Tag Archives: cior thual

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.

 

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