‘dinnyhayser’: meanings (and origin?)



The Australian and New-Zealand noun dinnyhayser (also dinnyhayeser, etc.) denotes a knockout blow; anything of exceptional size or force.

This noun occurs, for example, in the account of a rugby match between Queensland and New South Wales, published in Truth (Brisbane, Queensland) of Sunday 27th June 1954:

A dinny-hazer left-foot field goal from 50 yards by Churchill and it was 22-10.




The noun dinnyhayser allegedly alludes to a boxer called Dinny Hayes. For example, the following explanations are from The Australian Language (Sydney and London: Angus and Robertson Ltd., 1945), by Sidney John Baker (1912-1976):

dinnyhayser. A heavy blow, a haymaker; anything extreme in action or notably good. Commemorating the pugilist Dinny Hayes.

However, two facts cast doubt on the claim that the noun dinnyhayser alludes to a boxer called Dinny Hayes.

First fact: In early use, the noun dinnyhayser denoted a quick movement (cf., below, quotations 1 & 2). I have also found an occurrence of dinnyhayse used a verb meaning to rush (cf., below, quotation 7).

Second fact: I have found no mention of a boxer called Dinny Hayes. I have, however, found a few mentions of one or, more probably, several boxers called Denny Hayes.

In Ring Record and Fistic Facts, published in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1895, Nelson J. Innes, Sporting Editor of the Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), mentioned a fight between the British boxer Charles Watson Mitchell (1861-1918) and a boxer called Denny Hayes, which took place at Leadville, Colorado, in July 1883. (This fight was also mentioned in 1911 Championship Records: A Complete, Concise and Authentic Pocket Sporting Compendium, compiled by Thomas S. Andrews, Sporting Editor of the Evening Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), and Henry O. Messier, of Milwaukee, National Representative, published for Mike Bradley, Lawrence, Massachusetts.)

Boxing’s Official Record Keeper indicates that this July 1883 fight opposed Charles Watson Mitchell and the U.S. boxer Denis Ike Hayes, whose career spanned the years 1883 to 1914.

Finally, the Independent Record (Helena, Montana) of Saturday 26th February 2022 published a detailed biography of Denis Isaak ‘Ike’ Hayes (1863-1930), who “fought his first professional bout at 20 years of age, in Leadville”.

In any case, the New-Zealand and Australian noun dinnyhayser is unlikely to allude to the U.S. boxer Denis Isaak ‘Ike’ Hayes, since this noun is first recorded in 1878 (cf., below, quotation 1), and Denis Isaak ‘Ike’ Hayes first fought professionally in 1883.

More intriguing is the mention of a boxer called Denny Hayes in the Sydney Sportsman (Sydney, New South Wales) of 12th April 1905, together with an occurrence of the noun dinnyhayser (cf., below, quotation 6). But the earliest occurrence of this noun dates back to 6th July 1878 (cf., below, quotation 1), almost twenty-seven years earlier.




In A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (Sydney University Press in association with Oxford University Press Australia, 1990), by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020), the earliest occurrences of the noun dinnyhayser and variants dates from 1907.

But the earliest occurrences that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the account of a rugby match between the clubs of Carlton, Victoria, and Waratah, New South Wales, published in The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, New South Wales) of Saturday 6th July 1878:

Brilliant play on the part of G. Robertson was responded to by Marshall, and Nash getting a favourable opportunity, made the most of it by driving the ball well into the centre. When there, Thallon, J. Robertson, and M‘Gill made a “Dinny-Hayeser” for it, and the two latter colliding, M‘Gill had his leg broken just above the knee. As he was being carried towards the pavilion Melville, who had been playing in his best style, emerged therefrom, with his head bandaged, he having received a severe contusion above the eye.

2-: From the account of the first day of the Newmarket Handicap, dated Melbourne, Wednesday 3rd March 1897, published in The Otago Witness (Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand) of Thursday 18th March 1897:

The Officer won like a racehorse, his dash at the entrance to the straight being equally as cyclonic in character as Old Jack’s famous “dinnyhayeser” in the Melbourne Cup of 1890.

3-: From the account of a cricket match between Castlereagh and Springwood, published in The Nepean Times (Penrith, New South Wales) of Saturday 24th December 1898:

[The ball] broke about two feet on the leg side. Stratton tried to smother it, but failed in the attempt, the ball disarranging both outside pegs. This augured well for Castlereagh especially when Smith’s next over disturbed Croucher’s leg stump with a real “Dinnyazer,” knocking the stump back several yards and leaving the other two with the bail undisturbed.

4-: From an interview in which the New-Zealand boxer Otto Cribb (born Alfred Otto Simpson – 1878-1901) evoked the second time he fought in the USA against the U.S. boxer Charles Thurston (1879-1948)—interview published in The W.A. Sportsman (Kalgoorlie, Western Australia) of Saturday 22nd June 1901:

“Once I caught him a ‘Dinny Hayeser’ on the mark, and he (after rising) ran round the ring, doubled up, screeching ‘foul!’ I was moving along to finish him when the referee and the police came between us, thus giving the Yankee-Dutchman time to pull himself together.”

5-: From The Lambing Down of Fred, a short story by ‘Ne’er Do-Weel’, published in The Queenslander (Brisbane, Queensland) of Saturday 12th December 1903:

“Fred ’e does do some silly things at times, there’s no git out ’f it. The cattle wuz restless, one night, an’ Ross an’ M‘Coy wuz on watch an’ Fred an’ I turned in. I wuz dreamin’ the cattle ’ad rushed over me an’ I wuz pinned down be me ’orse, ’oo kep’ kickin’ me in the ribs, when I woke ter fin’ some one ’ad me be th’ beard, an’ wuz settin’ astride er me chest a beltin’ me with the double ’f a whip, an’ singin’ out ‘Woa back there! Woa baack! Git up, ’orse!’ And then I gits a tug at me beard, two dennyaisers in me ribs, an’ a clip wi’ the double ’f a whip—a reg’ler beauty.”

6-: From the boxing fixtures published in the Sydney Sportsman (Sydney, New South Wales) of Wednesday 12th April 1905:

Saturday, June 3—Denny Hayes v. Paddy M‘Grath, Gaiety Athletic Club.
Denny Hayes and Paddy M‘Grath, who put up such a rousing prelim. at the Gaiety on Saturday night for love and the championship of the Tim Carter’s Union, have been matched for a 20-round go on June 3. Those who saw Paddy dodging “Curly’s” “dinnyhaysers” won’t miss the next meeting.

7-: From The Sunday Times (Perth, Western Australia) of Sunday 21st January 1906:

Goldfields Pars—And Jingles.

They were tramping it up at Lawlers, and the Yankee began to look around him for a means of transferring bluey to some other beast of burden. He sighted a camel, and told his mate it was the very thing the doctor ordered. His mate asked him if he ever had an experience of dromedaries. Yank told him he had not, but soon would have. Going up to the animal—a fine big bull in season—he said “Hooshta!” The camel pushed his enormous tongue out, bent his neck like an emu, squealed, and charged the Yank, who dinny-haysed it over the saltbush in record time. He flanked round, and in the course of a couple of hours he returned with the information that he “guessed the blamed thing was wild—couldn’t have been broken in, like.”

8-: From a portrait of the Reverend Father Redden, published in The Burra Record (Burra, South Australia) of Wednesday 11th July 1906:

The Rev Father Redden is an everyday gentleman, and while his duties as a church worker are many he finds time to associate with the young men of the town, and the high tone and mannerism of our footballers are due to him, for being popular amongst them they disregard everything unbecoming on the field, and the language used by those who sometimes get a “Dinnyhazer” is of such a character as can be repeated by anyone.

9-: From St. Patrick’s Day Celebration and the Ball, published in The Collie Miner (Collie, Western Australia) of Saturday 21st March 1908:

Mr. J. McAulay was driving a cart through the bush when he had an exciting snake adventure. He was picking up a piece of firewood when a number of small copper headed snakes made a dash for his green ribbon. As he was disposing of the infant reptiles the ma snake happened along, and a great commotion ensued. The maternal lady objected to such vandalism even on St Patrick’s day, and with a wild whirroo she made for John, who was compelled to give her what is known in the classics as a “dinnyhayser.” There is, therefore, one family of snakes less in the neighbourhood.

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