Posted by Woodchuck on November 15, 2002
In Reply to: Jack, the flag posted by TheFallen on November 15, 2002
: : : : I am US-born, but my father was from Glasgow, and he often used this term. I took it to mean a sort of cocky, dandy, self-confident sort of fellow. Does it refer to some historical figure or is it just a generic, British idiom?
: : : I think it's generic, rather than historical. You're right about cocky and self-confident, but less so about dandy. A Jack the lad is also somewhat roguish, a person who gets up to minor sins and maybe even minor crimes, albeit the expression is more fond than pejorative - you usually can't help but like a Jack the lad. I have no proof at all, but I suspect the expression arose from the joining of two separate terms - in the UK, "Jack" was used to refer to the ordinary man in the street, as in "I'm all right, Jack" (a little like the US usage of Joe, as in he's a regular Joe, I suppose). Similarly "lad" in the UK is still used to describe someone who's loud and boisterous - "he's a bit of a lad" and "laddish" are commonly used to this day. We even have the recent coinage of "ladettes" to describe lager-swilling brash twenty-something girls out in droves at night.
: : Speaking of which, why is the British flag called the Union Jack? Or maybe it's The Union, Jack? :)
: Strictly speaking, it's only called the Union jack when it's flown on a boat or ship. At all others times it should correctly be referred to as the Union flag. Jack in this sense is a generic word for any flag flown from a ship (attached to a jackstaff, usually), although especially one that denotes nationality. As to the Union part? The flag is a amalgamated overlay of the cross of St. George (patron saint of England), the cross of St. Andrew (patron saint of Scotland) and the cross of St. Patrick (patron saint of Ireland). The Welsh don't get a look-in with their dragon, maybe because they were never a kingdom as such, or maybe because it was just too hard to incorporate.
: More detailed flag information on the Union flag available at the link below (which I've just noticed answers the Welsh issue).
Paradoxically, TheFallen is not wrong, and yet, not right. Wales was briefly a kingdom.
The Kings were Rhodri Mawr (Rhodri the Great), Hywel Dda (Hywel the Good), Gruffudd ap Llywelyn (1039-63), Llywelyn ap Iorwerth (Llwyelyn the Great) (1194-1240) and Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (1248-82).
However, TheFallen said Wales was never a "kingdom as such" which tells me he's taking the long view of Wales varied history.
Moving from world history to word history, _The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language_ provides the following:
"Although Celtic-speaking peoples were living in Britain before the arrival of the invaders from Friesland and Jutland whose languages would eventually develop into English, it was the Celts and not the invaders who came to be called "strangers" in English. Our words for the descendants of one of the Celtish peoples, Welsh, and for their homeland, Wales, come from the Old English word wealh, meaning "foreigner, stranger, Celt." Its plural wealas is the direct ancestor of Wales, literally "foreigners." The Old English adjective derived from wealh, wælisc or welisc, is the source of our Welsh. The Germanic form for the root from which wealh descended was *walh-, "foreign." We also have attested once in Old English the compound walhhnutu in a document from around 1050; its next recording appears in 1358 as walnottes. This eventually became walnut in Modern English, which is thus literally the "foreign nut." The nut was "foreign" because it was native to Roman Gaul and Italy."
This foreign nut thinks she'll read some Dylan Thomas this weekend.