Nicholas Ostler wrote:
> Could there be a gypsy-tinker connexion?
> FWIW, J. Corominas Etym. Dic. of Spanish refers postín to gitanos,
> postín a skin being derived from Hindustani 'skin, hide, pelt'. But
> Yule and Burnell's Hobson-Jobson, better informed about languages in
> this part of the word, points out that this word ('posteen' - an
> Afghan leather pelisse, generally of sheepskin with the fleece left
> on') – although it is still a current word in Hindi – is in fact
> originally Persian: pōstīn diminutive of pōst (modern pūst 'skin,
> hide'). Corominas conjectures that gypsies would see wearing skins
> as 'elegancia'.
Aha. So the Spanish word has nothing to do with post = pillar.
Thanks for that!
> As for the Irish, I'm afraid you're on your own. Is -úil a
> diminutive? Could be the fly in the ointment, since that -ín seems
> to have been an unanalysed part of the original borrowing, and
> hardly likely to be calqued away with an equivalent Irish affix.
The ending -úil, formerly spelled -amhail, goes back to OI -amail, a
suffix used to derive adjectives from other substantives (cf.
"sainemail" = distinguished < "sain" = distinct). Cf. also closely
As for the "post(a)" part, I think we may have come up with an
explanation in the commentary discussion on the blog, essentially that
"post(a) = post, prop" came to be used in later language the way "clí"
was used in Old Irish, meaning both a physical "pillar" and a
metaphorical "support / leader / chief". Cf. "pillar of the
community" in English. Someone who thought of himself as a "pillar"
could be perceived by others as merely boastful and self-important.