Brag

According to Cassidy, the terms ‘brag’ and ‘braggart’ in English derive from the Irish words bréag and bréagóir.

So, is there any truth to this claim? Well, the word bréag does exist in Irish and the word bréagóir is given as a variant (by Dineen) of the more common expression bréagadóir. O Dónaill’s dictionary doesn’t even mention bréagóir as an alternative version. The problem is that while both of these expressions, bréag and bréagadóir/bréagóir, are somewhere in the ballpark, they are out with the hot-dog sellers rather than in the diamond. Bréag means ‘a lie’. It doesn’t mean the same thing as bragging or boasting. There are a number of expressions for bragging: ag déanamh mórtais, ag braigeáil (a loan word from English brag!), maíomh a dhéanamh as rud, ag déanamh a mhór díot féin and half a dozen others.

And, as it happens, brag is well attested in English as far back as the 14th century, which means that it didn’t come from bréag and has nothing to do with Irish slang in America.

And finally, let’s all have a good laugh at Cassidy’s expense. Bréag is pronounced brayg, to rhyme with Haigue or Craig. Broadly speaking, there are two ways of doing the phonetics in books like this. You can either learn the International Phonetic Alphabet and use it as the basis for your description, which looks a bit off-putting to anyone without linguistic training, or you can produce an ad hoc system of your own based on English, as I did with brayg above.

This is the IPA version: bʲɾʲeːɡ. At least, I think this is right. I’m no expert!

Cassidy wrote b’ríǒg as his version of the phonetics of the word bréag. Nobody trying to work out the pronunciation of bréag would have a chance of pronouncing it properly from this. While it looks as technical and scientific as the IPA, it is complete nonsense. Pure codology. God alone knows what Cassidy thought he was doing when he produced this silly little piece of pseudo-phonetics but it just goes to show what a complete charlatan, doofus and moron he was!

These words, of course, are all Irish: síorliodán meaning ‘an eternal rigmarole’, dubhfhios meaning ‘black knowledge’ or figuratively, ignorance, and mór-rón, a big fat stupid seal. Obviously, none of these is really correct but it just shows how easy it is to produce crap like this using Cassidy’s ‘methodology!’

Chance of Cassidy being correct: Surprise, surprise – 0%!

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2 thoughts on “Brag

  1. Peadar

    My knowledge about Irish (let alone the command of it) is highly restricted, but I dare say his transcription might have been based on a real source—provided it was a Munster Irish source. In this dialect “éa” has two pronunciations, [ia] where the old spelling was “eu” (so “a bird” is ‘ee-unn’, much like ScG “eun”) and [e:] elsewhere (“to do” remains ‘dyay’n’). The “í” of his transcription would than mean a stressed ‘ee’, and “ǒ”—an ‘o’ as in “hot” pronounced in General American. Maybe this single bit wasn’t blown.

    Reply
    1. Debunker Post author

      Hi Peadar, Thanks for the contribution. As I’ve said before, I welcome this kind of feedback. It may well be the case that you’re right (I’m no expert on Munster Irish) but as you suggest (Maybe this single bit wasn’t blown) Cassidy’s overall claim is still absurd because brag and braggart are recorded in English back in the 14th century and also because the meaning is significantly different. Bréag means lie or deception. Bragging doesn’t necessarily imply lying. A person may be bragging about skills or possessions or attributes which they genuinely possess. Bliain Úr faoi mhaise duit, cibé!

      Reply

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