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Fairy Words & Their Meanings

by Bernadette Weyde

FAIRIES – “The fairies are baking,” is said of a sunshine-shower. The old people used to say: “Ta ny ferrishyn fuinney tra ta’n ghrian soilshean as y fliaghey tuittym“, i.e. The fairies are baking when the sun is shining and the rain falling.

FAIRY-BELLS & FAIRY-THIMBLES – are names for the harebell. “Them li’l fairy-thimbles is lookin’ right nice.

FAIRY-BOTTLE – knobbed sea-weed, Fucus nodosa. “When the fairy-bottles is dhry they’ll give a clap if ye’ll bus’ ’em.”

FAIRY-COOPER – the sounds of waves in a cave. “…and a noise like fairy-coopers makin’ barrals in a cave.

FAIRY-DOCTOR – a charmer who supplied herbal remedies. “She tuk the boy to the Fairy Docthor and got somethin’ that done him a power o’ gud.

FAIRY-FIDDLE – the egg-case of the gobbag (dogfish). “He foun’ a fairy-fiddle on the shore with long sthrings to it.”

FAIRY-FLAX – the greater stitchwort (Slellaria holostea). “The oul’ people was callin’ it ‘Lieen-ferrish’ and tha’s manin ‘fairy flax’ all the same.”

FAIRY FLEET – phosphorescent effects at sea. “The fairy-fleet was sailin’ on the tops o’ the waves.”

FAIRY-FLOWER – the red campion, in Manx, ‘Pinkyn ferrishyn’ (fairies pinks). “Them li’l fairy-flowers isn’ right to carry in the house.”

FAIRY-HOLE – a hole in an earthen embankment. At a corner formed by the boundary fences of the three quarterlands of Keeill Tushtag, Braust and Ballawhane, was a ‘Fairy-hole’, or hole in the top of the earthen embankment about 12 in. diam. Any one wanting a cure would put in a stone with a spit. “He took a stone out of a Fairy-hole an’ become very sick an’ he didn’ get better till he returned it.

FAIRY-LACES – a lace-like sea-weed, string sea-weed. “We wus findin’ fairy-laces on the shore and the lenth and the sthrenth of them was astonishin’ altogather.”

FAIRY-LIGHT- the phosphorescence of the summer sea. “The Lannan-shee tossed the foam from her bows all sparkling with the fairy light.

FAIRY-LUGS & FAIRIES’-EARS – are names for the fleshy fungus which grows on the stem of the Tramman or Elder-tree. “Queer coul’ things them fairy-lugs is to touch.”

FAIRY-PIG – or ‘parson’s pig’, the large wood-louse. “They run about the house those fairy-pigs, aw dear me, there’s one on the wall, take it down or it’ll be gone in some hole.

FAIRY-PINCHERS – black marks in the skin, bad dreams. “She got up in the mornin’ and fairy-pinches is all over her.”

FAIRY-THUMB – a kind of cup-shaped fungus. “The fairies were fightin’ las’ night and cut off each other’s thumbs.” “See the groun’ is all over fairies’-thumbs.”

FAIRY-WOMAN – a charmer who supplies herbal remedies. “She went one day to a wise woman livin’ near St. John’s who wus making charms, an’ she got res’ immediately after the fairy-woman made the charm.”

(source: A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect compiled by AW Moore (1924); photo is of Stellaria Holostea)

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