Tag Archives: Irish derivation of dude

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.