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A Few Notes on the Word "Cushlamochree"

by Philip Nel
 

        Mr. O'Malley's favorite expression is "Cushlamochree!" How do you pronounce it? What does it mean?

        Pronounce it "Kush lah m' kree" That's "Kush" as in "push," "lah" like the "la" in "umbrella," and "m' kree" as if it were written "McKree" or "Muh Kree," in which "Kree" rhymes with "tree." The primary accent falls on the first syllable ("Kush"), and the secondary accent falls on the last syllable ("Kree").

        The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following etymology. "Cushla" is a variant of "Acushla," a word of Anglo-Irish origin, adapted from "O cuisle." "Cuisle" means "vein or pulse (of the heart)." The word may also be influenced by the Irish phrase "cuisle mo chroidhe," which means "Dear heart, darling. (Used as a term of address.)" Closest in meaning -- and spelling -- to Mr. O'Malley's "Cushlamochree" is a sentence from Up Country, published in 1928 and written by a person identified only as "Brent of Bin Bin": "And sure, Cushla-ma-chree, if you can't stand me, I'll up and go away." The OED also finds examples of "acushla" from 1842, 1865, 1899, and 1936.

        Dorothy Sayers' Whose Body? (1923), the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, uses the word "acushla" and, when defining this word, Dan Drake's notes on Whose Body? (at the An Annotated Wimsey site) mention Mr. O'Malley. Finally, in the film Christmas in Connecticut (1945; written by Aileen Hamilton, Lionel Houser, and Adele Commandini), Norah (played by Una O'Connor) refers to the cow as "Macushla."


Sources

Christmas in Connecticut. Dir. Peter Godfrey. Perf. Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. Warner Bros., 1945.

Drake, Dan. Notes on Whose Body? An Annotated Wimsey. February 5, 1999. <http://www.dandrake.com/wimsey/>.

Hardman, Jack. Conversation on 18 November 1998. Jack offered the above pronunciation, which the OED verified.

Oxford English Dictionary. Second Edition. Prepared by J. A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. Volumes 1 and 4, pp. 134 and 165, respectively.

Sayers, Dorothy L. Whose Body? 1923. New York: Harper, 1995.


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Last updated 8 February 2002.