Tag Archives: rhyming slang

“Bloody Norah!” – Who was she?

Bloody Nora in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is totally irrelevant to what follows…

Yesterday, my eternally un-named friend mused on the origin of the phrase “Bloody Norah!” (or “Bloody Nora!”) – a British exclamation used to convey surprise, contempt or frustration.

I had no idea where this came from.

Apparently the phrase is rare or non-existent in the USA and Canada but it is common in British, Australian and New Zealand slang, with “Flaming Nora!” as an alternative.

I think, like many a bizarre saying, no-one really knows the origin.

But the Guardian’s late-lamented Notes & Queries section had a stab at it (with readers’ suggestions).

And here (risking copyright infringement) is what they reckoned…


SEMANTIC ENIGMAS

Who was Bloody Norah and why is she used as an exclamation?

  • Bloody Norah was originally called Norah and the maid for the wealthy Duke Wodingtonshire in the 17th century. She earned the name Bloody Norah after she killed a servant of the duke with a stick of celery. When the Duke caught her repeatedly slapping the bloody corpse with the stick of celery he shouted “Oh dear god, you’re all bloody, Norah….” and, after beating her, he banished her to a basement cell for 3 years.

    When the 3 years was up, the Duke set her free but Norah insisted on working for the Duke. Reluctantly the Duke gave her a job cleaning the stables only to find 4 days later she had killed another servant, this time with a kettle. When the Duke found her once again maiming her victim with the dented kettle, he cried, “Oh, bloody Norah!” and grabbed a horseshoe in an attempt to kill Norah.

    After a long struggle, Norah escapes, leaving the battered Duke cussing to himself: “Bloody Norah!”.

    The expression came from the Duke himself, as he would tell the story of Norah to all he knew and would always refer to her as “Bloody Norah”.

    As the Duke aged he grew senile, he would be heard talking to himself and shouting: “….BLOODY NORAH!!!!……”. And, as people around saw him still as a respected figure in the community, they all started saying “Bloody Norah!” as they all thought the Duke has invented a new cuss word. It has stuck until the present day.
    (Ronnie, Essex, UK)
    I think Norah’s up there with “Gordon Bennett”, “Christchurch Cathedral” and “Blood & Sand” as a way of pretending not to swear once you’ve started. Similarly “God blind me” has become “Cor Blimey” and “By Our Lady” has become “Bloody”
    (Chris Bourne, Brussels, Belgium)
    ‘Nora’ is not a woman’s name but a form of the word ‘horror’. The phrase started off as “flaming horror” (or “flipping/bloody etc horror”) as a cry of dismay/disbelief. In the normal Cockney manner, the final ‘g’ and the opening ‘h’ were dropped to produce something that sounded like “flamin-orror” and that in turn over the years became “Flamin’ Nora!”…or “Bloody Nora” as a stronger alternative. So Nora wasn’t a person at all but the result of an accent.
    (David, Weybridge, England)
    During the 1990s in England a surge of mock-Cockneys arose and with it also surged their use of the irritating rhyming Cockney slang. This was one of the expressions that came about then; you will not find reference to it before then.
    (Laura Evans, Plaistow, London, UK)
    “Bloody Nora!” has been used in the London area for many years, in the same way as “Gawd Blimey!”. In the 1970s I recall an incident in a pub when a female friend arrived inappropriately dressed. When someone remarked “Bloody Nora!”, a Durham associate asked, “Oh, is her name Nora?”. The expression had obviously not travelled that far north.
    (Rob Harrington, Leyton, London, UK)

Basically, no-one really knows…

For example, the first explanation cites ‘Duke Wodingtonshire’ – a title which, as far as I know, has never existed.

The phrase was in common usage well before the 1990s. And “flamin-orror” turning into “Flamin’ Nora!” when said in a Cockney accent sounds more like something Dick Van Dyke might say in Mary Poppins rather than a real Cockney pronunciation.

“Blood and Sand!” – which I have never of heard before – is more cocktail than Cockney.

My eternally un-named friend is also not convinced it is possible to kill anyone with a stick of celery.

If it IS possible, I can only pray she never finds out details of the technique…

…and that talented storyteller ‘Ronnie from Essex’ writes a novel or a screenplay sharpish, incorporating the celery…

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A man with Tourette’s Syndrome and an FBI file… Plus how comedian Ricky Grover insulted me.

So, the story goes like this…

On Monday night, I went to the New Act of the Year auditions at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch, one of the jolliest and most brightly-coloured comedy clubs in Britain. A film crew was coincidentally filming scenes for an upcoming movie called The Comedian.

The Comedy Cafe’s owner, Noel Faulkner, has had a ‘colourful’ past which he revealed in his astonishing 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show Shake, Rattle & Noel. I first met him when we were both helping-out our mutual chum Ricky Grover by appearing in an early pilot/showreel for his planned movie Bulla, which Ricky has recently completed as a ‘pucka’ feature film with Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Peter Capaldi etc.

Noel has Tourette’s Syndrome which doesn’t mean he swears uncontrollably but does mean he occasionally twitches uncontrollably… except, oddly, he doesn’t do it when he’s performing on stage or on film. This non-twitching while performing caused surreal problems during the autobiographical Shake, Rattle and Noel show, as he was talking about how he twitched uncontrollably without actually twitching uncontrollably.

Noel has lived a life-and-a-half and he isn’t through with it yet.

After being brought up in Ireland by the Christian Brothers and working on fishing trawlers and having some peripheral encounters with the IRA, he was in Swinging London at its height where he got involved with the young Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood and sold Gary Glitter his first glitter suit. Noel’s twitching made him a wow in discos – people thought he was a great disco dancer – and it was assumed to be drug-induced, so he fitted perfectly into the very Swinging London scene.

Then he went to hippie San Francisco before Haight Ashbury turned into Hate Ashbury and became a friend of the young, before-he-was-famous Robin Williams. Noel ended up on the run from the FBI, went to New York as an actor and comic, dealt directly with and smuggled dope for the early Colombian drug cartels, was caught and deported from the US, returned to London and set up the Comedy Cafe, one of the few purpose-built comedy venues in the capital.

So this – the Comedy Cafe – was where I found myself on Monday night for the New Act of the Year comedy auditions, the 28th year of the contest – it used to be called the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year (Eddie Izzard came 12th one year). The final used to be held a the Hackney Empire, which organisers Roland & Claire Muldoon ran. This year, the final takes place at The Barbican on Saturday 19th March.

It was well worth going because I saw for a second time the promising up-and-coming stand-up Pat Cahill and, for the first time, the very interesting indeed Duncan Hart who had a dark and very well-crafted set about a heart problem in a hospital, a drug overdose, a mugging at gunpoint and much more. Not obvious comedy subjects and potentially difficult to tailor for comedy in a 5-minute spot, but he performed it flawlessly.

The only downside was that, looking around the Comedy Cafe’s full room, I was, as usual, almost certainly the oldest punter in the room. This depressing scenario is even more depressing when I am up at the Edinburgh Fringe and street flyerers ignore me without a second glance because – clearly, at my age – I can’t possibly be interested in comedy.

Ricky Grover cast me as a bank manager in his Bulla showreel because he has always said I look like a banker (and I don’t think he was using Cockney rhyming slang). After the financial meltdown, I should take this as an insult. And I will. But I won’t tell him.

It would be far too dangerous.

It will be our little secret.

Just you and me.

OK?

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Bankers, Cockney rhyming slang and a very wise woman

There’s a report out today about the British banking system. About whether the banks are too big. The problem for me isn’t size, it’s efficiency – and I wish I could say that in reference to other areas of my life.

The words “piss-up”, “brewery”, “in”, a”, “organise” and “couldn’t” spring to mind and the Cockney rhyming slang for “wankers” comes as no surprise to me.

For many years, my current account has been with Bank of Scotland; I also have an account with Halifax, which is part of Bank of Scotland. Both are now owned by Lloyds Bank.

Because of the lack of Bank of Scotland branches in London, I have long paid money into my BoS account via Halifax: I just walk into any Halifax branch with my BoS Cashcard and pay money into my BoS account.

If I want to pay a bill – a gas or electricity bill or anything else, I can now just go into any branch of Lloyds Bank with the appropriate paying-in slip and pay the bill using a Bank of Scotland cheque.

Yesterday, I attempted to pay a Virgin Media cheque into my own Bank of Scotland current account at a Lloyds branch.

I was told I could not pay anything into my Bank of Scotland current account – not a cheque, not cash – because, although Lloyds own Bank of Scotland, it is “a separate bank”.

Well, chums, Bank of Scotland and Halifax are equally separate, but I can still pay money into BoS via Halifax – and I can still pay a bill via Lloyds using a Bank of Scotland cheque.

So I can pay money into other people’s accounts with other banks via Lloyds, but I cannot pay money into my own Bank of Scotland account, despite the fact Lloyds own Bank of Scotland.

We appear to have entered a surreal parallel universe here.

So I am moving my account to Royal Bank of Scotland. They have not-a-lot of branches in London, but they do own NatWest Bank and I can simply walk into any NatWest branch and pay money into a Royal Bank of Scotland account. No problem.

Lloyds may not be too big to survive. But it is certainly too incompetent to survive.

I remember standing in Liverpool Street station in the heart of the City of London one Friday afternoon at 4.30pm watching City workers going home, early, paralytically drunk. Not just swaying but staggering, their limbs jerking erratically like headless chickens with Parkinson’s Disease wearing dark business suits.

These were not old drunken men; they were bright young City dudes in their twenties and early thirties and they must have been drinking all afternoon, while foggy-mindedly running the UK economy in the financial powerhouse that is the City of London.

I had money in two Icelandic banks when their entire financial system disintegrated in 2007. Those two banks were each more efficient than Lloyds Bank – and they both crashed. I suspect those Icelandic bankers did not drink ‘on the job’.

British bankers do.

Whither the British banking system?

Whither Lloyds?

The mother of a friend of mine used to live in various dodgy foreign countries (her husband was in the RAF and she later worked for NATO). She wore a series of thin but pure gold bracelets on her wrists because she knew, with them, she could buy her way out of any country if it suddenly collapsed.

A very wise woman.

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