Monday, 14 December 2009

Words We Use

Every Monday in the Irish Times, Diarmaid O Muirithe has a column entitled 'Words We Use' and in it he explores the origin and background of words that readers have asked him to research.  Today he looked at the word wime, which is of Scandinavian origin,  and means 'to move in a circuitous or erratic fashion'.

He also responded to an inquiry about the word carnaptious, which a reader had heard used by a friend from County Antrim.  According to Diarmaid O Muirithe:
It means irritable, touchy, bad-tempered, always finding fault.  It came from Scotland where it is also found as curnaptious.  Car is an intensifying prefix and nap is from knap in the sense to bite, to snap, related to Dutch or Low German knappen, to break with a sharp crack.  The ending -tious is used as in loan words from Latin.
The word is listed in Macafee's Concise Ulster Dictionary.  I've heard it in antrim, Down, Fermanagh and Donegal.  The Dictionary of the Scots Language has the word without the car prefix from some of the northern counties of England close to the Scottish border.  'He's a (k)naptious little man.'  Oxford has four citations, two of them from Ulster.  This is one, from W G Lyttle's Readings by Robin (1878): 'He's a cross carnapshus wee brat, so he is!'  A good word it is, no matter how you spell it.

This is a good example of the wealth of information that the columnist provides week by week and he often deals with Ulster-Scots words such as carnaptious.

His writings have appeared in a more permanent form in volumes such as The Words We Use and A Word in Your Ear.  These books are always a very enjoyable read and a wonderful way to explore the richness of our vocabulary.

The Concise Ulster Dictionary is another excellent book and one that deserves a wider circulation.  Ulster dialect, which draws on a range of sources including Ulster-Scots and Irish is a good example of the cultural diversity of Northern Ireland.

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