Word stuff

Who among you uses the nouns “shellacking” or “argy-bargy”? Please to tell how you use them and where you are from. Not just your country, but what state and/or province, what town and/or city or igloo number or whatever?

If you’ve never heard of these nouns you have my condolences.


  1. pixelfish on #

    Never used argy-bargy, but shellacking as a noun means either one of two things to me: A) varnish on a painting or furniture or B) a beating. (I grew up forty-five minutes south of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.)

  2. pixelfish on #

    (Oh, and I’ve heard argy-bargy but never used.)

  3. jonathan on #

    I don’t tend to use argy-bargy. A shellacking is a comprehensive defeat of a sporting opponent. From the suburbs of Melbourne, Aus.

  4. Jonathan S on #

    I’ve never used shellacking. Argy-bargy I’ll use now, though it’s something I’ve picked up in the last decade or so. I live in Sydney but spent my first 13 years in North Queensland

  5. Elle on #

    I have never used argy-bargy, but I find shellacking to be quite useful! I have always used it to mean “to cover something excessively in glue, paint, varnish, or something of the sort.”

    I live, and grew up, in Vancouver, Washington, USA. = D

  6. aenodia on #

    I’ve used shellacking but never argy-bargy. Shellacking could either be applying shellac to an object like my hiking stick or thorough beating. Grew up in Oregon as did my father my Mother was from Texas. I have read a lot of Georgette Heyer and i think I might have read the term there as I think it is a dated term.

  7. CW on #

    I think I have used argy-bargy once in my life – as in “what a load of argy-bargy” (in response to hearing a politician in full flight).

    Shellacking: what Jonathan said – but I don’t use it in everyday speech. My igloo is in Perth, Western Australia 🙂

  8. Andrew on #

    I’m currently sitting in the Northern Territory Parliamentary Library, monitoring the live parliamentary debates, and one of the members just used the phrase “normal argy-bargy”.

    Personally, I only ever have “a bit of argy-bargy”, and I live in Darwin (but spent most of my life in Melbourne). Australia, that is.

  9. Sherwood on #

    Never heard anyone use argybargy, but I learned arglebargle from Bored of the Rings in 1969, and it immediately took a stellar position in my vocabulary, to be put forth at special moments.

    I have heard a few of the WW II generation use “shellacking” usually about battles, either war, or personal. “He took a shellacking.” “They took a shellacking.”

  10. Jennifer on #

    I don’t recall ever hearing the word “argy-bargy”. When I hear “shellacking”, the only thing that comes to mind is applying shellac, though I may have heard it used differently.

    I’m from Orange County, California, though I currently go to school in Texas.

  11. Ned on #

    Heard ‘shellacking’ occasionally; certainly use ‘argy-bargy’. I’m from southern England.

  12. Nicholas Waller on #

    I have heard of shellacking but never used it. I assumed it was something to do with getting a “pasting” and a rather shocking one and guess, without looking it up, that it might be because it sounds like a mix of shelling and ack-ack (or perhaps shell-shock) in its violent meaning (not in its applying-varnish-to-wooden-objects meaning).

    Argy-bargy I have used… in the sense of generalised jostling, in a big crowd, and just below the level of a fight… the use of elbows, perhaps, rather than fisticuffs. There might be a bit of argy-bargy amongst a roiling mass of people trying to get through a narrow entrance into a venue, or 50 people trying to buy a drink at a bar with one barman, or a large bunch of photographers angling for the best shot of a sleb in Cannes.

    I am in Somerset, in South West England. Now I’ll look them up and find I am wrong.

  13. Kate on #

    I’ve used both in coversation, but I only use shellacking rarely. I use argy-bargy quite often. It is usually in the form “a bit of argy-bargy”. For example, “I heard there’s a bit of argy-bargy going on between the Brisbane Lions and the AFL over the national draft.” I also hear it in a political context on a regular basis.

    With shellacking, I would be more likely to use a different but same-meaning word, such as bollocking or pasting. I think shellacking seems a bit quaint nowadays, kind of old-fashioned.

    Kate (BrisVegas, Australia)

  14. Nicholas Waller on #

    define:argy-bargy in Google indicates I am wrong, apparently… it’s more verbal than physical, according to the results. My use of the term is slanted to the “barging” rather than the “argument” but still, I’ll carry on using it my way.

  15. veejane on #

    Coastal northeast USA: I’ve never heard argy-bargy.

    I’ve seen/used shellacking, but almost never in noun form. It’s “He got shellacked”, but much more commonly “he got shelled” or even “he got waxed”. (Or any of a zillion similarly colorful terms drawn from sports — especially boxing.)

  16. ebear on #

    I have both delivered and received a shellacking in my time, but I’ve never had an argy-bargy. I’m from central Connecticut, in the New Englandish provinces of the United States.

  17. Merrie Haskell on #

    Shellacking is what you do after you sand down a piece of furniture. It involves varnish.

    I grew up in Michigan and North Carolina, but the word is of Michigan–I remember hearing my aunt saying she’d bought some old desks from the school, which would be great after a thorough sanding and shellacking. I don’t think I ever heard the word in NC. As per Michigan, I was then living above the gun line, which is to say, the areas that get the first day of deer-season off of school, as hunting is a food supplement of great importance for a lot of people.

    I think if I said shellacking in that context in Ann Arbor, I’d get some puzzled looks, especially amongst the younger generations.

  18. Lethe on #

    I’ve heard “shellacking” as a noun in the sporting sense (and as a verb in the woodworking sense), but I’ve never used it. I suspect I’ve only heard it from sports announcers, and perhaps just UK/Commonwealth ones at that.

    I was in my 20s before I’d ever heard “argy-bargy,” and I know that was from a Kiwi. I’ve never used it.

    FWIW, I grew up just outside of Denver, Colorado, USA.

  19. Calistro on #

    I’ve never heard of the first word but argy-bargy is used over here in the UK (I live on the south coast). I’d use it the following way:

    The fight in the pub started with a bit of argy-bargy between two drinkers at the bar but soon escalated into a full on rut.

  20. marce on #

    Edmonton, Alberta.

    Shellacking is used here with reference to sporting events.
    “The Oilers shellacked the Flames last weekend in back-to-back games proving this rivalry is only going to get better over the season.”

    I am from Indiana, but I first heard this word used in this context when I moved to Canada in my 20’s and I hear it most often from men over the age of 30.

    My teen son also uses this word in the same context as a sort of homage, I think, to his dad. He might say, “The Oilers totally frickin’ shellacked the Flames. Snap.”

    Hope that helps…

  21. Laura on #

    Like many of the people above, I’ve used shellacking in sports-related conversations. Never heard argy-bargy, though. I grew up in the US in St. Louis, Missouri and Washington DC.

  22. Caryle on #

    I’ve used shellacking in three contexts:
    1. Someone beat the pants off another sports team.
    2. Someone used waaaaaay too much product in their hair. (“Think she could have shellacked her hair into place anymore? Ugh.”) Why yes, I am a child of the 80s and 90s. LOL
    3. Shellacking furniture.

    I’ve never heard argy-bargy before, but it sounds like a fun word.

    I’m from the Midwestern United States – Illinois till I was 8, Kansas for many years, and now Des Moines, Iowa.

  23. Desdemona on #

    I’ve heard of shellacking in the wodwork/ craft sense. Also, I’ve heard people say they were shellacked if they were very, very drunk.

  24. AnnMarie on #

    Grew up in South Dakota. Never heard of argy-bargy, but shellacking is the process of applying shellac to something. May have heard it more as an adult in the scrapbooking/arsty-craftsy sort of crowd.

  25. Susannah on #

    Shellacking is a genius word. I love it. Apart from the literal meaning of using shelac, I have heard it used (and used it myself) to mean:

    1) A thrashing of one team by another
    2) a yelling or dressing down. ‘You should have heard the shellacking my dad gave me when I scratched his BMW’
    3) to be really drunk. ‘I got totally shellacked last night and now my head feels like it’s going to explode.’

    Argy bargy. I use this quite often too – and certainly hear it used a lot – usually in the context of a verbal stoush.

    I grew up in a small coastal town in Victoria, Aus and now live in Melbourne. But did spend several large slabs of time in the US when i was young – mostly in Washington DC and Oklahoma. So maybe I’m not very helpful for nailing things down geographically.

  26. Claudia on #

    I have heard and used shellacking in context of putting a coating or paint varnish wax really anything on something. I am from NYC

  27. Amie Stuart on #

    I’ve actually heard of shellacking! I don’t remember where but probably from the grandparents (moms and dads were yankees from NY and NJ respectively).

  28. Stephen on #

    Only a real pedant would point out that shellacking is a gerund not a noun…

    I expect to receive a shellacking for that comment. However I will not reply to it because that would constitute argy-bargy.

    At least, that’s what would happen in Sydney, Oz.

  29. claire on #

    i have shellacked things in the past, so i use the noun “shellacking” to refer to the veneer on shellacked things.

    u.s.: tucson, az; columbus, oh; kalamazoo, mi.

  30. Liviania on #

    I live in Texas. (Central Texas, with some time spent in the North and some in H-town.) ‘Shellacking’ to me, it a verb. It means you are currently rubbing a shellack or whatever finish into a table with a lot of elbow grease. (My advice is to do another round of sanding, then another round of shellack. It’s smoother and shinier.)

  31. Lori S. on #

    I use shellacking. As noted, usually in s sports context unless I am talking about a crafts project. I grew up in Michigan.

  32. Janette on #

    Great words!! I use both. Shellacking in the sports sense as in “it wasn’t just a win, it was a shellacking”. And argy bargy to mean both verbal stoush and pushing and shoving. I’m from Dunedin, NZ.

  33. Laura on #

    I’ve used “shellacked” and “shellacking” in reference to the amount of product in someone’s hair. Not surprisingly, I grew up in Northern California in the 80’s and 90’s (I’m in NYC now).

    I’ve never heard “argy-bargy” before but I’m totally going to integrate it into my vocabulary.

    (“Totally” also an indication of my 80’s California upbringing…NYers sense my California-ness from a mile away)

  34. janet on #

    Argy-bargy — hunh? never heard of it before this.

    I don’t really use “shellacking” but have certainly heard often enough: “a shellacking” is an overwhelming defeat, usually of a non-serious, non-fatal variety — e.g. an argument or a sporting contest.

    Lifelong SF bay area person.

  35. Mahek on #

    I sometimes use Daftt, fool or an idiot. And I have used argy bargy a few times. And there is A*rse about which I use quite a lot.
    The most common word I know of is chav which is some lower class idiot who commits crimes and is poorly educated.

    I’m from Surrey, UK

  36. Cat on #

    My dad used shellacking to mean a spanking or beating of some sort and he grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada.

  37. Stuart on #

    I use argy-bargy to mean a number of things….most literally (to me) it means rough and tumble, horseplay or even a large fight. As a result I also use it to mean commotion, argument, spat, feud or violent, loud disagreement (the event, not the disagreement itself).

  38. carbonelle on #

    I’ve heard and used shellacking in both senses. Am familiar enough with argy-bargy to recognize it, but have never used it.

    United States: MO, RI, VA, CA, TX and WA

    Dad was in the Navy.

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