Saturday 19 January 2019

Linguistic shift

I mine A-Word-a-Day for quotations for the kitchen calendar and to keep my finger on the pulse of the quirkier aspects of the English language. This week they were floating a handful of adjectives with the challenge to re-coin them into nouns. It's a rather artificial conceit because very few neologisms invented by earnest wordsmiths, actually stick in the language. While vibrant new usage floats up from the ghettos and gets adopted by everyone. "Ooops, my bad" - do you use that phrase? It's an excellent recent example of recent adj-noun shift. AWAD uses "fat": noting that it was an adjective for 500 years before becoming a synonym for lard in the 1300s.

My contribution to the trope:
"Well I'm happy out! The Gaelic Athletic Association GAA in Ireland attracts fierce local loyalties. Each county plays in a strip of one, two or three colours and has acquired a nick-name, often from some real or supposed historical fact. One monnicker for Wexford is the Yellowbellies supposedly because Caesar Colclough, a 19thC magnate and a distant ancestor in my horse-riding protestant family, sent a team of hurlers to England wearing a distinguishing yellow sash. They comprehensively beat a team from Cornwall and the cry "Up the Yella'bellies" resounds down the years. Next time I'm watching a match in Innovate Wexford Park I'll try "Up the Xanthic" and hope I don't get tonked with a rolled up copy of The Enniscorthy Guardian."

In the interests of completeness, I have tabulated a list of the 26 counties and their nick-names:
Carlow Scallion Eaters Longford Slashers
Cavan Breffni Louth Wee County
Clare The Banner Co Mayo Westerners
Cork The Rebel Co Meath The Royals
Donegal Herring-gutters Monaghan The Farney
Dublin The Jacks King's Co Biffos
Galway The Tribesmen Roscommon Sheep-stealers
Kerry The Kingdom Sligo Yeats Co
Kildare Lilywhites Tipperary Premier Co
Kilkenny The Cats Waterford The Déise
Queen's Co O'Moore Co Westmeath The Lakemen
Leitrim The Wild Rose Wexford The Model Co
Limerick The Treaty Co Wicklow The Garden Co
Some of these are clearly a bit pejorative, but even so will have been adopted with pride by the inhabitants. Like artists like Derain and Matisse who were damned as Les Fauves and rather liked the epithet. Actually some of these nicknames are new to me, but then again I've never watched a GAA match in Co. Louth.

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