Date: Sun, 7 Dec 1997 10:45:58 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: Welsher (Welcher)

Sorry -- I didn't quite see from your discussion below how you cleared up

for sure that "welsh/welch" comes from the nationality. What I thought I saw

was that one published source speculates about that possibility, and many

others that are aware of the same speculations say "origin obscure". In

etymology, the most vivid and detailed account is not always necessarily the

most accurate one. Anyway, as for use or nonuse of the word, those of us who

don't bet with people probably don't find ourselves tempted to use it much

from year to year anyway -- passive knowledge and all that....

Greg D./NYU

At 10:28 AM 12/7/97, you (Peggy Smith dj611[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]cleveland.Freenet.Edu ) wrote:

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,


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

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]