Tag Archives: béarlagair

Holy Mackerel

Of all the stupid things invented by Daniel Cassidy and presented to the world as truth in his idiotic work of fake etymology How The Irish Invented Slang, none is more ludicrous than his claims about the English exclamation ‘Holy Mackerel’, which dates back to 1803. 

Holy Mackerel, as we’ve said before, belongs to a class of exclamations called minced oaths, where a similar word is said in order to avoid a vulgar or blasphemous term. Thus, the French say Sacré Bleu (Holy Blue) to avoid saying Sacré Dieu (Holy God), and the Irish say Dar Fia (by the deer) instead of Dar Dia (by God). Holy Mackerel is probably a minced oath for ‘Holy Mary’. Mackerel is particularly appropriate because the mackerel is associated with Roman Catholics – people of the Catholic tradition tend to eat fish on a Friday instead of meat, and mackerel was a common choice.  Mackerelism was used as a pejorative slang term for Catholicism in the 19th century.

Cassidy claimed that this was wrong and that it derives from an Irish phrase mac ríúil – ‘kingly son’. In other words, it was supposedly something to do with Jesus. The problem is that while mac rí (son of a king) is a common phrase for a prince in Irish, mac ríúil is not. By definition, a prince is a mac rí. But princes are princely, not kingly and ríúil means kingly, not royal. That’s another word, ríoga.

As with the other minced oaths dealt with by this pompous dilettante (Holy Cow, Holy Gee), there is no evidence for mac ríúil (or the older spelling mac righiúil) existing in the Irish language as a term for a prince, or for Jesus.

 

As na rudaí amaideacha uile a chum Daniel Cassidy agus a chuir sé i láthair don tsaol ina leabhar bómánta bréagshanasaíochta How The Irish Invented Slang, is beag ceann acu atá chomh bómánta lena chuid tuairimí faoin uaillbhreas Béarla ‘Holy Mackerel’, atá le fáil chomh fada siar leis an bhliain 1803.

Mar a mhínigh mé roimhe seo, baineann Holy Mackerel le haicme uaillbhreas ar a dtugtar mionnaí mionaithe. Sa mhionn mhionaithe, baintear úsáid as focal atá cosúil leis an bhunfhocal le focal gáirsiúil nó blaisféimeach a sheachaint.  Mar sin de, deir na Francaigh Sacré Bleu (Gorm Naofa) le Sacré Dieu (Dia Naofa) a sheachaint, agus deir muidne  Dar Fia in áit Dar Dia. Is dócha gur mionn mionaithe é Holy Mackerel bunaithe ar ‘Holy Mary’. Tá maicréal (nó ronnach nó murlas más iad sin na focail atá agat air) thar a bheith fóirsteanach cionn is go raibh baint idir an t-iasc sin agus Caitlicigh – ar ndóigh, bíonn Caitlicigh ag ithe éisc ar an Aoine in áit feola, agus bhí maicréal saor agus flúirseach. Baineadh úsáid as Mackerelism mar théarma maslach ar an Chaitliceachas sa 19ú haois.

Deir Cassidy nach bhfuil an tsanasaíocht seo ceart agus go dtagann sé ó fhrása ‘Gaeilge’, mar atá mac ríúil, ainm ar Íosa. Ar ndóigh, ní raibh mac ríúil riamh ann sa Ghaeilge. Níl ann ach cumadóireacht.

Go díreach mar an gcéanna leis na mionnaí mionaithe eile a phléigh an t-amadán poimpéiseach seo (Holy Cow, Holy Gee), tá ciall leis na bunúis Bhéarla agus níl ciall ar bith leis an ‘Ghaeilge’ a chum Cassidy. 

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