Dingers and Humdingers

Cassidy suggested that the words dinger and humdinger come from Irish dianmhaith and iomar-dianmhaith. These words are from maith, which means good, and the dian and the iomar are both intensifiers. Neither of them is a very common intensifier. Iomar is especially rare. As far as I know, it is obsolete in modern Irish and not used in any dialect. Dianmhaith would be pronounced jeeanwoy in the north, and deeanvah in southern dialects. Neither of these sound much like dinger. As for iomar-dhianmhaith (this is how you would have to write it in correct Irish), this would be pronounced ummar-yeeanvah or ummar-yeeanwoy. Neither of these sound much like humdinger to me.

I am no expert on slang and I don’t know where dinger and humdinger come from. But just as a piece of idle speculation, it seems to me that ding is a common verb in English for the sound a bell makes. So to hit something a dinger suggests that you hit something so hard it rings a bell (like one of those fairground machines that you hit with a hammer and a bell rings if you’re strong enough). And a humdinger suggests that it rings so hard it hums for a while afterwards. I may be right about this or I may be wrong.

But if Cassidy is right about dianmhaith and iomar-dhianmhaith, then stick me on a dike in wooden shoes and call me Joost van Hoeg. If Cassidy is right, I’m a Dutchman …

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