Some English speakers use the word ‘lurgy’ (hard ‘g’ – rhymes with ‘Fergie’) to refer to an unspecified illness, often used as a convenient excuse to get out of doing something unwanted. Dictionary.com states ‘C20: origin unknown’ but Wiktionary attributes it to a Goon Show episode, written by Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes, titled Lurgi Strikes Britain. In that episode, lurgi (aka ‘the dreaded lurgi’) is a fictitious condition created by the villains in order to sell brass-band instruments, on the supposed ground that ‘nobody who played a brass-band instrument had ever been known to catch lurgi’. Wikitionary cites World Wide Words, which speculates that Milligan and Sykes derived it from ‘allergy’ (but that has a soft ‘g’), or from the Lurgi gasification process, developed by the company of that name in Germany in the 1930s to get gas from low-grade coal, or from a northern England dialect adjective meaning idle or lazy.
A few days ago, I was procrastinating by repeatedly clicking Wikipedia’s ‘random article’ button. I chanced across the article on Manx English, the variety of English spoken on the Isle of Man. Among the ‘Modern Anglo-Manx lexicon’ is ‘Lhergy – a hill-slope, or high wasteland. Goin’ down the lhergy means going downhill in life. (from Gaelic Lhiargee or Lhiargagh meaning “slope”)’, citing A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect (Oxford University Press, 1924). The pronunciation in Manx is apparently not identical to that in standard English (you’ll have to wade through the article on Manx pronunciation yourself) and there’s no knowing how it was/is pronounced in Manx English, but it’s close enough to be intriguing. On the other hand, fertile comic imaginations often create words from nothing. Milligan (whose father was Irish) died in 2002 and Sykes (born in Lancashire) in 2012, so unless they left anything in writing, we’ll never know.