May 14th, 2004

WotD - Put your back into it!

Today’s phrase of the day is … give it some welly … another fine example of the obtuse way Brit Slang is derived.

(also wellie)
• noun (pl. wellies)
Brit. Informal 1 short for WELLINGTON.
2 power or vigour.

[ Wellington
(also wellington boot)
• noun
chiefly Brit. a knee-length waterproof rubber or plastic boot.
ORIGIN named after the British soldier and Prime Minister the 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). ]

Welly is a diminutive of Wellington Boot (waterproof rubber boots named after the Duke of Wellington, national hero and conqueror of Napoleon). The phrase Give it some welly dates from the 1970’s … it’s a form of instruction, shouted to a person as encouragement or criticism, asking for more effort to be put into whatever he or she is doing.

The slang sense seems to have come about through the link between boot and foot … we’re a very literal nation! One of the earliest appearances of give it some welly was in motor racing (ie: an instruction to put the foot more firmly on the accelerator) but came to be associated with most sports with an emphasis on our national game, football (when urging players to put a bit more power behind the ball).
It can also be found in the workplace … for urging colleagues to work a little harder!