Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What Is the Origin of Culchie?

A warning sign with a tractor on it
The "Warning! Culchies!" signs have proved controversial

CULCHIE

Noun & adjective. Anglo-Irish slang (frequently derogatory). Also culshie. Mid-20th century.
[Perhaps alteration of Kiltimagh, a country town in Co. Mayo, Ireland.]

A noun. A country bumpkin; a provincial or rustic person. M20

B attributive or adjective. Of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a culchie, provincial, rustic. L20

Culchie describes someone in Ireland that is from the country and deemed to be unsophisticated, backward, uneducated and not very bright. Even if someone isn't actually from the country, it can be applied to someone's accent, dress, overall demeanor or interests. If, for example, you've ever attended the National Ploughing Championships, you've probably been called a culchie.

For some, the definition goes even further, traditionally being anyone in Ireland from outside Dublin. This is opposed to the term jackeen, a Dubliner, derived from the diminution of Jack, as in the Union Jack, due to Dubliners supposedly being more English and sympathetic to British rule than the rest of the country. If the 'anyone from outside Dublin' definition were to be true, that makes culchies a pretty extensive demographic, constituting some 4/5's of the country's population.

The origin of culchie isn't absolutely clear, but the OED says it's probably an alteration of Kiltimagh, a small country town in Co. Mayo. Some years ago, I had the pleasure of working on a legal case there, and to my continual embarrassment I could never quite get the pronunciation right. My English pronunciation always leads me to pronounce it kill-tee-mah, whereas my colleagues from Kiltimagh would say something closer to kil-chma. 

While culchie is most definitely a derogatory description, there is some debate at to whether the word is offensive. I am loathed, however, to malign poor Kiltimagh more; it is, after all, the birthplace of Louis Walsh, so they have enough baggage to deal with without us snooty city types piling on the scorn. And just in case you're not from Ireland, and you're still not quite clear what a culchie is, I leave you with a bizarre St Patrick's Day advert from Lidl. You can decide for yourselves whether it's offensive or not.



Are you a culchie?

Is culchie offensive?

Do please field your most campestral comments in the box below.

22 comments:

  1. We have our own culchies around here... though we don't exactly have a single word for all of them, as they're usually named after the region they are from. Usually adding the suffix ano to the ancient name of the region they belong to; for example a city first named by the Romans as Scallabi castro, later Santarém, and their inhabitants are know as Scalabitanos.
    But I don't think it's used in derogatory sense or would be heard by them as. It is still said as "apart/different from the others, from that region"...
    And they also have traits and wording that only them can achieve (curiously enough only those running from the tag are offended by ideas like your clip... the ones living/talking/behaving like that find hilarious and marketing has been known to use their traits and ways when they want to target a product in that region and that region only... my culchies must have a L of sense of humor ;))...
    A while ago I was watching a video about an event in Santarém - and it is so close to the capital that is almost weird - but I had to stop the video, replayed in my head what they were saying, in order to understand it... almost as if translating. A few years ago we had a soap opera that was filmed and played by people from Azores and after the second episode subtitles had to be added.
    I don't have to tell you that almost everything that guy in your clip said was lost for me ahahah

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    1. I found him quite understandable, which makes me think the actor is from from a non-rural background and is simply playing a part intended for everyone in Ireland to understand.

      I could be wrong. Do any Irish readers know who he is?

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    2. That's Oliver Callan, the not so well known, largely unfunny, Irish impersonator/impressionist/comedian etc. He's the poor man's Mario Rosenstock.

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    3. Ah! Cheers, A.N. Well Wikipedia (very specifically) says that he grew up on a farm, so wrong I am much.

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  2. Never heard of Culchie, but here in South West England we have Yokels and Peasants which sound equivalent.
    Ooo Aaarr Arrrh... drink thee cider down, weez 'bout to go muck spreadin'.

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    1. I imagine every country has an equivalent to 'culchie'. The US has hillbillies and rednecks, although 'redneck' (as far as I'm aware) also has political connotations.

      Again, can any American readers clarify?

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  3. Is that the music Jack and Rose danced to in Titanic?
    Is a "culchie" what Americans call a "hillbilly"?
    Am I the only one who thinks that the word culchie sounds as if your feet were sticking into mud and leaf pulp on a very rainy day?

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    1. Yes! It definitely has a mulchy, squelchy quality about it, which I suspect is not a coincidence.

      And Evi! Are you suggesting that all Irish traditional music sounds exactly the same? I'm horrified and appalled!

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    2. "culchie sounds as if your feet were sticking into mud and leaf pulp on a very rainy day".

      Yes, I agree that it has that farmyard sound about it. Wet mud with leaf pulp gives a squelch sound. However, if you step into a freshly laid cow pat, the sound is more of a culch. Now there's a bit of interesting research for someone, to explain why this is so.

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    3. You beat me by a minute Eddie. Great minds not only think alike, but also at the same time...almost.

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    4. It's because cow pats quickly develop a thin crust. Therefore, there's a soft crunch before the squelch.

      Now *this* is a culchie conversation.

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    5. Eddie: http://youtu.be/erAQ9LkftwA It's the same, isn't?

      Eric F. and Eddie: thanks for the audiovisual descriptions, I just had lunch.

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    6. Then there is the entrapped methane to consider. When you step on it, there is first a crunch, then a cough/burp sound as the methane escapes, then an ouch as you realise what youv'e put your foot in; plus the problem of holding down your lunch, as Evi intimated.

      Now this is the ultimate culchie conversation. Are you sure it's not 'New Speak' for Cultural?

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    7. On a more grammatical and less smelly note, I seem to have forgotten an "it" in my previous comment. :( Eric, please, do go on! I love reading about encounters with bovine waste. Elaborate on the aftermath if you can; sole cleaning etc..

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    8. No, no, no.

      I do feel that cow pats are being unfairly maligned here, and thus I must speak.

      Unlike other animals' ... umm ... 'leavings' ... cow pats really don't smell that much. I say this from experience, as this culchie cultural convo has taken me back to my childhood walks along Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, where there are cow pats aplenty and as kids we used to take great delight in throwing them at each other.

      So in summary, no, cow pats are not something one actively seeks to interact with, but should it happen, by accident, via a misplaced foot, it's really not as stomach-churning as y'all city folk are making out.

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  4. I'd say "hick" would probably be the closest in the US. Hillbilly and redneck have definite... connotations...beyond just being from the country. Which maybe culchie does, too, but a stereotypical hillbilly would look decidedly less...wholesome than your nice Irish dairy farmer there. Redneck as well, plus some serious political connotations as you mentioned, Eddie.

    I'd say hick would be the best thing I can think of. Also "rube" keeps popping into my head, making me wonder where on earth THAT comes from. So... Not terribly helpful.

    I could ask my hick cousins, though. They might have something to add.

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    1. That is very interesting, thank you! "Hick" I'd never heard before. Looking it up as we speak. :)

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    2. The term Rednecks I usually associate with oil rig workers. They have to wear hardhats and are looking down most of the time at the drill shaft. This results in sunburn on the back of the neck, particularly in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

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    3. Isn't it 'roughnecks' that are oil workers?

      I flicked through my dictionaries regarding 'hick' and 'rube', and it seems they're both shortened names, of Richard and Reuben respectively. Perhaps, at some time, they were considered particularly rustic names.

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  5. I bought a bag of organic carrots once.

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    1. Well good for you, Dave. I don't think that grants you free admission into the culchie club, though.

      Hey! Culchie Club! An Irish 80s tribute band. Surely someone has already done that ... surely!

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  6. As someone who was called a Culchie in 1954 ( my father remembers the term going back to the 40's) I can assure you that it was a derogatory term.In order to 'sanitize' someone postulated the theory that it was a derivative from the word Kiltimagh ( meaning the Yew tree wood). This is more wishful think than actual fact. Culchie derives from the French dialect word Culch or Cultch ( first used 1667 and meaning a bed). It entered use in English spoken in Ireland in the early 1700's. Its application was to the cultivation of oysters in the Malahide area ( Lord Talbot's leased land on the sea shore for shellfish cultivation). I researched this and hope to publish a paper on the word Culchie shortly. Joe Taylor ( Dublin)

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