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Words – I love ’em.

I love learning languages and looking to the entomology of words. All too often however one looks in a dictionary for the meaning and entomology of an English word to see origin unknown. Then I learned to look in a good Irish dictionary – and there it is.

Example Smolt: In English origin unknown but in Irish a smolt is any young animal.

A clear case of poor workmanship by the compilers (or – most probably racism).

The wonderful book “How the Irish Invented Slang” (The secret language of the crossroads) by Professor Daniel Cassidy ISBN 978-1-904859604. describes how the Irish language didn’t ‘disappear. He has solver the mystery of how, after centuries  of intense intergration, a people as verbally agile and inventive as the Irish could seemingly have made almost no impression on English. Many students of the English language found this baffeling. What was missing, it turns out, wasn’t a steady penetration of Irish into English,  but somebody equipped with Cassidy’s genius – a unique combination of street smarts and scholarship, of memory intuition and intellect – who could disern and decipher the evidence. (quoted from the Introduction by Peter Quinn)

Like the Frenchmen that discovered the Rosetta stone (Jean-François Champollion), Cassidy’s discovery began with a serendipitous dig.  An old uncle was referred to a Boliver and no one knew why. It was a semi-sarcastic nickname for the taciturn grandfather who had little to say – possibly because he was ‘bothered’.

Bolivar ==> bailbhe, balbhán – mute, inarticulate, a silent person.

Bothered=> bodher. Deaf – NB bothrán – = a deafenar – something to make one daef.

More Words of Uncertain Origin (Sic)

Babe; báb a baby a young maiden, term of affection, bábín, babán.

Bad Beat(gambling term); – severe loss theft or injury. béad, loss, crime, injury sorrow.

Balliwick; district of a baliff fig; a local area of person of influence, báille mhicus, baile = area/townland, micus – district(possibly from Latin Vicus – area of living) {Check out ; Commouious Vicus a walk around Ireland for a very peripatetic experience. It passes us!}.

wanker: Uath-anchor – a self abuser (Gaelic) uath = self. Anchor (n.) abuse, ill-treatment, ill-usage. Níor thugador aon anchor dó. They gave him no abuse.


About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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