copied from a pdf i found
Biddy moriarty vs Daniel o connell
Biddy Moriarty was notorious for her sharp tongue and anyone who came across her got a
scrape of it and maybe a thump as well. She was a street trader by profession and her pitch
was down along the quays and opposite the Four Courts. She was famous from one end of the
city to the other for her powers of vituperation. She is said to have enriched the already
substantial lexicon of Dublin slang, and even in the provinces, her name was known because
her fame had spread far and wide.
O'Connell was a young man at the time and up to all sorts of devilment when the subject of
Biddy came up. Some of his friends said that he was a match for her while others ridiculed the
notion. This only served to spur O'Connell on and he decided to tackle the woman. Bets were
made and O'Connell backed himself because he was confidant that he could come up with a
plan to defeat the fearful virago of the city quays.
And so, accompanied by his companions, he made his way to Biddy's stall and straightway
O'Connell put his plan into action; he had resolved to surprise the woman by going on the
attack. Is is doubtful that anyone has ever taken the fight to Biddy in this way, reasoned
O'Connell, and such audacity as this might just catch her out. People usually avoided a verbal
encounter with Biddy if they could and here was O'Connell, not only spoiling for a fight but
planning to go out of his way to incite one.
"What's the price of this walking-stick, Mrs. What's your name?"
Straightway he provoked her for there wasn't a person in Dublin who didn't know who Biddy
"Moriarty, sir, is my name, and a good one it is; and what have you to say agen it? And
one-and-sixpence is the price of the stick. Troth*, it's chape as dirt, so it is."
"One and sixpence for a walking-stick? Phew! Why, you're no better than an impostor, to ask
eighteen pence for what cost you twopence."
"Twopence, your grandmother!" replied Mrs. Biddy: "Do you mane (sic) to say that it's chating
(sic) the people I am? Impostor, indeed!"
"Aye, impostor; and that's what I call you to your teeth," rejoined O'Connell.
He was a past-master at projecting his voice and the venom in his reply was unmistakable to
the listeners and by this time, anticipating a row and recognising a challenge, a crowd had
begun to gather to see the bould Biddy make brus* of the culchy*.
"Come, cut your stick, you cantankerous jackanapes*."
O'Connell then put the second part of his plan into action and knowing that Biddy spoke the
restricted code he contrived to bamboozle her with a parlance that came literally straight out of
"Keep a civil tongue in your head, you old diagonal," cried O'Connell calmly, as he fired off the
first mathematical term.
"Stop your jaw, you pug-nosed badger, or by this and that," cried Mrs. Moriarty, "I'll make you
go quicker nor* you came."
"Don't be in a passion, my old radius, anger will only wrinkle your beauty."
"By the hokey, if you say another word of impudence I'll tan your dirty hide, you bastely*,
common scrub; and sorry I'd be to soil my fists upon your carcase."
"Phew! Boys, what a passion old Biddy is in; I protest, as I'm a gentleman."
"Jintleman! Jintleman! The likes of you a jintleman!" She cackled with malice. At this stage,
confident of victory, she was enjoying the encounter and the assembled crowd were still on her
"Wisha, by gor, that bates Banagher. Why, you potato-faced, pippin-sneezer, when did a
Madagascar monkey like you pick enough of common, Christian dacency to hide your Kerry
"Easy now, easy now," cried O'Connell, with imperturbable good humor, "don't choke yourself
with fine language, you old whiskey-drinking parallelogram."
Another mathematical term, with a vicious stress on it, and Biddy, not knowing what it meant,
took the bait like a salmon rising to a fly.
"What's that you call me, you murderin' villian?" roared Mrs. Moriarty, stung by the howls of
laughter that this retort provoked, and her own incomprehension.
"I call you," answered O'Connell, "a parallelogram" and he gestured to the crowd, who sensing
blood, began to come over to his side.
"No Dublin judge and jury" continued O'Connell, "will say that it's libel to call you so!"
The crowd howled with laughter because it was obvious to all that Biddy had met her match.
They were now on O'Connell's side and eager to see a woman who had been insulting the
public for decades get her just deserts, they began to jeer which only served to provoke her
"Oh, tare anouns*!" "Oh, holy Biddy! That an honest woman like me should be called a
parrybellygrum to her face. I'm none of your parrybellygrums, you rascally gallows-bird; you
cowardly, sneaking, plate-licking bliggard!"
"Oh, not you, indeed!" retorted O'Connell with mockery in his voice. "Why, I suppose you'll deny
that you keep a hypothenuse in your house."
The mob howled all the more.
Biddy had no idea what a hypothenuse is and she was clearly discomfited and out of her depth.
The familiar, malicious sounds of ridicule filled her ears and to her horror, they were directed at
herself. The onlookers were enjoying her humiliation, and for once in her life, Biddy was at the
dirty end of the stick.
"It's a lie for you, you dirty robber, I never had such a thing in my house, you swindling thief,"
"Why, sure your neighbors all know very well that you keep not only a hypothenuse, but that
you have two diameters locked up in your garret, and that you go out to walk with them every
Sunday, you heartless old heptagon."
"Oh, hear that, ye saints in glory! Oh, there's bad language from a fellow that wants to pass for
a jintleman. May the divil fly away with you, you mitcher* from Munster, and make celery-sauce
of your rotten limbs, you mealy-mouthed tub of guts."
"Ah, you can't deny the charge, you miserable sub-multiple of a duplicate ratio."
"Go, rinse your mouth in the Liffey, you nasty tickle-pitcher; after all the bad words you speak, it
ought to be filthier than your face, you dirty chicken of Beelzebub."
"Rinse your own mouth, you wicked-minded old polygon, to the deuce* I pitch you, you
blustering intersection of a stinking superficies!"
"You saucy tinker's apprentice, if you don't cease your jaw, I'll..."
But here she stopped, clearly defeated and unable to trawl up any more words, for O'Connell's
last volley had knocked the wind out of her sails.
Meanwhile, Daniel moved in for the kill.
"While I have a tongue I'll abuse you, you most inimitable periphery. Look at her, boys! there
she stands, a convicted perpendicular in petticoats. There's contamination in her circumference,
and she trembles with guilt down to the extremities of her corollaries. Ah! I've found you out, you
rectilinear antecedent, and equiangular old hag!" said O'Connell, his voice dripping with
contempt. "Tis with you the devil will fly away, you porter-swiping similitude of the bisection of a
The theatrical way in which O'Connoll delivered the monologue made it sound like invective and
this was hilarious for all who witnessed it and doubly so for those who understood what Daniel
was really saying. At this stage, he was completely in command and everyone knew it.
Overwhelmed with the torrent of language, Mrs. Moriarty was silenced. Catching up a
saucepan, she was aiming it at O'Connell's head, when he very prudently made a timely retreat.
O'Connell, had won the wager; his friends conceded and paid their debts and the incident was
the talk of Dublin. For the first time in his life, Daniel O'Connell was celebrated. Later on in his
career, he would be greeted by spontaneous cheers from his fellow countrymen, wherever he
was recognised, and publicly acclaimed abroad. Even those members of the ascendancy, who
found themselves in trouble, brought their legal problems to him and there wasn't a house in
Catholic Ireland in which his picture did not hang.
*Brus: Small bits of something, dust
*Culchy: Common Dublin expression meaning a countryman
*Troth: Truth, a pledge given.
*Jackanapes: A monkey, an impertinent person
*Nor: Old English for than
*Tare anouns: A corruption of two Gaelic words meaning, get out of here
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