Coll-die and doodie-baa

Here’s two words for you now, chosen not because of any similarity in meaning but because they are both double-barrelled and pronounced in the same way, with the stress placed on the second part of each pair: doodie-baa and coll-die. These may not be the correct spellings (if indeed official spellings exist), but are the best stabs I can make at reflecting how they are said. I have not been able to locate any reference to these among the dictionaries available to me and nor have on-line searches thrown anything up. Both are words I have heard my parents and people of their generation, born in the 1940s and 1950s, use in Ennis, Co. Clare. I imagine they are corrupted forms of Gaelic phrases that remained in use around Ennis after the language died out in the area and so could be classified as Hiberno–English.

Doodie-baa is a placeholder, having a similar meaning to thingamajig, thingamabob, yoke, yokeamebob et cetera. Except doodie-baa is, in my experience, always used in reference to structures, the specific word for which may be obscure, unknown or may not exist at all.

“They put some sort of doodie-baa over the back door to stop the rain coming in.”

“There’s a little doodie-baa down the fields to keep the cows from wandering.”

“That’s a grand doodie-baa. The kids will have a ball in there.”

Coll-die, always used as a derogatory term for a person, is a synonym of dud (when used in reference to a person), good-for-nothing or eejit. It carries with it the subtle insinuation that the person in question may be mildly retarded or “not the full shilling”.

“Don’t ask for that fellow’s help — he’s a coll-die.”

“What are you going around with that yoke for? He’s a right coll-die.”

“The daughter’s alright, but the son turned out to be a bit of a coll-die.”

If any scholar of Gaelic or Hiberno–English out there has any suggestion as to the origin of these words, I’d be only too delighted to hear from them. The only theories I have myself are that the baa part of doodie-baa may come from the Gaelic ba the plural for cattle, bó, and that the coll of coll-die may come from col, which is a word used in describing degree of kinship; for example, col ceathar means first cousin, col seisir, second cousin. Could doodie-baa have originated as a word describing a structure used in the rearing, corralling or herding of cattle? And could coll-die have come from an expression containing col and used to refer to a feckless, unintelligent relative?


About ucronin

Microbiologist, brewer, writer, fan of James Joyce, guitar player and gardener, U. Cronin was born in the county town of Ennis, Co. Clare. He's spent much of his adult years moving country — between Spain and Ireland — and at present he is to be found back in his native town. Author of five novels and working on a sixth, U. is back in the lab and engaging his passion for looking for bugs using very bright lasers. Let's hope it turns out well!
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