Friday 15 April 2011

Ghoulish Cats

Ghoulish is a word much beloved of the tabloid press. Anything can be ghoulish, from serial killers to a bad round of golf, or as the Daily Express would put it: "one of the most ghoulish Masters bloodbaths in history."

Ghoul, or ghul, is an Arabic word and was a beast that hung around in graveyards and was meant to devour or seize corpses, and ghul meant seize. So what was this strange cadaver-devouring creature, this chewer of corpses, as Joyce would have called it? Was it a thing of myth? A kink in the Middle Eastern imagination?

No. A ghoul is just a cat. Apparently*, they're rather problematic in graveyards. So ghoulish is simply feline.

*I was told this by an ethnographic friend of mine, but he's got a PHD so I believe every word he says.

1 comment:

  1. Gool in Hebrew is circle, a mystical concept (eternity, wheel of life, etc.) which makes more sense of ghoul as 'non-dead' as it were. Nothing to do with goolies. Probably.