Rollicking/Rámhailleach

Out of the hundreds of silly claims in Daniel Cassidy’s ludicrous book, How The Irish Invented Slang, few are sillier than his theory about the origins of the word rollicking. This is a word that makes its appearance in English for the first time in 1811. Cassidy says that the dictionaries say it is ‘of obscure origin’ but there seems to be a consensus that it is linked in some way to frolicking, which is of Dutch origin.

As usual with Cassidy’s work, all he has to offer is a vague similarity of sound. He says that this word comes from Irish rámhailleach, which is either an adjective or a verbal noun deriving from rámhaille, which means raving or ranting. The word rámhailleach is pronounced something like row-will-yah, so it really sounds nothing like rollicking. Also, the meaning is completely different. People have a rollicking good time all the time in English, but nobody every had ‘am maith rámhailleach’ (a raving good time). Rámhaille in Irish means that someone is mentally or physically ill. Rollicking is the very opposite.

As na céadta bómántacht a chum Daniel Cassidy agus a d’fhoilsigh sé ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, is beag ceann acu atá chomh bómánta leis an méid a bhí le rá aige maidir le bunús an fhocail rollicking. Is focal Béarla é rollicking a taifeadadh den chéad uair sa bhliain 1811. Deir Cassidy go ndeir na foclóirí go bhfuil a bhunús doiléir, ach bíonn an chuid is mó de na scoláirí ar aon intinn go bhfuil nasc idir rollicking agus an focal frolicking, a fuair an Béarla ón Ísiltíris.

Mar is gnách le teoiricí Cassidy, níl fianaise le tairiscint aige ach go bhfuil focal sa Ghaeilge a mheasann sé a bheith cosúil leis an fhocal Béarla ó thaobh fuaime de. Deir Cassidy gur tháinig an focal seo ó rámhailleach na Gaeilge, a chiallaíonn caint gan chiall a dhéanamh agus tú tinn, ar meisce, as do mheabhair srl. Ar ndóigh, níl fuaim an fhocail rámhailleach ar dhóigh ar bith cosúil le rollicking, agus tá an chiall iomlán difriúil fosta. Is féidir ‘a rollicking good time’ a bheith agat i mBéarla. Ní féidir am maith rámhailleach a bheith agat i nGaeilge! Ciallaíonn rámhaille go bhfuil duine tinn nó as a mheabhair. Ciallaíonn rollicking a mhalairt ar fad.

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