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Derring Do

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 29, 2008 at 20:08

In Reply to: Derring Do posted by Peter Simmons on October 29, 2008 at 15:09:

: Re the query about derring do [or deering do etc.] I think this actually comes from the Welsh [though it may have come through Chaucer as someone suggested]. The Welsh for Blackbird is Deryn Du, blackbirds are cocky and self assured, one might almost say brave and fearless, and this name may thus have become associated with a brave or reckless deed, since English has borrowed from elsewhere throughout its development.

I'm afraid that if you wish to assert this solution, you also have to solve a number of inconvenient problems, such as:
- As you yourself admit, the blackbird is not heroic, merely "cocky". You do not claim to know that it has ever been "associated with a brave or reckless deed", either in Welsh or English folklore; you just suggest that perhaps it might. (As it happens, in English folklore the bird is associated with a number of things - bad luck, marriage, and sex in general, but has no particular reputation for courage.)
- While it is of course true that English "has borrowed from elsewhere throughout its development", the contribution of Welsh to that development is staggeringly *small*; "flannel", "coracle", "corgi", and maybe half a dozen more. It has been said that Australian Aboriginal words are more numerous in English than Welsh ones.
- So, if it were an obscure Welsh word,why would Chaucer, a Londoner with no connection to Wales, use it in his "Troylus and Criseyde" with the clear meaning "daring to do?"
- and why would Spenser, another Londoner with no connection to Wales, use "derring doers" to mean "doers of daring [deeds]?

Sorry, if you're going to challenge the Oxford English Dictionary, you're going to have to work harder than that! (VSD)