A correspondent wrote to ask about a word she remembered her late mother using. Her mother was born in 1921 and grew up in a part of Montreal that had a lot of immigrants; her family was Irish-Canadian but her best friend was Italian and her neighbors were Polish, Ukrainian, and Chinese:
Anyway, Mom learned bits and pieces of other languages, but the one she knew most bits of was Ukrainian. She and her brother and sister knew enough of it at the time to use it casually at home to keep things secret from their parents. And a word she said she used was “manigroola”. It was an insult, but I think not an obscene one. It kind of meant someone who was a bit of an oaf, with overtones of “just off the boat” or “greenhorn”.
I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d be able to help with this one; “manigroola” sounded like exactly the sort of half-remembered, mangled bit of verbal detritus that could come from anywhere and was maybe one of those family words nobody else uses. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be straight from Ukrainian: a Ukrainian-Canadian writer named Yakiv Maidanyk (1891–1984) wrote a comic play called «Маніґрула» (Manigrula, 1926). The problem is that I have no idea what this expressive-sounding word means; almost all the Google hits are for the play, and the few exceptions (“А цес манігрула каи, а хтож другий піде як не вуйко Штифан”; “Манігрула дурний! — наперебій загомоніли. — Нам ціну збиває!”; “Оцей, во, во, „манігрула”, буде щось говорити?”) don’t help pin it down. So: anybody out there know anything more? My correspondent and I thank you in advance!