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Chris -- 2018-04-11
We have two “cushy” terms in English. One is the word that comes out of the British Raj, borrowed from an Urdu/Persian word that originally meant “good/pleasure” and specifically adapted (probably in Urdu, but certainly in British English) to refer to jobs where the labour required was considerably less than the benefits gained-the proverbial “cushy job.” This “cushy” was later expanded to refer to anything really nice, such as a “cushy room” in a hotel or a “cushy life.”
But the English word “cushy” can also mean “comfortable/plush,” as found in phrases such as “cushy seat,” “cushy ride,” and “cushy chair.” This second “cushy” may be an adaptation of “cushion.” “Cushion,” we note, is not related to “cushy”-it is a word that we borrowed from French and that seems to trace back either to the Latin word for “hip/thigh” or the Latin word for “mattress.” It seems likely, though, some degree of cross-pollination between the borrowed Urdu/Persian “cushy” and the word “cushion” has happened.
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.
We have two “cushy” terms in English.
Well there may be a few others too, Kem. Viewers of “Only Fools and Horses” will be familiar with the term cushtie, from the Romany cushtiepen meaning ‘sweet’.
In A Dictionary of Archaic Words apparently cus: a kiss N of England; cushion: a riotous wedding dance, including kissing, and cushy-cow-lady: a ladybird. Elsewhere, a cushy-doo is a Northern English word for a pigeon or dove but ‘cush’ and ‘cushy’ are often used with reference to cows.
The best known ‘cushy’ is of course Cushy Butterfield, who resembles “a bag full of sawdust tied roond with a string” and whose eyes “is like two holes in a blanket burnt through”. At this point I’m obliged to break off for a rousing chorus.
Ahh, that’s better …
Straying a little, into the Irish, I’m reminded of that John McCormack song “Macushla”, a term of endearment, sweetheart perhaps but literally “my pulse”. In the 1945 film ‘Christmas in Connecticut’ it may simply be a coincidence that the cow is called ‘Macushla’ but I like to think that it isn’t.