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Having a barney

Posted by TheFallen on March 25, 2002

To "have a barney" is a phrase commonly used in London at least. For the benefit of US readers, it means to become involved in an argument or fight and has no connection whatsoever with any kind of purple dinosaur. My belief had been that the origins of this phrase are Cockney, but an Irish friend of mine assures me that the phrase is equally as common in Dublin.

I wonder who Barney was, if anyone? I've certainly heard the modern piece of rhyming slang "barney" used both to denote a double measure of spirits and to describle a game of doubles (usually pool in a bar) - examples: "Here's your scotch. You sure you didn't want a barney?" and "I've got the next pool game - dya fancy playing barneys?". The provenance of this latter is clear - Barney Rubble equalling double. This caused me to wonder briefly whether barney meaning argument also stems from Barney Rubble, meaning "trouble", but I rather imagine that the phrase is in this case older than any Hanna Barbera cartoon.