If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 11 November 2011

Irish spelling

Always baffling.

For all its apparent difficulty to English eyes, Welsh spelling is pretty logical, and the pronunciation is directly related to the letters you see. It's almost 100% phonetic, and far more so than English, for example.

Irish spelling - nope. To someone not brought up there, the relation between spelling and pronunciation is often almost comically indirect. I have been collecting a few examples for the amusement and edification of chums, but last night I saw one that takes not only the biscuit, but the whole McVities factory.

Cill Chomhghaill



You could never have guessed that. Unless you were Irish, of course.


  1. Nearly as bad as Norfolk spelling:-

    How do you think Hunstanton is pronounced by the locals?

  2. My Norfolk favourite is Happisburgh - 'Haysborough'. Another one you'd never guess in a month of Sundays.

    Norfolk, Ireland - notice anything?

  3. Yes, but I'm too polite to say... :)

  4. Hmmm, me too.

    NFN ... NFI too?

  5. Actually the pronunciation of modern Irish is also regular once you get used to it. Keep working at it!

  6. You don't have to go as far as Norfolk or Ireland! There are some pretty strangely pronounced names in Kent too. How about:

    Wrotham - "Rootum"
    Meopham - "Mepum"
    Trottiscliffe - "Trozli"

  7. Yebbut, yebbut, those are obvious!

    You're right, of course. English has some pretty weird spellings all of its own, but they tend to be exceptions to the usual rules. The (normal) rules of Irish spelling seem impossibly arcane to anyone born outside the place. With English, it's deciding which are the silent letters. With Irish, it's deciding which letters aren't silent!

    I'm (semi-)kidding here. All 3 step-grandkids are learning Irish at school, as they have to, and are doing really well. I've even looked at some of their schoolbooks and made a start at learning Irish myself. It's something I would quite like to do, although I can't really think why, except that languages of all kinds fascinate me. But I am very impresssed at how prominent Irish is in signage and general communication. Much more so than Welsh in Wales, for example. Most signs I have seen are bilingual, and there are many posters and adverts which are Irish-only. You rarely see that in Wales - to put an advert in the 'minority' language only implies a certain confidence about your readers and their economic clout.

    I'm doing well. I was speaking to a guy today who taught me that 'póg mo thóin' was Irish for 'have a nice day'. I'm going to use that a lot.



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