Under the Knife – Don’t mention the War

During its thirteen-year lifespan, Fiat’s D-segment saloon went under the knife on four different occasions, with varying degrees of success.

Take one. (c) autoevolution

The Fiat 132 was launched in 1972 to replace the 125 Berlina. The latter, although a pleasant enough car, had always suffered somewhat from the inaccurate perception that it was little more than a Fiat 124 in a party frock. Both cars shared the same doors and passenger compartment but the 125 had longer front and rear ends and an 85mm (3.5”) longer wheelbase, courtesy of a platform carried over from its predecessor, the Fiat 1500. This allowed the rear seat to be pushed back slightly to liberate a little more legroom. Notwithstanding the similarity to its smaller sibling, the 125 achieved over 600,000 sales during its five year production life.

With the 132, Fiat wanted to move its large family saloon upmarket and give it a more distinctive appearance. The wheelbase was 52mm (2”) longer and the overall length was increased by a substantial 173mm (7”) over the 125. The design at launch was (courtesy of centro stile Fiat), however, somewhat frumpy looking.

1972 Fiat 132 (c) gieldaklasykow.pl

The problem centred around the DLO and, specifically, the door windows. The one-piece door skin pressings contained the window openings, and their thick frames and rounded corners lacked elegance. The problem was compounded by a fussy brightwork treatment: the door window openings had a brightwork surround and there was a second strip of brightwork running immediately below, which kicked up slightly before continuing across the base of the C-pillar.

The 132 continued in its original form for only two years, before a clever, comprehensive and highly effective facelift was introduced in 1974. The base of the DLO was lowered to the level of the car’s waistline and the bottom corners of the door windows were squared off. This facilitated the deletion of the extraneous second strip of brightwork. The rear door quarter light and C-pillar were reshaped into a facsimile of BMW’s Hofmeister Kink.

Take two. 1974 Fiat 132 (c) fiat.com

In fact, the facelifted car now had more than a passing resemblance to BMW’s handsome 1972 E12 generation 5 Series, which might very well have been Fiat’s intention. A new grille and larger tail lights completed the update. This was possibly the cleanest and most handsome iteration of the model line.

1979 Fiat 132: (c) flickriver.com

In 1977, the 132 received grey plastic bumpers and lower side rubbing strips which concealed the bodysides’ indented pressing. It was also given the distinctive clover-patterned steel wheels from the 131 Supermirafiori. The bumpers were garnished by some rather unconvincing silver paint on their upper surfaces. This was Fiat’s ‘plastic fantastic’ period when all of its models were subjected to similar treatment. The 132 actually escaped rather lightly, but further was to come.

With the end of production of the slow-selling Amiragia Fiat 130 saloon in 1977, the 132 became the company’s flagship model. No immediate successor was planned for either model, so the 132 went under the knife once again in 1981 to become the Argenta* – Fiat having abandoned its numerical designations in favour of names for all models.

1982 Fiat Argenta (c) en.wheelsage.org

The Argenta looked broadly similar to the 132, but all external panels apart from the door pressings were new. At the front, large rectangular headlamps with outboard indicators and side lights replaced the dual circular headlamps on the 132. At the rear, new flush tail light clusters replaced the 132’s surface mounted units. Revised plastic bumpers and matching side rubbing strips gave the car a rather more contemporary and substantial look, adding 44mm (2”) to the overall length.

The Argenta received its final makeover in 1983, when a more vertical grille featuring Fiat’s new five-bar logo and smoother fully-integrated bumpers and side cladding were fitted. Production came to an end in 1985, when it was replaced by the Croma, Fiat’s version of the Type Four platform joint venture with Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Saab.

Argenta – final form. (c) wheelsage

The Argenta was Fiat’s last rear-wheel-drive car**. The facelifts had kept it looking broadly contemporary, but it was never a big seller and was getting pretty geriatric towards the end of its life. Nowadays, it is hard to conceive of any market for large Fiat saloons in the style of the 132 / Argenta, never mind the 130. Still, the 132 had its moment in the sun: the 1974 to 1977 model with its sonorous 1.8 litre twin-cam engine and five-speed gearbox had an allure and element of exoticism, for a certain teenager at least.

* The choice of the Argenta name was most unfortunate for Fiat in the UK at least, its launch coinciding with the outbreak of the Falklands war.

** Ignoring the short-lived Mazda MX-5 based Fiat 124 Spider (as most did).

Author: Daniel O'Callaghan

Shut-line obsessive...Hates rudeness, loves biscuits.

39 thoughts on “Under the Knife – Don’t mention the War”

  1. Was the 132/Argenta platform it’s own thing or loosely derived from other Fiats?

    On the subject of the 125 carrying over the platform of the 1300/1500, would it be considered an oversight on Fiat‘s platform for either not adding scope to the 124 platform to easily form the basis of a larger model or simply not developing a slightly upscaled 124 platform as a suitable basis for the 125? Both of which at least allow in theory for the possibility of a V6 / inline-6 variant in a similar vein to the 1300/1500-derived 1800/2100 and 2300 6-cylinder models?

    1. Good morning Bob. Yes, it appears remarkably short-sighted of Fiat to develop a new platform for the 124 that couldn’t be easily lengthened for the 125. Moreover, the two models were positioned uncomfortably close to each other because both shared the same passenger compartment. The wide gap between the trailing edge of the rear door and rear wheel arch in the photo of the 125 below shows where the longer wheelbase was incorporated (and largely wasted).

    2. Daniel

      Agreed, it also carries over into the relationship between the 131 and the 132/Argenta (it is unclear whether they are similarly related or not). There is also this tidbit on page 321 of Dante Giacosa’s book:

      “– A useful measure would be to consider restyling the 2300 with only a few minor changes to the mechanicals as a stopgap while awaiting the completion of the 130. I have also considered the possibility of mounting the 6-cylinder 1800 engine (or better still the 2100) on the 125, but this is not possible without making the engine hood longer, which would be such a big task that it seems more logical to adopt completely new coachwork. As you know, at the Styling Centre I have already had studies made for new coachwork intended for the 125. I think it would be advisable
      to resume those studies, giving due consideration to the possibility of mounting a six-cylinder in-line engine on the same coachwork. Such an engine could be produced rapidly because it would be derived from the 124 AC engine of the coupé, with the addition of two cylinders.”

      Fiat’s issue was not only with being unable able to design extra length into the 124 platform for a 2300 successor, but also being unable to develop a proper 6-cylinder engine that could be used across the range from an alternate 124-derived 125 to the 130 instead of designing both the Dino V6 as well as the 128-derived 130 V6 engines.

      The Dino V6 could apparently not be stretched beyond 2.4-litres nor was ever considered for compact 132/Argenta-type saloons, while the 130 V6 despite being derived from the smaller 128 engine (initially as a 2600cc unit) was unable to be used in smaller 132/Argenta-type saloons (despite short-lived consideration in the Lancia MonteCarlo).

      There is also the question of why a Fiat Twin-Cam 6-cylinder was never developed like Giacosa suggested as a potentially more potent alternative for the 130 V6, even if Fiat would be effectively producing 3 difference 6-cylinder engines (technically 2 if one discounts the Dino V6).

      One other left field alternative 6-cylinder that was allegedly considered for the Lancia Stratos before Enzo Ferrari finally relented in allowing the Stratos to use the Dino V6 would have to be the Maserati V6, which displaced from 2-litres to 3-litres (including unproduced 3.2-litre as well as useful 3-litre V6-based 4-litre V8 variants). The latter would eventually be equipped with twin-turbos and used in the 132/Argenta-sized Maserati Biturbo and derivatives, being the sort that problems under Citroen and De Tomaso notwithstanding would have been very useful for Fiat in powering a wide range of cars.

      Maybe Fiat should have acquired Maserati from Citroen (the latter gaining a cash injection) during their short-lived agreement including a clause guaranteeing a supply of V6s for Citroen (with Citroen possibly later establishing ties with Alfa Romeo), which would have allowed Maserati to occupy the 131, 132/Argenta and 130 segments while allowing Fiat to gracefully retreat from the front-engined RWD segment much earlier with upscaled 128 or even an earlier Ritmo-based Regata (am sure others have better ideas on how to maintain a balance between Fiat, Lancia and Maserati).

  2. Good morning Daniel. Although this sounds like it might be better sorted dynamically I think the opprobrium often directed towards the Marina/Ital could be equally well aimed at the 132/Argenta. The mk2 looks appealing (and having just checked other images to make sure you weren’t being kind by directing us only to its rear is indeed handsome), but the Argenta seems woefully dated, while as for the final iteration…
    One wouldn’t buy an Italian car of that vintage for its reliability or longevity, which only leaves style, and it is lacking in that post 1982 (and pre 1974). I guess a devoted home market helps a lot, but did import duties protect Fiat in Italy more than BMC/BMH/BL in the UK?

    1. Good morning Andy. Your comparison with the Marina is interesting because the original 132 also had poor handling (and low geared steering). The 1974 facelift included major revisions to the front suspension to improve matters. At least it took Fiat only two years to address the issue. BL didn’t give the Ital decent front suspension until 1983, it’s last year in production, and 12 years after the Marina’s launch!

      The final iteration of the Argenta was a bit of a barge, and visually featureless thanks to those smooth bumpers, side cladding and ‘aero’ wheel covers.

      Here’s another image of the best iteration, the 1974 first facelift, with a contemporary BMW E12 generation 5 Series for comparison:

    2. Hi Charles. You’ve just opened a Pandora’s Box by mentioning the 132’s door handles, so get ready for some weapons-grade geekery on my part!

      The original 132 had exterior door handles with the pivot at the rear (i.e. nearest the trailing edge of the door). The 1972 facelift retained this orientation, as can be seen in the photo of the silver car in the piece above. However, the blue car in my comment immediately above, although another example of the 1972 facelift, has the orientation reversed, with the pivot now at the front of the handle.

      The 1977 facelift, represented by the green car above, retains the reversed orientation, with the pivot at the front of the handle. So, it appears that Fiat simply reversed the orientation of the handle sometime between 1974 and 1977.

      It’s not that simple, however. Here are two otherwise identical looking 1977 facelift models with differently oriented door handles:

      I think the first one is a diesel because it has a raised section in the bonnet, but surely that doesn’t explain the difference in the door handles. Was it a case of using whatever parts were in stock at the time each car was built? All very mysterious.

      The Argenta appears to have consistently used the handles with the pivot at the front.

      Time for my medication…

    3. Crikey – that is industrial strength geekery – I’m genuinely impressed! Seriously, it’s amazing (and gratifying) to see the detail that people pick up on.

      For what it’s worth, I prefer the black bit to be closest to the trailing / opening edge, on the assumption that the handle opens in the same orientation as the door, if that makes sense.

    4. Daniel, your weapons-grade geekery regarding the door handle has probably a simple explanation: Giovanni had his days… 🙂
      Let’s put the fun aside, this is really very strange. Sometimes like this; sometimes like that. I can’t see any reason in it. But I see the pictures and I am as confused as you are.

  3. I like the 132 in its first version – despite or because of all its criticized design features (DLO, Brightwork) – it looks like a Fiat. Kind of amiable.

    The first facelift, although well done, is too much of a BMW-wannabe to me.

    With the Agenta – really a stupid name choice, not just for the UK – all went down the drain. The latest version is hard to beat in terms of arbitrariness.

    Well, those were the days…
    The 80s look, with its fully integrated bumpers and side paneling simply glued to a car from the 70s, made many vehicles look unsightly.
    In defense of Fiat, it must be said that they weren’t the only ones.
    I spontaneously think of another Italian manufacturer, Alfa Romeo, and what they did from the first generation Alfetta on the way to the Alfa 90. And they only did what everyone did, because the market/customer obviously wanted it that way.

    1. Hi Fred. I certainly appreciate your point of view, but Fiat pretty much forced itself into a major facelift of the 132 with the launch of its replacement for the 124 in 1974, the 131 ‘Mirafiori’:

      The new model was in a sharp-edged and wholly contemporary style, and would have made the larger 132 look rather outdated without the facelift.

    2. By the way, the first version of the 132 is attributed to Marcello Gandini and is a slightly modified design of the Mazda 1500/1800 / Luce.
      Bertone was a clever businessman and a terrific recycler.

      And yes, Daniel, you are right. After the 131 appeared, the 132 looked old-fashioned and needed a facelift – which, as I said, turned out very well.
      But for me personally it’s just too much BMW lookalike. (And BMW was never my kind of thing. Only maybe the 3.0 Si, in which I was allowed to chauffeur around my uncle in Munich as an 18 year old, shortly after I got my driving license – and what 18-year-old would not have had fun driving a 200 hp car back then.)

    3. “BMW was never my kind of thing. Only maybe the 3.0 Si.”

      Well done Fred, that’s the funniest thing I’ve read in ages!!! (I’m also incredibly jealous of you: I’d have given my right arm to drive a 3.0Si when I was 18!)

      In case our younger readers are wondering what all the fuss is about:

      Why can’t BMWs look like that anymore?

    4. Daniel: gold medal for observation. Charles: good argument about the door and door handle having analagous motion. Might I suggest neither is better than a fixed bar and button or a horizontally orientated flap? Really my opinion is worthless – an ergonomic study is required given the unavoidable character of door handles. We can now discuss vertical movements in hidden rear door handles (get your sedatives).

  4. I do like the blue version just above; lends a sophisticated air. The original version seems ok in a cuddly-kinda way; hardly what Fiat were after though. As for the BMW connection, I genuinely thought you’d got the wrong picture at first and had to find my glasses. Did the Bavarians insist on a change for the next update?
    Argenta is a silly name. That final picture makes it appear to these eyes as if it’s been hewn from the rock behind the car. The mountain looks more interesting, too.

    1. Hi Andrew. I’ve added a picture of the E12 5-Series to my comment above for comparison. The resemblance can’t be coincidental. As to the last Argenta, yes, it had all the dynamic appeal of the lump of rock. Losing the reverse-rake front grille in favour of a blunt vertical item lost it the only bit of dynamism its predecessor possessed:

  5. I see they thought about an estate, too.

    https://www.viennaautoshow2018.com/2018/08/07/fiat-132-giardinetta-speciale-1972-by-pinifarina-a-estate-car/

    I’m ashamed to say that it was only through this article that I’ve managed to separate the 132 and 131 in my mind. In my defence, the shared wheels don’t help. By the way, does anyone know how Fiat’s numbering system worked? Were numbers just allocated as cars went on sale?

    Finally, here’s a launch advert for the 132. I rather like the original, despite its design deficiencies.

    1. Giacosa’s book seems to imply that cars went on sale with with their project numbers as the model name! Of course, in good old chicken and egg fashion, that begs the question of how the project numbers were assigned…
      It appears they were given out sequentially. Did it ever happen, I wonder, that project n was delayed, and only made it to market after project n + 1 had gone on sale? Can anyone think of an example?

  6. To northern European perceptions, the 132 was too small to be seen as a big car. The Ford Granada arrived in the same year, and had a nine foot wheelbase and five foot tracks (with a few millimetres loss and gain in metric translation) It set the size for generations to follow. The 132 had a wheelbase just over two inches longer than the 131 and a two inch narrower front track than the cheaper car. The result was that it overhung in all directions, unlike the the Ford which looked tight and purposeful.

    I spent quite a bit of time in Italy in the early-mid ’80s and the 132 was a rare sight. I do remember the badges proclaiming them to be ‘automatico’ or ‘climatico’. At the time the unlikely darling of the Italian middle classes was the Volvo 240. The Swedes made the effort, with the sub-2 litre B19 petrol engine, and the option of 2.0 and 2.4 litre VAG diesels.

  7. Fiat’s three-digit numbering system was always a bit shambolic. It related neither to model size nor launch date. In order of size, the original range was as follows:

    126, 127, 128, 124, 125, 130

    When the 124 and 125 were replaced, the hierarchy then became:

    126,127, 128, 131, 132, 130

    Seat rebodied the 850 and called it the 133, which fitted in size between the 126 and 127. Fiat’s Brazilian outpost facelifted the 127 and renamed it the 147.

    It’s hardly surprising that the company abandoned the numerical model designations in favour of names. Renault did likewise when its model numbers became similarly confusing.

    1. It made sense with the 124 125 and 130 but threw me with the 128 which should have been about 132 sized. Logically the 128 should have ben a 123, the 127 a 122, and the 126 a 121. Which would been fine had they retained the numbers through the generations as Peugeot and most Germans do.

      And why is an Autobianchi A111 big and the A112 small?

    2. Since it was the project numbers of the developments, they do not provide any information about vehicle size and/or category.
      Development of the 130 began before the 131 was developed, after which the production number 132 was planned.
      That this numbering system would collide relatively quickly with the needs of marketing was to be foreseen with a model range like Fiat. However, it was not possible to go back to cubic capacity. Which is why we’ve been confronted with funny names since then.

      Development of the A111 began before the development of the (smaller) A112. Those were development codes too. Instead of inventing more funny names for Autobianchi, the brand was discontinued.

      Later there were again vehicles with a simple designation of the development code – they probably ran out of names:
      Fiat X1 /9 (There was also a vehicle called the X1 /10, which did not make it to series production) This got no successor because they couldn’t find a proper name.
      Lancia Y10. His successor lost the numbers and was only called “Y”, for the nex generation they – surprise, surprise – invented the name “Ypsilon”.

    3. There also was a Fiat X1/20 which went on for years without results until it became the Lancia Montecarlo

  8. Argenta is the name of a niece of Giovanni Agnelli, daughter of his sister Maria Sole.
    So I suppose there is a sort of feudal homage in the choice of the name, although it may be that there is also some hidden servant-master irony in it, given that at that time she was a young lady, about twenty-five years old, and the car was an outdated-looking steel brick bought mainly by pensioners.
    The name comes from “argento”, meaning silver in Italian, and in a cladistic way it is also connected to Argentina, as both share a common ancestor, the Latin word “argentum”, meaning, again, silver.
    Argentina at the time of its discovery was supposed to have loads of silver, hence the name of the river Rio de la Plata and finally the name of the country.
    I am quite sure that nobody in Turin ever thought about connections with Argentina: funny thing is that in Italy there is also a little town bearing the name Argenta.

    Fiat maintained the newly established metallic tradition with the name of the successor, Croma, a word built like “Argenta” but using the word “cromo”, i.e. “chrome”, again with the feminine inflection -a.
    However, after two applications only, they promptly abandoned the metallic names.

    I can boast a driving experience of an Argenta in the Eighties, when making a 600 km trip with an old uncle convinced that he could still drive the whole distance, and did not want to give up the wheel until exhausted. This happened about after 200-250 km, so I drove the remaining 3-400 km. I only remember the nice and comfy blue velvet seats, the typical Fiat lorry driver position and the equally typical Fiat brakes, only working at the end of the pedal travel and providing a mild deceleration instead of a strong braking.
    I always thought that Fiat built purposely in this way, supposing that the majority of its clients was not in a position to manage a sharp responsive car and appropriately slowing its reactions.

    1. Good post and points awarded for using “cladistic”. It´s a lovely word and not much in use. I might have seen one Argenta in recent memory: about 15 years ago.

  9. The 132 belongs to the era when Italian cars sold in the UK had a reputation for dissolving into ferrous oxide far more rapidly than most; none more rapidly than the Alfasud and Lancia Beta. One 132, however, may well have survived longer than most. One morning in 1986 an urgent call from our fleet engineer summoned me with camera to take before and after photographs for insurance purposes of a car which he was about to attack with a steam cleaner.
    At a set of traffic lights on Eyre Street in central Sheffield, one of our Leyland Nationals had suffered a major engine failure, ejecting the entire contents of its sump through the filler cap, covering the white Fiat 132 in the lane alongside in the process. And I mean covering; I’ve never seen anything like it.
    It cleaned up quite well and I’d like to bet the doors and sills never rusted out…

    1. One of the feature of my childhood in Ireland involved rusted Fiats. They could be under five years old and would be spectactularly rotted. Ritmos stood out for their capacity to fizz to red dust. Alfa Romeos also intruded into my consciousness as famous rusters; then Ford, Opel and Renault (generally) and the Citroen GSA in particular. If you imagine a row of parked cars, a quarter of which were rusted; then add pavements scabbed with asphalt lumps (instead of paving stones) and wooden shutters around derelict buildings you have Dublin circa 1984. Add copious amounts of litter and the image is complete. They really were dire times – I also think very cheap times and while I was stumbling home from school in the endless dark of the 1980s, there were artist, party-people and bohemians having a fantastic time soaked in Guinness and Paddy and reeking of Sweet Afton and Players. When the heat turned up in the 1990s and the property developers awoke, it must have been horrible to be chased from inner Dublin´s gentrifying Bohemia (Baggot St and Temple Bar, N Great George´s St etc).

    2. That’s a very evocative portrait of 1980’s Dublin, Richard. It took me straight back there. Do you remember the derilict lots off Parnell Street that served as makeshift car parks, where an old boy in a little wooden kiosk would collect the money? The badlands of Gardiner Street and Summerhill where, after you parked, young kids would approach you somewhat menacingly and offer to ‘look after’ your car for a quid ? Did we realise at the time how miserable and decrepit it all was, or did we just know no better?

      I left in 1984 after which things just got progressively better (not a case of cause and effect, I hope!)

    3. Yes -my mum had a jones about Marks & Spencers whose only ROI store was near Moore St. She´d park the Morris Minor on one of those cleared lots and then get a few shopping bags of St Michael´s rather salty food. I´d forgotten about those car parks. All of them are gone now, along with the fat old boys in Macs who took the pound an hour.
      The Parnell St area and Clanbrassil St ruins were the result of a cancelled 1970s plan to run a motorway into Dublin´s centre. The DCC to CPOs on those places and they promply decayed and fell down. You can still see the ghost of those plans because eventually the empty lots were rebuilt with sh***y 1990s buildings, a kind of ersatz Georgian style.
      In my own case I fled in 1992 and returned from 1994 to 1997 and buzzed off again. I think the 1990s were probably a rather nice time in Dublin.

    4. Ah yes, Marks & Spencer’s first store in the Republic of Ireland, in Mary Street, Dublin. The building was a staggeringly ugly bit of infill resembling a giant WW2 pillbox:

      It was rumoured that the building looked as it did because it was designed to be bomb-resistant. It was feared that M&S, as a quintessentially British brand, might be vulnerable to an IRA attack.

  10. “ersatz”
    It´s so funny how you guys sometimes use german words, or some french idioms, in your writing.
    It always sound like lyric to me.
    The art of using words is certainly the reason why the articles and comments are so nice to read here.

    1. Hi Fred. It’s often the case that such words are assimilated into English because there’s simply no existing word in the language that means exactly the same thing. Other examples from German are ‘schadenfreude’, ‘zeitgeist’ and ‘leitmotif’. Such words add hugely to the richness of the language.

  11. Ah, schadenfreude is such a great word. Sadly I am ignorant as to what words from Ireland have entered the British lexicon, other than craic and feck (the latter being particularly useful as it captures the vehemence of the alternative without the apparent obscenity)

    1. Thanks for this sidetrack. Not “malarkey” or “shenanigans”, according to several dictionaries these are of unknown origin. Wikipedia’s list might be blarney, however, as it’s lacking mention of the word derived from the castle near Cork and its eponymous stone.

    2. Craic is a recent one and probably travelled with the Irish diaspora to the UK in the late 1980s. “Feck” can be traced to one TV show, Father Ted. I found a list of them to check the others. “galore” means a lot of something (though it started as “enough”). And Tory, ironically, has a Gaelic etymology.
      I had a think about Irish words with a Nordic origin. “Fyr” means a guy in Danish and the Irish for man is “fear” (pronounced “far”). “Asal” means donkey in both Danish and Irish. “ol” is beer in Danish and “a drink” (of anything) There might be other less obvious ones. The fact beer and drink have the same word comes down to the fact beer was what you drank if you could because it was safer than water back then (the eighth century).

      Gestalt, a word borrowed by designers from German.

    3. Thanks for this sidetrack. I would have thought “malarkey” and “shenanigans”, but according to several dictionaries these are of unknown origin. Wikipedia’s list might be blarney, however, as it’s lacking mention of the word derived from the castle near Cork and its eponymous stone.

    4. Amongst the Irish terms which have made their way across the pond, the most powerful and lasting has probably been the term, boycott. This stems from the 19th Century ‘Land War’, where disenfranchised Irish peasants in conjunction with local political groups and Irish parliamentarians in Westminster agitated successfully for tenant reform and the right to purchase outright the land upon which they laboured. During this period, one of the methods employed was used to particular effect upon an English land agent – a Captain Charles Boycott, who had evicted several tenants. He was ostracised by everyone in the community – workers, merchants, shopkeepers, even the postal service – causing him great financial loss. His reversal of fortune eventually forced him to leave the country entirely and lent the movement a powerful tool. The term quickly followed its namesake across the channel, entered the lexicon and has remained there since.

    5. Blarney ought to be in the list – it´s so obvious I didn´t think of it. I wonder if “malarkey” and “shenanigans” are portmanteau words that were intended to suggest Irishness without referring to a particular word. Shenanigan sounds like a mix of the Irish “shau” sound as in the name O’Shaughnessy and Seaumus; and the “-anigan” might be from Flanagan or Brannigan, common Irish names. Malarkey is harder to pin down but might have the same kind of root.
      I looked up Malarkey and found this:
      “The origins of “malarkey” are unclear. It first surfaced in the US in the 1920s, perhaps derived from the Greek insult “malakas,” the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, or the Irish word “mullachan,” which means “ruffian.” In any case, it quickly fused itself with the Irish surname Malarkey, casually bestowing an air of fraudulence on its bearers ever since.” It might be similar to the way the common Italian name Alfonse/Alfonse evolved into something very pejorative as did the name “Guido”.

  12. A very satisfying diversion…. but Father Ted only re-introduced the UK to ‘feck’ – Brendan Behan had beaten him to the draw when ‘Borstal Boy’ was required reading for any self-respecting ’60s teenage rebel with a deep suspicion of the Establishment version of history.
    There was still at least one of those derelict lot car parks in use in 1993; we experienced it when staying for a couple of nights at the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street on our first visit to the Republic. Setting off to our next stop (in Galway) introduced us to the relaxed Irish view of traffic regulations. Making our way through back streets to the Liffey and the main road west, I suddenly realised that I was going the wrong way down a one-way street (Jervis St?). Worse still, a car was coming very purposefully towards me. The driver pulled up with his head out of the window and I started to apologise and explain that I’d turn around as soon as he moved on. “Now don’t do that,” he said, “just keep right on the way you’re going – but when you get to the bottom, for God’s sake don’t turn right!” Any Dubliner will obvious know that to do so would be against the east-bound flow of four lanes of traffic.
    Irish priorities have much to admire. To quote Behan:
    “The sea, oh, the sea, a ghradh ghael mo chroidhe,
    Oh long may you roll between England and me,
    God help the poor Scotsmen, they’ll never be free,
    But we’re entirely surrounded be water.”

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