Monthly Archives: January 2018

Níl sé ceart go leor …

Ciara Ní É (https://miseciara.wordpress.com/) has started an interesting campaign called NílSéCLG (Níl sé ceart go leor = It’s not alright.) The idea of this campaign is to highlight the kind of things that people say that are regarded as acceptable when applied to Irish, but which would be regarded as ludicrous or racist or just plain ignorant when applied to other languages. I’m not much of a one for social media but it’s a campaign worth supporting, I think. Here are a few good examples:

“I don’t mind when people speak French, but can’t they do it in a normal accent instead of all this fancy French pronunciation?”

“God, my love for the English language was utterly destroyed by having Thomas Hardy’s gloom and misery shoved down my throat at school.”

“You speak English? I hate English. It’s all Shakespeare and Morris Dancing.”

Here’s my contribution:

“Ariel Sharon was the 11th President of Israel – but of course his real name was Scheinemann.”

“Chinese, Japanese and Korean underwent a fundamental transformation and reinvention in the 19th and 20th centuries. They are totally artificial and can no longer be regarded as real languages.”

 

 

Tá feachtas spéisiúil curtha ar bun ag Ciara Ní É (https://miseciara.wordpress.com/), feachtas darb ainm NílSéCLG (Níl sé ceart go leor = It’s not alright.) Is é an smaoineamh atá taobh thiar den fheachtas seo ná aird a dhíriú ar rudaí bómánta a deir daoine, rudaí nach síltear go bhfuil aon rud cearr leo agus iad ag tagairt don Ghaeilge, ach mheasfadh daoine go bhfuil siad áiféiseach nó ciníoch nó aineolach ar fad dá ndéarfaí an rud céanna faoi theangacha eile. Níl mórán eolais agamsa ar na meáin shóisialta, ach sílim gur feachtas é ar fiú go mór tacú leis. Seo roinnt samplaí maithe:

“I don’t mind when people speak French, but can’t they do it in a normal accent instead of all this fancy French pronunciation?”

“God, my love for the English language was utterly destroyed by having Thomas Hardy’s gloom and misery shoved down my throat at school.”

“You speak English? I hate English. It’s all Shakespeare and Morris Dancing.”

Agus seo na cinn s’agamsa:

“Ariel Sharon was the 11th President of Israel – but of course his real name was Scheinemann.”

“Chinese, Japanese and Korean underwent a fundamental transformation and reinvention in the 19th and 20th centuries. They are totally artificial and can no longer be regarded as real languages.”

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Why I hate Cassidy/An fáth ar fuath liom Cassidy

 

I have noticed a slight decrease in the number of hits on this site over the last week. This may just be coincidence, or it may be that the bilingual content is off-putting for some English speakers. In case this is the problem, I have decided to try putting the English version first in all cases, instead of my usual practice of putting the original language of composition first, whether English or Irish, and putting the translation below.

Over the years since I founded CSS, people have often asked why this stuff matters so much to me. Why do I get so angry and irritated about Cassidy and his behaviour and the nonsense emanating from his supporters?

There are lots of reasons. I don’t like people misusing the Irish language or Irish culture. I don’t like pseudo-scholarship of any kind. I don’t like fakes and phoneys like Cassidy and his friends. However, there is a little more to it than that.

Cassidy and his buddies often criticise the world of genuine etymology for its supposed pomposity and self-importance. By contrast, Cassidy is supposed to be a man of the people, who saw things the scholars didn’t because of his street smarts.

The self-appointed experts who dismiss this book are kidding themselves.” “I think the professional linguists have a lot of explaining to do as to how they missed this obvious and obviously fertile contributing source of the American language.” “No, I don’t need the scholars to tell me what is right, because they engage in as much guess work as we lay people do, only they cloak it in arcane language and references.

The truth is very different from the anti-intellectual know-nothing shite above. In reality, genuine etymologists and lexicographers work tirelessly to gather information and make judgements based on the known facts. Cassidy, in his book, his articles and his interviews, shows a level of pomposity, dishonesty, smugness and manipulation which is off the scale. He misses out important facts which would disprove the claim he is making. He sneers at the efforts of genuine scholars and misrepresents what they really say. He continually invites the ignorant and uneducated to join him in disparaging the smart people in their ivory towers and he massages their egos for having the simple common sense which enables them to recognise his version of the truth.

And many of those who support him are cut from the same cloth. They know absolutely nothing about linguistics or the Irish language, but they think they have a right to pontificate and mouth off in defence of Cassidy.

People like this make me angry – and with good reason. I don’t have a right to hold forth on subjects I know nothing about. That’s why I don’t do it. Why do these people think they’re so special that they have a right to do that without being challenged or criticised for it?

 

Thug mé faoi deara go raibh laghdú beag ar líon na gcuairteanna ar an tsuíomh seo le seachtain anuas. B’fhéidir nach bhfuil ann ach comhtharlú, nó b’fhéidir go bhfuil an t-ábhar dátheangach ag cur as do roinnt Béarlóirí. Ar eagla gur mar sin atá, tá socrú déanta agam triail a bhaint as an Bhéarla a chur chun tosaigh i gcónaí, in áit cloí leis an nós a bhí agam go dtí seo, i. an bhunteanga inár cumadh an t-alt a chur i dtús báire, bíodh sin i mBéarla nó i nGaeilge, agus an t-aistriúchán a chur thíos faoi.

Thar na blianta ó chuir mé CSS ar bun, is minic a cuireadh an cheist, cén fáth a bhfuil an t-ábhar seo chomh tábhachtach sin dom? Cén fáth a n-éirím chomh feargach crosta faoi Cassidy agus a chuid droch-iompair agus an raiméis a thagann óna lucht leanúna?

Tá a lán fáthanna leis. Ní maith liom daoine a bhaineann mí-úsáid as an Ghaeilge ná as cultúr na nGael. Ní maith liom bréag-léann de chineál ar bith. Ní maith liom caimiléirí ná daoine bréagacha ar nós Cassidy agus a chairde. Agus sin ráite, tá giota beag níos mó i gceist ná sin.

Is minic a bhíonn Cassidy agus a lucht leanúna ag cáineadh shaol na fíorshanasaíochta mar gheall ar an phoimpéiseacht agus féintábhacht a bhaineann leis, dar leo. Ní hionann agus Cassidy, dar leo, ar fear den phobal é, a chonaic rudaí nach bhfaca na scoláirí cionn is go raibh tuiscint aige ar shaol na sráideanna.

The self-appointed experts who dismiss this book are kidding themselves.” “I think the professional linguists have a lot of explaining to do as to how they missed this obvious and obviously fertile contributing source of the American language.” “No, I don’t need the scholars to tell me what is right, because they engage in as much guess work as we lay people do, only they cloak it in arcane language and references.

A mhalairt ar fad atá fíor agus níl fírinne ar bith ag baint leis an chacamas aineolach fhrithintleachtúil thuas, ar ndóigh. Is é fírinne an scéil, go mbíonn fíor-shaineolaithe teanga agus foclóirithe ag obair gan stad gan staonadh le heolas a bhailiú agus le breithiúnais a dhéanamh bunaithe ar na fíricí mar is eol iad. Cassidy, ina leabhar, ina chuid alt agus sna hagallaimh a thug sé, léiríonn sé leibhéal poimpéise, mí-ionracais, féinsástachta agus ionramhála atá dochreidte amach is amach. Fágann sé fíricí tábhachtacha ar lár, fíricí a bhréagnódh na rudaí atá á maíomh aige. Déanann sé a bheag d’obair na bhfíorscoláirí agus cuireann sé an méid atá le rá acu as a riocht ar fad. Is minic a mheallann sé daoine aineolacha neamhoilte le bheith ag magadh faoi na daoine cliste sna hollscoileanna ina chuideachta, agus déanann sé béal bán agus bladaireacht leo as an chiall choiteann shimplí a bheith acu a chuireann ar a gcumas a leagan féin den fhírinne a aithint.

Agus cuid mhór de na daoine a thugann tacaíocht dó, is den chineál chéanna iad. Níl eolas dá laghad acu ar an teangeolaíocht ná ar an Ghaeilge, ach síleann siad go bhfuil an ceart acu bheith ag pápaireacht agus ag spalpadh uathu ar son Cassidy agus a chuid raiméise.

Cuireann daoine dá leithéid fearg orm – agus ní gan chúis. Níl an ceart agamsa cur tharam faoi ábhair nach bhfuil aon chur amach agam orthu. Sin an fáth nach ndéanaim amhlaidh. Cén fáth a síleann na daoine seo go bhfuil siad chomh speisialta sin gur chóir ligean dóibh sin a dhéanamh gan dúshlán gan cháineadh?

Buddy/Bodach

 

Tá an focal seo pléite agam roimhe seo ar an bhlag, ach níor chaith mé mórán ama air. Tá an focal buddy le fáil sa Bhéarla ó lár an 19ú haois. An míniú is coitianta ná gur leagan páistiúil den fhocal brother atá ann. Ach tá an scéal giota beag níos casta ná sin. Tá focal i gcanúintí Béarla Shasana sa 19ú haois, mar atá, “butty”. De réir cosúlachta, is ón fhocal booty (creach) a tháinig an téarma seo. B’ionann booty-fellow agus duine a bhí le chéile leat ar eachtra nó ar fhiontar agus a roinn an brabús leat. Ach ní hé sin a dheireadh ach oiread. Síleann daoine eile go bhfuil baint aige leis an téarma ‘body’ san Albainis nó Lallans. Síleann daoine eile gur acrainm atá ann ó thréimhse Chogadh Cathartha Mheiriceá, a chiallaíonn Brother Until Death. Nó go bhfuil baint aige leis an Raj agus le focal Pashto ‘Badda’ a chiallaíonn páirtí nó céile. Nó ó fhocal boetie san Ollainnis a thagann ón fhocal broer, a chiallaíonn deartháir.

Deir Daniel Cassidy, ina leabhar bréagach How The Irish Invented Slang, go dtagann an Béarla buddy ón Ghaeilge bodach. Mar is gnách, déanann sé ransú ar na foclóirí lena chás a chruthú. Deir seisean go gciallaíonn bodach “a strong, lusty youth.” Níl a fhios agam cá bhfuair sé an sainmhíniú sin, mar de réir na bhfoclóirí, ciallaíonn bodach “a churl, a clown, a tramp”. (Focal eile, bodalach, a chiallaíonn “strong, lusty youth.”) Ach chomh maith leis sin, dá mbeadh bodach in úsáid leis an chiall chéanna le buddy, ní bheadh an fhuaim mar an gcéanna leis an dóigh a ndeirtear buddy sa Bhéarla, ar ndóigh.

Agus mar is gnách, bhí Cassidy chomh cinnte sin de féin nár bhac sé le féidearthachtaí eile a phlé. Deir sé go drochmheasúil go ndeir na foclóirí Angla-Mheiriceánacha ‘ar chúis éigin nach bhfuil míniú air’ go dtagann na téarmaí bud agus buddy ón fhocal Béarla brother.’ Cad chuige a ndeir sé nach bhfuil míniú air? Ar ndóigh, cionn is go raibh an ghealt thoirtéiseach Cassidy cinnte dearfa go raibh an fhadhb réitithe aige agus gur chóir do gach duine glacadh leis an amaidí nua-chumtha s’aige faoin fhocal bodach. Is é an rud atá deacair a mhíniú, i mo bharúil féin, go nglacfadh duine ar bith le raiméis an chaimiléara seo nuair is léir nach raibh ann ach gealt.

I have discussed this word before on the blog, but I didn’t spend much time on it. The word buddy is found in English from the middle of the 19th century. The most common explanation is that it is a childish version of the word brother. However, it’s a little more complicated than that. There is a word found in the 19th century English dialects of England, the word “butty”. Apparently, this term derives from the word booty. A booty-fellow was a person who joined you on a journey or venture and shared the profit with you. But that’s not all! Other people link it to the word ‘body’ in Scots or Lallans. Others think it’s an acronym from the period of the American Civil War, which means Brother Until Death. Or that it is from the Raj and the Pashto word ‘Badda’, which means a partner. Or from the word boetie in Dutch which comes from broer, meaning brother.

Daniel Cassidy, in his fake book How The Irish Invented Slang, says that the English buddy comes from the Irish bodach. As usual, he ransacks the the dictionaries to prove his case. He says that bodach means “a strong, lusty youth.” I don’t know where he got that definition, because according to the dictionaries, bodach means “a churl, a clown, a tramp”. (It’s another word, bodalach, which means “strong, lusty youth.”) Not only that, but if bodach were used with the same meaning as buddy, it wouldn’t sound the same as buddy in English. (Bodach is pronounced roughly bodda, while a bhodaigh is pronounced a woddy.)

And as usual, Cassidy was so sure of himself that he didn’t bother discussing any other possibilities. He says sniffily that the Anglo-American dictionaries say ‘inexplicably’ that the terms bud and buddy come from the English word brother. Why does he say ‘inexplicably?’ Of course, because this pompous liar was 100% certain that he had solved the problem and that everyone should accept his made-up nonsense about the word bodach. The inexplicable thing, in my opinion, is that anyone would accept Daniel Cassidy’s crap when it is obvious that he was nothing but a nut-job.

 

Giggle

Ceann de na rudaí is amaidí i leabhar amaideach Cassidy ná an cacamas faoi bhunús Gaelach an fhocail giggle. Deir Cassidy go dtagann giggle ón ‘Ghaeilge’ gíog gheal. Níl a leithéid ann sa Ghaeilge, ar ndóigh, ach oiread le ‘brightsqueaking’ sa Bhéarla.

Ní hamháin sin, ach mar atá léirithe againn roimhe seo, san áit a bhfuil gaol ag focal i mBéarla sa Ghearmáinis, ciallaíonn sin gur focal seanbhunaithe atá ann sa Bhéarla (sleep, schlafen; bed, Bett; drink, trinken; foot, Fuß etc.) Tá focal sa Ghearmáinis, gickeln, a chiallaíonn an rud céanna le giggle agus atá an-chosúil leis ó thaobh fuaime de. Giggle, gickeln. Nach bhfuil an míniú sin míle uair níos fearr ná raiméis bhréagach Cassidy faoi ghíoga geala?

 

One of the stupidest things in Cassidy’s stupid book is the nonsense about the Irish origin of the word giggle. Cassidy says that giggle comes from the ‘Irish’ gíog gheal. This doesn’t exist in Irish, of course, any more than ‘brightsqueaking’ does in English.

That’s not all. As we have shown before here, where a word in English has a cognate in German, this means that it is a long-established word in English (sleep, schlafen; bed, Bett; drink, trinken; foot, Fuß etc.) There is a word in German, gickeln, which means the same thing as giggle and which is very similar to it in sound. Giggle, gickeln. Isn’t that a far better explanation than Cassidy’s fake rubbish about bright squeaks?

Hunch/Aithint

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

There is some doubt about the origin of the term ‘hunch’, as in ‘I had a hunch that would happen.’ The dictionary experts believe that it derives from the English word hunch meaning a hump, though it is very difficult to understand how that connection arose. Apparently it meant a push or final shove towards an answer, and then it came to mean a kind of intuition.

Cassidy disagrees with this, which is fair enough, if you can find a better and more convincing explanation. As usual, Cassidy couldn’t be bothered finding anything convincing, so he just pounced on a word which he happened to think sounded a bit like the candidate and had a meaning somewhere in the same general semantic area. The word he chose was aithint, which means knowing or recognition. Cassidy’s association of this with hunch only works if people in Irish would use aithint to mean a hunch. Would they? Of course not. Recognising something is not the same as having an opinion or a guess or a feeling about something.

How would you say ‘I had a hunch that would happen’ in Irish? Here are a few ways:

Bhí mé ag déanamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí éachtaint agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí mé ag smaoineamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí barúil agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí tuairim agam go dtarlódh sin.

Shíl mé go dtarlódh sin.

Cheap mé go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí iomas agam go dtarlódh sin.

What you wouldn’t say is ‘Bhí aithint agam go dtarlódh sin’ because it wouldn’t mean anything, any more than it would mean anything if you said ‘I had a recognition that would happen’ (though a precognition would just about work). In other words, this is just more stupid bar-room blether and fake scholarship from Cassidy.

 

Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid mhór de na haltanna luatha ar an bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna, agus mar sin de, tá cinneadh déanta agam iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Níl a fhios againn cá has a dtáinig an téarma ‘hunch’ sa Bhéarla, focal a chiallaíonn buille faoi thuairim nó tomhas. Creideann na saineolaithe Béarla go bhfuil baint aige leis an fhocal hunch a chiallaíonn cruit, cé gur deacair a oibriú amach cén fáth a mbeadh an nasc sin ann. De réir cosúlachta, bhí sé ag tagairt don bhrú nó seáp a thugann duine agus iad ag iarraidh freagra a fháil, agus as sin, fuair an focal an chiall bhreise sin de ‘iomas’.

Ní aontaíonn Cassidy leis an mhíniú seo. Tá sin maith go leor, más féidir leat teacht ar mhíniú atá níos fearr agus níos inchreidte. Ach mar ba ghnách, ní thiocfadh le Cassidy bheith gaibhte rud éigin níos inchreidte a fháil agus mar sin de, léim sé ar fhocal a bhí giota beag cosúil leis an Bhéarla, dar leis, agus a raibh ciall aige a bhí giota beag cosúil lena chiall. Ba é aithint an focal a roghnaigh sé, focal a chiallaíonn knowing nó recognition i mBéarla. Ar ndóigh, ní chiallaíonn aithint an rud céanna le hunch an Bhéarla. Ní hionann rud a aithint agus iomas a bheith agat faoi rud.

Cad é mar a déarfá ‘I had a hunch that would happen’ i nGaeilge? Seo roinnt dóigheanna:

Bhí mé ag déanamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí éachtaint agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí mé ag smaoineamh go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí barúil agam go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí tuairim agam go dtarlódh sin.

Shíl mé go dtarlódh sin.

Cheap mé go dtarlódh sin.

Bhí iomas agam go dtarlódh sin.

Ach ní déarfá, ‘Bhí aithint agam go dtarlódh sin’ mar ní bheadh ciall ar bith leis, ach oiread leis an fhrása ‘I had a recognition that would happen’ i mBéarla (cé go bhféadfá cás a dhéanamh ar son ‘I had a precognition that would happen!’) Lena rá ar dhóigh eile, níl sa raiméis seo ach cabaireacht lucht tábhairne agus léann bréagach ó Cassidy.

Chicken

I have noticed that many of the early posts on this blog get relatively little traffic, so I have decided to start republishing some of them.

I have already said that Cassidy ignores perfectly good English explanations for words in favour of improbable or impossible made-up Irish derivations. This is a perfect example. Chicken means scared and a chicken is a coward. I think this comes from the English word chicken which is a nervous type of bird. In English, phrases like hen-hearted go back to the 14th century at least. As early as the 15th century, the churles chekyne was used as an expression for a coward. It is obvious, realistic, and it ticks all the boxes.

Cassidy and his supporters will have none of it. Chicken doesn’t come from chicken, apparently. It comes from teith ar cheann, which means – says Cassidy – to run away first. Does it? No, of course not. This is How The Irish Invented Slang we’re talking about here, not a serious work of scholarship! Teith ar cheann is unattested. If you look it up on Google, you will find a handful of references to Daniel Cassidy. In terms of Irish grammar, it doesn’t make sense, as it really means ‘flee at the head of’ rather than flee first. At the head of what? I hear you ask. Exactly. On its own, this phrase means nothing.

There are lots of expressions for a weakling or coward in Irish and any of them could have been used in slang, so it seems strange that people would use a grammatically meaningless and unfamiliar phrase in preference to these words. Of course, in reality, they didn’t. Chicken is English. A chicken is a chicken is a chicken. And Cassidy was a birdbrain.

 

Thug mé faoi deara nach bhfaigheann cuid de na postálacha is luaithe sa bhlag seo mórán cuairteanna agus mar sin de, ba mhaith liom iad a athfhoilsiú anseo.

Mar atá ráite agam go minic roimhe seo, bíonn Cassidy ag maíomh go dtig focail ó fhrásaí Gaeilge a chum sé féin, frásaí nach bhfuil ciall ar bith leo, cé go bhfuil an fhíorshanasaíocht Bhéarla soiléir sothuigthe i gcuid mhór cásanna. Seo sampla foirfe den amaidí sin. Ciallaíonn chicken go bhfuil duine scanraithe agus is ionann chicken agus cladhaire. Tagann sin ón fhocal Béarla chicken, dar liomsa, mar is éan cineál neirbhíseach í an chearc nó an sicín céanna. Sa Bhéarla, tá frásaí mar hen-hearted le fáil ón 14ú haois ar aghaidh. Chomh luath leis an 15ú haois, bhí an frása the churles chekyne in úsáid le tagairt do chladhaire nó meatachán. Tá an míniú sin soiléir, simplí agus tá sé ag teacht leis na fíricí.

Ach is cuma le lucht leanúna Cassidy faoi na fíricí. Ní hionann chicken (cladhaire) agus chicken (cearc), dar leosan. Is ón fhrása ‘Gaeilge’ ‘teith ar cheann’ a tháinig sé, de réir cosúlachta, frása a chiallaíonn, dar le Cassidy, ‘to run away first.’ Ní Gaeilge sin, ar ndóigh. Níl ann ach raiméis agus amaidí.

Tá a lán dóigheanna le bogachán nó meatachán nó cladhaire a rá i nGaeilge. Nach iontach an rud é gur roghnaigh na Gaeil i Meiriceá úsáid a bhaint as raiméis neamhghramadúil ar nós teith ar cheann in áit ceann de na focail sin? Ach, ar ndóigh, níor tháinig chicken ó ‘teith ar cheann’. Níl ciall ar bith leis sin. Is Béarla é an focal chicken, sa dá chiall, agus ní raibh sa Chasaideach ach bréagadóir gan náire.

Pure Evil (English version of Íonaí Meanie)

The Irish language is obviously in trouble. There are people who believe it to be a dead language, though that is obviously untrue. I am able to write this article and I am sure that a lot of people will read it and understand it in the future. If Irish were dead, this wouldn’t be the case, of course. But Irish is in a weakened state, undoubtedly, especially among the young people in the Gaeltachts.

The English were certainly responsible for its decline. They were the ones who made it a language of paupers and pee-ons. They were the ones who forced their culture and their language on our ancestors and left the Irish language up shite creek without a paddle.

Having said that, people often blame the Irish themselves and especially the íonaithe or the purists as they are known in English. The purists are the ones who are killing the language, according to many people. They put off people who are learning the language. They discourage people. They were the ones who created a split between the native Irish of the Gaeltachts and the unnatural Irish of the books! The purists are a disgrace! If it weren’t for them, the language would be safe and sound (yeah, right!)

But this is the question which is bothering me. Who are these purists? You would think that is a simple question, so simple that it is barely worth asking, and that there would be a simple answer too. However, things are rarely as they seem.

Even if we are talking about the official language of written Irish, there are significant differences between the Christian Brothers, the different versions of the Official Standard and the practices that educated writers use in their writings, both native speakers and people in the cities.

Or there are native speakers (I mentioned people like this recently) who will not accept any new-fangled words at all. If a person says that they have to buy bogearraí to put onto the tiomántán crua in their ríomhaire, they will think there is something false and un-Irish about that way of talking. That person should buy software, they would think, to put on the hard drive of the computer. It doesn’t matter to those people that the language can’t survive if it is not able to tackle ordinary modern subjects. And this kind of defeatism didn’t exist in the olden days, when native speakers like Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin were quite happy to make words up rather than accepting words from English. Who are the purists in this case? The native speakers who want to protect their version of the language (which is full of English), or those people who are trying to keep the language free of English?

And what about those people who believe that one dialect is better than any Standard, or the other dialects? There are people like this, people who believe that anything which is not Munster Gaoluinn is not Irish, or that nothing is as good as Ulster Irish. Who are the purists in that case? Them, or the lovers of the Standard?

And there are people who believe that the rot set in long before there was any mention of the Official Standard. For example, John Grenham, a man whose opinions I have little respect for and who doesn’t even have a couple of words (because he wrote those couple of words “an cúpla focal” as the cúpla focail in the same article), claimed (wrongly, of course) that the people of The Gaelic League thought that the language of the people was corrupt and they decided to purify it. And because of that, urban Irish-language experts who had been raised with English were teaching groups of students who also only had English. The result – that English-language idioms, grammar and syntax seeped into the “revived” tongue.

Then, he gives us an example of this impure Irish : My own favourite example is the Irish-language sign in my local park urging dog-owners whose pets foul the grass to “Glan suas é”, “Clean it up”, an utterly idiomatic English phrasal verb translated word by word. Imagine a sign in French that says “Nettoyez-le en haut.” But this comparison is not valid at all, because French has an entirely different history. There are plenty of long-established phrasal verbs in Irish which have suas in them, which is not the case with en haut in French, of course. (If you don’t believe me, this is a line referring to Luther from the year 1615 – he opposed [chuir sé suas do – he put up to] the head of the Church through envy and lust and the phrase glanadh suas/clearing up was common enough with Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin in the 1820s in reference to the weather.) So, it is clear that Grenham’s opinions about the Irish language and its corrupters are nothing but horse feathers and nonsense.

What is my position on these matters, then? Well, I am not a purist. I believe in the Standard. It is a very useful thing. With the Standard, Irish speakers can share books, material on line and other things freely throughout the island and overseas. But it is not necessary to give up the dialects at all. The Standard is only a tool and as is the case with English, it is not a matter of Irish but of Irishes. There are different kinds of Irish which are suitable for different purposes. A conversation in a pub in Kerry and an article on science in a state publication are not the same and it would not be right to use the same kind of Irish in both cases.

Having said that, I respect people who care about the Irish language and who work tirelessly to master it. At the end of the day, we Irish speakers cannot do much to defend the language. The only thing which all of us can do is to learn the language properly and acquire fluency and richness and a wide knowledge. If there are ten thousand people speaking Irish throughout the country every day, the enemies of the language can say that it is not worth saving. It wouldn’t be as easy for them to claim that if there were three hundred thousand, or five hundred thousand, or seven hundred thousand people speaking it every day. If everyone who is favourable to the language learned the language and used it, it would stop the rot immediately.

There are strong similarities between falling in love with a language and falling in love with a person. If you love a language, you will try to learn everything about that language. Not only that, but you will accept that language for what it is. You won’t try to change it or recreate it in your own image, as the various purists mentioned above do – and as those dilettantes do, who are too lazy to put in the effort needed to acquire the basics of the language.