July 19, 2020
Those are the latest three topics I’ve covered in my language column at Macmillan Dictionary Blog.
Being bidialectal explores how our accents and dialects can change with circumstances, with some keen observations on dialect loss by Zadie Smith. Multidialectalism often starts at school:
Through formal education, many of us learn a standard or prestige variety of a language for use in public or formal contexts. Shifting from one variety to another – going from a work meeting to an informal chat, for example – is known as code-switching.
The fact that different dialects are appropriate in different spheres of life means that people generally become bidialectal or multidialectal. Though these adjectives may be unfamiliar, it’s the same idea as bilingual and multilingual, but with different dialects of the same language.
Dude, where’s my etymology? is the inevitable title for an outline of the curious history of dude. The word’s ultimate origin was a mystery for decades:
Dude started off as a word similar to dandy, referring mockingly to ‘a man who cares a lot about his appearance and always wears fashionable clothes’. An early citation in the OED refers to ‘highly perfumed town dudes wearing creased pants’. This led to the phrasal verb dude up, meaning to dress up or accessorize fashionably: a 1958 New Statesman article referred to ‘country cousins duding up to impress less snappy dressers back home’. From this emerged sense 1a, ‘a man from a city in the eastern U.S. or Canada who goes on vacation to a western ranch’, which is connected to the phrase dude ranch.
The dinkum oil on ‘fair dinkum’ looks at the range of uses and senses of a famously Antipodean word whose etymology has invited some creative speculation:
The dinkum oil [true facts] about dinkum is that it probably originates in English dialect. Joseph Wright, in his pioneering English Dialect Dictionary, reports the word’s use in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire in the late 19th century to mean ‘work’ or ‘a due share of work’. He also cites an early Australian example, in the novel Robbery Under Arms: ‘It took us an hour’s hard dinkum to get near the peak.’ According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word may come from Middle English ding, ‘to work’.
8 Comments | dialect, etymology, language, language history, words | Tagged: Australian English, bidialectal, dialect, dinkum, dude, etymology, langauge history, language, linguistics, Macmillan Dictionary Blog, multidialectal, New Zealand English, semantic shift, semantics, words | Permalink
Posted by Stan Carey
December 11, 2019
Culchie is a word used in Irish English to mean someone from the Irish countryside (or a small town or village), especially from the point of view of a Dubliner. Though originally pejorative, culchie has been partly reclaimed and is now often used neutrally, warmly, or as a tribal badge by those who live or come from beyond the Pale (i.e., Dublin and its urban environs).
While the word’s meaning is clear enough, its origin is uncertain and much speculated upon, as we’ll see. First, I’ll look at its use in Irish culture and literature. Its phonetic similarity to culture, incidentally, informed the aptly named (and now defunct) pop culture website Culch.ie, where I used to write about cult films – the URL trades nicely on Ireland’s internet top-level domain .ie.
The equivalent of a culchie elsewhere might be a bumpkin, a peasant, or a yokel. In Ireland the synonyms are likewise derogatory: bogger (bogman, bogwoman), mucker, the gloriously suggestive muck savage. So too is the antonym jackeen, referring to a certain type of Dubliner.
Brewer’s Dictionary of Irish Phrase and Fable notes that while culchie was initially an insult indicating rusticity, it now tends to be used in jest or affection, a change owing to Ireland’s modernisation, specifically ‘the rise in the standard of living and in educational standards in Ireland from the 1960s onwards’.
Mayo countryside: briars, stone walls, mossy verges, sheep, cattle, and muck are fond and familiar sights to any culchie worth their salt
Read the rest of this entry »
16 Comments | books, dialect, etymology, Hiberno-English, Ireland, language, slang, words | Tagged: books, culchie, Culchie Festival, dialect, etymology, Hiberno-English, insults, Ireland, Irish books, Irish English, Irish language, irish literature, Irish slang, language, language history, pragmatics, semantic shift, semantics, slang, sociolinguistics, words | Permalink
Posted by Stan Carey