"Adopt an Irish word"; a plea to save Gaeilge in its expressive richness:
A great article from one of the most outspoken champions of Irish. The comments aren't to be missed, either - loads of spirited debate (of course), and some excellent Irish reading practice to be found there.
I am curious as to which Irish term of endearment he’d translated as “ducky wuck”. Lacha can also be translated as “comely girl” (undoubtedly related to the adjective lachanta) — would the diminutive lachín be used as an endearment? Would the “wuck” part have come from another word that rhymes with lacha (or lachín)?
For what it's worth, I've heard lachín used as a term of endearment once or twice by a Gaeilgeoir friend from Galway (generally addressing his wife), so you're correct re: lacha/lachanta/lachín... but I have no idea how common it is, or what the equivalent rhyming word to go along with it would be.
I think people should be aware that it's actually a plug for an event at the Dublin Fringe Theatre Festival, so the piece shouldn't be read too literally :-), even if the writer is indeed serious about the future of the Irish language.
It's interesting to note that one of his example words "sceidhtéir (a capricious muppet)" demonstrates the dynamism of languages - "muppet" is a new word, and has only taken on the particular hint of derision that he intends in Ireland and the UK. I don't think that speakers of American English will quite catch his meaning!
. . . and to add complexity I wonder if the derision in "he's a complete muppet" comes from the similarity of the words muppet and moppet, meaning rag doll?
As far as I know, there's still a spirited debate about this; some claim it's derived from moppet, some say it came about due to The Muppet Show (originally filmed in London, with mostly British celebrities, and thus a part of the British cultural zeitgeist in a way that took a bit longer to catch on in the US). I've also heard some people claim it's both, in the sense that the Brits assumed "Muppet" to itself be a derivation of "moppet" rather than the Henson-claimed portmanteau of puppet + marionette. (Henson's kids have since claimed that even the portmanteau explanation for Muppet is untrue and something Henson came up with later. According to them, he just liked the sound of the word).
Either way, the etymology makes sense, as both a ragdoll and an empty Muppet would be floppy and gormless!
Wow, I never realized that the Muppet Show was filmed in London!
Even in the first season, though, most of the guests would have been familiar to a US audience.
I don't agree with your etymology, though. Jim Henson's name for his characters did not derive from moppet, and the term of derision comes directly from the name for Jim Henson's characters. You could make the case for an etymological link to puppet, but not moppet.
Jim Henson's name for his characters did not derive from moppet
I didn't say it did - I said I've heard some people (i.e. not me - British friends of mine) argue that the use of "muppet" to mean (broadly) "idiot" might have arisen from the fact that some Brits thought muppet to derive from moppet. You're right that that had nothing to do with anything as far as Henson was concerned, which is why I went on to mention the actual etymology of Muppet as a proper noun, including that Henson's own kids think there was no particular etymology. :)
It's a little like how the Beatles got their name. John Lennon thought Buddy Holly was being clever with "Buddy Holly and the Crickets," because to John, that was a double entendre (cricket the insect and cricket the game). In reality, Buddy Holly, a Texan, had probably never even heard of cricket the sport - he'd almost certainly never seen it, and instead was naming his band solely after the (incredibly loud and ubiquitous) crickets that send up quite a racket every evening in the American South. That doesn't change the fact that, thinking it was a double entendre, John lobbied to call his band the Beatles, punning on beetles and beat music.
I too happen to think that it's most likely that "muppet" the slang came solely from Muppet the proper noun, but I have heard the "some people thought Muppet must have been a pun/derivative of moppet, even though it turned out not to be" argument.
I watched it as a teenager when it was new, and the only guest from the first season that I wouldn’t have recognized was Charles Aznavour (and the members of Mummenschanz).
I'd agree that almost all of the guests were recognizable to Americans, certainly - but because it was filmed in London, the British public were proprietarily proud of the Muppets back when the Muppet Show was still taking off in the States - and indeed, in some circles, before it had aired in either country (they had open-to-the-public dress rehearsals for a while, and for a brief time, a seat at one of those was considered the ticket in town). I only know this because it's in Jerry Nelson's ex-wife's biography about their daughter... it's written chronologically, and Jacqueline Nelson Gordon repeatedly talks about how surreal it was for she and Christine to visit London and see Jerry being treated like a rock star, whereas back home, nobody knew or cared who he was (yet). IMO, that small difference way back in the beginning goes some way toward explaining why "muppet" is common UK slang, but virtually unknown in the US outside of the proper noun.
I don't think so - I've never heard "moppet" used in Ireland and it's not a common term in the UK either, as far as I'm aware. More to the point, though, I'd be surprised if the set of people that use the term muppet in this sense overlaps much with the set of people who use rag dolls, (whatever they might call them).