Anybody know why the song is called “Whiskey in the Jar”? More specifically, why do they say, “There’s whiskey in the jar” in the chorus when not one of the versions of the song has anything to do with Whiskey or Jars?
The last stanza in a lot of the versions has the bit about “the juice of the barley” but all of the songs are about this outlaw guy getting betrayed by some girl, so why is the chorus a bunch of nonsense and a random bit about booze?
Some of my thoughts:
I keep looking but everywhere I look tells me the same thing: the words in the chorus are just nonsense. But I find that hard to believe. It sounds very much like the little Irish I know:
“Musha ring um a do um a da” is very very similar sounding to these Irish words:
Musha => M’uishe (my whiskey)
ring um a => rinne me/ (rinne = past tense of “de/an” which is “do, make, perform, carry out, commit, turn out, reach, establish”; me/ = “I, me”)
do => don (from “do” + “an” = “to the, for the”)
um a da => amada/n (fool)
which translates to “I made my whiskey for the fool.” Which, as a translation, has the nice qualities that it follows correct Irish grammar and also follows stress rules for both sentences and individual words. It also has to do with whiskey, which is nice.
my whiskey made a fool of me would translate to, I think:
Rinne se/ m’uishe me/ amada/n. Which doesn’t work as a translation because the subject has to follow the verb.
“Whack for the daddy-o” is sometimes said to be a mistranscription of “work of the devil-o” which makes some sense as far as my first translation goes in an “alcohol is the devil’s brew” sort of sense. It is also in keeping with the story line revolving around a highwayman.
A possible anternative Irish translation is as follows:
uacht failte ta/ diobh,
which sounds like “whack fol cha ta jiov” which is pretty close. Unfortunately, I don’t think it makes any sense since it translates to “It is a testament of welcome for them”.
My last thought is that maybe it has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with whiskey at all. Maybe the line “there’s whiskey in the jar” is actually the mistranscribed line. Maybe the chorus never had anything to do with whiskey.
The Irish word for whiskey, “uisce” (pronounced “ish-keh”), is also the Irish word for water. And many of the versions of the song have his girl filling up his cartridges with water as a main plot point.
Those are some ideas. Does anybody else have any helpful suggestions? (Aside from the suggestion that it is just nonsense…)
Does anyone know where this chorus originates? (There is a very similar sounding chorus in “Whiskey, you’re the divil” which the Clancys cover, I think, and that song has a bit more to do with whiskey but still not much as it’s mainly a war song.)
Any leads on what’s goin’ on here?
- Very confused,