Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WNW: St. Patrick's Edition

Just for fun, I thought I'd do a little digging to find out the background of some words centered around St. Patrick's Day and/or Ireland.

Here's some of what I found:

According to my trusty OED, back in the 1500s in both Ireland and Scotland, a slogan was a war- or battle-cry. A slogan usually used a person's family name or a location that they'd yell out.

It comes from sluagh-ghairm, which, broken down meant host (sluagh) + cry or shout (ghairm).

Quite a different meaning today, when marketing types sit around a table, trying to come up with a nifty names and catch-phrases for their company and products.

(Suddenly I'm picturing an Irish warrior on a horse, raising his sword and calling out, "Kleeneeeeeeeex!")

Again, my OED confirmed this one, which I found somewhere else first. The word originally is viewed as either Irish or Gaelic, from go leor, meaning "in abundance" or "plenty."

Perhaps having beer galore led to all those famous Irish drinking songs . . .

Mac/Mc/M' and O'
These prefixes for names hail from both Ireland and Scotland. According to one site I looked at, families wouldn't necessarily stay consistent in their spelling, so you could find McHenry, MacHenry, and M'Henry or even just Henry all for the same family.

(Good luck doing your family history research!)

To muddy the waters further, since the prefixes hail from both countries, you can't say with certainty that a MAC name is from Scotland or an O' name is definitively Irish.

Both prefixes mean, "descendant of." At one point, MAC and its variations usually meant "son of" (so MacDonald = son of Donald), and O' was "grandson of" (O'Donald = grandson of Donald). Apparently those distinctions weren't always followed (yay for more inaccuracy!), so all you can be sure of when seeing a name with that prefix is that the person is a descendant of a person with the name somewhere along the line.

The OED can't agree with itself on this one. We've got several possible histories here.

One source the OED quotes says the word could be derived from an Irish term referring to a sprite "always employed in making or mending a shoe." (So the shoemaker in the fairytale was actually relying on a bunch of leprechauns?)

Another possibility is the Middle Irish luchrupan, which came from the Old Irish luchorpian, which meant small body (lu = small and corp = body). (In which case, what, they're just little people? What about the magic?)

Then the OED quotes an Irish dictionary as saying that in Irish folklore, a leprechaun is a "pygmy sprite 'who always carries a purse containing a shilling.'"

That's where I came up short. Wait . . . a shilling? Where's the a pot of gold?

So . . . we're just looking for a small person who might make shoes and who carries around a coin.

Where where did the rainbow idea come from? (I have no answers. Just posing the questions.)

the snug
A bar parlor, or small, comfortable place in a pub to drink privately, often preferred by women.

Too bad that back in the day, the Irish didn't have a blanket with sleeves to perfect the term as they drank their ale.

Think about it: They could have rocked the Snuggie in the snug!

(Be sure to check out Kristina P's Snuggies for Seniors drive! Click HERE or on the picture in my sidebar.)


Kristina P. said...

Thanks for the shout out, my friend!

And these were interesting! I do love learning about where words come from.

LisAway said...

Fun! The Mac and O' were very interesting to know. Well, they all were, of course. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Rebecca Blevins said...

(Suddenly I'm picturing an Irish warrior on a horse, raising his sword and calling out, "Kleeneeeeeeeex!")

That made me laugh out loud! Well done!

Very interesting post, and thank you! I love WNW!

Wow, I used lots of exclamation points in this comment!

Melissa Cunningham said...

Very fun and very informative! I love soaking in your vast knowledge. I love how smart you are. I want to be like that someday. One can dream after all, right? he he

Laura said...

Thanks for sharing! The whims of Ireland are plenty.

Jordan said...


On Mac and Mc: I once had someone (who also had a Mc- name) try to tell me they used Mac in Scotland and Mc in Ireland.

I've also had people say McCollum is an Ulster Scots (Scotch-Irish) name. As far as we can tell, however, the name came from Tennessee ;) (seriously—we can't find good old John's parents. Record keeping in the 1770s FTW!).

And don't forget about illiteracy! My Irish ancestry comes from a guy named Donnelson. Somehow his kids ended up named Dollison. Go figure.

I linked to you in my St Patrick's Day mythbusting post!

Carolyn V. said...

Yay! I donated for the snuggies for seniors. What a great idea!

And I love the word galore. It just rolls off the tongue. Galore. =)

Sher said...

Sigh. You didn't answer my question of the day...
What does Erin go bragh mean?

Lara Neves said...

Fascinating, as usual! Your Kleenex line has me giggling, but I was particularly interested to learn about the Mac/Mc/O stuff.

Heidi said...

Ah--the snug! I was watching House Hunters International the other day and this British man was showing the camera around his house and mentioned that they called a particular room where they went to have a drink after dinner "the snug". Love that one!

Jodee said...

Sher- Hope this helps-

Melanie Jacobson said...

"Kleeeeeeeeeenex!" *Snorts.* That made me laugh, too.

wendy said...

wow, how cool to know those things. I love the Scottish accent.

and It made me think of the movie Brave Heart.....the warrior, on his horse, with sword.........yelling Kleeeeeenex.
too funny

Andrea Hardman said...

Wonderful. I'm excited to have found another fun blog to read. Love hearing where words come from!

Rebecca Blevins said...

I have a WNW question for you! Well...a grammar question. I am pretty decent at using quotation marks properly, (not perfectly, but not completely clueless--and where do I put the comma, before the parentheses or after? Should I have capitalized the 'n' in "not"?)but how do you use ' ' correctly?

Ok, I know that was about three questions, but they're driving me crazy. I left the whole thing poorly done so you can see how much I need your help!

One last one: When using colons, should you capitalize the first word that comes after them?

And the final question...When do you use actual numbers such as 12:00 versus twelve o'clock?

I'm sorry to pester you, but I am in need of your mad skills. :)

Rebecca Blevins said...

That should have been twelve o'clock.

Was I right using italics instead of quotes?

I will go now.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Kleeeeeeenex! Bwahahaha! I studied marketing before I got married and that just tickled me pink. You're a hoot!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Kleeeeeeenex! Bwahahaha! I studied marketing before I got married and that just tickled me pink. You're a hoot!

Erin said...

Those were really fun to read about! I love finding out about word origins (my minor is linguistics - it is so fascinating to me).


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