The kidology of codology
U 12.450-1: [...] Bloom comes out with the why and the wherefore and all the codology of the business [...]
Codding is misrepresenting or shamming – lying sometimes. Joseph Wright, in his monumental English Dialect Dictionary (vol. 1, 1898) defines to cod as ‘to sham, humbug, hoax, impose upon, lie’, and the noun cod as ‘a humbug; a hoax, imposition, lie’. He finds both the verb and the noun in dialect glossaries back to the middle of the nineteenth century, though they may well date from much earlier. Most of his evidence for the terms comes from the north of England, but he notes that they are also found as far south as Warwickshire, and also in Ireland and Australia.
Codology is codding elevated to a pseudo-science: the business of fooling someone by a pretence or misrepresentation; leg-pulling, stringing them along, telling tall stories. It is a word that was first recorded and popularized in Ireland, and is closely associated with Joyce and his characterization of what it is to be Irish. In fact, the OED gives Joyce’s use in Ulysses as the first recorded occurrence of codology.
But that isn’t the case. There are unsubstantiated stories that the term goes back to the eighteenth century, and the first hard evidence we find for codology dates from 1847, in the pages of the voice of independent Ireland, the Nation:
Further documentary evidence for the word is sparse until the latter end of the nineteenth century when it is clearly one of the buzzwords of the day:
Given the widespread use of codology in late nineteenth-century Ireland we don’t need to find a specific source from which Joyce took the word. But it is of some interest that a constant stream of evidence derives from the ‘public amusements’ which are so frequently alluded to in Ulysses.
Harry Hartley (J. H. Hartley) was a member of the Livermore Brothers ‘Court Minstrels’ (see ‘Livermore christies’ at U 15.410) – a company that provided both Christie minstrel-style and general variety entertainment. Harry Hartley fell into the latter section, advertising himself (soon after his visit to Ireland in early 1893) as ‘Professor Codology’ and later as the ‘King of Codology’:
The Livermore minstrels performed regularly in Dublin (and throughout Britain) from at least 1883 until the end of the century. In 1898 Harry Hartley (the self-styled king of mirth and codology) was advertising in the trade magazine the Era just two advertisements earlier than Charles James, the proprietor of the Dublin waxworks in which Marcella the Midget Queen performed (U 16.850).
At much the same time Edward Hughes was peddling another literary manifestation called Codology – his burlesque on mesmerism – in the variety theatres.
Both Hughes and Hartley kept the word in front of audiences both in Ireland and throughout the provinces of Britain. They must have helped the word’s emergence as a characteristic Irishism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Harald Beck/John Simpson
Joyce's Words >