21 june 2010

chant de gaffe

I always enjoy a word with no etymology: picnic/pique-nique for instance has no known origin either in French or English.

Now here's another (from the OED):

Shandy, n. Short for SHANDYGAFF. Also, a mixture of beer and fizzy lemonade.
First recorded usage 1888, The Daily News.

The French call it panaché (a mixture), the Germans radler (a cyclist or cyclist's drink). Mixing beer with soft drinks seems fairly recent, and while some concern has been expressed at mixing the savoury (beer) with the sweet (lemonade) across the Atlantic (shandy is not big in the US), there are some other horrors lurking out there . . . something called diesel, drunk in the Low Countries, which is a mix of lager and cola. Diesel is also sometimes a lager/cider mix best known in the UK as snakebite; some pubs refuse to serve it (on the grounds that it goes too far, provoking riotous behaviour among the clientele) and I've even been denied a black and tan (Guinness and bitter mix) on the grounds that it might have similar properties. Back to shandy:

Shandygaff, n. A drink composed of a mixture of beer and ginger-beer.
First recorded usage 1853.

So we seem to see an evolution from ginger-beer shandy to lemonade shandy: the default now of course is lemonade, perhaps following the change in popular lemonades from the green to the clear (the green is unimaginable mixed with beer).

Given that the adjective shandy (now obs.) meant crazy or muddled (and some cocktails even now are made by muddling) the whole thing may be made clearer, but the OED steadfastly persists with : of unknown origin.

And by the way: Happy Solstice.