Friday, 9 August 2013

Blarney - Put a Cork in It

The Blarney Stone, Gift of the Gab, Emerald Isle
Blarney Castle
(photo by Amy Campbell)


Noun & verb. Late 18th century.
[Blarney, a village and castle near Cork in the Republic of Ireland, with a stone said to confer a cajoling tongue on whoever kisses it.]

A. noun. Smoothly flattering or cajoling talk; nonsense. L18

B1. verb instrans. Use blarney. E19

B2. verb trans. Subject to blarney. M19

Once upon a time in Ireland, Clíodhna, Queen of the Banshees, was called upon for help by Cormac MacCarthy, embroiled as he was in a sticky lawsuit. Clíodhna instructed MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he saw on his way to the courthouse, which he did and for which he was granted such unearthly eloquence that he won his case with ease. So delighted was he with his unlikely victory that he collected the stone and had it installed into the battlements of Blarney Castle in Co. Cork, thereafter to be known as the Blarney Stone. Clíodhna, evidently a naive type of goddess, had failed to imbue the stone's magic with a 'non-transferable' clause and therefore the stone has ever since granted anyone that kisses it these same powers of eloquence and persuasion - the gift of the gab.

Should your powers of persuasion be below par, you can still kiss the Blarney Stone which remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. Unfortunately, MacCarthy was considerably less obliging than Clíodhna and had the stone installed in a back-breakingly awkward position. Would-be stone-smoochers must lie down and arch their backs over a considerable drop in order to land a kiss on the bluestone surface. Rather surprisingly, it seems that the present caretakers of Blarney Castle no longer trust Clíodhna to miraculously aid them in winning lawsuits, as sturdy safety bars have been installed to prevent anyone from falling over the edge and suing. Such measures do make sense, as should the injured party have scraped a kiss off the stone on the way down, they too would presumably have been blessed with MacCormack's gift of the gab, which would ensure them an eloquent victory in court against the MacCormacks of Blarney Castle. How's that for irony?

Blarney Castle, County Cork, Ireland, Gift of the gab,
Kissing the Blarney Stone
(photo by Mark Folse)
While blarney has a rock-solid place in the English language as a word meaning either smooth, flattering speech or utter nonsense, you're probably right if you've been questioning the veracity of this whole "Clíodhna - Queen of the Banshees" story. While this is one of the most established tales of how the Blarney Stone came to be, there are several others also, making the truth rather uncertain. However, while the stone's origins are open to debate, its charming effects are not, and it is absolutely indubitable that kissing it imparts supernatural power. How do I know? Because the Blarney Castle website says so, and I quote: "Its powers are unquestioned." So there. There is no doubt. It is absolutely not a load of old blarney.

Have you kissed the Blarney Stone?

Do please tell us about it if you have.
(and your comment had better be pretty damn eloquent or no one is going to believe you)


  1. You forgot to mention when, not if, you kissed it! :)

    I never knew you had to lie in such an awkward position to kiss the well-known stone.
    I wonder how often it get's washed! :)

    1. I'm afraid I've never kissed the Blarney Stone, Jingles! And I wondered about the washing thing myself - couldn't find any info on that though, I'm afraid.

    2. I think you just kiss all the bacteria of generations past. Horrible, horrible bacteria of people you don't know, festering on that cold wet stone wall. Tasty...

    3. Oh Bibi! It's tradition! What harm's a bit of inter-personal bacterial-exchange ever done anyone?

    4. It's gross, I tell you. Gross. Kissing random things is how you spread weird diseases. Or even worse: contract cold sores. Nobody likes cold sores.

    5. Hear hear! Unsanitary! If I ever have the opportunity to kiss said stone, I shall bring disinfectant along.

  2. I kissed the stone when I was a 18 year old very shy and tongue-tied kid. It had no effect.

  3. I also kissed that stone too as well and now I talk good.


    1. Ah phew. The earlier commenter must have just experienced a glitch. Order is restored.

  4. I've kissed the stone twice, and am as charming as they come. Proof! And in my subjective experience the Irish generally have the old 'gift of gab' down pretty well. So who knows... unsanitary, perhaps, but effective? Like gargling water in a wishing well, or eating pennies out of lucky fountains.

    - K

    1. Subjective experience - is there any better form of evidence? The power of the Blarney Stone is true and indubitable, and the internet agrees. The matter is settled.