TNB Night Owl – Donnybrook

Donnybrook, Dublin. Photo by Sarah777

From Merriam-Webster online:

noun, often capitalized don·​ny·​brook \ ˈdä-nē-ˌbru̇k

Definition of donnybrook 1: free-for all, brawl 2: a usually public quarrel or dispute

Continuing our week of questionable and bad behavior (beer, fraud/cultural appropriation, juvenile humor) brings us to an unusual word origin. While it’s uncommon to have words formed on behalf of famous people, it’s rarer still to have words developed because of a place. Donnybrook Fair was no ordinary place.

Starting around 1200 AD, the still-existing Donnybrook neighborhood in the outskirts of Dublin was host to an annual celebration. Donnybrook Fair lasted a fortnight (fourteen days). People came from all over Ireland to attend, but the event wasn’t quite the same as modern state fairs. There were no rides, obviously, and few exhibits. Mostly it was a chance for vendors and tradesmen to sell their wares and services… and for attendees to drink and fight.

Feuds were common between families, and as the many alcohol vendors sold their stocks brawls broke out. On at least one occasion, the bulk of the fair was rendered moot as fighting broke out among a majority of the attendees. Some are recorded as having brawled, left for home, slept, then returned to the fairground the next day in order to continue their fighting.

Nevertheless, the fair quickly became a popular annual event, and it remained so for about four hundred and fifty years. The entirety of United States history encompasses only a bit over half of the time that Donnybrook Fair was held. Every year, for two weeks, there would be open brawls in the streets outside of Dublin.

In 1855, the final event was held, but not before the word “donnybrook” had entered the lexicon, demonstrating that the “Fighting Irish” existed long before New York City’s Five Points problems or Notre Dame’s football team.

Question of the night: What are some of your favorite odd words?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.