performing artist...

    These phrases have cultural context, and some colloquially accepted connotations, but no real meaning to them.

    American Equivalents:
    Boom shangalang, doowap doowap, scoobiedoobiedoo...
    various grunts and gutteral sounds from a majority of rap music...
    high-pitched yells of excitement popular in many country songs...
    shouts and calls in traditional Mexican music...
  26. Khabal New Member

    Español - España
    Maybe the right answer, maybe not, but to me it feels the more satisfying. I just registered to tell you that, and to (hopefuly) add a meaning for "There's whisky in the jar"; to me, after hearing the song, since he has lost his love, money and freedom, "at least, there is whisky in the jar". < Non-English removed. >


    < English only in the English Only forum, please. Cagey, moderator. >
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 5, 2015
  27. Seabertson New Member

    The term "whack" could be a verb for drinking alcohol; "to take a whack". 'Whack to my daddy-oh' could be a reference to drinking to the memory of the author's father. We know the story-teller is a man who robbed a man for money to spend on whiskey and women. He compares himself to other men and their pursuits, and says that he likes sleeping. The notion that the author is "drinking to his father" may just be an expression of his character. He's merely using this an excuse to drink.
  28. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I agree with the "meaningless" folks.
  29. Neilito

    Neilito Senior Member

    Canary Is., Spain
    Always assumed they were nonsense, typical song fill-in syllables (it's the chorus, folks) but it's fascinating that "whack" might be a long forgotten reference to robbery and loot, which fits the song recounting a robbery.

    Note also Musha at the start of the phrase is typical rural hiberno-English, spelt Muise or Mhuise in Irish, albeit rather oldfashioned and less used nowadays. It's little more than an interjection, the dictionaries have it as "Indeed" or "Well...". But I associate it with a kind of expression of resignation, like when Irish people (still) say "Ah sure..." and global English has "but anyway...".

    I still feel sure that "Ring dumma do dumma da" is nonsense. It sounds nothing like the Irish language. It's there for the rhythm.
  30. burrmanchu

    burrmanchu New Member

    This. So much this. Good on you for at least taking a swing at it! Musha (incorrect spelling) is the same as saying "Welp" or "So yeah...." in English. Ring-um-do-rum-da (or whatever version you want of it) is them messing around with nonsense.. the same as ob-la-dee ob-la-da, or whoop-dee-do, or any other number of things people mentioned... so yes, that part IS nonsense. However, the "Whack fol the daddy ol'" is not. Depending on how early you want to date the saying, it could mean "a share for your ol' pops", or even "dad got lumped on the head and fell down". But just because something uses outdated terms or old Irish slang, people shouldn't immediately assume that it's jumbled garbage. The line is not without meaning.

    As for the guy who corrected this opinion, there are multiple versions of the song, and the perfect original lyrics will never be known at this point. Because Fiddle quoted a lyric or two differently, from Molly to Jenny, or Captain Ferrell to Sargeant this-or-that, or WHATEVER.. it doesn't change the fact the the line in question does have a meaning. Multiple in fact, depending on when and where it was sung. These folk tunes evolve over time. < --- >

    < Off topic comments removed. Cagey, moderator >
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2016

Share This Page