Posted by Shae on December 05, 2004
I go away for a week and you lot go all Gaelic behind my back!
Keith is almost correct. Dolan's Dictionary of Hiberno-English has a little more to add.
SMITHEREENS: small broken fragments; little pieces, from Irish smidiríní (plural of smidirín, dimin. of smiodar, fragment); but cf. E dial. 'smaddereen,' a small quantity (a dialectical form of smattering); Hogan* notes: 'The origin of this word is doubtful. Ir. smidirín is probably borrowed from the Anglo-Irish word. OED thinks that the latter is English dialectical 'smithers' = fragments + Anglo-Irish suffix '-een.' But 'smithereens' is recorded much earlier than 'smithers'; and there is an Anglo-Irish 'smither' = to break into bits.
*Hogan, Jeremiah J., 'The English Language in Ireland,' Dublin: Educational Company of Ireland, 1927