Category Archives: Drossary

A glossary entry about one of Cassidy’s crazy theories, debunking that particular word or phrase and explaining why it is nonsense.

Níos mó ar ‘dude’ na Gaeilge

Tá teoiricí amaideacha Cassidy faoin fhocal ‘dude’ pléite agam roimhe seo. Mura gcuireann sé fonn ort caitheamh amach, is féidir leat éisteacht le Cassidy ag cur thairis faoin ábhar seo leis an mheascán den phoimpéis agus den bhómántacht ba dhual dó le lucht féachana geanúil de lútálaithe agus de bhocamadáin ag an NY Tenement Museum anseo: http://tenement-museum.blogspot.com/2008/10/danny-cassidy.html

Má tá tú ar dhóigh ar bith cósúil liomsa, cuirfidh blas srónach féinsásta agus easpa umhlachta Cassidy isteach ort chomh mór sin gurbh fhearr leat a chuid rámhaillí maidir leis an cheist seo a léamh in áit éisteacht leis. Seo an dóigh ar foilsíodh an méid a mhaígh Cassidy faoi bhunús an fhocail ‘dude’ ar CounterPunch: 

Dude, n.,a dapper dandy; a ‘swell,’ an affected, fastidious fop; a city slicker at a dude ranch. “Origin unknown.” (Barnhart Dictionary of English Etymology, 305.)

Dúd, (pron. dood), dúd(a), al. dúid, n., a foolish-looking fellow; a dolt, a numbskull; a clown; an idiot; a rubbernecker; a long-necked eavesdropper. (Dineen, 377, 378; Ó Dónaill, 459, 460.)

Dúdach, adj., rubber-necked; foolish-looking, queer. Dúdaire, n., a clown, an idiot (Kerry); a long-necked person; a dolt; an eavesdropper. Dúdálaí, n., a stupid person; an idiot; a self-conscious person.  (Dineen, 377, 378; Ó Dónaill, 459, 460, Foclóir Póca, 349, 350)

Dúd (pron. dood, a dolt) was a moniker Irish Americans slapped on slumming, dapper, wealthy, young “swells,” out on a “spree” (spraoi, fun, sport, frolic, a drinking bout) in the concert saloons, dance halls, and theaters of old New York.

Mar sin de, duine ar bith atá ag léamh chur síos Cassidy ar an scéal, shílfeadh sé go bhfuil dornán focal ann sa Ghaeilge ar nós diúid, dúid, dúdaire, dúdálaí, dúidín agus dúdóg, focail a mbaintear úsaid astu, den chuid is mó, le cur síos ar dhaoine. Sin é leagan Cassidy. Amharcaimis ar an fhírinne in áit leagan Cassidy.

De réir cosulachta, tá dhá fhocal ar leith i gceist anseo. Deir FGB Uí Dhónaill:  Diúid 1. Simple, uncomplicated. 2. Straightforward, sincere. 3. Simple-minded, silly.  Ní léir go bhfuil baint ar bith aige leis an fhocal dúid, an focal is bunús leis na focail eile a thug mé thuas. Is ainmfhocal dúid. Bíonn sé le fáil in amanna i seantéacsanna san fhoirm dúda. Seo an méid atá le rá ag Ó Dónaill: 

dúid, f. (gs. ~e, pl. ~eanna).1. Stump. Rud a ghearradh (amach, aníos) ón ~, ó bhun na ~e, to cut sth. right down to the stump. Chuir an tarbh an adharc go bun na ~e, go filleadh ~e, ann, the bull stuck his horn right into him. 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. ~ a chur ort féin, to crane ones neck; to turn ones head shyly away; to eavesdrop; to mope around. Greim ~e a fháil ar dhuine, to grasp s.o. by the neck, to fasten on s.o. Rud a chur ar do dhúid, to swallow hard at sth., to gulp sth. down ones throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull. (Var:~eán m)

Ar an drochuair, fágadh sanasaíocht na Gaeilge in áit na leithphingine thar na blianta. Níl oiread agus bunfhoclóir sanasaíochta againn i nGaeilge nó fiú i mBéarla faoi bhunús na bhfocal Gaeilge. Ach, nuair a chuardaigh mé an focal dúid i dtéacsanna Gaeilge, tháinig mé ar a lán samplaí ina raibh duid ann mar leagan mílitrithe den fhocal duit no den fhocal dóid (dorn nó lámh).  

Ní bhaineann na téarmaí seo go príomha le daoine. Bíonn téarmaí ar nós dúid agus dúidín ag tagairt do stumpaí nó butaí, rudaí atá cosúil le buta, le feadán, le muineál, le cluas, le trumpaí beaga nó le dúidíní tobac. Baintear úsáid as i bhfrásaí ar nós gearrtha go dúid, agus na focail thánaisteacha, leithéidí dúdaire agus dúdálaí (a chiallaíonn cúléisteoir nó scrogaire), fuair siad an chiall sin cionn is go mbíonn duine fiosrach ag síneadh na dúide le héisteacht nó le hamharc níos fearr ar rudaí nach mbaineann leo. 

Cad é faoin fhocal dúid mar mhasla, mar théarma a úsáidtear le cur síos a dhéanamh ar dhaoine? An bhfuil fianaise ar bith ann? Bhal, Ó Dónaill, ina Fhoclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, luann sé an chiall duine íseal nó blocán, ach níl sa tsainmhíniú sin ach an ceathrú ceann, agus an ceann deireanach. Agus luann Dinneen agus Ó Dónaill araon an focal galldúda leis an chiall búr, fuirseoir. (Is dócha gur Gall, duine eachtrannach, atá i gceist leis an chéad chuid.) 

Seachas an dá fhoinse seo, ní bhfuair mé aon tsampla eile de na focail dúid ná dúda in úsáid mar théarma maslach le tagairt a dhéanamh do dhaoine i dtéacsanna Gaeilge. Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is fíorannamh a úsáidtear an téarma seo le cur síos a dhéanamh ar dhaoine agus mar gheall air sin, ní mór dúinn an cheist a chur, an é seo an focal (nó an focal de na focail é seo) a mbaineadh lucht na Gaeilge úsáid as/astu nuair a chonaic siad gaige ardaicmeach ag siúl go mórluachach trí cheantar na mbocht? I ndiaidh an tsaoil, tá sé le tuiscint ó shainmhíniú Uí Dhónaill gur duine íseal, ciotach, cúlanta, caochóg ar chóisir, duine cotúil leamh atá i gceist le dúid, an chorruair a úsáidtear an téarma sin le daoine. An phríomhchiall atá le dude an Bhéarla, gur duine a dhéanann seó saolta de féin atá ann, duine a nochtann a chuid saibhris agus a thuiscint ar stíl agus ar fhaisean don tsaol mhór.

Ní hamháin sin, ach is léir go bhfuil an gnáthbhunús a luann lucht na sanasaiochta (go dtig sé ón amhrán Yankee Doodle, a bhfuil baint láidir aige le gaigí agus le bónna aonaigh) i bhfad níos láidre ná cás Cassidy. Níl i leagan Cassidy ach caimiléireacht aineolach mhíchumtha ó bhréagadóir bromúdarásach naircisíoch nach raibh scileanna ná cáilíochtaí ar bith aige.

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More on the Irish dude

I have dealt before with Cassidy’s ridiculous claims about the word ‘dude’. If you have the stomach for it, you can listen to Cassidy spouting rubbish about this subject with his usual mixture of pomposity and incompetence to an adoring audience of sycophants and dimwits at the NY Tenement Museum: http://tenement-museum.blogspot.com/2008/10/danny-cassidy.html

If, like me, you find Cassidy’s self-satisfied nasal twang and utter lack of humility a real turn-off, perhaps you will prefer to read his nonsense in relation to this question instead of listening to it. Here is the way that Cassidy’s claims about the Irish origins of ‘dude’ appeared on CounterPunch:

Dude, n.,a dapper dandy; a ‘swell,’ an affected, fastidious fop; a city slicker at a dude ranch. “Origin unknown.” (Barnhart Dictionary of English Etymology, 305.)
Dúd, (pron. dood), dúd(a), al. dúid, n., a foolish-looking fellow; a dolt, a numbskull; a clown; an idiot; a rubbernecker; a long-necked eavesdropper. (Dineen, 377, 378; Ó Dónaill, 459, 460.)
Dúdach, adj., rubber-necked; foolish-looking, queer. Dúdaire, n., a clown, an idiot (Kerry); a long-necked person; a dolt; an eavesdropper. Dúdálaí, n., a stupid person; an idiot; a self-conscious person. (Dineen, 377, 378; Ó Dónaill, 459, 460, Foclóir Póca, 349, 350)
Dúd (pron. dood, a dolt) was a moniker Irish Americans slapped on slumming, dapper, wealthy, young “swells,” out on a “spree” (spraoi, fun, sport, frolic, a drinking bout) in the concert saloons, dance halls, and theaters of old New York.

So, anyone reading Cassidy’s account would think that there is a complex of Irish terms like diúid, dúid, dúdaire, dúdálaí, dúidín and dúdóg, all of which apparently refer to people. That’s Cassidy’s version. Let’s have a look at the truth instead of Cassidy’s version.

There seem to be at least two separate words here. Diúid is an obscure adjective meaning 1. Simple, uncomplicated. 2. Straightforward, sincere. 3. Simple-minded, silly. (According to Ó Dónaill’s dictionary) It doesn’t seem to have any relationship to the word dúid, which seems to be the origin of all the other words given above. Dúid is a noun. It sometimes occurs in older texts as dúda. Here are its meanings (again from Ó Dónaill):

dúid, f. (gs. ~e, pl. ~eanna).1. Stump. Rud a ghearradh (amach, aníos) ón ~, ó bhun na ~e, to cut sth. right down to the stump. Chuir an tarbh an adharc go bun na ~e, go filleadh ~e, ann, the bull stuck his horn right into him. 2. (a) Stumpy object, protuberant part; (short) horn, (cropped) ear, tail. (b) Short-stemmed (clay) pipe. 3. (Craned) neck, throat. ~ a chur ort féin, to crane one’s neck; to turn one’s head shyly away; to eavesdrop; to mope around. Greim ~e a fháil ar dhuine, to grasp s.o. by the neck, to fasten on s.o. Rud a chur ar do dhúid, to swallow hard at sth., to gulp sth. down one’s throat. 4. (a) Stumpy person. (b) Mopish, shy person; numbskull. (Var:~eán m)

Unfortunately, the field of Irish-language etymology has been neglected down the years. We don’t even have a basic etymological dictionary in Irish for common words. When I have searched for it in Irish texts and also on Google, I have come across many instances where duid is a misspelling of duit (for or to you), or of dóid (a fist or hand).

These terms are not primarily about people. Terms like dúid and dúidín seem to refer to stumps, stump-like objects, tubes, the neck, the ear, small trumpets or smoking pipes. It is used in phrases like gearrtha go dúid, (cut down to the stump) and the secondary words like dúdaire and dúdálaí (which mean things like rubbernecker or eavesdropper) acquired these meanings from the notion of someone craning their neck to hear or see things that are none of their business.

What about dúid being used as an insulting term for a person? Is there any evidence of this? Well, Ó Dónaill in his Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla gives it as having the meaning stumpy person or shy person or numbskull, though this is the fourth and final meaning given. And both Dinneen and Ó Dónaill give the word galldúda with the definition of an ignorant, clownish person. (The first bit is presumably gall, meaning foreign, non-Gaelic.)

Apart from these two sources, I have not come across any instance of dúid or dúda being used as a dismissive term for people in Irish texts. In other words, its use in this way is very rare, and because of this, we have to ask ourselves if this is the, or even a word, that Irish-speaking people would have used when they saw some dandy strutting through their area. After all, the implication of Ó Dónaill’s definition is that a dúid is someone who is stumpy, shy, awkward, who doesn’t do much. The primary meaning of dude in English is an exhibitionist, someone who flaunts their wealth and their style.

Add to that the appropriateness of the usual etymologist’s derivation from Yankee Doodle and its clear association with dandyism, and Cassidy’s claim starts to look like what it is – a load of ignorant, distorted flim-flam from a loud-mouthed, narcissistic con-man with no skills and no qualifications.

Níos Mó Ar An Chaidhp Bháis

Phostáil mé roimhe seo faoi bhunús Gaeilge (mar dhea) an fhrása “to put the kybosh on something.” I bpostáil darbh ainm Putting The Kybosh on Cassidy (Bealtaine 2016), luaigh mé gur minic roimhe seo a maíodh gur Gaeilge é kybosh (i bhfad sular foilsíodh leabhar bómánta Cassidy). Deirtear gur leagan truaillithe de na frásaí caip bháis nó caidhp bháis atá ann. An gnáthmhíniú air sin ná gur tagairt atá ann don chaipín dubh a chuireann breitheamh ar a cheann agus é ag daoradh duine chun báis.

Is féidir plé spéisiúil ar an téarma seo le hAnatoly Liberman a léamh ag blag an OUP anseo:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

Sa phlé a rinne mé ar an bhunús Gaeilge a mhaítear don fhocal kybosh, luaigh mé nár tháinig mé ar thagairt ar bith don bhunús Gaeilge seo roimh cheann a foilsíodh ar an Cornell Daily Sun i mí na Nollag, 1936. San alt sin, tá cur síos ar léacht a thug fear darbh ainm Conboy faoi bhunús Gaeilge roinnt focal i mBéarla.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais,’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’

An lá faoi dheireadh, bhí mé ag déanamh roinnt taighde nach mbaineann leis an ábhar seo ar na Irish News Archives (Cartlanna Nuachtán na hÉireann), cartlann bhreá inchuardaithe de shean-nuachtáin Éireannacha. Bhí mé ar shéala an ríomhaire a dhruidim agus dul a luí, nuair a shocraigh mé kibosh/kybosh a chuardach lena fháil amach cad é a bhí ann.

Tá an plé thíos bunaithe ar thorthai an chuardaigh sin.

Sa Kerry Champion ar an 6ú lá de Mheán Fómhair, 1930, foilsíodh litir ó dhuine a d’úsáid an leasainm Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne. Bhí an duine seo ag labhairt ar an Choláiste Gaeilge ar an Daingean i gCiarraí:

I asked him all about the Colaisde. “The Colaisde is it?” said he. “The koybosh (caip bhais) is put on it altogether for the past few years, and this year beat them all.”

I dtús báire, shíl mé gur léirigh seo go soiléir gur cor cainte Gaeilge atá i gceist le koybosh agus gur fíorphíosa fianaise é seo. Agus sin ráite, nuair a léigh mé an chuid eile de na haltanna, ní raibh mé chomh cinnte sin.

Ar an 21ú Aibreán, 1933, ar Scéala Éireann (The Irish Press) deir Seosamh S Ua Ceallaigh ó Richmond i Surrey gur tagairt atá ann don chaipín dhubh a chuireann breitheamh ar a cheann agus gur caip báis atá ann sa Ghaeilge. Ach, ceithre lá ina dhiaidh sin (25ú Aibreán 1934), scríobh fear darbh ainm Rice ó Liatroim san Irish Press gurb ionann é agus ‘an chuid sin den chochall a tharraingítear síos thar aghaidh an duine mhairbh go díreach roimh an adhlacadh’. Maíonn ‘Ballyduag’ gur caipín dubh an bhreithimh atá i gceist san Irish Independent ar an 10ú Aibreán 1943, ach faoina litir tá litir eile le John Grogan ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, a shonraíonn go bhfuil an frása an chaip báis ag tagairt don chaipín pice a bhí mar chéasadh/pionós ag na Sasanaigh in Éirinn san 18ú haois.

Ach ní hé sin a dheireadh. Scríobh duine dar leasainm “Periscope” san Irish Examiner ar an 18ú Eanáir, 1927 gur tháinig “putting the kybosh on it”  ón fhocal Gaeilge “cabais”. Dar leisean, ciallaíonn cabais bheith ag labhairt raiméise faoi ábhar. Ar ndóigh, níl mórán measa agam ar an tuairim seo. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil a leithéid d’fhocal ann agus cabais. Tá focail ann atá cosúil leis, ar nós cabaireacht, ach níl rud ar bith ann atá cóngarach go leor, dar liom féin.

Deir litir ón Chanónach Maguire, S.P., san Irish Independent ar an 26ú Eanáir 1943 nach bhfuil baint ar bith idir an fhocal kybosh agus bosh (raiméis) ach gur tháinig sé ó caoi bais, nó “bealach an bháis”. De réir cosúlachta, níl duine ar bith eile ar aon intinn leis agus níl an frása seo le fáil i bhfoinse ná i dtéacs ar bith eile.

Agus sin ráite, agus mé ag amharc ar na tagairtí éagsúla, fuair mé gur cumadh na cinn is luaithe, agus is spéisiúla, sa bhliain 1909. In alt darbh ainm An American Professor on England, a foilsíodh ar an 29ú Samhain, 1909, bhí an méid seo le rá ag scríbhneoir anaithnid ar fhoireann an Freeman’s Journal:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

Ba shaineolaí ar an Ghaeilge é J.H. Lloyd, nó Seosamh Laoide. Ach thug Lloyd freagra ar an alt seo ar an 2ú de mhí Nollag sa Freeman’s Journal agus ba léir nach raibh sé sásta. Rinne sé gearán gur cuireadh a chuid tuairimí as a riocht:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray.

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

Deir sé ina dhiaidh sin gur caipín nó fial bharr an chinn an chiall a bheadh ar caidhp bathais. Deir sé go bhfuil guta gairid sa dara siolla de kybosh agus go gciallaíonn sin nach dtiocfadh leis teacht ón fhrása caidhp báis. Deir sé go neamhbhalbh nár tháinig sé riamh ar shampla den fhrása in úsáid sa Ghaeilge (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). Agus deir sé go bhfuil sé lánchinnte go bhfuil kybosh eile ann, frása a tháinig ón Ghiúdais nó ón Eabhrais. Deir sé gur 18 pingin nó rud éigin gan luach an chiall a bhí leis sin. De réir Laoide, mar sin, tá dhá bhunús ar leith leis an fhocal kybosh, ach deir sé fosta go bhfuil an leagan focal sin “to put the kybosh on something” iontach tipiciúil de chomhréir na Gaeilge agus gur léiriú láidir sin gurbh ón Ghaeilge a tháinig sé. (Tá cor cainte den chineál chéanna ó Chorcaigh pléite agam ar an bhlag seo, mar atá, an frása “to put the cawheke on something”.)

Cad é a chiallaíonn seo uilig? Bheinn níos sásta anois glacadh leis an fhéidearthacht gur frása de bhunús Gaeilge atá ann, thagann duine éigin ar fhianaise. Ach ní leor a rá go bhfuil dul na Gaeilge ar an fhrása “to put the kybosh on it”. Nach bhfuil neart frásaí den chineál seo nach bhfuil baint acu leis an Ghaeilge, leithéidí “to put the damper on it?” Agus cé go bhfaightear leithéidí kybosh, coybosh agus fiú caidhp bháis go minic i nuachtáin Ghaeilge ó fhichidí an 20ú haois, níl rian ar bith de caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais nó caip bhathais le fáil áit ar bith roimh na tagairtí in 1909. Sin 75 bliain i ndiaidh don fhocal kybosh bheith curtha i gcló den chéad uair i Sasana. Agus ní mór dúinn a chuimhneamh gur glacadh le cuid mhór focal ar nós spraoi agus craic sa Ghaeilge, agus measann a cuid cainteoirí gur dlúthchuid sheanbhunaithe den teanga iad, ainneoin nach bhfuil sin fíor.

Chomh maith leis sin, is léir nach bhfuil sa bhaint idir an focal kybosh agus caidhpeanna báis (cibé míniú atá agat ar an fhrása sin) ach raiméis. De réir cosúlachta, tá sé le cur síos do mhíléamh nó cuimhne iomrallach ar bharúil Leoide sa ghluais i leabhar leathdhearmadta a foilsíodh in 1909. Más amhlaidh atá, is eiseamláir luath é den dóigh a scaiptear méimeanna bréige go víreasach cionn is go bhfuil cruth na fírinne ar na fíricí bréige iontu agus gur furasta cuimhneamh orthu mar gheall air sin.

More on the Irish origins of kybosh

I have posted before about the supposed Irish origins of the phrase ‘to put the kybosh on something’. In a post called Putting The Kybosh On Cassidy (May 2016) I pointed out that kybosh has often been claimed (long before Cassidy’s idiotic book was published) to be of Irish origin, a corruption of caip bháis or caidhp bháis, meaning death cap. The usual explanation for this is that it refers to the black cap donned by a judge when passing the death sentence.

You can find an interesting discussion of the term kybosh by Anatoly Liberman on the OUP blog:

https://blog.oup.com/2013/08/three-recent-theories-of-kibosh-word-origin-etymology/

In my discussion of the supposed Irish origin of kybosh, I mentioned that the earliest discussion of this I had found came from the Cornell Daily Sun in December 1936, where there is an account of a lecture by a man called Conboy about the Irish origin of English words.

“Kibosh,” Conboy said today, “comes from ‘caip,’ which means cap, and bais [sic],’ which means death. “It originated in Ireland about the time of Judge Norbury, who was called the ‘hanging judge.’

The other day, I was doing some unrelated research on the Irish News Archives, an excellent searchable archive of old Irish newspapers. Just before closing the computer and going to bed, I decided to look up kibosh/kybosh and see what I turned up.

The discussion below is based on the results of that search.

In the Kerry Champion of September 6th 1930, we find a letter from a person calling himself Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne (Oisín after the Fianna) talking about the Irish College at Dingle in Kerry:

I asked him all about the Colaisde. “The Colaisde is it?” said he. “The koybosh (caip bhais) is put on it altogether for the past few years, and this year beat them all.”

At first, when I saw this, it seemed to me a strong indication that koybosh is really a native Irish expression. However, having read the rest of the articles, I am less sure.

On the 21st of April, 1933, in the Irish Press, Seosamh S. Ua Ceallaigh of Richmond in Surrey says that it refers to the black cap the judge puts on and that it comes from caip báis. However, a man called Rice in Leitrim in the Irish Press four days later (25th April 1934) says that it means ‘that portion of the cowl which is pulled down over the face of the dead immediately before interment’.  The claim about the judge’s cap is also made by ‘Ballyduag’ in the Irish Independent of Feb 10th 1943, but below his letter is a letter from John Grogan of Dublin, who states that the caip bais [sic] refers to the pitch cap used by the British in the late 18th century as a torture/punishment. There is no evidence or reference to any published or manuscript source in any of these letters.

However, someone called “Periscope”, writing in the Irish Examiner of January 18th, 1927, says that “putting the kybosh on it” derived from “cabais”, to prate or speak nonsensically or stupidly about a subject. When anyone talks that way he puts the “kybosh” on any further argument. This seems a weak and irrelevant claim, as there is no such word as cabais. There are vaguely similar words like cabaireacht, but nothing I know of closely resembling cabais.

A letter from Canon Maguire, P.P. in the Irish Independent of January 26th 1943, says that the word kybosh has no connection with bosh (rubbish) but that it instead comes from caoi bais [sic], meaning “way of death”. He seems to be alone in this opinion and the phrase is not found in any other source or text.

However, trawling through the different references, I found the earliest were in 1909. They were also by far the most interesting. In an article called An American Professor on England published on November 29th 1909, an anonymous staff author of the Freeman’s Journal wrote:

Many expressions familiar in American-English are clearly translations or adaptations from the Gaelic: not a little slang was good idiomatic Gaelic, and such an extraordinary word as kybosh – “to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme” – takes a very curious interest when, as Mr J.H. Lloyd tells in one of his invaluable vocabularies to Irish poems or stories – it is traced to the extinct phrase “the cap of death” – i.e. the black cap of the hanging judge.

J.H. Lloyd, or Seosamh Laoide, was an Irish language expert. However, Lloyd himself then replied to this on December the 2nd in the Freeman’s Journal, complaining that his views had been misrepresented:

Dear Sir – In your issue of 29th November, one of your leader writers, towards the end of the article “An American Professor on England”, quotes me in connection with the word “kybosh”, to put the kybosh on a man or a scheme. So far, he is correct. When, however, he adds the explanation “the cap of death,” apparently attributing this to me, he is very much astray. 

In the vocabulary to Mac Mic Iasgaire Bhuidhe Luimnigh, published by the Gaelic League, I set down that caidhp bathais, to my surmise an expression of the lost Leinster dialect of Irish, was the probable etymon of “kybosh”.

He goes on to say that caidhp bathais would mean the cap or coif of the crown of the head. He says that kybosh could not come from caidhp báis because the o of kybosh is a short vowel. He states clearly that he has never actually found an example of this phrase in use (“though I have failed to find the word in use in an Irish dress”). He goes on to say that he is quite adamant that there is also a Yiddish/Hebrew expression, with the meaning of 18 pence or something worthless. So according to Lloyd, kybosh has two distinct origins, but he states that the construction “to put the kybosh on something” is typical of Irish syntax and this is a strong indicator of Irish origin. (I have discussed a similar expression from Cork on this blog, namely the phrase “to put the cawheke on something”.)

Where does all this leave us? I am more inclined now to accept the possibility of an Irish origin for this phrase, if the evidence comes to light. However, the mere fact of kybosh using an Irish-like construction is not enough. After all, aren’t there plenty of non-Irish expressions like this? (For example, that put the damper on it). And while there are plentiful uses of kybosh, coybosh and even caidhp bháis in the Irish papers from the second decade of the 20th century until the last few years, there are absolutely no traces of caidhp bháis, caip bháis, caidhp bhathais or caip bhathais (or any of the versions without the séimhiú which modern Irish grammar would require) anywhere before the 1909 references. This is 75 years after kybosh’s first appearance in England. And we need to note that many expressions like spraoi and craic have made their homes in the Irish language and been accepted as intrinsic and ancient parts of that language by its speakers, even though they aren’t.

Also, the association of kybosh with caps of death (whatever explanation you have for that phrase), seems to be completely bogus. It is apparently traceable to a misreading or misremembering of Lloyd’s comment in the vocabulary of an obscure book published in 1909. If so, it is a very early example of the way that fake memes are spread and promoted virally because the factoids sound right and are easy to remember.

 

Puncher

The word ‘puncher’ meant a cowboy. The word punch means to strike or to prod or to poke. It derives from French and has been in common use in English for six hundred years.

Daniel Cassidy, in his atrocious book How The Irish Invented Slang, doesn’t mention these facts in his discussion of the word. He chooses instead to trace the word to the Irish paintéar, which he says means ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ He cites Dinneen’s Irish dictionary as a source. Strangely, this isn’t what Dinneen’s dictionary says. Dinneen’s entry for paintéar begins thus: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

In other words, this is an Irish word, certainly, but it was borrowed from the English word painter, which is a nautical term for a rope used to tie up a boat. This is also of French origin (i.e. the English borrowed it from French) but unrelated to the French term which is really the origin of punch.

In other words, you obviously don’t get to be that incompetent by accident. Cassidy deliberately missed out the important information relating to the real origins of puncher and the English origins of paintéar in order to make a fake case for an Irish origin. What a con-man!

 

 

Is focal eile ar bhuachaill bo é ‘puncher’. Ciallaíonn an focal punch bualadh nó broideadh nó sá. Tagann sé ón Fhraincis agus tá sé in úsáid go coitianta sa Bhéarla le sé chéad bliana anuas.

Ina leabhar amaideach How The Irish Invented Slang, ní luann Daniel Cassidy na fíricí seo ar chor ar bith.  Ina áit sin, maíonn sé gur tháinig puncher ón Ghaeilge paintéar. Deir sé go gciallaíonn paintéar ‘a tying cord or rope, a noose, a lasso, a snare for catching animals …’ Luann sé foclóir an Duinnínigh mar fhoinse. Ach ní hé sin an sainmhíniú a bhí ag an Duinníneach. Tosaíonn cur síos Uí Dhuinnín ar an fhocal paintéar mar seo: ‘a painter or panter, a snare, noose, gin or trap, a binding cable …’

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, is focal Gaeilge é paintéar, cinnte, ach iasacht atá ann ón fhocal Béarla painter, focal bádóireachta a chiallaíonn rópa a úsáidtear le bád a cheangal. Tháinig an focal seo ón Fhraincis fosta (fuair lucht an Bhéarla ón Fhraincis é) ach níl baint ar bith aige leis an téarma Fraincise a thug an focal punch don Bhéarla.

Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, ní de thaisme a tharlaíonn bréaga mar seo. Is d’aon turas a theip ar Cassidy an fhaisnéis thábhachtach a bhaineann le fíorstair an fhocail puncher agus bunús Béarla paintéar a lua ionas go dtiocfadh leis cás bréige a dhéanamh gur Gaeilge a bhí ann. A leithéid de chaimiléir gan náire!

 

Gaff

In Daniel Cassidy’s insane and inane book, How The Irish Invented Slang, Cassidy tried to prove that hundreds of words in English derive from Irish.

His methodology was simple: he hunted through Irish dictionaries to find a word which resembled the target word in English. When he couldn’t find anything suitable (which was usually the case), he took two or three Irish words and combined them into a ‘well-known phrase’ which had never been used in Irish, and for which Cassidy was happy to provide a fake definition.

Occasionally, Cassidy found words which seemed a good fit (at least for some of the meanings) but made no attempt to establish whether they were loanwords into Irish or loanwords from Irish to English.

Cassidy claimed that the word gaff meaning a boat-hook comes from the Irish gaf or geaf. However, gaf or geaf really comes from English and English got the word from Provencal  gaf via French.  The word gaffe meaning a blunder, is the same word. A quick search on the free and fully-searchable Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language will confirm that gaf/geaf is not an ancient word in Irish. It is plainly, obviously and clearly a loanword.

Incidentally, the unrelated word gaff meaning a home or a place is from Romani gav.

 

I leabhar amaideach, craiceáilte Daniel Cassidy, How The Irish Invented Slang, rinne Cassidy iarracht a chruthú gur tháinigh na céadta focal i mBéarla ón Ghaeilge.

Bhí a chuid modhanna simplí: chuaigh sé a chuardach i bhfoclóiri Gaeilge le focal a aimsiú a bhí cosúil leis an sprioc i mBéarla. Nuair nach bhfuair sé a dhath (rud a tharla níos minice ná a mhalairt), fuair sé dhá fhocal nó trí fhocal i nGaeilge agus chuir sé le chéile iad le ‘frása coitianta’ a chruthú nach raibh riamh ann i nGaeilge, agus bhí Cassidy sásta sainmhíniú bréige a chur ar fáil fosta.

Ó am go ham, thagadh Cassidy ar fhocail a bhí fóirsteanach i gcosúlacht (maidir le cuid de na ciallanna, ar a laghad) ach ní dhearna sé iarracht ar bith a fháil amach an iasachtaí  a fuair an Ghaeilge ó theanga eile a bhí iontu, nó iasachtaí ón Ghaeilge sa Bhéarla.

Mar shampla, rinne Cassidy iarracht a mhaíomh go bhfuarthas an focal Béarla gaff, a chiallaíonn crúca báid, ón Ghaeilge gafgeaf. Is é fírinne an scéil, áfach, go bhfuair an Ghaeilge na focail gafgeaf ón Bhéarla, agus go bhfuair an Béarla an focal ón Phroibhinsis gaf tríd an Fhraincis.  Is ionann é agus an focal Béarla gaffe, a chiallaíonn botún. Má dhéanann tú cuardach are DIL, foclóir Gaeilge atá saor in aisce agus atá go hiomlán inchuardaithe, beidh tú ábalta a dhearbhú nach focal seanbhunaithe sa Ghaeilge é gaf/geaf. Is léir agus is ríléir gur iasacht atá ann.

Dála an scéil, níl baint ar bith ag an fhocal seo leis an fhocal gaff a chiallaíonn baile nó áit. Is ón Romainis gav a tháinig an ceann sin.

Much kerfuffle about nothing/Cíor thuathail faoi kerfuffle

In many places on line it is claimed that the word kerfuffle is derived from the Irish phrase cíor thuathail. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is perh. from Scots curfuffle (prob. from Sc. Gaelic car ‘twist, bend’ + imitative Scots fuffle ‘to disorder’), or rel. to Ir. cior thual ‘confusion, disorder’.

This ‘Irish’ phrase is not correct. The real Irish phrase is Cíor thuathail, confusion, bewilderment. For example, you could say ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’, – he has made a total mess of the bathroom. Cíor thuathail is pronounced keer hoo-il. The first element seems to be cíor, which means a comb or the crest of a bird. Tuathal means left-handed or anticlockwise.

In reality, the derivation of kerfuffle from Scots makes perfect sense. There are lots of related words for disorder like curfuggle and curfuddle, as well as words like curslap and curwallop which contain the same first element. You can find more information about this at the Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

So, kerfuffle almost certainly doesn’t derive from Irish. However, looking at this reminded me of a question I have had for a long time and which nobody has been able to answer satisfactorily. Where does the Irish expression cíor thuathail come from?

If we take cíor to mean comb or crest in Irish, as it usually does, this makes little sense. What is a left-handed comb, or a left-handed crest? However, in researching this, I did find one possible origin. According to an old Irish dictionary published in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary by John O’Brien), there is a literary term Cíor-ghal, where the gal means courage and the cíor is an old word for hand given by Ó Cléirigh in his Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, a borrowing from the Greek cheir.

This would make perfect sense. There are lots of expressions linking left-handedness to disorder or clumsiness in many languages. You only have to think of words like sinister or gauche in English, or ciotógach and tuathalach in Irish (both of which mean clumsy as well as left-handed).

Please note, however, that this is not a certainty. This is a possibility and needs to be confirmed by experts on the history of Irish. Scum like Daniel Cassidy were quite happy to jump to conclusions about language, rejecting sensible explanations on the flimsiest of grounds. Real scholars don’t behave the way Cassidy did. Real scholars care about the truth and act accordingly.

 

Is minic a mhaítear ar line gur tháinig an focal kerfuffle ón fhrása Gaeilge cíor thuathail. Mar shampla, deir an Oxford English Dictionary gur féidir gur ón Albanais curfuffle (is dócha ó Ghaidhlig na hAlban car ‘casadh, lúbadh’ + focal aithriseach Albanaise fuffle ‘cur in aimhréidh), nó gaolta le Gaeilge cior thual ‘corrabhuais, rírá’.

Ní Gaeilge an frása seo, ar ndóigh. Cíor thuathail an leagan ceart. Mar shampla, thiocfadh leat a rá: ‘Tá an seomra folctha ina chíor thuathail aige’. Ciallaíonn an focal cíor, rud a úsáidtear leis an ghruaig a réiteach, nó an círín ar chloigeann éin. Ciallaíonn tuathal ciotógach nó in éadan na gréine.

Ar ndóigh, tá an tsanasaíocht ón Albanais thar a bheith sochreidte. Tá a lán focal eile ar rírá ar nós curfuggle agus curfuddle, chomh maith le focail ar nós curslap agus curwallop a bhfuil an chéad chuid den fhocal mar an gcéanna. Is féidir níos mó a fhoghlaim faoin fhocal seo ag an Dictionary of the Scots Language: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/cur

Mar sin de, tá sé chóir a bheith cinnte nach focal Gaeilge é kerfuffle. Ach, agus mé ag amharc ar an cheist seo, chuir sé i gcuimhne dom go bhfuil ceist i mo chloigeann leis na blianta faoin fhrása seo, ceist nach bhfuair mé freagra sásúil uirthi riamh. Is é sin, cá has a bhfuarthas an cor cainte sin cíor thuathail?

Má ghlacaimid leis go bhfuil an ghnáthchiall cíor agus go gciallaíonn sé gléas le do chuid gruaige a chíoradh nó an círín ar chloigeann circe, níl mórán céille ag baint leis. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar bhunús féideartha amháin agus mé ag déanamh taighde. De réir seanfhoclóir Gaeilge a foilsíodh in 1768 (Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhearla Or an Irish-English Dictionary le John O’Brien), tá seantéarma liteartha ann, Cíor-ghal. Ciallaíonn an gal misneach agus is seanfhocal ar lámh é cíor, focal a luann Ó Cléirigh ina Foclóir no Sanasan Nua in 1643, iasacht ón Ghréigis cheir.

Tá an méid seo le ciall. Tá a lán frásaí ann a nascann ciotógacht le hamscaíocht nó le haimhréidhe, ina lán teangacha. Ní gá ach focail ar nós sinister agus gauche a lua sa Bhéarla, nó ciotógach agus tuathalach i nGaeilge.

Agus sin ráite, ní féidir a bheith cinnte faoin tsanasaíocht seo. Níl ann ach féidearthacht agus ní mór do shaineolaithe ar stair na teanga é a dhearbhú. Sin an difear le gramaisc mar Cassidy. Bhi seisean i gcónaí sásta dóigh a dhéanamh dá bharúil féin agus diúltú do mhíniúcháin eile, míniúcháin níos fearr, ar na cúiseanna is laige amuigh. Ní dhéanann fíorscoláirí na rudaí a rinne Cassidy. Is maith le fíorscoláirí an fhírinne, agus bíonn siad ag gníomhú dá réir.