Name-Avoidance and Circumlocutory Terms in Modern Irish and Scottish Maritime Memorates

Maxim Fomin
Ulster University


In 1942, Seán Ó Súilleabháin’s Handbook of Irish Folklore was produced for collectors of the Irish Folklore Commission. Among many things related to the Irish folklore tradition, the handbook included a section on ‘Fishing Lore’. This initial inquiry was followed by a questionnaire of a fuller scale distributed among the fishermen and members of coastal communities on ‘fishing beliefs’ by the Department of Irish Folklore at UCD in 1979 (see Ní Fhloinn 2018: 352–4 for further detail). Questions relevant to this paper included the following:

  • Are certain kinds of people or certain animals thought to bring bad luck to the fishermen?
  • Are people with certain surnames regarded as unlucky?
  • How do fishermen react to all of these?
  • What attitude do fishermen have towards red-haired people and red things in general?

The answers have since been carefully documented by the Department of Irish Folklore. Most recently, results of research into a specific aspect of the occupational lore of Irish fishermen, “namely, the idea that it was unlucky to mention certain words and entities while at sea” (Ní Fhloinn 2018: 13) was published. Drawing upon Ní Fhloinn’s methodological framework, I would like to examine the corpus of maritime memorates collected by Ulster University’s Stories of the Sea project since 2010 drawing particular attention to various circumlocutory fishing terms and the fishermen’s sociocultural practice of name-avoidance.

Studia Celto-Slavica 11: 51–68 (2020)

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