Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Lurgy, Lurgi or Lurden

Apologies for lack of posts. I have been struck down with a loathsome and lingering lurgy. Lurgy is a purely British term for an unspecified but horrid disease that is doing the rounds, and it was invented by comedians. The first recorded case of lurgy appeared in a 1959 episode of The Goon Show Lurgi Strikes Britain*. That episode was written by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, so I blame them for my current condition.

However, the OED, in an uncharacteristic fit of theorising, suggests that those writers may just possibly have got it from fever-lurdan, or the disease of laziness. Fever-lurdan was a facetious term not recorded after 1806, but its last recorded spelling was fever-largie, so maybe there's something in the connection. I'm either too lazy or too ill to research further.

By the way, as a fun bit of trivia, Jimi Hendrix first started taking acid because it made listening to the Goons much funnier.

Merry Christmas one and all.

*The Goons spelled it Lurgi, the OED has it as Lurgy, presumably to differentiate it from lurgi the chemical process of gasification (which is horribly relevant to me).


  1. I am also currently afflicted by a 'Lurgy' – or, rather, a cold. If 'Lurgy' involves an element of contagion, that I mustn't call it that, since my ailment is entirely bespoke, individual and copyrighted. I work on the assumption there ailments as people believe, we would be removing corpses of doctors and other medical professionals by the shovel.

    Get well soon.

  2. That sentence should have read "if ailments were as contagious as people believe" - Sorry!

  3. Doubtless it is just a fever-induced typo, but your Goon-Show dating is off by half a decade: Lurgi Strikes Britain was first transmitted on 9 November 1954. See, for example, the Goonography at the back of Wilmut and Grafton's Goon Show Companion.

    I'm too tired (on account of my own lurgi, and perhaps fever-lardan as well) to dig further, but I vaguely recall `lurgi' somewhere in Milligan's war-memoir books. It is probably not possible to say whether that was an accurate report of early-1940s usage or just a latter-day interpretation.

  4. Isn't this just a facetious rendering of the word Allergy? Take the A as an indefinite article and harden the g? Seems to be in tune with the verbal larks of this team.

  5. And of course the term has degenerated to some extent at the hands of schoolchildren, who 'give' one another the 'lurgy', which is transmitted by any physical contact whatsoever, in a game akin to tag but much more malicious. At least, they did in my primary school.
    I am led to believe that 'cooties' is an equivalent term (aren't children predictable) in the US, apparently originating from a word for headlice.