71. Daoine Gorm

There are lots of quirks to the Irish language but perhaps one of the quaintest is how native Irish speakers decided to refer to those whose skin colour they determined to be closer to black as “blue people.”
There are varying accounts of where the first meetings took place between the predominantly lighter-skinned Irish (for “lighter”, read “blotchy”) and predominantly darker-skinned Africans. Some say it happened on Irish shores through visiting African sailors, others point to accounts of ancient Irish sailors finding their way to North Africa and encountered the native North African tribe of the Tuaregs.
Whatever the truth, it appears that Irish speakers chose not to offend this new race by calling them “daoine dubh”, or “black people”. This term was too closely related to the Devil, who was known at the time as “an Fear Dubh” or “the Black Man”. So what did the Irish do? Perhaps part inspired by the Tuareg’s preferred shade of clothing, they simply chose a different colour; blue. And so this new race and all others with much darker skin became “daoine gorm” or “blue people”. And that is what we call an Irish solution to an Irish problem.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *