4

I've heard this a few times, and I would presume that it comes from Wellingtons, with the meaning of put some boot to it.

Is there an origin for this phrase?

  • Well, I never said the link was supposed to answer your question. I, for one, didn't know about the phrase so I put up a link for others like me to have a reference. That's it. – Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 1 '13 at 14:58
  • @ArmenԾիրունյան - I grok. – JohnP Nov 1 '13 at 15:00
  • Could it refer to the Duke of Wellington and his battles...? – user67625 Mar 3 '14 at 12:50
  • Eeee... you chaps are giving this discussion a fair bit of wellie! – user68170 Mar 8 '14 at 3:58
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You are all missing the point that Wellies were, and still are, worn on working farms and would indeed be used when driving a tractor. It's credible then that 'give it welly' would be shouted at someone driving a tractor, hauling a load or driving out of the mud and it necessary then to push hard on the accelerator in order to get out of the mud or shift the load. The phrase, in hiberno-english would have been originally used in a farming context or a building site for the same reason.

  • 4
    Did you just post supposition as fact without any actual evidence? – Matt E. Эллен Feb 24 '14 at 12:55
  • It's a phrase I would definitely use to mean something along the lines of "floor it". e.g. (from northloop.co.uk/reports_oct%5B02%5D05.htm) "Just before the start of the long left-handers, Clare slipped into 4th gear and gave it some welly." It's also used in football (soccer) parlance for giving a ball a really hard kick. In both cases, I would assume (but as yet have no proof) that it comes from Wellington boots. – Phil M Jones Mar 3 '14 at 17:04
  • Wellies are what wellington boots are normally called, in the UK. They are not just worn on farms or with tractors. They are worn in all sorts of situations when people want to keep their feet and lower legs, clean and dry. – Tristan r Mar 8 '14 at 15:51
3

OED has the definition...

wellie/welly: slang. A kick, acceleration. Also fig.

...under the entry for Abbrev. of Wellington [boot], but I must admit when I use the expression "Give it some wellie!" I've always assumed I'm referencing a derivative of...

welt
Verb: To beat, thrash.
Noun: A stroke with a lash or pliant stick; also, a heavy blow with the fist.

"Let me give it a welt with my hammer"
"...give it a good welt from the back and it will come out"

So unless anyone can produce evidence of "give it some boot" being an earlier/alternative form, I'm sticking with my current thoughts on the matter.


EDIT: On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, I'm now more than willing to give credence to the possibility that the origin relates to Welly Wanging, which could have either started or been gaining nationwide awareness around the late 60s / early 70s (the same time as the expression under consideration here). The art of successful welly-wanging is to impart as much acceleration to the boot as possible before flinging it.

There are also probably phonosemantic factors involved in the retention / spread of currency. Ordinarily, the wang in welly-wanging means "throw", but here, for example it's a welt, whack, wallop, wham, whop. Lots of w- words imply the application of force.

  • worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-giv2.htm There is this, but it is anecdotal. – JohnP Nov 1 '13 at 16:02
  • Very interesting. My guess had been for wellie to mean velocity. Wellington boots look plausible. – CowperKettle Nov 1 '13 at 18:02
  • @JohnP: It became commonplace during my childhood, at a time when I was also accustomed to hearing my parents threatening me with things like "I'll give you such a welt!" So the hard blow association seems natural to me. And I really can't see people talking about giving someone a hard kicking or flooring the car accelerator pedal in the context of wearing wellington boots. That sounds about as likely as give it some high-heeled shoes (not exactly the appropriate footwear for the occasion! :) – FumbleFingers Nov 1 '13 at 18:18
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    This expression isn't used in the U.S., as far as I know; but Nigel Rees, A Word in Your Shell-like (2004) says that the phrase "to give something some welly" dates "from the 1970s, in British use." He writes: "'Wellies' is, of course, a common name for waterproof, rubber (Wellington) boots, so perhaps the image is that of booted foot being applied to a spade in some digging task that requires a good deal of effort." – Sven Yargs Nov 1 '13 at 20:24
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    @Sven: I'm not exactly a "scholar", but Nigel Rees certainly has my endorsement in general. And for all I know, everyone else except me thought (and continues to think) giving it some wellie somehow derives from "Give it some wellington boot!". But I grew up thinking of it as a (new, "cool") derivative of "Give it a welt/belt/thrashing!", and I can't change my past. For me personally, that's the reference I've always intended, regardless of whether it's been/being received as such by others. – FumbleFingers Nov 2 '13 at 1:28
1

Give it some wellie appear in several searches to mean give it some gas or, colloquially in AE, put your foot into it (put your foot down on the gas pedal), step on it (step on the gas pedal).

Wiktionary UK sums it up similarly:

(UK) To increase fuel or power to an engine, as to a car by depressing the gas pedal.

(UK) To apply great physical effort to (something).

Here is a humorous blog on the subject of the origin of give it some welly, which points to the site called World Wide Words (you have to search for yourself it you use the link in the link given by Simms, but I've linked directly to the page). World Wide Words suggests the phrase came about in the 1970's, either in the motor racing world, meaning put your foot down on the accelerator pedal, or in football, meaning put some power into your kick.

  • Give it some gas is part of American English, not British. So is the word gas when used to mean a fuel for motor vehicles, which is called petrol in the UK. – Tristan r Mar 8 '14 at 15:45
  • Yes, I wasn't focused on that point, but since you mention it it, Wiktionary UK uses the word "gas". Now I'm wondering who wrote that. I thought going over the the .co.uk domain would bring in some local knowledge and authenticity. – Canis Lupus Mar 8 '14 at 16:33

protected by Community Mar 10 '14 at 17:29

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