All 2 entries tagged Linguistics

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September 06, 2006

Cassandra Day

A Cassandra Day (n.)

1) One of those days when you spend all day running around telling people things will go wrong and are then ignored only for your predictions to come true.

From the myth of Cassandra, the only person in the entire story of the Trojan War who was completely blameless and didn’t deserve to die. She was cursed so that her powers of prediction were useless as everyone always ignored her. Fortunately a Cassandra Day does not result in the death of the person having it at the hands of their lover’s wife.

Note how in this painting of Cassandra she is pulling out her hair. That’s what a Cassandra Day feels like.


October 12, 2005

Lingua Franca

Attempted to find a website which can supply me with rubber ducks that change colour (don't ask). This involved googling the bugger but for some reason (well, for an obvious reason) all I got were a load of sites proclaiming:

Tobar.ie – Tacaíocht do mhúinteoirí in Eirinn – Forbairt acmhainní fóghlama.

and many similar phrases.

It's fairly obvious what it is – it's Irish. Not Gaelic, because no one in Ireland calls it anything but Irish. And yet, for all that I can recognise it, I can't read it. Not even a little. Not even like I am with French where I read all of a piece in the hope of a few words coagulating into some sembalance of coherence. Irish just draws a blank.

And why should I care? I've got an English accent, live in England and am (sort of) bilingual in another language. In truth I don't care that much, just sometimes there's a little debate in my head which arises and causes some slight disturbances to my peace of mind. It's the curse of a history student.

Basically I don't feel pissed off at the English for the sufferings that the Irish suffered*. This is practically blasphemy to some. And there's no denying that a lot of nasty things were done by the English to the Irish. Politics and changing morals aside, it's not nice to invade somewhere, kill people and oppress. Perhaps being English born means I was never going to feel a historical resentment because I am as English as I am Irish. But then we all know there are some people born in this country who are willing to massacre innocent commuters for some moronic sense of ego (because making those videos boasting about what you were planning was definitely not a sign of egotism), so it can't just be that I was born here.

My family have no tradition of Irish. Oh sure, all those who were educated in Ireland itself went through it at school. But I phrased that appropraitely. My dad's a smart guy but he flunked Irish. I don't think any of my cousins enjoyed doing it. None of them speak it, except the rude words which certain cousins used against myself and my brother, unaware of the fact that auntie Hilary had taught us them all anyway. It's not that we're not sufficiently Irish. Just one look at the pale faces and collection of dark brown and ginger complexions in family photos should be enough to scream "CELTS!!!111!!1oneon1!!" despite the Norman family name (De Cruise originally). But we just never seemed to take to it.

We are pretty Anglicised in all honesty. More prone to football, rugby and hockey than Gaelic football, hurling and other GAA fun. We're Dunliners, given to calling all those from outside the city "culchies" in that wonderful capital arrogance endemic worldwide. And we know that this pisses people off but it's how we like it. Connecting with the outside world. Does it kill our culture and identities? Or are we being part of a new strain of "Irishness", one which speaks English? Ironically this appears to have resulted in a relatively low level of emigration to England. Only my dad of his siblings remains here. Of my cousins, five remain in Ireland, two in England, one in Scotland and one in Nigeria.

And yet sometimes I do wish I could speak Irish. Have a language that hardly anyone can speak and be able to use it with people I care about. It'd be cool to be able to slag off arseholes in their presence to my brother. As it is I can tell you the cat is small and to kiss my arse, and that's about it. So clearly I don't care that much if I've learned Spanish but not Irish. It's a language of limited use. I don't know anyone who speaks it as a first language (though some do) and can't imagine meeting large numbers of people who would. English is just plain useful. And that sounds quite bad to some. Even I feel a little sad that it's not a successful language, but not strongly enough to want to learn it. Perhaps I'm just a Norman after all, some evil Frenxh/English invader.

Welsh is used as an example of how a language can be revived. Irish might be revived although it's not happene yet despite the efforts of the national government, especially under De Valera in the middle of the last century. It seems the entire country is quite resistant to the concept. And don't forget, Irish English is full of quirks and phrases not found in English English. From "culchies" and "feck" to "taytos" and "blathering on" and the perenial denial of the existence of "my" instead of "me", it's hurtling the way of American English. Remember the quotation about England and America:

Two nations separated by a common language.

said of course by that top Irish bloke, Oscar Wilde. Perhaps Irish English, which also includes many words considered archaic here ("press" for cupboard) as well as words rescued from Irish ("craic", "amadan"), is becoming sufficiently different for the Irish to be secure in their seperateness. Course it's still possible to communicate easily which is always useful in a world trying to learn English.

So what's my point? That ultimately I don't feel bad about not knowing Irish because it's not part of my experience of being Irish. Just like I've never played hurling but will be cacking myself tomorrow over our World Cup qualifying match with Switzerland (which we're gonna lose, I just know it). That doesn't make me less Irish except in the eyes of some who still dislike the English. It might be nice to know a little more Irish, though, y'know just to piss off the arseholes.

Go n-ithe an cat thú, is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat.
guh nih-heh on cot hoo iss guh nih-heh on jowel on cot
May the cat eat you and the devil eat the cat.

*Oh yeah, stretch that vocabulary.


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