An old doorstep joke employed by (British) Labour Party canvassers was that “Tory” originally designated an Irish horse thief. The OED says of its etymology:
Anglicized spelling of Irish tóraidhe, -aighe … â€˜pursuer’
and notes various historical usages, including:
In the 17th c., one of the dispossessed Irish, who became outlaws, subsisting by plundering and killing the English settlers and soldiers; a bog-trotter, a rapparee; later, often applied to any Irish Papist or Royalist in arms.
I think Johnson’s definition was the source of our slur:
A cant term, derived, I suppose, from an Irish word signifying a savage.
After Johnson the terrain shifts, and Macaulay writes:
If.. we look at the essential characteristics of the Whig and the Tory, we may consider each of them as the representative of a great principle… One is, in an especial manner, the guardian of liberty, and the other of order. One is the moving power, and the other the steadying power of the state.
Things have moved on again, and for the purposes of this election campaign I think the word is intended to invoke a peaceable middle-aged Englishman with no known political opinions who smiles a lot, is fond of sport and his children, and would probably enjoy a drink with you.
Hooligan‘s first known incarnation was also an Irish troublemaker:
The name Hooligan figured in a music-hall song of the eighteen-nineties, which described the doings of a rowdy Irish family, and a comic Irish character of the name appeared in a series of adventures in Funny Folks.
and it has endured in English as
A young street rough, a member of a street gang.
However in Spanish usage the meaning appears to have shifted considerably. This morning’s Marca piece on the Arsenal fans in Barcelona for the (magnificent) Champions’ League tie against Barça was entitled “More than 2,000 hooligans meet in the Port of Barcelona without incident” and, like other coverage, portrayed not bloodthirsty Fenians but peaceable middle-aged Englishmen with no known political opinions who smile a lot, are fond of sport and their children, and would probably enjoy a drink with you.
So maybe, somewhere up there in the great European cloud of good intentions, Tories are hooligans and nice, and Dave, having Bullingdoned the mood, will be in No 10 in a month’s time. It’s not something I think people are going to get terribly worked up about, either way.
The Spectator comes to similar conclusions by a somewhat different route.
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