"bold" in Hiberno-Irish -- was: Re: "Bold Language"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Sat May 15 01:35:32 UTC 2010

From: "Arnold Zwicky" <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>

> On May 14, 2010, at 8:56 AM, Eoin C. Bairéad wrote:
>> the use of "bold" to mean naughty or badly-behaved is or was a
>> standard
>> example
> "was a standard example"?  where?

I'm not sure if this entirely addresses Arnold's question, but Terence
Patrick Dolan, _A Dictionary of Hiberno-English_ (rev., 2004) has:

"BOLD adj. naughty, mischievous.  In SE 'bold' is primarily associated with
courageousness, but in HE the primary meaning (possibly with influence from
Ir _dana_, adj., bold, forward, audacious, daring) suggests mischievous

This does suggest that the sense of the term "bold" in Hiberno-Irish is
distinct from that in Standard English, both UK and US.

Whether this divergence in meaning is due to the semantic pressure of Irish
Gaelic among the same community of speakers is perhaps another matter, and I
would imagine less easy to document.

I should say that my earlier statement that the citations of OED2 bold
(adj.)  "4. a. In bad sense: Audacious, presumptuous, too forward; the
opposite of 'modest'," applied only to women was, looking again, not
entirely accurate.  It would be fairer to say, I think, that the citations
suggest that it was originally applied to women, and even after 1600 was
predominantly used, as a negative sense of "bold", in that context.

However, the OED2 4.a sense of "bold" certainly isn't the *predominant sense
in SE, nor is it even quite the same as the sense presented by Dolan as
central in Hiberno-English.


>> of Hiberno-English, since the same Irish word, d=C3=A1na, could mean
>> either audacious (the 'standard' English meaning) or mis-behaved.
> so Irish has this sense development.  but so does English, from at
> least the 13th century:
> [OED2]  4.a. In bad sense: Audacious, presumptuous, too forward; the
> opposite of 'modest'.
> i assume that a similar sense development has taken place, internally,
> in a great many languages; it's a natural step, which doesn't need the
> influence of other languages.
>> Is 'bold' meaning 'naughty' now standard in American English?
> well, 'immodest' has been around in English (not specifically American
> English) for a very long time.  OED2 doesn't list a specialization to
> 'sexually immodest' or 'indecorous in language', though maybe it should.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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