Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WNW: St. Patrick's Edition, Take 2

Three years ago, I explained how I scarred my daughter on St. Patrick's day.

Last year St Patrick's day landed on a Wednesday, so we celebrated our word nerdiness with the holiday by learning about Irish terms.

This year, with St. Patty's being a Thursday, we're a day off, but I'm celebrating with Word Nerd Wednesday anyway, this time with a classic Irish phrase:

Éirinn go Brách

First off, Éirinn go Brách means "Ireland forever." (Or, according to Merriam-Webster, not "forever" so much as "until doomsday," which, let's hope, is forever away.)

I see it as sort of a mix between a patriotic call and a shout from the football crowd for their Cougars or T-birds or whatever. The fact that many Irish pubs post signs with the phrase sort of supports that theory. Other places say it's a battle cry (right up there with slogan from last year's post).

Another translation I found is "Go green the Irish." I wonder if "green" and "forever" have a common root in Irish. (Think: evergreen. Hmm. Where's an Irish linguist when you need one?)

If you Google the phrase, most of the links that pop up take a stab at answering, "How do you pronounce Éirinn go Brách?"

And then I giggle. Because there's not just one way to pronounce it.

Irish is just like other languages in that it has several dialectal differences. Just in the U.S. we have lots of variation in how we pronounce English, but then there's speakers from England, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and even Canada, with their own differences, all speaking English.

Ireland covers a much smaller geographical area than English speakers do, but there's still variation. has recordings of various Irish sayings (including Éirinn go Brách) in three Irish dialects.

To my untrained ear, they sound very different from one another. In some of the recordings, the Connacht dialect sounds almost Russian to me.

THIS PAGE of the site includes recordings of various St. Patrick's Day sayings.

Go there to learn how to say "Kiss me; I'm Irish," and, "Are you drunk yet?" in all three dialects!


Rebecca Blevins said...

Fun stuff! Thanks!

Susan Anderson said...

This was fun, because I happen to be a fan of all three dialects.


Sarah M Eden said...

One of my fave Irish sayings in honor of St. Patrick's Day: (as an old Irish neighbor used to say it) "Mays ye be half an hour in heaven afore the devil knows yer dead!"

TisforTonya said... WOULD be funny to learn "are you drunk yet?"

and I like Sarah's saying as well!

Lisa Loo said...

That "are you drunk yet" should come in very handy--any day now....(maybe in my home school?)which is why I come here--you always know the BEST stuff!!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I've more Irish in my heritage than anything else, but most of it comes from a one night stand my Grandma had back in the 50's. Fascinating to learn more about the Motherland. Hee hee.

Anonymous said...

This post totally made me giggle. Happy belated St. Patricks!


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