It’s the second day of the A-to-Z Challenge and time for a b word, blarney. The term can mean both ‘smooth, flattering talk’ and ‘deceptive nonsense’ and, according to etymonline.com, both senses come from the superstition surrounding the Blarney Stone in a castle near Cork, Ireland.
In 1796, the first known example of kissing the Blarney Stone was recorded. By kissing the stone, the kisser would get the gift of the gab, making them a persuasive flatterer. This superstition comes from the idea that the challenge is so difficult, the stone being so high up on the battlement, that climbing to the top demonstrates ‘perseverance, courage and agility’. Because of this, some slackers claimed to have kissed the Blarney Stone despite never having done so and would then boast profusely about it. Thus, to have kissed the Blarney Stone came to mean ‘to tell wonderful tales’ by 1848.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, however, suggests that the chicken came before the egg, that is that blarney meaning ‘flattering nonsense’ existed in 1602, before the idea of kissing the Blarney Stone, although the term does still originate from the Irish castle. Supposedly, during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, a Dermot McCarthy was obliged to relinquish his castle to prove his loyalty to the monarchy. He tried to avoid giving it up with so many excuses that the Queen, allegedly, cried ‘odds bodikins, more Blarney talk!’