(The) Rest in Peace

Of all the translation travesties out there, bad translations on tombstones and memorial markers make me the saddest.

Of all the translation travesties out there, bad translations on tombstones and memorial markers make me the saddest. Someone wanted to honor a loved one or a respected individual with this ingraving, didn’t do adequate research, and now their heartfelt sentiment is a laughing stock on the Internet.

The really sad thing is that this particular translation travesty is all OVER the Internet (not only on this person’s memorial), presented as the way to say “Rest in Peace” in Irish.

I guess I don’t need to tell you that it’s horribly, sadly wrong. But you know me — I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s horribly, sadly wrong.

So what’s wrong with it?

As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this post (and from the fact that this is a picture of either a tombstone or some form of memorial marker), whoever commissioned this intended it to say “Rest in Peace.”

Unfortunately, what they have there is not “rest” as in “sleep/repose.” It’s “rest” as in “remainder” (e.g., “I’ll eat the rest of the cookies”).

If that weren’t bad enough, they didn’t even get that right. “The rest” in Irish is “an chuid eile” (literally “the other portion”). Without the definite article “an” (“the”) it’s nonsense. To add insult to injury, “chuid” [sic] is misspelled. Without the definite article, it’s “cuid.”

And then there’s that idiom thing

Wrong word choices and spelling aside, another thing that’s wrong with this is that it’s not how you’d express this sentiment in Irish. Whoever came up with this attempted a direct, word-for-word translation from English, and if you follow this blog you already know that that just does not work.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and again and again): Languages are not codes for one another.

(I stole that line from someone long ago, and I can’t remember who, but it’s a good one, so I think I’ll keep it.)

Word-for-word translations rarely work between languages, especially not when the languages are as grammatically and culturally different as Irish is from English.

To begin with, “síocháin,” which means “peace” as in “the absence of conflict,” while not wrong per se, is probably not the word that would be used to express this sentence in Irish. A more usual choice would be “suaimhneas“– “tranquility/rest/repose.”

In addition, when we wish a particular state or emotion on a person, we don’t say they’re “in” that state, we say that state is “on” them: “Suaimhneas air/uirthi/orthu” (“Peace/rest on him/her/them”).

This brings up yet another point: In many cases, when translating to Irish, you need to know what pronoun to use. Irish loves pronouns, and will happily use them where a verb might be used in English. If you’re speaking of a person or animal you often need to know either the gender (or the preferred pronouns, in the case of a person) to translate correctly.

Air” = “on him”

Uirthi” = “on her”

Orthu” = “on them

A phrase that you will see on Irish tombstones is “Suaimhneas Síoraí Air” or “Go Raibh Suaimhneas Síoraí Air” — “Eternal Rest be Upon Him” (apply correct pronoun as required). This is the closest you can get in Irish to a direct translation of “Rest in Peace.”

Another phrase you’ll see frequently is Ar dheis Dé go Raibh a Anam/a hAnam/a nAnam” — “May his soul/her soul/their souls be at God’s right hand.”

How did it get this way?

When we see a terrible translation such as this, the first impulse is to blame machine translation, which doesn’t handle Irish well at all.

With that in mind, I checked Google “translate” to see what it would make of the English phrase “Rest in Peace.” Depending on the capitalization (Google “translate” is weirdly case-dependent), it returned:

Rest in Peace: No translation

Rest in peace: No translation

rest in peace: scíth a ligean — “to take one’s rest/ease”

I’m guessing that, if machine translation was used to produce this, it wasn’t Google.

The horrifying thing, though, is if you plug “Chuid Eile i Síocháin” into Google seeking an English translation, it does give you “Rest in Peace.” Even more horrifying is the fact that you can’t change it. It gives you a chance to “offer a better translation,” but not to say “this makes absolutely no sense.

It’s possible someone used a different machine translator to arrive at this. It’s also possible someone asked a friend/relative who grossly misrepresented their facility with the language.

It’s also possible that the person attempted a word-for-word “translation” from an English-Irish dictionary and (predictably) got it wrong. We may never know for sure.

It’s even likely that whoever commissioned this stone found this “translation” on the Internet. There’s a lot of really bad Irish on the Internet, which underscores the lessons to be learned from this and all other bad Irish translation:

Do not — I repeat, DO NOT — attempt to translate from English to Irish yourself unless you’re fluent in the language. Do not simply use something you found on the Internet (or in a book, or in a song, etc.) without verifying it with an expert. Finally, if you’re not using a paid human translator (which you really should do, if possible), make sure at least THREE PEOPLE AGREE, on the correct translation before doing anything permanent with it. Preferably three people from different sources.

I, and the Irish language, will thank you.

P.S.: I don’t know who took the photo above or to whom the memorial is dedicated. If anyone does know who took the picture, please let me know so I can give them credit.

In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

Welcome to the World of Welsh!

The Celtic tattoo handbook family has a new member! Here’s a big Irish fáilte to The Welsh Tattoo Handbook!

(Grumble grumble…this is my first time using the new WordPress editor, and I’m not a fan. Come on, WordPress! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)

Ahem…That said, I have a very happy announcement to make: The Celtic Tattoo Handbook series has a new member! Here’s a big Irish fáilte to the much-anticipated Welsh Tattoo Handbook, the ultimate “think before you ink” guide to using the Welsh language in tattoos, crafts, and jewelry.

Written by fluent Welsh speakers Robert and Meagan Davis and published by Bradan Press of Halifax, Nova Scotia (the same company that publishes The Scottish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook and The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook), this book is much more than a glossary of well-vetted Welsh phrases (though it is that as well).

Like its predecessors, it provides a wealth of information about the language and the people who speak it, including its history and interesting linguistic features, folklore and symbolism associated with Wales, and advice on getting a good translation, should you not find the one you’re looking for in the book itself, or should you need to adapt one of the glossary entries.

There is also a chapter showcasing real Welsh tattoos gone wrong (with detailed information as to WHY they’re wrong) and yes — a fully indexed glossary of Welsh phrases you can use with confidence.

Not just for tattoos

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a tattoo seeker to benefit from, and enjoy, this book. The translations can be used for everything from art projects to T-shirts to tombstones — anything for which you might want a Welsh translation.

In addition, reading about the translation process and getting a feel for how phrases from one language may be expressed very differently in another language is invaluable for any language learner. It’s really a must-have for anyone interested in Wales or in the Welsh language.

You can get The Welsh Tattoo Handbook from Amazon (pretty much everywhere) or Barnes & Noble (in the U.S.), as well as from Nimbus or Chapters Indigo (in Canada). Alternatively, you can ask your local bookseller to order it for you, or even to stock it (a great way to support both a minority language and local booksellers!)

On this auspicious occasion, I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little bit about Welsh, for readers who may be less familiar with it, and about the Celtic languages in general.

But first, there’s something you really, really need to know:

It’s “Welsh,” not “Welsh Gaelic”

Please, engrave this on the inside of your eyelids if that’s what it takes. I can’t begin to count the number of times someone’s said something like this to me:

“My cousin speaks Welsh Gaelic.”

“Do you speak Welsh Gaelic?”

“I want to speak Welsh Gaelic!”

No, they don’t. No, I don’t. And no, you can’t. Do you know why?

It’s very simple: Welsh is not a Gaelic language.

Repeating for those in the back:

Welsh is not a Gaelic Language

In other words, there’s no such thing as “Welsh Gaelic.” Welsh is a Celtic language, yes indeed…but not Gaelic.

Celtic does not (necessarily) mean Gaelic

There appears to be a great deal of confusion surrounding the terms “Celtic” and “Gaelic.” Some people think they’re synonyms (they’re not). Some people seem to associate both terms exclusively with Ireland and Scotland (it’s broader than that). So here’s a brief rundown:

We get the word “Celt” from the Greek “Keltoi,” which the Greeks used to define a loosely affiliated group of European tribes that shared similar cultural and linguistic features.

From a linguistic standpoint, “Celtic” refers to a family of Indo-European languages that descended from an ancestor known as “Proto-Celtic” and share similar characteristics. These languages as we currently know them are Irish (Gaeilge), Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), Manx (Gaelg), Welsh (Cymraeg), Cornish (Kernewek), and Breton (Brezhoneg).

One family, two branches

There are two distinct branches that make up the Insular Celtic language family (that is, the Celtic languages of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, and Man, and of the Brittany region of France): The Q-Celtic or Goidelic (Gaelic) branch and the P-Celtic or Brythonic (British) branch. Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx belong to the Goidelic branch, and are the only languages that can rightly be called “Gaelic.”

In fact, one term in Irish for an Irish person is Gael.

Welsh, on the other hand, belongs to the Brythonic branch, along with Breton and Cornish.

Family resemblance

I mentioned above that the Celtic languages share similar characteristics. Some of these include a verb-subject-object (VSO) structure, initial mutations (i.e., changes that happen to the beginnings of words in certain grammatical circumstances), and conjugated pronouns.

They also all have a tendency to be more “wordy” than English, which is why short, pithy English sayings are often longer and less punchy when translated.

But similarities do not a single language make, and it doesn’t take a degree in linguistics to see that, while there are similarities, there are also significant differences. Consider the popular tattoo translation request “Dance as if no one is watching” (taken from the respective tattoo handbooks):

Irish: Déan damhsa amhail is nach bhfuil éinne ag féachaint

Welsh: Dawnsier fel pe bai neb yn gwylio

You don’t have to speak either language to figure out that those will sound as different from each other as they look!

The Celtic languages make for fascinating study, and if you’re interested (you’re interested in at least one, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, right?), a web search will net way more scholarly information than I can provide here. Wikipedia is a good place to start.

So we’ve spoken a bit about what Welsh is NOT. Now let’s talk about something far more interesting: what it IS. Here are some interesting facts about the Welsh language:

A vibrant, living language

Welsh is the most widely spoken Celtic language, with more than 500,000 speakers, and the Welsh government has a goal of one million speakers by the year 2050. It is the only Celtic language not classified as “threatened.”

It is one of the national languages of Wales, and is also spoken by a small number of people in Patagonia, in Argentina, the result of a migration of Welsh people to the region in the 1800s. Patagonian Welsh, though influenced by Spanish, is understandable to Welsh speakers in Wales, and is considered a distinct dialect of the Welsh language.

Speaking of dialects, Welsh has two primary dialects: North Walian and South Walian. It also has a formal, literary form that differs significantly from the everyday, spoken form of the language.

And speaking of literature, Welsh has a wealth of it, extending back into the Bardic tradition. Welsh poetry, with its distinctive structure, alliteration, and “vowel harmony” is a particularly rich source for meaningful tattoo translations.

Oh, and another literary note: J.R.R. Tolkien was very taken with Welsh, and based one of his Elvish languages on it (sadly, he wasn’t a fan of Irish, but nobody’s perfect).

While Welsh, like the other Celtic languages, uses the same Latin letters as English does (minus J,K,Q,V, and X), it uses them differently (as do the other Celtic languages), and an English speaker cannot presume to know how a Welsh word is pronounced by applying English phonics.

Another interesting fact about Welsh orthography is that it makes extensive use of the letters “w” and “y” to represent vowel sounds (something that becomes abundantly obvious the more you look at phrases in the language). It also has a number of cases in which a double consonant represents a single sound and is considered to be a single letter.

Buy the book

There is so, so much more to this fascinating, musical language than I can begin to cover here. If you have any interest in the Celtic languages, whether you’re looking for a tattoo translation or not, it belongs in your library.

And if you ARE looking for a Welsh tattoo translation, all I can say is what are you waiting for?

In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

Live, Love, Huh?!

This language isn’t a toy for you to use to make yourself feel “special” or “unique.” Take the time to get it right.

Haigh, a chairde!

I’ve been racking my brains lately, trying to thing of something to write about after six months of COVID hiatus. Adjusting to working from home  (yes, I have a day job), and dealing with the stress, worry, and day-to-day concerns really took their toll on the creative process.

Then, two days ago, I opened up Facebook and there, right in front of me, was this gem of a bad Irish tattoo, shared to my page by a friend (Thanks, Máire Uí Brádaigh! Facebook friends rock!)

Woo hoo! Problem solved! Writer’s block broken!

A common (i.e., overdone) request

Ever since I began learning Irish, in  2004, “Live Laugh Love” or some variant thereof (some want “Live Love Laugh” or “Laugh Live Love”) has been the single most common tattoo translation request among women.

(Seriously, if you’re looking for something original, this ain’t it)

Why they want it in Irish I have no idea, but want it they do. If my experience is any indicator, there must be hundreds of women with some version of this permanently marked on their skin in Irish — the lucky/smart ones in good Irish. The others, not so much. Three guesses as to which this person is.

Suffice it to say that what she has on her back is NOT “Live Laugh Love” — in “Gaelic” or in any other language.

(By the way, if you’re curious, the single most common tattoo translation among men is some variation on “None but God may judge me/Only God can judge me.” Dudes can be unoriginal too.)

So what does it REALLY say? “Live…?”

So if it doesn’t say “Live Laugh Love,” what does it say? Let’s start with the first word: Beo.

English is full of words that are spelled the same way but that sound different and have different meanings (the technical name for these is “heteronyms”). “Live” is a prime example. If you pronounce it to rhyme with “give” it is a verb meaning, depending on context, “exist,” “survive,” “enjoy/experience life,” etc.

If you pronounce it to rhyme with “hive,” however, it is an adjective meaning “alive” or “living” (for example “live bait,” i.e., bait that is alive).

When people with a limited understanding of how languages work attempt to do their own translations (note: this is a very bad idea), they tend to forget this tiny detail. You can read more about this in another blog post I wrote a while back: “It’s a Long Life with a Bad Tattoo.

To put it simply, our tattooed friend grabbed the wrong one. “Beo” means “Alive.”

The laughing stud horse?

The second word (really a non-word) is causing a great deal of hilarity on the Irish-speaking internet because, at first glance, it looks like the “translator” intended to write “stud horse.”

Fortunately (I guess), she kind of missed the mark there, as the word for a stud horse is Graíre and what she has there is “Gráire.” The presence (or lack) and placement of an accent mark makes a huge difference in Irish. Put it in the wrong place, leave it out, or put it in when it isn’t called for, and you have a different word.

For more on this: Are You a Fada-less Child?

So the sort-of good news is that she doesn’t have “stud horse.” The bad news is she has nothing at all. “Gráire” isn’t a word in Irish.

It’s likely the person was aiming for “Gáire” — “Laughter/a Laugh.” What she has, though, is nonsense.

Of course, this hasn’t stopped people from making jokes about “Alive Shergar Love” (Americans feel free to substitute “Secretariat” for “Shergar”).

And then there’s grá

As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day (well, an analog one anyway!). Grá” does indeed mean “love,” but it’s a noun, not a verb.

There is a verb “love” in Irish — gráigh — but it’s rarely used. A more usual way of telling someone to love would be tabhair grá : “give love.”

How does this happen?

There are lots of different ways that this kind of mis-translation can happen. One of the most common is a misguided attempt to do a word-for-word translation using a dictionary.

It would be handy if languages worked that way (All you’d have to do is memorize a bunch of vocabulary and bingo! You’d have another language!). Unfortunately for would-be translators, they don’t.

Aside from such pitfalls as the aforementioned heteronyms, the fact is that different languages just work differently. Some examples:

English: Thank you

Irish: Go raibh maith agat (literally “may there be good to-you”)

English: I love you

Irish: Tá grá agam duit (literally “Is love at-me to-you”)

Here’s a pretty classic (and horrifying on many levels) example of what can happen when someone attempts a translation using a dictionary: Even Racists Got the Blues.

Sometimes this happens because someone asks a friend or family member who misrepresents his or her level of Irish. Sadly, this happens way more often than it should. The reality is that true fluency in Irish is rare, even in Ireland, and people who are truly fluent are often reluctant to do this kind of translation for various reasons.

So how DO you say it?

As I mentioned above, this is an extremely common tattoo translation request, and various Irish forums have struggled with the best way to express it.

To express it using verbs is kind of awkward, and can be ambiguous. Irish isn’t English. “Simple” translations often aren’t all that simple.

What I usually suggest is to use nouns:

Beatha Gáire Grá — Life Laughter Love

Show some respect

It’s OK to want a tattoo in Irish. Just , whatever you do, please have enough respect for the language and the culture to get it right. Spend the time and, if necessary, spend the money to get a solid translation. This language isn’t a toy for you to use to make yourself feel “special” or “unique.”

If you need help, drop me a line in the comments below and I can give you some guidance.

Le meas,

GG


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

 

 

Lá ‘le Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

There’s nothing at all normal about this St. Patrick’s Day.

A chairde,

It’s a crazy, different time in which we find ourselves! There’s nothing at all normal about this St. Patrick’s Day.

I don’t know how things are where you are, but I’m guessing not too different from where I am. Lock down. Pubs closed. Parades and masses canceled. Future events in doubt. Maybe you’re sitting home, as I am, wondering if you’ll even have a job a few weeks from now.

But you know what? It’s still St. Patrick’s Day! Lá ‘le Pádraig! It’s our day! I don’t know about you, but I’m going to celebrate in every way I can!

Green is definitely in my future tomorrow, even if I don’t have anywhere to wear it but in front of my computer. There’s a shot of Jameson’s waiting for a toast tomorrow evening. And, because it works out that I WILL be at home tomorrow, I will sing Óró ‘sé do bheatha abhaile tomorrow at noon with all the rest of you who will be doing so around the globe!

And, of course, there’s this song, without which St. Patrick’s Day never seems quite complete.

Dochas Linn Naomh Pádraig

Have a wonderful day tomorrow, a chairdeGo mbeirimid beo ag an am seo arís.

Le grá,

GG


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

St. Patrick’s Day and being Irish in the time of COVID-19

Right now, I can’t focus on things that divide us.

So, a chairde, this is not the post I thought I would be sharing today.

For the past several weeks I’ve been working on a post on what it means to say “I’m Irish.” It’s something several friends on both sides of the question have asked me to address — why it is that Irish-Americans insist on referring to themselves as “Irish.”

It’s something that really bothers some people, and a culture clash that seemed ripe for the sharing near St. Patrick’s Day. I get it. I’ve been working on it with the goal of publishing today, and I have to say that, as of yesterday morning, I was no more than three paragraphs short of giving it a final proof and hitting “publish.”

But in the end I couldn’t do it. Because, while there are valid arguments on both sides (“My grandfather came from Ireland!” “You’re not Irish, you’re American! Deal with it!”), right now, I can’t make myself focus on things that divide us.

So much has changed

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been two weeks since the reality of the coronavirus exploded here in Northern California. Within 48 hours we went from “This is something we should maybe be worried about” to out-and-out panic. The reality of what was happening in China, Iran, and Italy suddenly became our reality (yeah…sometimes we’re a little slow on the uptake).

Now Italy is on lockdown. Ireland is on lockdown. Parts of the U.S. are “containment areas.” Our government tells us that our friends from Europe are no longer welcome here. Resorts here on the California Central Coast have turned into quarantine wards.

A little thing, but…

In the light of all this, it seems that the question of who is entitled to call themselves “Irish” is a pretty minor thing, as is the widespread cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Parades, masses, sessions…those can be rescheduled, yes? Semantics and identity can be debated another day.

At the same time these minor things are the things that really hit us where we live, right? Somehow it’s a lot easier to accept the the Dow plummeting that it is to come to grips with the cancellation of seasonal festivities. That makes it personal.

And, while it’s undeniably an issue, let’s be honest: In the face of all this, does the question of who says “I’m Irish” really matter?

What has the Irish language ever done for you?

A few days ago, a friend asked me what value I’ve found in learning Irish. And I have to say, there’s been one heck of a lot.

There’s the satisfaction of learning a new language, which is pretty amazing, when you think of it. Another way to communicate. To a wordsmith, there is no greater joy.

There’s the connection to a culture that has drawn me from the time I was a teenager and first fell in love with Irish traditional music. I can’t begin to explain to you just how much that has meant to me. It’s a connection to my soul.

And yes…there’s the tremendous satisfaction of confounding telemarketers! (“I’m sorry ma’am. No one here speaks Chinese.” Somewhere in Connemara, Yu Ming is laughing!)

But, in the final analysis, the greatest gift Irish has given me is you.

The community I’ve found through Irish is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Some of you are singers, some of you are poets or teachers, some of you are learners, some of you are fluent, or even native speakers. Some of you have no interest in learning the language at all, but have come into my life through Irish music. You come from the U.S. and Canada, from Germany and from England and from Brazil and from Japan, and, of course (where else?) from Ireland.

And in realizing this, I also realized that, in the face of this worldwide challenge, the last thing I wanted to focus on is something that divides us. It doesn’t matter what “Irish” means. What really matters is who we are, and what we have in common.

So what will you do on St. Patrick’s Day?

There’s no doubt that this year is going to be way different from other years. St. Patrick’s Day’s celebrations have been canceled from Dublin to New York!

I don’t know what you will do on March 17, but here’s what I will do:

I will reach out to my friends around the world, and rejoice in this language we share.

I will sing and make music, because that’s what I do.

I will hold my loved ones close.

I will walk outside and revel in the beauty that surrounds me.

And I will pray that next year we will look back on this time as something we got through together.

Is sibhse mo mhuintir. Is sibhse mo chroí. Is sibhse amhrán m’anama.

Le meas is le grá,

GG

* The featured image in this post was taken in Glencolmcille, Co. Donegal, in July, 2008. Glen Head and a dramatic Donegal sunset.


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

March Madness

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and ridiculously bad Irish T-shirts, memes, and posters are cropping up everywhere.

Ah, spring! Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, and ridiculously bad Irish T-shirts, memes, and posters are cropping up everywhere.

I’m not talking about the offensive, racist stuff one sees at this time of year, though there’s certainly plenty of that (Repeating for those in the back of the class: Things that portray Irish people as drunks, as always spoiling for a fight, as country bumpkins, or as leprechauns are OFFENSIVE. Just don’t do it. Please.)

This is also the season when even people who don’t speak, or plan to learn, Irish seem to like to trot out the cúpla focal, even if it’s the painfully anglicized “Erin go Bragh”*

The shirt pictured came across my desk recently, shared by my friend and fellow Gaeilge geek Michael von Siegel, and it’s just so egregiously awful, I have to dissect it.

* This phrase is a corruption of “Éire go brách” or, as they say it in Munster, “Éirinn go brách.”

But what does it mean?

Short answer: It means absolutely nothing. It’s an ungrammatical mess. But what we really want to know is what the designer intended for it to say, right?

As nearly as I can tell, what was intended was “Kiss me I’m Irish and you are beautiful.” News flash: That’s not what it says.

If we want to get literal (and why not?), what it LITERALLY says is “Kiss ME I the Irish language and are you beautiful [?]” (I added the question mark because somehow it seemed even dumber without it).

So, what’s wrong with it?

Let’s start with the first phrase: Póg mise:

Póg does mean “kiss,” and can be used either as a noun or as a verb, so initially it doesn’t look like there’s too much wrong here. Technically you CAN say “póg mé” (we’ll deal with mise in a moment). It’s grammatically sound enough. There’s only one problem:

That’s not how an Irish speaker would normally say “kiss me.”

A very important facet of learning a language is understanding that, even if something is in the dictionary and/or is grammatically correct, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s actually something a speaker of that language would say.

Irish as a language leans more toward noun phrases for this kind of expression. To an Irish speaker, “póg mé,” while understandable, sounds rather rude and abrupt. It’s a command, not a friendly invitation, and it just doesn’t feel natural in this context.

So how would an Irish speaker say “kiss me”? The usual approach would be something along the lines of tabhair póg dom” — give me a kiss.

Another strange aspect of this phrase is the use of the emphatic form of  (“me/I”): mise.

When Irish speakers want to emphasize a word, instead saying it more loudly or forcefully, they use what’s called an “emphatic form,” which usually involves adding the suffix -se or -sa. Some words change more significantly, though, and mé is one of them. So, essentially what we have here is “ME” rather than “me” (Or, to sum the whole phrase up, “Kiss ME (dammit!) not that person over there!”)

Tarzan meets the Irish language

Moving on to the next phrase: Mé Gaeilge. 

This phrase has so much wrong with it, it’s hard to know where to start. It even took me a couple of moments to realize that the “designer” meant mé to go with the second line of text, it’s just that weird.

As I mentioned above, mé means “me/I,” so it’s clear, upon reflection, that the designer was going for “I’m Irish.” Aside from the Tarzan-esque nature of this phrase (note the lack of a verb: “Me/I Irish”), this is absolutely NOT the way you would say “I am [something].”

If you’re an Irish learner, or if you happened to read my most recent grammar post, I Am, or Copulating in Irish (yes, it’s a bit cheeky), you already know that the way you say “I am [something]” in Irish is with that little semi-verb known as “the copula”:

Is  _________ mé:  I am ___________

That’s bad enough, but the thing that has Irish speakers rolling in the aisles (or perhaps just rolling their eyes) is that Gaeilge doesn’t mean “Irish” as in “an Irish person.” It’s the name of the Irish language. And no…you can’t just swap them out for each other.

If you’re speaking of an Irish person, you would either use Éireannach or Gael (Éireannach would be understood more as someone actually FROM Ireland — an Irish citizen — whereas Gael can be used to denote Irish heritage).

So, if you want to say “I’m Irish” you have two choices:

Is Éireannach mé

Is Gael mé

Are you beautiful? (asking for a friend)

The third and final phrase on this shirt — agus an bhfuil tú go hálainn — actually gets two things right. Agus does mean “and,” and go hálainn does mean “beautiful.” Even a broken clock is right two times a day.

The problem is with the form of the verb used. An bhfuil is an interrogative, or “question,” form of the verb bí/tá (“to be”). Unlike English, which simply switches word order and uses a rising inflection to ask a question, Irish uses a specialized verb form.

English: Are you beautiful? You are beautiful!

Irish: An bhfuil tú go hálainn? Tá tú go hálainn!

Putting it all together

So, putting this all together, how would you say “Kiss me, I’m Irish, and You’re Beautiful” in Irish?

Tabhair póg dom, is Éireannach/Gael mé, agus tá tú go hálainn

As with any language, there can be many different ways to say a particular thing, but this is pretty straightforward, and will be widely understood.

So how did it get this way?

There are many, many roads to a bad translation, and it can often be difficult figuring out exactly which one led to any particular catastrophe.

Some methods would-be translators try include pulling words out of an Irish dictionary and plugging them into English syntax; asking a “friend” or relative who claims to know Irish (but really doesn’t); using something from a book, song, or piece of jewelry without verifying it first; or trying machine translation. All of these are recipes for disaster.

Often when we see something like this, the first impulse is to blame it on Google Translate (or, as we sometimes call it, “Google Trashlate”) or some other form of machine translation, and with some justification. Machine translation has an abysmal record with the Irish language, and it hasn’t improved much, if at all, since I wrote this post for Bitesize Irish back in 2012.

Given that, one of the first things I do when I’m trying to work out where a bad translation came from is try to replicate it in Google Translate.

This is actually easier said than done, as Google is both case- and punctuation-sensitive, and can deliver vastly different results based on how you capitalize or punctuate your request.

Google also is inconsistent in back-translating. You can enter, for example, a phrase in English and get one Irish “translation” (for better or for worse), but often, if you try to check your result by entering the Irish translation and seeking a translation back to English, you’ll get something very different.

Here are some of the attempts I made with this phrase:

Kiss me I’m Irish and you’re beautiful: Póg mise Tá mé Éireannach agus tá tú go hálainn

Kiss me, I’m Irish and you’re beautiful: Póg dom, is Gaelainn mé agus tá tú go hálainn

Kiss me, I’m Irish, and  you’re beautiful! Póg dom, is Éireannach me, agus tá tú go hálainn!

All of these have serious errors in them, but none of them replicates the errors on the T-shirt. When I enter the phrase exactly as it appears on the shirt, however — Póg Mise mé Gaeilge agus an bhfuil tú go hálainn, and ask Google to translate it to English, it does return “Kiss me I am Irish and you are beautiful.”

Given that, and given that the sites that manufacture such shirts and similar items often do use machine translation, I’m willing to bet that this is the culprit, even though I can’t reproduce the error going from English to Irish. Maybe you’ll have better luck!

Bonus mistake

If the bad translation weren’t enough, the symbol in the middle of the shirt is not a shamrock. Shamrocks have three leaves. Yes, always. Four-leafed clovers are thought of as lucky in many countries because of their rarity, but they have no particular association with Ireland, and are not an Irish symbol.

Summing it all up

I don’t want to discourage anyone from using Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day or any other day. It’s a great way to show your connection to the culture, IF you do it properly, and with respect for the language.

Some options for getting a good translation (or verifying one you’ve found) include:

  • Find a professional translator. A Google search can help with this (be sure to use the parameters “Irish language” or “Gaeilge,” not just “Irish”), but do your due diligence. Get references.
  • Visit an Irish Language forum. The one I usually recommend is the Irish Language Forum (ILF). Old school forums work better for this kind of thing, because it’s easier to keep track of the process, and to tell who the more expert people are. Remember the very important “Rule of Threes”: Wait to proceed with a translation until at least three people from that site agree.
  • Don’t use anything you’ve found in a book, in a song/poem, or on-line without verifying it first. A forum is a good place to do that as well. You don’t want to end up like this poor guy.
  • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use Google Translate or any other machine translation app. Trust me, it will not go well.

Most important of all, approach the language with curiosity and respect. It’s a fascinating language, and learning even a little bit of it is a wonderful way to celebrate your Irish heritage.

Le meas,

GG

P.S.: Yes, the heading above the pictured shirt is wrong too, and by now you can probably figure out why!

 

 

A Cautionary Tale, or What to Buy Your Celtic-Loving Loved Ones for Christmas

Or for Hanukkah. Or for Yule. Or just because. Because friends don’t let friends get bad tattoos!

Once Upon a Time…

Once upon a time, a young man decided to honor his heritage by getting a tattoo in the language of his people…

Alas, he put his faith in the internet and the results were, shall we say, less than optimal.

I really wish this were a fairy tale!

Truth in Advertising

The video above may be an advertisement (in fact, it’s a promotional video by my publisher, Bradan Press, filmed in a real tattoo studio and at a Nova Scotia kitchen party) but the situation it portrays is all too real.

There is a significant interest in tattoos, engravings, cards, and other such things in the languages of the Celtic lands. In the nearly 15 years that I’ve been learning Irish, I’ve seen literally thousands of requests for tattoo translations, and almost as many requests for translations for artwork, cards, T-shirts, etc.

And that’s just in Irish. Heaven knows how may translation requests go out every day for Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, or Breton.

What’s really frightening, though, is that for every person who has requested a translation, whether from a forum, from a professional translator, or from an individual, there are many more who just do an internet search, or make the mistake of relying on Google “Translate.” And many of those translations, though hideously bad, end up permanently inked on someone’s skin.

(Not to mention in my blog. Here are just a few tattoo travesties I’ve written about in recent years: It’s A Long Life With A Bad TattooThe Great Soulmate DebateBig Sister’s Big Mistake: Four Mistakes in Two Words).

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Celtic Tattoo Handbook Series

Two years ago I was approached by Celtic-themed Canadian publisher Bradan Press about writing The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook as a companion to The Scottish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook, which had been published the previous year.

It was exciting, working with friends who are native speakers, as well as two professional Irish-language editors, to come up with the best, most authentic, translations for the most commonly requested tattoo words and phrases.

It was even more exciting to have the opportunity to educate people a bit about the language and about the translation process, which is much less simple than you might imagine! Sometimes I look at the book, open it and read the first chapters, and hope that it’s encouraged people to learn more about this language that I love.

Not Just for Tattoos

Although both books target tattoo seekers, both are also valuable for people who use, or would like to use, these languages in their artwork, as well as for such things as family reunion T-shirts, grave markers, and other such purposes (Fun Fact: After tattoos, inscriptions for grave markers/tombstones are the most commonly sought after Irish translations!).

Beyond these, both books are great for people who have an interest in or are learning these languages, as they supply not only common phrases, but also basic facts about the languages and the people who speak them (yes, both are living languages).

If you have friends or family members who are interested in the Celtic languages, or in tattoos, or in both, these books make great stocking stuffers!

Act Now!

I’ve always wanted to say that! (I think I was a infomercial narrator in a previous life!)

But seriously…don’t delay. Both books will increase in price in 2019, so if you want them, or know someone who would like to (or should) have them, now’s the time to buy!

And There’s More! Here’s to a Happy New Year!

I did mention that this is a series, right? Well, it takes more than two to make a series, and I’m happy to announce that the next two books in the series will be available in spring, 2019!

The Welsh Tattoo Handbook is one of the books that will be coming out next year. Welsh, a Celtic language that is spoken in Wales and in parts of Argentina, is a member of a different branch of the Celtic language family: The Brythonic Branch.

The Scots Tattoo Handbook is the first of the series to address a language that is spoken in a Celtic country, but is not itself a Celtic language. Scots is a Germanic language spoken in the Scottish lowlands and in Northern Ireland (If you’ve ever sung “Auld Lang Syne,” or read any poem by Robert Burns, you’re familiar with it). While some may argue whether Scots is a language distinct from English or a dialect of English, it is distinctive enough to merit its own book, and should interest anyone who has a love for Scotland!

Nollaig Mhaith, agus Athbhliain Faoi Mhaise Daoibh!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, and whatever language you speak (or want to speak), I wish all my readers and your families and friends happy holidays and a lovely and blessed New Year! See you in 2019! (My New Year’s resolution is to write more!)

Is mise, le meas,

The Geeky Gaeilgeoir


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

An Modh Coinníollach, or The Monster of What May (or May Not) Be

Don’t be afraid of the dark…or of the modh coinníollach!

Dá mbeinn chomh saibhir is a bhí mé anuraidh
Thógfainn tigh mór ar an chnoc údai thall,
Fíon agus ór ‘siad a bhéarfainn do mo stór,
Is bheinn ag gabháil ceoil le mo chailín rua.

The Monster in the Living Room

I just have to say it. Ever since I started learning Irish, I’ve heard people speak with dread and loathing of the modh coinníollach (pronounced, roughly “mohg kun-EE-lukh”).

“It’s too difficult!” “I’ll NEVER get it!” “Why do we have to have this in the language?” “Can’t we just get rid of it?” (this latter group usually wants to do away with the tuiseal ginideach — the genitive case — as well).

As I’m sure you can imagine, by the time I was an advanced student, I’d built the modh coinníollach up into a terrible monster in my mind!

And I wasn’t alone! I’ve even seen an entire class of advanced students turn white as sheets when the teacher suggested doing a drill on the modh coinníollach. I swear, you’d have thought he’d asked us to rappel down Sliabh Liag using dental floss!

Irish-American comedian Des Bishop had a similar experience:

Des Bishop on An Modh Coinníollach

Meet the Monster

So what is this terrible thing that has been terrorizing Irish students for generations? Well, if you listened to the above video (And you should. Des Bishop is hilarious!), you already know: It’s simply the conditional mode of a verb. 

Furthermore, if you’re a student of Irish, it’s likely that you’ve been using the modh coinníollach from some of your earliest lessons.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Cad é ba mhaith leat?: What would you like?

Ar mhaith leat cupán tae?: Would you like a cup of tea?

Ba mhaith.:  Yes (“I would”)

Níor mhaith: No (“I wouldn’t”) 

Ba, ar, and níor are, in this case, conditional forms of the copula is.

In my case, I’d unknowingly encountered the modh coinníollach even before I started seriously studying Irish, in one of my favorite songs: An Cailín Rua (“The Red-Haired Girl”), the last verse of which is at the beginning of this post:

If I were (dá mbeinn) as wealthy as I was last year,

I would build (thógfainn) a big house on the hill over yonder,

Wine and gold I would give (bhéarfainn) to my love,

And I would be (bheinn) making music with my red-haired girl.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

A Matter of Condition

I suspect one reason the modh coinníollach worries people is that they’re not sure how or when to use it.

Formal grammar terminology can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with it (and sometimes even if you are!). And modh coinníollach” certainly is a mouthful, even in English (“conditional mode/mood”).

But it’s really not all that bad. Let’s break it down:

Modh = “Mode” or “Mood”:  A distinctive form, or set of forms, of a verb.

Coinníollach = “Conditional”: Something that is dependent on certain conditions.

So, put reasonably simply (or hilariously, if you listen to Des Bishop’s monologue), the modh coinníollach is a verb form you use when you’re talking about something that might or might not happen, depending on other factors (“conditions”):

“If I were rich, I would buy a Ferrari.”

“If I had the time, I would write more blog posts.”

“If it weren’t raining, I would go for a walk.”

The first part of the sentences above tells you what would need to happen (more money, more time, no rain) to make the second part happen (buying a Ferrari, writing more blog posts, going for a walk).

Of course, you can also flip such conditional sentences around:

“I would buy a Ferrari, if I were rich.”

“I would write more blog posts, if I had the time.”

“I would go for a walk, if it weren’t raining.”

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

Another way to keep track of when to use the modh coinníollach, at least if English is your first language, is to link it in your mind with certain English words:

Should

Would

Could

Were (Not as in the past tense — “the boys were playing” — but in the subjunctive — “If I were rich.”).

Don’t be intimidated!

But perhaps the issue isn’t so much knowing when to use the modh coinníollach as knowing how to form it.

The thing is, it really isn’t difficult. It’s certainly no more difficult than other Irish verb forms (which, because of the relative lack of irregular verbs in Irish – there are only 11 – aren’t all that difficult at all).

If you can learn the future and past tenses, you can learn the modh coinníollach, and I’m going to give you some basics to get you started.

Days of future past

With a nod to The Moody Blues*, then, let’s get started.

(*And yes…I know the name of the CD is actually “Days of Future Passed.” But this always pops into my head when I think about the modh coinníollach – you’ll see why in a moment – so I think the band will allow me a little leeway).

If you know how to form the past tense and the future tense of regular Irish verbs, you’re more than halfway to knowing how to form verbs in the conditional mode.

First, change the beginning

For independent verb forms* in the modh coinníollach, the beginning of the word is the same as it is in the past tense. Let’s review those:

1. If it begins with a lenitable consonant, lenite it. Shín sí: “She stretched.”

2. If it begins with an unlenitable consonant, leave it alone: Lean sé: “He followed.

3. If it begins with a vowel, put “d’” in front of it. D’éirigh siad: “They arose/got up.”

4. If it begins with “f,” first you lenite it and then, because “fh” is silent, you also put “d’” in front of it. D’fhan sé: “He stayed.”

* Independent verb forms are those that don’t “depend” on a particle: “an,” “ar,” “nach,” etc. 

Next, broaden your future

The future tense of the verbs above are as follows:

Sínfidh

Leanfaidh

Éireoidh

Fanfaidh

To form the conditional mode, after you change the beginning, if necessary, you make those slender endings (i.e., “i” or “e”) broad:

Shínfeadh sí: She would stretch

Leanfadh sé: He would follow

D’éireodh siad: They would arise/get up

D’fhanfadh sé: He would stay.

Not too bad, is it?

Exceptions, Exceptions

One way in which the conditional mode differs from other verb forms is that the first- and second-person singular  are formed a little differently.

The first- and second-person singular forms in the modh coinníollach always incorporate the pronoun into the verb itself (if you speak a dialect that uses táim and táimid instead of tá mé and tá muid, you’re already familiar with this concept). Technically, these are referred to as “synthetic” verb forms.

For first-person singular, that means that the verb ends in “-inn” (Yeah, I know that seems a little odd.  If it helps you to remember, just pretend that “nn” is an “m.” It kind of looks like an “m” in sans serif fonts anyway.)

For second-person singular, that means the verb ends in “-fá.” I have no mnemonic for you for this one. It’s just one you’ll have to learn. But it’s unusual enough that it’s actually pretty easy to remember.

So, for the verbs we’ve been talking about:

Shínfinn: I would stretch.
Shínfeá: You would stretch.

Leanfainn: I would follow
Leanfá: You would follow

D’eireoinn: I would rise/get up
D’éireofá: You would rise/get up

D’fhanainn: I would stay
D’fhanfá

See how easy it is? Just follow the pattern!

It’s a bit of a struggle at first to remember not to add a pronoun after the word (for example, it’s just shínfinn, not shínfinn mé, because the pronoun is already incorporated into the ending), but it’s just a bit of practice…nothing insurmountable.

First- and third-person plural

First- and third-person plurals are also different, and require a little bit of memorization. The ending for first-person plural is “-mis.” For third-person plural, it’s “-dís.

Shínfimis: We would stretch
Shínfidís: They would stretch

Leanfaimis: We would follow
Leanfaidís: They would follow

D’éireoimis: We would arise/get up
D’éireoidís: They would arise/get up

D’fhanfaimis: We would stay
D’fhanfaidís: They  would stay

Again, these are synthetic verb forms, so don’t stick a pronoun on the end…it’s already there.

Is that all? Of course not!

Some time in the future (when I have time to sit down and write again) we’ll explore the negative and dependent forms of the conditional mode. In the meantime, spend some time practicing what I’ve given you here.

Really, the point of this post is not to make you an overnight expert, but to minimize the angst that seems to surround what really is a very basic and simple verb form.

Don’t shy away from it! It really is no more difficult than any other verb form. Why it’s developed its fearsome reputation I have no idea, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you avoid it.

You would be much happier, and you could find yourself much more comfortable with conversational Irish, if only you would let go of your fear!

An modh coinníollach abú!

The featured picture at the top of this post was taken on midsummer eve in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. The cottage is in a little holiday village where I and some friends stayed for a week, making music and seeing the sights. © 2008, by Audrey Nickel.


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/

 

You Know You’ve Been Studying Irish Too Long When…

Fadó, fadó, ar an idirlíon…

Once upon a time, there was a lovely little Irish discussion and translation forum on the internet.

The members of the forum were good friends and, when they weren’t busy doing tattoo translations, discussing the tuiseal ginideach and the modh coinníolach, or dissing the Caighdeán Oifigiúil, they enjoyed playing word games.

Favorite games included Fiche Ceist (“Twenty Questions”) and Raight Inglís Iúsuinn Aighrís Fáinics (“Write English Using Irish Phonics”). These games were educational as well as a lot of fun.

Fiche Ceist, for example, was a great way to sort out the difference between Tá and Is, and Raight Inglís Iúsuinn Aighrís Fáinics really helped new learners get a handle on the Irish spelling system (which is a lot easier than you might think).

One day a member of the forum, having just had an amusing (if a little embarrassing) experience at a Mexican restaurant, invented a new game: “You Know You’ve Been Studying Irish Too Long When…”.

The goal, of course, was to finish the above sentence.

The game was an immediate hit, and the responses ranged from the rueful to the hilarious. Unlike the other games, it wasn’t particular educational, but it was definitely a bonding experience for people learning a minority language.

Just for fun, then (and because we can all use a little bonding), play along! Come on…we’ve all been there! Finish the sentence! Here are some of the best from the archives of The Irish Language Forum:

You Know You’ve Been Studying Irish Too Long When…

You find you have an incredible urge to lenite words following “the,” “my,” and “your,”regardless of what language they’re in.

You run across an English word starting with “ch,” “th” etc., and you find yourself automatically converting it to “root” form.

You realize that “ng” seems like a perfectly logical and normal way to start a word.

English words start to look wrong if they don’t follow the “caol le caol” rule.

You want to look up “lenition” in an English dictionary, and realize after about 10 minutes that the reason you can’t find it is because “lenition” doesn’t begin with an “s” in English.

After spending time looking at a site with songs in Welsh, Manx, Scottish Gaelic or Cornish, you find it a relief to run across a song with “normal looking” (i.e., Irish) words.

You find yourself swearing at other drivers on the freeway and realize the reason they’re giving you baffled looks is they have no idea what you’re saying.

You say “hello” to your neighbor and she gives you a funny look because, in her world, “hello” starts with an “h”…and just who are you calling a “witch,” anyway???

Your idea of a dream vacation changes from a week at Club Med to a week at Oideas Gael.

Your husband wakes you in the middle of the night and says “if you’re going to sing in your sleep, please sing in a language I understand.”

As you’re reading in church, you run across an unfamiliar Hebrew word and, without missing a beat, pronounce it as if it were Irish (I’m fairly certain that “Beth-peor” isn’t supposed to be pronounced the way I said it that morning!)

You read this on Facebook — “I’ve had a very productive day today agus ceapaim go bhfuil beoir nó trí tuillte agam!” and don’t even notice it switches language in the middle of the sentence. (Wait…it switches languages?)

You want to say “thank you” to the nice man who brought you water in the local Mexican restaurant, but when you try to say “gracias!” what comes out of your mouth is “go raibh maith agat!”

A French-speaking friend types a sentence including the phrase “un chat” on her Facebook page and your first, knee-jerk, thought is “Why did she lenite it? ‘Cat’ is masculine!”

You see ‘teach more’ and you think it should be ‘teach mór‘ and then you realize it’s an article on education!  

You’re thinking in Irish, writing in English, and inadvertently post on Facebook in some hybrid form (must be where Hiberno-English came from!). 

You find yourself thinking “‘Wanker?’ I thought it was just the vocative of “‘banker'”.

You mix up languages mid-word! I showed up a bit early for a sean-nós lesson the other day, and the teacher asked me if I’d like a cup of tea. I started to say “No thanks…I’ve got water.” But just as I started to say “water,” my eye fell on my water bottle, and my brain helpfully supplied “uisce.” As my poor brain teetered helplessly between languages, what actually came out of my mouth was “no thanks…I’ve got whiskey!” (I knew I wanted an English word, but grabbed the wrong one out of the air!) I’m sure my poor teacher wondered what I was doing drinking whiskey at 11 a.m.!

You hear someone say, ‘Feck him, hey?’ and wonder what they are looking at.

Dhiú raoid d’fhios ait nórmal spaoi d’ain d’iondair stain duit.

You write relidious instead of religious  

After consuming a delicious Thai meal, you find yourself wondering if you’ve just eaten curaí rua or curaí dearg…or maybe curaí flannbhuí. (You also know you’ve been studying Irish too long when such distinctions keep you up at night!)

You stroll down the beer aisle and decide to pick up a nice bottle of “Stella ar-TISH.”

The people around you, who have never studied the language, know what you’re saying! I was at choir rehearsal the other day and the director said “get out the Batten” (as in “O sing joyfully,” by Adrian Batten). I was having trouble finding it in my folder, and muttered “Ca bhfuil sé…sin í an cheist!” and the person next to me helpfully answered “Orange book, page 70.” (She was texting at the time, so it wasn’t like she was watching me paw through my folder or anything like that).

Later on, my husband and I were at a local Mexican restaurant and a group of young people at the next table were being overly loud and…er…rather inappropriately demonstrative. I nudged hubby and said “Sílim go bhfuil siad ar meisce” and he said “I think you’re right.”

You want to “correct” ceapairí ham to ceapairí haim

You hear a TV ad for the antidepressant “Latuda” and think you’ve just heard “Fá dtaobh de” (and you wonder “Fá dtaobh de céard?”)

You realize you have absently labeled the chainsaw files “beag” and “mór” and your son can’t figure out which is which.

You name your new catCat Eile.”

You want to greet a visitor from France using your high school and college French, but can’t think of a sentence that doesn’t begin with “,” “is,” “an bhfuil” or “an.”

You look up “rithim” in your Irish dictionary because you never can remember how to spell “rhythm” in English.

You try to recall the Our Father or Hail Mary in Latin or French (both of which you’ve studied), but it somehow turns into Irish by the second or third line.

You find yourself taking a close look at people’s tattoos in the hopes of finding one of your translations.

Your daughter says she wants to go to Oakland Kraken Con and your first thought is “they have porn cons now?” 

Your dog responds to “goitse.”

Your Turn!

All of the above (and many more) were supplied by various members of The Irish Language Forum and by erstwhile members of the now-defunct Irish Gaelic Translation Forum (many of whom are one and the same).

Maybe you can think of more! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!


In addition to being “The Geeky Gaeilgeoir,” Audrey Nickel is the author of  The Irish Gaelic Tattoo Handbook,” published by Bradan Press, Nova Scotia, Canada.  For information about the book, including where to buy it, please visit http://www.bradanpress.com/irish-tattoo-handbook/