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Archive for the ‘ireland’ Category

Hello,

This week I’ve dug out my Sherlock hat and taken on a missing persons case. The person in question is Janey Mac and while rumours of her being a Dublin girl like myself persist, it now appears Janey Mac may have been a man.

Janey Mac is an expression of surprise, originating in Ireland and dating back at least 50 years, probably much longer. Some claim it for the west of the country, others for Dublin, but it’s definitely from Ireland and has spread into other countries along with Irish emigrants. Janey Mac hasn’t made it into the dictionary, yet, but is under consideration.

Charmingly, Janey Mac comes with a rhyme

Janey Mac me shirt is black,
What’ll I do for Sunday?
Go to bed and cover your head,
And don’t get up till Monday.

There are three possible origins for Janey.

The first is she was a Dublin girl, one of a pair of sisters. Given that mac is a common prefix to Irish surnames (MacCarthy, MacCabe, MacAuley etc) thanks to mac meaning “son of” in Irish, you would expect to find a Janey MacCarthy (or other Mac surname) at the bottom of this but I couldn’t find a real surname or time period for her anywhere and why would a girl be so surprising anyhow?

The second is the exclamation is an avoidance of taking God’s name in vain. Instead of yelling “Jesus Christ” when you drop a hammer on your toe, you’d call out Janey Mac instead. This is possible. Some alternatives include jeez and “cheese and rice” and many parents in Ireland would say sugar instead of sh**, but Janey Mac really doesn’t sound like Jesus Christ. I’m not convinced by this.

The third option is intriguing and may be complete hokum but it’s a good story. Every Irish schoolchild has heard tales of Fionn MacCumhaill, the ancient Irish warrior (probably mythological). He’s our version of Hercules – super strong, amazing warrior, constantly having adventures and nearly dying. You could see how his surname could be shortened to Mac, right?

His first name, Fionn, was actually a nickname. It means blonde in Irish. Fair hair in the Irish population (pre-viking times) was pretty rare so it makes sense he’d get that as a nickname, just as those with red hair are now rare and might be called Red.

Fionn’s real first name was Deimne which in certain dialects is pronounced Janey.

When Christianity came to the island the first battle was against the ancient myths and stories of demi-gods. Saint Brigid was created to cover for an Irish goddess, it’s not beyond the bounds of belief to see Fionn MacCumhaill being transformed into Janey Mac and it being used as an exclamation or oath, over time becoming confused with those swearing by Jesus Christ.

The true origins of Janey Mac are unknown but I enjoyed the search for her. I love that a mythical Dublin lass may actually have been a mythical demi-god warrior.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. Thanks to Paddy PJ Callahan who suggested this topic for the blog.

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Hello and Happy May Day,

I’ve an extra fondness for May as it’s my birthday month and I wish this first of May had less rain hereabouts, but I’ve enjoyed learning about Irish May Day traditions this morning on twitter. Apparently the day is celebrated with bonfires. I don’t fancy my chances of lighting the fire pit in today’s driving rain. Maidens would go out and wash their faces in stream junctions to avoid sun-burn. I’d try, but sun-burn isn’t looking too scary right now. Finally, wildflowers were gathered and placed on doorsteps to avert evil spirits. Now that I can do.

Rainbow wildflowers on a doorstep

This week’s word is bumptious. I came across it in an interview with the author Deborah Moggach who used it to mean being intolerant in relationships. I hadn’t met it before and scurried to my dictionary. It told me that a bumptious person is unpleasantly confident, arrogant, and conceited. The example given was of a bumptious young man but I’m sure this can apply to all genders and ages.

Bumptious doesn’t have ancient roots. It first appeared in English around 1800 and is believed to be a wordplay on the words bump and fractious (quarrelsome). Bump is older though, possibly from Scandinavian origins. It joined English in the late 1500s with the meaning of a blow, or the sound of a blow. One variation was bumpsy which was slang for drunk and certainly provides an image of a bumptious drunk staggering around, bumping into things.

Until next time enjoy the May Day traditions and avoid being a bumptious bumpsy,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I won my April CampNaNoWriMo challenge with 50 hours of editing.

 

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