My grandmother was born in the village of Lilley, Hertfordshire in the 1870s. She had two expressions which I have never heard anyone else use. When frustrated in place of a swear word she would say, "oh dear Shakespeare let's have a little drop of beer." When something was missing her expression was, "it's gone a gilby hunting." Has anyone heard these expressions and if so do they know their origins? Thanks for your help.

  • I wonder if gilby hunting is related to gawk hunting?
    – jejorda2
    Apr 22, 2016 at 20:35
  • It seems that the origin of these expressions has, so far, gone a gilby hunting.
    – Drew
    Apr 22, 2016 at 21:33
  • Regarding "oh dear Shakespeare, let's have a little drop of beer," all I could find was the Paracelsus quote: "A little bit of beer is divine medicine."
    – DyingIsFun
    Apr 22, 2016 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


The phrase gilbey hunting probably makes reference to an ad campaign for Gilbey's Spey-Royal Whisky, which features the tag line "Worth hunting for".

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The company started in London around 1857 (here) and have many similar ads, as evinced by this google image search.

The phrase gone a Gilbey hunting thus means to be out searching for drink. Your grandmother probably humorously extended it for all situations where something was missing.

Also note that the "a Gilbey" construction is found elsewhere in slang with presumably the same origin, as evinced here under the entry "hard-a-Gilbert/hard-a-Gilbey".

  • Thanks for your suggestion, Silenus. My own thoughts were along the line that if someone was a looking for gilberries in the countryside it would not be known exactly where the 'hunter' was. I have no idea what gilberries could be, but I do know that my grandmother lived a very basic lifestyle and hunting for food in hedgerows, etc. could have figured quite highly. I recall eating some of her basic recipies! Bedfordshire Man Apr 24, 2016 at 18:16

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