Having just used this word in a limerick homage to Peter Rozovsky's answer to Patti Abbott's flash fiction challenge, I find myself wondering about its origins. Is it just one of those nonsense words, or does it have some root in reality? I feel that 'smith' has got to have some part in it, whether the name or the occupation, but can't get any further with it. Can you?
Wrong! Nothing to do with smiths of any kind. It comes from the Irish word smidirīn, and I have to say I suspected that -een ending was Irish. Coleen, Eileen, shabeen, well, you get the idea. The original word is smiodar, combined with that familiar diminutive -in or -een ending.
Apparently smithereen has some shaky beginnings. There is actually some chance that it came from English first as smither and was incorporated into the Irish language, only to be given back later. The spelling wasn't stablized and so there are mentions of shivereens and smiddereens before we have the 'official' version. Basically, though, we're talking about bits or fragments, usually begotten by explosive shocks.
I liked this article about the word, not least for the idiosyncratic fragments by two brilliant authors that frame it...
And this post would not be complete with out reference to the rock group of the same name. Herewith, a sample:
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