the dear knows

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Unclear. Bliss and Dolan suggest a conflation of dear, as in "oh dear" or "the Dear Lord", and deer, by analogy with the conflation in Irish of Fiadha "God" and fiadh "deer".


the dear knows

  1. (Ireland, dated) God knows; nobody knows
    • 1806 'Caleb Thistle' "How are the mighty fallen!" in The Evening Fire-side; or Literary Miscellany (Philadelphia; 10 May 1806) Vol.II No.19 p.147:
      O thou, whom poets call Melpomene,
      Who hast inspir'd, the dear knows how many
      In ancient times to sing O Dear O's
      On hapless fates of unknown heroes,
    • 19th century Anonymous Irish or Scottish ballad, I Know Where I’m Going:
      I know where I’m going,
      I know who’s going with me,
      I know who I love,
      But the dear knows who I’ll marry.
    • 2004 Cynthia Harrod-Eagles The Dear Departed p.205:
      And there it sits, spreading rubbish about because of the cats, and smelling like the Dear knows what.
  2. (Ireland, dated) God knows; of course, certainly, nobody could doubt
    • 1914 James Joyce, "A Mother" in Dubliners:
      Then she gave a little sigh and said: “Ah, well! We did our best, the dear knows.”
    • 1939 Flann O'Brien At Swim-two-birds, Chapter One:
      The dear knows your father worked hard enough for the money he is laying out on your education.