Is it Irish to be Cuil?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 30 19:22:01 UTC 2008

_Cúil_ yields [kul'], with "oo" followed by a "slender" or palatalized
/l/. "Arse" / "ass" is _cóin_ or _cón_. I've seen bumper stickers here
in the Boston area reading "Póg mo chóin," roughly, "Pogue ma [m@]
hone," the original name of the Irish rockers, "The Pogues," till
someone narked the meaning to the English authorities.

I don't think that "hone" demonstrates a preference for /n/ over
palatalized /ñ/, because there's no obvious way to spell word-final
/ñ/ in English. Since Boston bumper stickers have _-in_, I assume that
[ñ] is the preferred pronunciation among ordinary speakers.
Dictionaries seem not to have a preference. They tend to show "X, also
Y," etc.


On Wed, Jul 30, 2008 at 12:23 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: Is it Irish to be Cuil?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 7/30/2008 12:08 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
>>At 11:57 AM -0400 7/30/08, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>>>At 7/30/2008 11:39 AM, RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:
>>>>If they want it pronounced like "cool" they will do well to use a different
>>>>brand name in   the Spanish-speaking countries
>>>>(and even the French might see
>>>>it as an indecent pun).
>>Well, in French _cul_ is 'ass' (with the fundament, not donkey
>>reference) or 'arse' if you prefer,
> And an on-line Irish dictionary tells me "cúil"
> is "rear (adj,
> n)"!
> Someone should put this out on the Web.
> Joel
>>but I'm not sure the pun really
>>comes up since the pronunciation is /ky/ (with a front-rounded vowel
>>and no final consonant).  In any case, _cul_ appears elsewhere with
>>the obscene meaning bleached out, as in _cul de sac_ 'dead end', lit.
>>'bag's ass'.  I guess _culo_ would be more problematic, but Romance
>>speakers must be used to English speakers saying _cool_, after all.
>>The American Dialect Society -
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