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The Dibble

Posted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:00 pm
by Phil White
In November, a news story started doing the rounds in the UK, not because it was particularly newsworthy, but because of what the police tweeted. In essence, a driver was vastly exceeding the speed limit and a police car was chasing him. End of story. But everyone picked up on the tweet from the Greater Manchester police: β€œ136mph and not checking it’s the dibble behind.”.

The "story" is here if you want to bother: ... h-11552503

Now as it happens, I had overheard a conversation in a train a couple of months before where one man was telling another about a pub brawl and said "... and then the Dibble turned up". Being of a certain age, I immediately caught the reference. It amused me at the time, as I had never heard the slang "the Dibble" for the Police, but I forgot about it.

When I heard the news item, I realized that it appears to be reasonably established slang, but not established enough not to make people grin.

Digging around on the Internet, it seems that it is very much Manchester slang. The Urban Dictionary has an entry from 2005 identifying it as Manchester slang, and the Wiktionary also has it as Manchester slang. The Daily Mirror has an article on Northern slang and also cites it as Manchester. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2006) has a citation that uses "the Dibble", but does not have a separate entry.

I have to say, I am so charmed by the reference to Top Cat and his adversary, Officer Dibble, that I am certain "the dibble" will enter my own vocabulary. And following the exposure it has had in the national media, I suspect I shall not be alone. Watch this space.

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:22 pm
by Bobinwales
That is interesting. And even more interesting to watch,and see if it spreads.

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:03 am
by Erik_Kowal
My surmise, without any hard evidence to back it up, is that 'dibble' is a corruption (or perhaps a regional variant of) 'devil'. I've certainly heard southern Irish speakers of English pronounce 'devil' as 'divvil', which isn't that far removed from 'dibble'.

For that matter, Manchester is also within easy reach of English seaports like Liverpool that have traditionally been the points of entry for poor Irishmen and -women arriving in Britain to seek employment, so it would not be surprising to find that 'dibble' had an Irish, or Irish-influenced, origin.

Because the police, being chiefly the protectors of the property of the wealthiest in society, have chiefly targeted people belonging to the lowest-ranked socioeconomic groups, it would also not be surprising to find them being referred to in terms that connected them with the Devil.

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 3:19 am
by Phil White
Errr .... ?

Nope. Top Cat and Officer Dibble. No other explanation.

If you can find an example prior to 16 May 1962, which is when Top Cat first screened in the UK, I will change my mind.

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 5:15 am
by Erik_Kowal
Having never previously heard of or otherwise encountered Officer Dibble or Top Cat, I must withdraw my surmise in the light of this new evidence.

My parents failed to have a television in the house during the entirety of their chidren's childhoods. Plainly, they are entirely to blame for my well-intentioned (but evidently erroneous) posting. πŸ˜‰

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 9:54 am
by Phil White
Your deprived childhood explains much...

Maybe it was just because I loved it, but I have the impression that Top Cat was watched by an entire generation of kids. Part of the wallpaper of growing up. On reflection, I suppose it was one of the last of the golden age of charming cartoon series that appealed to kids and adults alike. Thinking about it, my own childhood is punctuated by characters from the Hanna-Barbera stable: Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, the Wacky Races, the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo. We never really got most of the other HB cartoons, such as the Jetsons, in the UK, certainly not the later ones and the dozens of spin-offs.

Off to Youtube to watch a few episodes of TC...

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:40 pm
by BonnieL
Huh - never heard of that cartoon. I thought this was going to be about the gardening tool or a favorite book of mine when I was young - The Ghost of Dibble Hollow. :D

Re: The Dibble

Posted: Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:49 pm
by Phil White
I was entirely unaware that there were so many deprived folks out there!

Off to pick up my guitar and finally learn how to play "Sweet Home Alabama" properly...