Kitty

In Daniel Cassidy’s insane work of etymological fiction, How The Irish Invented Slang, the phoney professor of Irish Studies claimed that the word kitty, meaning a pot of money in a gambling game, derives from the Irish phrase cuid oíche. This is highly improbable.

The origins of the word kitty are unknown, though there are several possibilities. You can find some information at these links:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-kit2.htm

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=kitty

The phrase cuid oíche (earlier spelling cuid oidhche) is an historical term. It literally means ‘a night’s portion’ and it refers to the entertainment which a lord could expect from his subjects. It is pronounced roughly as cudge-eeha and has been anglicised as cuddy. In other words, it is not a good match for kitty in terms of pronunciation or of meaning.

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2 thoughts on “Kitty

  1. DebunkerOfCassidy Post author

    Yes, it’s a very handsome animal, though the kitty in question has no connection with cats! It’s a kind of visual pun, I suppose. Incidentally, cats have a special importance in Irish culture. One of the best-known Old Irish poems is by a monk talking about his pet cat. Here’s Robin Flower’s translation:

    I and Pangur Bán, my cat
    ‘Tis a like task we are at;
    Hunting mice is his delight
    Hunting words I sit all night.

    Better far than praise of men
    ‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
    Pangur bears me no ill will,
    He too plies his simple skill.

    ‘Tis a merry thing to see
    At our tasks how glad are we,
    When at home we sit and find
    Entertainment to our mind.

    Oftentimes a mouse will stray
    In the hero Pangur’s way:
    Oftentimes my keen thought set
    Takes a meaning in its net.

    ‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
    Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
    ‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
    All my little wisdom try.

    When a mouse darts from its den,
    O how glad is Pangur then!
    O what gladness do I prove
    When I solve the doubts I love!

    So in peace our tasks we ply,
    Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;
    In our arts we find our bliss,
    I have mine and he has his.

    Practice every day has made
    Pangur perfect in his trade;
    I get wisdom day and night
    Turning darkness into light.

    Reply

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