Insult of the Week: “You double-distilled ould sthrap”

This week’s insult is provided by William Carleton’s The Black Prophet: A Tale of Irish Famine (1847). Following Condy Dalton’s admission of love for another woman, a furious Sarah M’Gowan returns home where her stepmother Nelly pushes her to boiling point…

“You’re all out of it,” replied Nelly; “her blood’s up, now, an’ I’m not prepared for a sudden death. She’s dangerous this minute, an’ I’ll take care of her. Blessed man, look at her eyes.” She repeated these words with that kind of low, dogged ridicule and scorn which so frequently accompany stupid and wanton brutality; and which are, besides, provoking, almost beyond endurance, when the mind is chafed by a consideration of an exciting nature.  Sarah flew like lightning to the old knife, which we have already mentioned, and, snatching it from the shelf of the dresser, on which it lay, exclaimed: 

“I have now no earthly thought, nor any hope of good in this world, to keep my hand from evil; an’ for all ever you made me suffer, take this–“

Her father had not yet sat down, and it was, indeed, well that he had  not–for it required all his activity and strength united, to intercept the meditated blow, by seizing his daughter’s arm.’ 

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Her father Dan M’Gowan’s attempts to defuse the situation are not appreciated by either woman, however.

“Sarah,” said he, “what is this? are you mad, you murdhering jade, to attempt the vagabond’s life? for she is a vagabond, and an ill-tongued vagabond.”

“Why do you provoke the girl by sich language, you double-distilled ould sthrap? you do nothin’ but growl an’ snarl, an’ curse, an’ pray–ay, pray, from mornin’ to night, in sich a way, that the very devil himself could not bear you, or live wid you. Begone out o’ this, or I’ll let her at you, an’ I’ll engage she’ll give you what’ll settle you.” Nelly rose, and putting on her cloak went out.”

Chapter 25 of William Carleton’s The Black Prophet (1847)
Image from  Carleton’s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1864)

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