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Friday, April 1, 2016

words for Fool in Old Irish

I can't stand April Fool's Day, but in the spirit of the holiday (no joke) I thought I'd do a fun short post on the different words for fool in Old Irish and their contexts. Much like my previous blog about the word 'witch', saying fool in Old Irish isn't a straightforward matter because there are a variety of options each with different nuances.
   First we have the words which are used for people with diminished mental capacity - equivalent in English to simpleton or halfwit: amal, amlán/amalán (literally 'little amal'), or ammatán, buicell (but can also be a type of satirist), buicne, cáeptha, óinmit^
  Then we have the legal terms, used to describe mental incompetence: báeth (also used for people lacking morals, implying animalistic behavior), fer lethcuind (halfwit), druith (imbecile)
  Entertainingly there is also a  term for a fool that is also a word for a young cow: báethán
  Straightforward words meaning foolish, unwise people: ainecnae, báethlach (clearly related to the similar legal term, implies boorish behavior), díuit, duí, meile, meraige (someone who is feckless or flaky), óinsech (particularly a foolish woman), tibre (of the sort being mocked by others),
  Professional fools, ie jesters (drúth* is the overall name for this type of fool): boibre, bocmell, buicell, óinmit^, rindainech,


^óinmit is a bit of a special case. It is used to refer to someone who is simple minded but also could be clever in certain regards - what we might call an idiot savant. It is thus also a term for one of the prefessional grades of jesters
*Drúth is a complicated word meaning a variety of contradictory things including a professional jester, imbecile, prostitute, and later confused - probably as a homynym - with druí

2 comments:

  1. I've also seen the word Dreolán used for fool but think it means more silly person. I'm unsure if its also related to the word Dreoilín for Wren.

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  2. I'm glad that it's not just me who does not like April Fool's Day. In fact, the older I get, the more truly I despise it. May you and your family be well.

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