Blowin' like ole Billyo (origin)

Posted by Shae on October 08, 2004

In Reply to: Blowin' like ole Billyo (origin) posted by Marlow on October 07, 2004

: I guess "Blowin'Like old Billyo" means 'with great speed' (irish slang) and also used in the area of St. Ives (Cornwall) for in a text I came across this local phrase: "Damme we had been a blowin like old billyo"

: any ideas on the origin of this one???

Billyo entered the English language in the late 19th century after the Rainhill steam locomotive trials between Liverpool and Manchester. These had gripped the public's imagination. Engineer George Stephenson's Puffing Billy gave rise to the expressions "running (or puffing) like Billy-o". The Puffing Billy type of "infernal combustion engine", belching steam, smoke and fire, must have appeared Dante-esque to spectators in an era of horsepower and hence its association with hell. So billyo became a general pseudonym for things hellish and useful in genteel or young company, where something could be said to "hurt like billyo" or one could invite someone to "go to billyo" without corrupting or offending - except, perhaps, one's target.