Some Puzzles and Cautions in Interpreting Irish Local Names (Origin of the name Ballydehob)

Patrick Weston Joyce

Sometimes a single glance at the place clears up the matter. A few years ago I saw for the first time, from the railway carriage, Ballydehob ("The Ford of the two mouths") in Cork, which enlightened my ignorance (See my Names of Places, i, 253). Just at the bridge, where the ford stood in old times, the river divides in two, forming a little delta, and enters the sea by two mouths. See also Lough Avaul in Names of Places, I. 4.

As giving examples of the doubts and difficulties attending the investigation of local etymologies, and of the extreme caution with which the investigator must proceed, this short sketch may be of some use to the younger and less experienced students who are labouring to master the language, the local names, and the antiquities of Ireland.

In addition to my two volumes on "Irish Names of Places" (in which are explained the names of 20,000 or 30,000 different places) there is room for at least one more volume. Whoever undertakes the very serious task of writing this will have aids that I had not: especially the Rev. Dr. Hogan's great work "Onomasticon Goedelicum"; "Early Irish Population-Groups" (Proc. R. I. Acad.) by Professor John MacNeill; and "The Place-Names of Decies," by the Rev. P. Power.