A col is a degree of relationship. The degrees of relationship between you and your first cousin are:
- your parent;
- your parent’s parent (your grandparent);
- your parent’s parent’s child (your parent’s sibling);
- your parent’s parent’s child’s child (your first cousin).
Ceathrar is the word for “four” when referring to persons.
And, to elaborate, your second cousin is called col seisear. Col cúigear is first cousin once removed, etc.
It is an elegant system. Would your first cousin's grandson also be col seisear? I.e. both second cousin and first cousin twice removed
It would be you-parent-grandparent-aunt/uncle-cousin. 2 steps up to your common ancestor, and 2 back down to the cousin gives the 4 degrees of separation/relatedness
My answer "Do you have 4 cousins?" was completely wrong, I would never have understood this without your explanation scilling thanks.
It should be clear that the numbers relate only to your blood relationship with the cousin - so your col ceathrar (4) would be a) you, your mother, her sister or brother, and their child, or b) you, your father, his sister or brother and their child. The extra spouses aren't counted in.
Can I just say, I've known how to say col ceathrar for about 25 years and this had never occurred to me before. What a great explanation!
It's more than that. It also refers to the degree to which a particular relationship is forbidden. It can also refer to a repulsive, unnatural, or otherwise taboo act.
Saying "col ceathrar" on it's own can refer to a specific taboo act (obvious which one) or can be a general phrase/euphemism for taboo acts?
'Col ceathar' doesn't. That, as scilling noted, refers to the fourth degree of relatedness.
'Col', on the other hand, can do, but it's something of a difficult word to translate accurately. Its primary meaning is about how closely related you are to somebody, and thus secondarily to the incest taboo, but can be more generally to wickedness, aversion, violation, &c. It's not a euphemism though. I think 'taboo' is about as close to an accurate translation as you'd get, but even that's inaccurate.
Fascinating. It would indeed seem to refer to the fourth degree of kinship that the incest prohibition was reduced to at Lateran IV. I wonder whether there was a different word in Old Irish.
Why is "col" on its own inherently negative? (violation, incest, etc.) Did it develop into a slang word?
Col on its own means an impediment, an objection.
col pósta is an impediment to marriage.
col-scaradh = divorce, literally "an impediment to separation".
Ó Dónaill gives ciorrú coil as "a violation of an impediment to marriage; incest". The more negative part of this phrase is ciorrú which means "a violation of" so it's the violation of the impediment, not the impediment itself, that is negative.
There is also a verb col. e.g. colaim means "I pick out and reject as worthless". Perhaps it is related to the English word "cull" as in the culling of deer or cattle.
I had never noticed until now, but it seems that ceathrar is misspelt in this question and others ; it should be written either col ceathar or col ceathrair, but not col ceathrar