Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Billy, Billie, and more Billies, Curses, and Other Delights.

Goat, Billy Goat, Animal, Nature, MammalBilly is a word we hear quite frequently in the English language.  Without hearing the context of the sentence, we  don't know which meaning is required. 

The first meaning is the shortened version or nickname for William - Billy or it could be the feminine version - Billie as in Billie Holiday the famous blues singer.

There is a theory that back in the middle ages, people swapped letters around and Will became Bill.  King William the 3rd of England who ruled in the late 17th century  was called King Billy.

It could also refer  specifically a male goat.  We often think of the billy goat from that story we read as children Billy Goat Gruff. Apparently, there is also the "Curse of the Billy Goat" laid against the Chicago Cubs Baseball Team, lading from 1945 to 2006.

The curse originated in 1945 when the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern was asked to take his goat away from Wrigley field due to its smell.  When he left during the fourth game of the championship, he declared the Cubs would never win another game.  The cubs promptly lost the series and did not win another game until 2006, on the 46th anniversary of the owners death.

Billy can also refer to a Billy Can which can be used to carry water and then heat it over a fire..  This version is Australian in nature and the Billy Can ranges from an empty can to something fancier such as a pot or kettle.

In addition, Billy or roving billy referred to a roving machine in the United Kingdom.  A roving machine turns wool into long strands of material that can be spun into yarn.  According to several articles, small rolls of fiber were taken to the apron of the billy where they were pressed together before being fed through the billy where they came out in rovings.  From the billy, the roving was taken to the cops on the Jenny which then spun it into yarn.

It can also mean a club used by the police or a wooden stuck that can be used as a weapon, also known as a cudgel.  Billy clubs date back to 1829 London when Sir Robert Peel established the first
 police force.  He believed that police officers should not carry lethal weapons so he outfitted his men with billy clubs.  The billy club, made of wood,  ranged between 14 and 36  inches depending on what it was needed for.  In Victorian times, officers decorated their clubs so they were individualized.

Finally, according to the Urban Dictionary, a billy can refer to a really nice guy.  Someone who is caring, takes good care of people, and is liked by his friends. I did hear someone say that a billy was some sort of measuring implement but I couldn't find any references to that.

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