Gotcha! Sorry, Gotham
I am looking for the origins of the word gotham for an article I am writing. Could you help me out? I hear it has to do with the Irish defending against (the) English by pretending certain villages were filled with insane people and therefore, not worth invading. These villages were known as "Gothams." Am I on target?
Sincerely, Kevin Bisch
I confess never to having heard this suggestion before, and being Irish I've heard of most pejoratives used against the "land of saints and scholars".
Eric Partridge in his Dictionary of Historical Slang says Gotham was North of England slang up to about 1900 for the city of Newcastle, and also meaning foolish or ignorant, springing from the dialect word of the same meaning. He also cites Goth, meaning a fool or idiot.
However the Gaelic gochum means counterfeit, and one of the meanings of the Gaelic gotha is affectation, so I suppose there could be something in Kevin's suggestion. As an aside, the English word brummagem also meant counterfeit or shoddy goods, and comes from the city of Birmingham, which for a time had a lousy reputation in this area.
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