The Sanas (etymology) of Dude

Daniel Cassidy DanCas1 at AOL.COM
Sun Dec 12 19:18:55 UTC 2004

"Dude, 1883. The word came into vogue in New York and is of unknown  origin." 
(Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, p. 305)  
Dúd (pron. dood) was born in Ireland  and raised on the sidewalks of New 
The Sidewalks of New York.
By James W. Blake and Charles E.  Lawlor , 1893
East Side, West Side, all around the town
The tots sang  "ring-a-rosie," "London Bridge is falling down"
Boys and  girls together, me and Mamie O'Rourke
Tripped the light fantastic on the  sidewalks of New York 

That's where Johnny Casey, little Jimmy Crowe,
Jakey Krause, the  baker, who always had the dough,
Pretty Nellie Shannon with a dude as light as cork;
She first picked up the waltz step on the  sidewalks of New York 

In Patrick S. Dineen’s foundational Foclóir Gaeilge  Béarla,  published in 
Dublin in 1927 and  O’Donaill’s Irish-English Dictionary,  1995,  Dúd & Dúid 
solve the mystery  of dude.

Dúd (pron,. dood) al.  Dúid, m., a mopish, shy, foolish-looking fellow. A 
craned  neck.   
Dúdaire, m.,  A dolt; a long-necked person;  an eavesdropper.    
Dúdálaí, a self-conscious, person. A stupid person 
Dúdach, adj. long-necked, rubber-necked;  mopish; shy; foolish-looking, 
queer.       Dúdaireacht, (act of) neck-craning, eavesdropping.  (Dineen, pp. 
377-378 O’Donaill, pp. 459-460). 
A Dude is a dúd (dood) is "a dolt, a numbskull, an  eavesdropper, an ogling, 
long-necked voyeur;”  a derisive  moniker that the Irish hung on the 
rubbernecking dude and   slumming swell (sóúil, comfortable  and prosperous) who came 
down to the dance halls and saloons of  the wild Irish-speaking slums (saol 
luim, world of poverty) of 19th  and early 20th century New York. 
Until the dúid-editors of American dictionaries put  a Foclóir Póca (Irish 
pocket dictionary) in their   Póca (pocket), Ireland and Irish America's 
enormous  contribution  to American language and culture will remain an English  
speaking "mystery". Even after the mystery has been solved.  

“Dude, a swell, a fop (1883), originating in U.S. The etymology is  a mystery.
” (Dictionary of Skang and Unconventional English,  Eric Partridge, London, 
1984, p. 349)

Dude can be an angry word, as well as one of fun and derision.  Eugene O’
Neill gets the last word on dude in his early  play, Abortion, written in 1914. 
The brother of a  Connecticut-Irish working class girl, who has died during an  
abortion, confronts the Yale dude who had dumped her, after  giving her money 
to go to a quack doctor. 
MURRAY: “I’ve always hated your kind. Yuh come here to school  and yuh think 
yuh c’n do as yuh please with us town people. Yuh treat us like  servants, an 
what are you, I’d like to know? A lot of lazy no-good  dudes spongin’ on 
your old men.” (Abortion,  Eugene O'Neill, 1914, p. 217) 
Daniel Cassidy
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
San Francisco

More information about the Ads-l mailing list