This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 1 °C Thursday 18 October, 2018
Advertisement

People 'make a hames' of things every day, but what is a 'hames' anyway? We investigate

The very Irish phrase is probably not very Irish in origin.

“AH, I’VE MADE a hames of it.” A phrase we use almost every day, without thinking much about what a ‘hames’ actually is.

Earlier this month, the Rubberbandits shed some light on the subject:

Hames? Dutch? Intrigued, DailyEdge.ie asked editor and linguist Stan Carey if he could explain it a little further.

He told us that the word ‘hames’ does indeed come from Middle Dutch – the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as such:

Two curved pieces of iron or wood forming or attached to the collar of a draught horse, to which the traces are attached.

o_steel-hames-for-horse-wagon-halter-bridle-antique-tack-82f28 An actual hames. Source: iOffer.com

Cool, but how did that become Irish shorthand for making a mess of something?

Writing on his website World Wide Words, etymologist Michael Quinion shared an insight from a carriage driver as to how it might fit:

My carriage-driving consultant tells me it’s all too easy to put the hames on a horse the wrong way up, thus making a complete mess of things.

Much closer to the ‘hames’ we know and love, then.

Carey says it’s not completely certain that this is the origin of the Irish English ‘hames’ – Gaeilgeoirs have suggested a number of Irish words it could have sprung from, including ‘seamlas‘, meaning shambles or mess.

He says the word is still in use in the world of horses:

You’ll still find the horse-related sense in a few dictionaries, and if you search for hames and horses in Google Books you’ll see contemporary books using the word.

However, the phrase ‘to make a hames of it’ is uniquely Irish. And what would we do without it, eh?

DailyEdge is on Snapchat! Tap the button below to add!

More: 13 excellent ways to insult someone as Gaeilge>

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Read next:

COMMENTS (4)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel