Tag Archives: Irish origin of craic

Craic Baby

Last Christmas, I received a copy of the book Motherfoclóir. As I explained in several posts here, I generally like the concept of the book, but I was less impressed with its author’s etymological skills. Recently, I happened to be in a bookshop and I saw a copy of the successor to Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. I stood for a while and glanced through it. As with the previous book, most of it seems interesting enough. However, I did happen across a discussion of the words crack and craic. Again, I was very underwhelmed with his comments on this subject.

The facts about the origins of crack/craic are well-known and have been discussed here before. From a meaning of a loud noise in Middle English (also in Scots), it came to mean boastful talk and conversation. It’s found all over Scotland and Northern England. In more recent times, it has been Gaelicised as craic but there is no evidence that it is derived from Irish. There is also plenty of evidence that it doesn’t.

Ó Séaghdha said that there are several pieces of ‘evidence’ for the Irish origin of craic. One is the word craiceann, which means skin, but has a secondary meaning of sex, as in the phrase ag bualadh craicinn, literally beating skin. (Ó Séaghdha misspells this as ag bualaidh, which is an elementary mistake.) The link between craic and craiceann is obvious nonsense. I mean, does Béarla (the Irish word for English) constitute proof that béar (bear) is an ancient Irish word? Is there an intrinsic link between skillet and skill, or kit and kitten? Of course not. And the idea that craiceann has a subsidiary meaning of sex and sex is fun so craiceann means fun is pretty silly.

Even sillier is the second piece of ‘evidence’, namely the existence of the word craiceáilte, which means cracked or crazy. While there are some native words formed with -áil or -eáil, most words with these endings are words of foreign origin. Here are some common examples: cniotáil (to knit); traenáil (to train); pacáil (to pack). These can also generate nouns for people who do things: a scíálaí is a skier, a paraisiútálaí is a parachutist. They can also form adjectives: cócaráilte means cooked, fancyáilte is fancy (in speech – you wouldn’t usually write it), and craiceáilte is cracked. In other words, this is obviously a non-Irish word.

As I say, I haven’t read this book. If I receive a copy of Craic Baby for Christmas (and there’s every chance I will), I will read it and probably enjoy most of it. However, if there’s ever a number three in the series, I do hope he resists the temptation to make any etymological speculations because he really isn’t very good at it.

 

An Nollaig seo caite, fuair mé cóip den leabhar Motherfoclóir. Mar a mhínigh mé i roinnt postálacha anseo, is maith liom coincheap an leabhair, go ginearálta, ach is lú an dúil a bhí agam i scileanna sanasaíochta an údair. Seachtain ó shin, tharla dom bheith i siopa leabhar ag amharc ar chomharba Motherfoclóir, Craic Baby. D’fhan mé i mo sheasamh ansin ar feadh tamaill agus bhreathnaigh mé ar roinnt leathanach. Mar a bhí leis an leabhar roimhe, bhí an chuid ba mhó de measartha spéisiúil. Agus sin ráite, tháinig mé ar phlé ar an fhocal craic, nó crack. Agus arís eile, is beag an meas a bhí agam ar na rudaí a bhí le rá aige faoin ábhar seo.

Pléadh na fíricí faoi bhunús craic/crack anseo agus in áiteanna eile. Fuaim ard an chiall a bhí le crack sa MheánBhéarla (agus san Albainis fosta), agus ansin fuair sé ciall eile, mar atá, caint ghlórach mhórtasach. Tá an focal le fáil ar fud na hAlban agus Thuaisceart Shasana fosta. Le blianta beaga anuas, rinneadh Gaelú ar an fhocal mar chraic, ach nil aon fhianaise ann gur tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge. Agus tá a lán fianaise ann nár tháinig sé ón Ghaeilge, ar ndóigh.

Dúirt Ó Séaghdha go bhfuil cúpla píosa ‘fianaise’ ann le bunús Gaelach an fhocail craic. Ceann de na píosaí fianaise seo ná an focal craiceann, a bhfuil an chiall thánaisteach ‘gnéas’ leis, ar ndóigh, mar shampla, sa fhrása sin ‘ag bualadh craicinn’. (Mílitríonn Ó Séaghdha an focal seo mar bualaidh – is meancóg bhunúsach é sin.) Is léir gur raiméis é an nasc idir craic agus craiceann. Mar shampla, an gcruthaíonn an focal Béarla gur focal ársa Gaeilge é béar? An bhfuil baint idir camall agus scamall? Agus is amaidí fosta an tuairim a nochtann Ó Séaghdha go gciallaíonn craiceann gnéas agus is mór an spórt é gnéas agus mar sin de, is ionann craiceann agus craic!

Tá an dara píosa ‘fianaise’ níos amaidí fós, is é sin, go bhfuil an focal craiceáilte ann. Mar a thuigfidh Gaeilgeoir ar bith arbh fhiú an t-ainm, is comhartha é -eáilte gur focal gallda fréamh an fhocail m.sh. traenáilte agus postáilte agus péinteáilte. Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, cruthaíonn foirm an fhocail craiceáilte nach focal dúchasach é craic.

Mar a dúirt mé, níl an leabhar seo léite agam. Má fhaighim cóip de Craic Baby don Nollaig (agus tá gach seans ann go bhfaighidh), léifidh mé é agus is dócha go mbainfidh mé sult as an chuid is mó de. Agus sin ráite, má scríobhann Ó Séaghdha an tríú leabhar sa tsraith choíche, tá súil agam nach mbacfaidh sé le tuilleadh buillí faoi thuairim a thabhairt faoin tsanasaíocht, mar is cinnte nach bhfuil tuairim dá laghad aige faoi stair na bhfocal.