Date: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 10:28:06 -0500


Subject: Welsher (Welcher)

Thanks to all of you who sent me whatever you could find on the etymology of

this phrase. None of the definitions were really what I was looking for,

so while I was out braving our first snowstorm of the year yesterday to begin

my holiday shopping, I stopped at Barnes and Noble to check out what was

available in the reference section. (Closer than the nearest college library)

The Oxford Dictionary of Etymology said that the phrase welsh or welch on a

bet originated in England in the 1850's as racetrack slang and meant to

reneg on a bet. According to Oxford the origin is unknown. The Barnhart

Dictionary of Etymology said pretty much the same thing. The Morris

Dictionary of Words and Phrase Origins said that the origin stems from

the lines of a British nrusery rhyme, "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a

thief". Apparently, "Taffy" is local slang for a Welshman, and is an

acceptable one, as it is a derivative of David and St. David is the patron

saint of Wales. However, the Welsh people resent being called thieves and

cheats, which is the British stereotype. According to those in Wales, "Welsher"

was (in the 1850's) a British bookie who had overplayed longshots at the track

and couldn't pay his bets off, and so fled across the border to Wales, which

was the boondocks then, to hide out, thus, reneging on bets. He then became

a Welsher or Welshman.

THIS is what I was looking for--- the stereotype implied in the ethnic

reference. I guess I won't use the expression anymore, hey?

Peggy Smith