In stuffy, book-filled offices all over the English speaking world, hard-working etymologists & Irish folklorists are duking it out over the source of the word leprechaun.
The word leprechaun involves the blending of Gaelic and Latin. The earliest written English record of the term occurred in 1604, spelled lubrican. This spelling - and a boatload of early alternate spellings - start with lu-. the Gaelic combining form for small. In Old Irish leprechaun was spelled luchorpan, which allows us to see a hint of the Latin part of this word (chor- or cor-, meaning body. This same combining form is used in the words corpuscle, corporation, Corpus Christi, and corporeal. So leprechaun translates simply to little body.
Irish folklorists, however, argue that because leprechauns are sprites known for making or repairing a single shoe, the name comes from leithbragan, which marries leith, meaning half to brag, (a form of brogue), or shoe.
While one source bestows leprechauns with little lisping, falsetto voices, another Irish tale defines the leprechaun as a pygmy sprite who always carries a purse containing a schilling.
Despite all this information, if you're ever at a bar & someone sits at the next stool, slaps a single shoe onto th bar & begins repairing it while speaking in a lisping falsetto, &/or carrying a purse, it’s wisest to keep your assumptions to yourself. And isn’t that always true.
Good followers, what do you have to say about leprechauns, or about the wisdom of keeping one’s assumptions to oneself?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com, OxfordDictionaries.com, & the OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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