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In Hiberno-English and Ulster-Scots dialects, culchie is a term sometimes used to describe a person from rural Ireland. It usually has a pejorative meaning, but since the late 20th century, the term has also been reclaimed by some who are proud of their rural origin. In Dublin it is often used to describe someone from outside the Dublin Region, including commuter towns such as Maynooth. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, the term is used to refer to persons from outside Belfast city, but not necessarily outside the Greater Belfast area.
The term is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "one who lives in, or comes from, a rural area; a (simple) countryman (or woman), a provincial, a rustic". It is sometimes said to be a word derived from the remote town of Kiltimagh, County Mayo. A further explanation is that the word derives from the word "agriculture," highlighting the agricultural/industrial divide between rural and urban populations.
It may be derived from an Irish-language term cúl an tí, meaning "the back of the house." It was, and still is to a certain extent, common practice in rural areas to enter a neighbour's house through the back door, to avoid tracking dirt through the house and to visit in the kitchen, rather than the front, which was used for more formal visits. Thus the term cúl an tí or culchie referred to such rural peoples used to such practices. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many city dwellers from Dublin tenements worked as domestic servants in homes of wealthier people. The servants were not permitted to enter the house through the front door but had to use the back door or servants' entrance. It became common practice in Dublin to use culchie in a derogatory manner. Over time, as the numbers of servants dwindled through the 20th century, the term was retained in everyday use.
The word '“culchie” may also be derived from the Irish word coillte, the plural of coill, the Irish word for “wood”, an area of growing trees. It was used by townspeople, mainly in the western counties of Mayo and Galway, as a condescending or pejorative reference to people from rural areas. In the mid-sixties it was adopted as a common term in Dublin, as a counter to the country people’s use of the word “Jackeen” for a Dublin person. The “culchie” spelling is common in the English-language media, based on their understanding of phonetics and the word's derivation. It is also sometime spelled with a "T" before the "C" as "cultchie," indicative of its more likely closeness as a pseudonym of "Cul an Ti". It is also possible that the word is derived from "Mulchie," a derivative of the word "mulch", defined as a covering layer for soil or a type of compost.
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Some Dublin GAA fans call supporters of any other of the county teams from Ireland as culchies; fans from counties in the north are called nordies. Dublin's fans are sometimes called Jackeens. David McWilliams coined the term Dulchies to describe Dubliners who decide to live in the counties of Leinster or Ulster. This subgroup of people often live in urban areas such as Navan, Kells and Naas.
The comedian Pat Shortt has made a successful living out of being a 'culchie comedian'. He has his own television series, Killinaskully, based on a theme of a culchie in a village in rural Munster. The Christmas episode of Killinaskully receives viewership figures that place it annually in the top three most-viewed television programmes in Ireland.
Culch.ie is a popular Irish Pop Culture blog derived from the term.
The Culchie Festival started in 1989 in Clonbur, County Galway. The Festival has taken place in many towns and villages throughout Ireland in its search to find "The Culchie" or the "Village Character" (who dislikes non-"locals"), as he was known years ago. The true culchie has the ability to entertain at will, whether on stage or TV.
The festival is held in late October each year after regional heats held throughout Ireland and overseas Irish communities to select contestants. The final consists of various challenges, such as tractor racing, nappy changing, sandwich making, potato picking, knitting, and karaoke. The 2008 winner was Adrian McCabe from Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, where the next Culchie Festival was hosted from 23–25 October 2009.
Definitions found at Irish Slang
- "culchie". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 1993.
- Dolan, Terence Patrick (2006). A Dictionary of Hiberno-English. Cork: Gill & Macmillan. p. 70. ISBN 9780717140398.
- Byrne, George (10 December 2011). "Smell". Evening Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
- "Culchie Festival bids to break motorbike record". BreakingNews.ie. Retrieved 2008-12-10.
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