Pat Joe's efforts to preserve colourful Irish phrases


Published 17/06/2009 | 13:57

WHAT would you say if someone were to call you a 'cábóg'?

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Thank you very much? About half eleven?

Well, if you happen to be Lixnaw man Pat Joe Dennehy you will know exactly how to respond; in a suitably derisory manner as the statement actually demands. For a 'cábóg' is a variety of fool and just one of thousands of Irish words that enriched the English language in North Kerry until very recently.

Now, thanks to Pat Joe's efforts on behalf of the linguistic heritage he treasures, many of these words have been preserved for posterity in a short glossary he has just compiled.

"Hiberno-English in the Lixnaw area was incredibly rich with Irish words until recently, but unfortunately we don't seem to hear them anymore and I thought it was very important to record as many as I could identify," the Deerpark native explained.

Irish may have died off as the vernacular, but much of it survived. "We used so many words as youngsters, as did our elders but most of us simply weren't aware of the extent of the use of Irish." The words applied to all aspects of life, from agricultural work to the sweet shop.

"A cúithín was one I remember well. It's the short stick used to twist the double bind while ricking hay. And if you wanted to turn it again you'd say 'we'll give it another 'cur''," Pat Joe explained.

"But they never used two Irish words together, you'd use them separately or put an 'ing' on the end, like 'uatamáiling' for fidgeting. Another word often used was 'básachán', from the root 'death', for an unhealthy person.

"We had seven types of fool too, 'amadán, óinseach, amparan, pleidhc, lúdramán, cábóg and dulamú'. Fellows would sometimes be accused of 'grigging' too, after buying sweets and eating them all in front of their friends who might not have been able to afford any. It meant teasing. A similar word, 'grog' was also used, you'd say a fellow was sitting on his 'grog' if he was down on his haunches. The vocabulary was endless."

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