Clishmaclaver, mar dhea

December 20, 2013

The usual meaning of the Scottish word clishmaclaver (also clish-ma-claverclishmaclaiver, clashmaclaver) is “idle talk, gossip, or empty chatter”. The OED says it was formed “apparently with allusion to clish-clash and claver, with echoic associations”, and finds it also used as a verb (“keep me clishmaclavering”).

Hiberno-English has the related short form clash “gossip” as both noun and verb. Terence Dolan notes clash in Sligo (“He’s an awful old clash”), while a century ago P. W. Joyce reported clashbag* “tale-bearer” or “busybody” in Armagh, Northern Ireland. There’s also the verb phrase clash on, meaning “tell tales on”.

In historian Brian Bonner’s short book A Society in Transition: Cameos of Irish Life I came across another, related sense of clishmaclaver, for a person who trades in such talk:

Every village has its vendor of local gossip, and Lagaguee was no exception. Thereabouts, the role was filled by a lady known as Cassie the Larker. The older people, when annoyed with her, called her a “clishmaclaver”, thereby expressing their contempt for her while indicating the Scottish influence on the speech of the area.

Clishmaclaver was the name of the Chambers Editors’ blog, but my encounters with the word have dwindled since that blog wound down.

The Irish phrase mar dhea, which I’ve described before as a sceptical interjection, also appears in Bonner’s book:

At eleven she made her way back to the Macklin Tavern, to join those who had gathered there to imbibe coffee or beer and exchange the gossip of the day. She took up her position among her own special cronies and in confidence, mar dhea, related the gist of the events of the early morning.

Here the phrase implies that her gossip was professedly just for her friends’ gratification, but that all parties understood it would soon be spread beyond those confines. Such is the clishmaclavering imperative.

*

* This –bag suffix remains popular in Ireland, as in the more recent ledgebag, etc.

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Mar dhea, moryah — a sceptical Irish interjection

May 14, 2012

The Irish phrase mar dhea /mɑr’jæ/, /mɑrə’jæ/ “mor ya” is characteristic of Irish English speech. It’s a sceptical interjection used to cast doubt, dissent or derision (or all three) on whatever phrase or clause precedes it. Mar dhea literally means as were it, i.e., as if it were so.*

Sometimes mar dhea is translated as forsooth, but I’m not sure this is helpful. Better to consider it an ironic insertion similar to As if!, Yeah right!, or a sarcastic indeed or supposedly. Bernard Share, in Slanguage, describes it as an “expression of sardonic disbelief or dissent”, while P. W. Joyce says it’s:

a derisive expression of dissent to drive home the untruthfulness of some assertion or supposition or pretence, something like the English ‘forsooth’, but infinitely stronger [English As We Speak It In Ireland]

Mar dhea has been anglicised in many ways, for example moryah, mor-yah, maryahmara-ya, maryeah, mauryah, maureeyah, muryaa, moy-ah, and moya. It’s a testament to its popularity in Hiberno-English, the diversity of Irish pronunciation, and the difficulty of finding precise orthographic correspondence between the two tongues.

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