Today’s word of the day is corker, a remarkable or astounding person or thing.
The history of corker is really about bottle corks and not about Irish from Cork. It means a settler, as in a thing which settles (a debate, wager, etc.), not a person who newly inhabits a mostly unpopulated area.
A corker is the last word on a topic. It is literally a “stopper” like a bottle stopper, only in this case it is a debate stopper. It is something so great that any talk further about it, or any attempt to identify a better example of such a thing, is pointless. A similar use is when people say “Put a cork in it!” meaning “stop talking!”
You can find an apt description of a slightly different way of using of “corker” in this dictionary of Sussex dialect from 1840: “I have given him a corker; ‘I have silenced him;’ I have closed up his mouth as effectually as a cork does a bottle.”
“My gal’s a corker
She’s a New Yorker.
I buy her everything to keep her in style.
She’s got a pair of hips
Just like two battleships.
Oh boy, that’s where my money goes.”
(repeat with verses on arms/legs/etc.)
I can see how one might extend “a corker” in the sense of “something that ends a conversation; a great exit line” to the more general notion of “a great line”.
From there, I can imagine that within one generation of loud barflies one might go from “ahahah, Jamie, that’s a corker” to “hah, Jamie’s a corker” — re-analysis in a loud bar might be able to do it in a week.
This just made my day!