In these days of social networks, memes have become commonplace. These usually do the rounds and when you first see them they raise a smile or even a guffaw (or should I say LOL), but by the time you’ve seen it for the thousandth time you are heartily sick of it and it becomes trite, contrived or just down-right annoying.

One of these that has been doing the rounds lately continues to make me smile however; it says: “Friendships must be built on a solid foundation of alcohol, sarcasm, inappropriateness and shenanigans.”

I mostly like it because I love the word ‘shenanigans’. It is a great word and should see more use.

My ageing dictionary defines shenanigan as simply ‘uproar’, but this doesn’t do it justice. A quick look around the internet provides some better definitions, but its origins are apparently obscure. gives both a better definition and an etymology, apparently from the Oxford English Dictionary – unfortunately I can’t afford a subscription to confirm it for myself.

This definition is: “Trickery, skulduggery, machination, intrigue; teasing, ‘kidding’, nonsense; (usu. pl.) a plot, a trick, a prank, an exhibition of high spirits, a carry-on.”

That sounds much better. Some parts of the definition sound perhaps a little dark, but to me shenanigans suggest tomfoolery, devil-may-care silliness and something of an adventure. It is a fun word.

Apparently the first written record of the word comes from California in 1855, which is slightly depressing: it sounds older and more exotic than that. It is probable that it was imported in the spoken form from elsewhere, and the Online Etymology Dictionary offers a few possible origins, but none strike me as very convincing:

“Suggestions include Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada “trick, deceit;” or, less likely, German Schenigelei, peddler’s argot for “work, craft,” or the related German slang verb schinäglen. Another guess centers on Irish sionnach “fox.””

But what ever the origins of the word, I also like this meme because it is true.

Think about it: when you are sitting around with your friends, reminiscing on good times past, the stories you tell always fall into this category. Normally when these fun, memorable happenings occur you are at least a little drunk and you are doing something that probably, in some way, falls into that definition of Shenanigans. And if you can’t have a little sarcastic banter with your friends, then they’re not really friends are they?

Long may the shenanigans continue.


About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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