Cóir or cómhair?

These two words seem well and truly mixed up in modern Irish, probably due to their similar or identical pronunciation:

Cóir would be /ko:rʹ/.
Cómhair would be rather /kõ:rʹ/, with a nasal vowel.

PUL was at any rate convinced these words were pronounced differently (see his Notes on Irish Words and Usages: “there is a full nasal sound in cómhair which it is impossible to mistake for cóir”); however, nasalisation is not a distinguishing feature of present-day Cork Irish. The Irish of West Muskerry showed that Amhlaoibh Ó Loingsigh, noted for his careful pronunciation, did not distinguish these words, and I don’t believe these words are pronounced differently in Muskerry today.

Niall Ó Dónaill’s dictionary claims that cómhair should only be used in the prepositional phrases i gcómhair, “for” and os cómhair, “in front, before”. However, this is unsatisfactory, as such phrases contain nouns in the dative, and so the question remains as to what the noun in the expressions is and how that should be spelt when not found in those phrases.

I am not a fan of Ó Dónaill’s dictionary, which contains thousands of fabricated words, in addition to giving historically incorrect word morphology that fails to correspond to any living dialect either. Could it be that i gcómhair “for” is spelt thus in his dictionary to create a nuance of difference with i gcóir, “in right order, ready”? Did Ó Dónaill have any knowledge or evidence of the origin of these phrases, and did he base his choices on such knowledge? Or did he adopt an arbitrary approach to differentiate certain phrases?

If we turn to Dinneen’s dictionary, we find that cóir means “right, justice, fair play; instrument, proper arrangement”. I gcóir is given as meaning “justly, ready, aright”. Cómhair means “presence”, with os mo chómhair logically meaning “in front of me”. Dinneen gives do chómhair for “near”, and not de chóir: the de of Standardised Irish might seem more logical here, but by the same token Dinneen’s association of the word with cómhair also makes more sense. By contrast, Ó Dónaill seems to mix things up by given two separate words spelt cóir, one meaning “justice; proper provision or equipment” and the other meaning “nearness”. But if cóír means “nearness”, why does he not spell os cómhair os cóir? Or if it is os cómhair, why is it not de chómhair?

PUL disagrees with both Dinneen and Ó Dónaill. He also shows the meaning of cóir in Notes on Irish Words and Usages as “means” or “equipment”, and gives the meaning of cómhair as “presence”. But he argues that the phrase written i gcómhair by Dinneen (and adopted in Standardised Irish) should be i gcóir: in other words i gcóir meaning “for” derives from a word meaning “means, equipment, fair share” and not from a word meaning “presence”. His comment that cómhair and cóir are pronounced differently is given directly in the context of his discussion of i gcóir, showing that he did not have a nasal vowel in this phrase. He shows the contrast between cóir and cómhair thus:

Tá do chuid os do chómhair amach: your share is before you.
Tá do chuid id chóir: your share has been put by for you.

It seems there are two issues here: one is one of pronunciation, and the other is of etymology. PUL may be saying that i gcóir is definitely pronounced i gcóir and not i gcómhair. But whether he has the etymology right is other thing, as the Dictionary of the Irish Language, a dictionary of early Irish, seems to show i gcómhair, although the two words seem to have been confused at an early date.

Maybe no one really knows the etymology of these phrases for sure. But PUL was firmly of the view that we should write os cómhair but i gcóir. The late 17th century work in Cork Irish, Párliament na mBan, has fád chomhair, “awaiting you” in Brian Ó Cuív’s glossary, but a ccóir (old spelling for i gcóir), “in preparation for”. It is possible the etymology is from i gcómhair, but that the word has come to be understood as “in preparation for” in Cork Irish. It is also possible, as Dinneen indicates, that there are two phrases, i gcóir, “in preparation for, ie ready”, and i gcómhair, “for, waiting for”, whose meanings were so close that they became aligned in the speech even of those old speakers who had strong nasalisation, leading to PUL’s strong conviction that i gcómhair must be from cóir and not cómhair.

tá bó agam á mharú

Here is another letter from PUL to Gearóid Ó Nualláin, explaining why it is incorrect in Irish to say tá bó agam á marú, despite the fact that is feminine.

Caisleán Ua Liatháin, i gCo. Chorcaí.

23-11-1914.

A Athair Gearóid, a chara,

Táid na nótaí curtha i nGaelainn agam anois chómh fada amach le Caibidil a trí den Leitir chun na bhPhilippiánach. Nuair a bheid siad go léir déanta agam, cuirfead ag triall ort iad, agus féadfair iad a chur i dteannta an text go dtí go mbeidh am agat ar an gcuid eile den Tiomna Nua do chur amach os cómhair na poiblíochta. D’fhéachas trí sna nithe beaga so a chuiris chúm. Ní bhfaighinn puínn aon locht do cheartú iontu. Tá ana-thairbhe anois ’na leithéidíbh. Taispeánaid siad ceart na cainnte, cuir i gcás, ‘Tá seasamh san aimsir.’ Táid daoine anois ag scrí’ na Gaelainne, agus is fada a bheidís ag cuardach sara gcuímhneóidís ar an abairt sin, mar Ghaelainn ar ‘There is a settled steadiness in the weather.’ Táid na ráite sin agatsa lán de choraibh beaga cainnte den tsórd san.

Tá ní beag agam le múineadh dhuit as do leitir féin. ‘Táim ag cur roinnt rudaí beaga chút,’ adeirir. Níl aon locht ar an gcainnt sin mar a sheasaíonn sí. Is uiriste d’éinne a dh’fheiscint gur tuiseal giniúnach ‘roinnt rudaí beaga’ fé chumas an fhocail ‘ag cur.’ Ach mar sin féin do rithfeadh an chainnt níos feárr ar an gcuma so, féach: ‘Tá roinnt rudaí beaga agam á chur chút.’ Dá mbeadh ainmniú fada ar ‘an roinnt rudaí beaga’ chífá féin gur saoráidí go mór an chuma san adeirim ná an chuma eile. Féach—‘Táim ag cur caíora agus bó agus gamhain baineann agus uan atá dhá mhí d’aois chút.’ Tá cheithre focail déag ansan sa ní atá ’na thuiseal giniúnach! Féach féin gur saoráidí go mór a ritheann an chainnt ar an gcuma so: ‘Tá caíora agus bó agus gamhain baineann agus uan atá dhá mhí d’aois agam á chur chút.’ Nú mar seo eile: ‘Tá caíora agam á chur chút, agus bó agus gamhain baineann, agus uan atá dhá mhí d’aois.’ Is deise an tslí dheireanach san féin ná an tslí roimis sin.

Tá an dá shaghas Gaelainne seo ceart:—

1.Táim ag treabhadh na páirce.
2.Tá an pháirc agam á threabhadh.

Leanaid na ráite fada uimhir a dó. Féadann an rá geárr aon cheann acu do leanúint. Is é mo thaithíse (my experience) nách féidir rá fada do chumadh ar aon tslacht, má leantar uimhir a haon.

Déarfaid daoine leat go bhfuil cleas éigin agamsa (some happy knack) ar mo chuid Gaelainne do chur síos ar an gcuma is réidhe ’na rithfeadh sí. Tá, gan amhras, an cleas san agam, agus ní cleas ródheocair é. I rogha bhaint as rudaí de shaghas an dá rud san thuas atá an chuid is mó den chleas. Nithe beaga den tsaghas céanna is ea an chuid eile den chleas, leis. Déarfaid daoine leat—dúradar liom féin é—nách Gaelainn cheart, ‘tá an pháirc agam á threabhadh’; gur ceart ‘tá an pháirc agam á treabhadh’ do rá, toisc ‘páirc’ a bheith baineann. Abair leó go bhfuil breall orthu! Tá breall riamh ar an muíntir a bhíonn ag cur dlíthe na Laidine i bhfeidhm ar an nGaelainn. Sin í an obair a chuir amú riamh iad, agus atá dhá gcur amú anois, leis.

Bhí Peadar Ó hAnnracháin anso lá, agus chuir sé an cheist chúm:—

“An Gaelainn cheart—‘Tá an pháirc agam á threabhadh’?”

“Is Gaelainn cheart,” arsa mise.

“Agus cad mar gheall ar an bhfocal ‘páirc’ a bheith baineann?” ar seisean.

“Is cuma fireann nú baineann é,” arsa mise, “an fhaidh atá ‘agam’ idir é agus an ‘treabhadh.’”

“Is ait an scéal é sin,” ar seisean. “Chuireas an cheist chun m’athar,” ar seisean. “D’fhiafraíos de cad í an Ghaelainn a chuirfeadh sé ar ‘when I was killing the cow!’” “Nuair a bhí an bhó agam á mharú,” ar seisean. “Nár chóir,” arsa mise leis, “gur chirte a rá, ‘nuair a bhí an bhó agam á marú,’ toisc ‘bó’ a bheith baineann?” Do stad sé ar feadh tamaill. “Is dócha go bhfuil an ceart agat,” ar seisean. “Ní raibh an ceart agat,” arsa mise le Peadar. “Bhí an ceart agat athair, ach ní raibh sé ábalta ar an gceart do chur i bhfeidhm id choinnibhse, agus do scaoil sé leat.”

Anois, a Athair Gearóid, ná leogse do dhaoinibh an éagóir do chur i bhfeidhm ort. Abair ‘tá an pháirc agam á threabhadh,’ agus má deir éinne go bhfuil an éagóir agat, abair leis go bhfuil breall air. Nú abair leis, mar aduartsa le duine acu uair—‘Those things is’ is good Greek, and ‘those things are’ is wretchedly bad Greek. Why don’t you go and correct the Greek? Because you dare not! But you think you are at liberty to do what you like when dealing with Irish! D’fhágas ansan é.

Do chara go buan,

Peadar Ua Laoghaire.

the vocative of "pobal"

An undated letter from PUL to Gearóid Ó Nualláin, quoted in the latter’s autobiography, Beatha Dhuine a Thoil [spelling modernised by me]:

Caisleán Ua Liatháin, i gCo. Chorcaí.

A Athair Gearóid, a chara,

Is dócha go bhfuarais na nótaí úd. Ní dócha go raibh aon bhaol dul amú orthu, mar do chuireas fé chúntas (registered) iad. Do léas an tseanmóin úd a thugais uait Lá Fhéile Pádraig. Chuir duine chúm í ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, agus chuir duine eile chúm í ó Chorcaigh. Do thaithn sí liom go hana-mhór. Is í blúire Gaelainne í is feárr dá bhfeaca fós ó éinne dár scrí’neóiríbh beó.

Tá aon fhocal amháin inti, áfach, agus ní mór dom focal do rá ’na thaobh. ’Sé focal é ná ‘A Phobail,’ in vocativo. Níor airíos riamh a béal sagairt é, ach aon uair amháin. ’Sé uair é sin, ná nuair a bhíos ag dul fé láimh Easpaig. Bhíos tímpall dhá bhliain déag d’aois an uair sin. Bhí sagart ag tabhairt seanmóna uaidh i láthair an Easpaig. Bhíos ag éisteacht leis. ‘A Phobail,’ ar seisean, nuair a bhí sé ag tosnú. ‘A Phobail’ adeireadh sé i gcaitheamh na seanmóna nuair a labhradh sé linn. Bhí iúnadh orm féin cad ’na thaobh do ‘A Phobail’ do rá, nú cad ’na thaobh ná deireadh sé ‘A Phobal,’ mar adeireadh na sagairt go raibh aithne agam orthu. Thuigeas im aigne, áfach, agus me ag éisteacht leis, gurbh é cúis do ‘A Phobail,’ a rá, ná trí pobail do bheith ann, pobal Chluandrochad agus pobal Charraig an Ime, agus pobal Bhaile Mhúirne. Thuigeas gurbh ionann ‘A Phobail’ as a bhéal agus ‘Ye Congregations.’ Bhí m’aigne sásta leis sin. Ní raibh aon eólas agam an uair sin ar ‘vocative’ ná ar ‘nominative’ ach bhí ’ fhios agam nárbh fhéidir ‘A Phobail’ a rá, muna mbeadh na pobail a bheith ann. Níorbh fhéidir ‘A Phobail’ a rá le haon phobal amháin, ach oiread agus dob fhéidir a rá mar seo, féach: —

“Cad ’tá ag an bpobal á dhéanamh?” “Tá sé ar a ghlúinibh!” “Táid siad ar a nglúinibh,” an freagra ceart. “Cad ’tá ag an bpobal á dhéanamh anois?” “Tá sé ’na sheasamh!” “Táid said ’na seasamh,” an freagra ceart. Nuair a thosnaíos ar Ghaelainn a lé’ a leabhraibh, do thuigeas go maith cad é an chúis don tsagart úd “A Phobail” do rá linn. Chonaic sé sa leabhar é, agus ní raibh neart aigne a dhóthain aige chun a rá leis an leabhar dul in ainm an Diabhail!

You can’t use a vocative singular for pobal (unless you wish to have all the old speakers I ever knew shaking their heads at it) any more than you can say ‘tú’ to a congregation. If you could say ‘A Phobail’ why could you not say—‘An bhfuil tú ag éisteacht liom, a Phobail?’ . . . . .

’Sea! Tá an méid sin ráite agam anois, agus tá m’aigne sásta, agus tá súil agam go bhfuilirse go leathan láidir, agus gura fada amhlaidh duit!

Mise, do chara,

Peadar Ua Laoghaire.

Note that Clondrohid appears here as pobal Chluandrochad, and Cluandrochad is also the form found in PUL’s Mo Sgéal Féin. It is normally found as Cluain Droichead, but it is possible PUL had a broad n in this word; as a native of Clondrohid he would have known the pronunciation well. Also note that the vocative plural is in theory formed by dropping -ibh from the dative plural, and so the vocative plural should be a phobla! But real examples of use will be rare, and it may be the PUL could only interpret a phobail as a vocative plural due to the fact that the vocative singular is a phobal.

Chuaigh de

Dr. Sheehan’s Gabha na Coille.

Letter from Canon Peter O’Leary to the Editor of The Freeman’s Journal.

Castlelyons, Co. Cork.

March 16th, 1915.

Dear Sir,

I have just seen the latest little book by the Rev Dr Sheehan, named Gabha na Coille. Every little book of Dr Sheehan’s composing is an extraordinary piece of workmanship. There is always a preface; and the preface is not the least extraordinary part of the workmanship. In the preface there is always an assumption of rule over the Irish language, by which an attempt is made to justify the practical enforcement of these little writings as the standard of Irish and Irish literature for the youth of the country.

Throughout the civilised world literature grows out of the life of a people, out of the free play of their minds, and out of the free use of their own speech.

Here in Ireland, though there were few Irish books printed in the last three centuries, the life of the people went on, the language went on with that life, and it went on with a good deal of oral cultivation.

I was born into that speech in 1839. I have lived in it and with it all my life. As a child I knew the old songs and stories. I have read it from my boyhood. For years I have been writing it.

Irish is my native speech and I am a native speaker of Irish. But I find that on questions touching the forms of the language, questions of a nature to be decided by native usage and native knowledge, my testimony is set aside, for although I am a native speaker I am not illiterate and I am not dead.

It seems that it is only dead native speakers or illiterate native speakers whose speech is to be trusted, and of illiterate native speakers those only are to be trusted whose speaking and manner of speaking are under the direction of Dr Sheehan. Dr Sheehan is to be the censor and the ultimate judge of correct Irish speech. Over and over again this claim of domination over the speech is made in the prefaces to Dr Sheehan’s books. In describing the making up of pieces in Cnó Coilleadh Craobhaighe Dr Sheehan says

they were composed by native speakers under the direction of Pádraig Ó Cadhla or myself. We suggested the several themes and their treatment, and exercised a censorship over the Irish with a view to excluding anglicised turns of expression.

In his preface to Arthrach an Óir Dr Sheehan says (writing in Irish):

Patrick O’Dore of Ring gave me these stories. . . . . . I myself helped him to compose them, but even if I did, it is not my language but his own that is in them. When we first composed them, we left them unwritten for a year, so that there should be no trace of my language upon them.

What is the purpose of these “compositions”?

Year by year they are forced on young students by being placed in the courses of the Intermediate Board.

Why?

Dr Sheehan is Professor of Greek at Maynooth. How would the Chairman of the Intermediate Board like to see Dr Sheehan’s Greek scholarship applied to the annual production of an imitation, let us say, of a comedy of Aristophanes? And the Chairman of the Intermediate Board, although a Greek scholar, is not a Greek. I am an Irishman, and can I be expected to countenance in Irish what Dr Starkie would not tolerate in Greek?

The fact is that in matters concerning the Irish language, an inversion of the natural order of things is taken as a matter of course, and has been the law followed since Father O’Growney left The Gaelic Journal. Father O’Growney was a learner who treated the language with respect; who worked for it, and served it, and died for it. When he had gone to America, learners with a taste for domineering tried to lord it over the language and to make it serve them. They blighted the language movement. They necessarily introduced confusion into the administration of any educational system that had the misfortune of their presence or assistance.

In the preface to Dr Sheehan’s latest little book there is a very good example of this inversion of order. Dr Sheehan takes four ordinary Irish sentences and holds them up as examples of obscure and unintelligible construction, and explains and accounts for them incorrectly.

I will take the first of these sentences chuaigh dá gcuid fíona, because it happens to have been used by me in my translation of the Gospel from the Missal published in 1902. It occurs in the Gospel according to St. John, ch. ii, v. 3, in the narrative of the marriage in Cana of Galilee. There is nothing obscure in the phrase. It means “their wine failed,” or “ran short.” The literal English of it is, “there ‘went from’ their supply of wine”; i.e., it became small; it diminished. The Irish form chuaigh de, “there went from it,” is indigenous Irish. It have been listening to it during seventy years and have heard it constantly out of the mouths of Irish speakers, many of whom had never spoken a word of English. It runs through all the moods and tenses.

For example:—

PRESENT.

Tá ag dul dá gcuid fíona=there is going from their supply of wine; i.e., their wine is failing.

Bíonn ag dul dá gcuid fíona=there wine does be failing.

Téann dá gcuid fíona=their wine (usually) fails.

PAST.

Do chuaigh dá gcuid fíona=their wine failed.

Bhí ag dul dá gcuid fíona=their wine was failing.

Bhíodh ag dul dá gcuid fíona=their wine used to be failing.

Do théadh dá gcuid fíona=their wine used to fail (on certain occasions).

I remember an old song which I used to hear sung by children over seventy years ago:—

Má théann dem ghadharaibh
Béarfad Bran agus Fly liom,
Lily mheidhreach agus
Finder bán.

If there goes from my dogs (if I run short of dogs),
I will take Bran and Fly with me,
Lily, the merry, and
Finder, the white.

If a person was getting old, so as to be losing his wits, people said tá ag dul dá chiall=“there is going from (something being lost from) his wits”.

If a man were running a race, and that he collapsed in the middle of the race, people said chuaigh dá neart=“there went from his strength”; i.e., “his strength failed”.

If there were water in a vessel, and that it was growing less on account of the evaporation, people would say tá ag dul de=“there is going from it”; i.e., “it is diminishing”.

And so on. In fact the people’s speech is full of it.

The little book of the Gospel from the Missal, in which I used the phrase chuaigh dá gcuid fíona has been in circulation for some thirteen years. If Dr Sheehan had wanted to know the meaning of the expression I could have explained it to him at any time during those thirteen years if he had asked me. Instead of doing that, he makes a guess that chuaigh dá gcuid fíona seems to have been suggested by the literal English rendering of do chuaigh díom a dhéanamh. But that is quite another form of expression, which is so entirely different from the first, both in meaning and in structure, that no native Irish speaker could possibly see any approach to identity between the two. Here are some examples of that other form:—

Do chuaigh díom é ’ dhéanamh=it went from me to do it; i.e., it was beyond my power to do it.

Or let us use a pronoun of the third person, and say, do chuaigh de é ’ dhéanamh=“to do it went from him”; i.e., to do it went beyond him, beyond his strength.

Let us suppose the pronoun in de to be neuter, representing a motor for example, and a certain hill was too stiff and the motor was not able to get up to the top of it. Then it would be said of the motor, do chuaigh de é ’ dhéanamh=“it (the motor) failed to do it”; or “it failed it (the motor) to do it.”

Now we have the words in the right order for the two forms in that one sentence, and we can divide it into two sentences, namely—

1. do chuaigh de é ’ dhéanamh.
2. do chuaigh de.

The meaning of the first sentence is “it failed to do it”; i.e., it did not succeed.

The meaning of the second sentence is “it failed”; i.e., it diminished, or, became small.

The first implies no decrease in the strength of the motor, but only that the opposing force was too great for it.

The second sentence says nothing about an opposing force. It merely states that something got small; that some part of it went from it.

In the first sentence é ’ dhéanamh is the nominative case to do chuaigh. In the second sentence there is no nominative case at all.

The literal English of the second sentence is “there went from it,” i.e., “some of it disappeared”. There are many ways of expressing the loss; it “became small”, or “diminished”, or “exhausted”; it “failed”, “ran short”, “got low”, etc., etc.

If a person knowing Latin will look into the matter he will perceive a striking resemblence between deficiente vino and chuaidh dá gcuid fíona.

I think it is a strange thing for people who cannot see the difference between chuaigh dá gcuid fíona and do chuaigh díom é ’ dhéanamh to attempt to explain Irish language difficulties.

But it has been so from the beginning. People who never heard a word of Irish spoken go and learn a little Irish, and then, the moment they think they understand a little of the language, they proceed to explain all about it to those who have been speaking it all their lives. They would not dare to do that with regard to French, or with regard to any other language which was foreign to them. It is a sad thing to see the Irish language at the mercy of such people.

PETER O’LEARY, P.P.

Note: published in The Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, March 17th, 1915, page 7. The Dr Sheehan referred to is Michael Sheehan (also known as Mícheál Ó Síothcháin, a native of Waterford city; 1870-1945), vice-president of Maynooth College from 1919, and Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, from 1922. Dr Sheehan was noted for his collection of material on Waterford Irish, including Shean-Chaint na nDéise. His book, Cnó Coilleadh Craobhaighe, was subtitled “The Irish of the People”, possibly provoking PUL’s annoyance that Dr Sheehan did not allow the Irish of the People to stand as it should.

A bibliography of PUL’s works

Shán Ó Cuív compiled a list of 487 works of PUL, including books, pamphets, articles, letters to journals. More than 400 were articles or letters in periodicals, but these included serialized versions of many of his longer works, including Sgéalaidheachta as an mBíobla Naomhtha. These were often accompanied by detailed explanations of grammar and vocabulary. The 487 do not include private letters unless they have been published in books or otherwise published in the public domain.

See here for my annotated list. I have not included the 418 periodical items, but all the books, pamphets and articles in edited books etc are all there with an indication of whether I have copies or not. I keep this list as I need to know without having to sort through my library if I possess a book or not – or I may buy it twice from a second-hand bookseller! I am very close to having all the main works and many of the incidental items too.

PUL’s translation of the Bible, apart from the published Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, are not among the 487, as they remain in manuscript only. If you add those on to the list you start to realise that he was the pivotal figure of the Gaelic Revival, with an unrivalled output. And yet only Séadna is available in a (relatively) faithful edition nowadays. Everything else is out of print, and has been for decades. [I am not included editions of Mo Sgéal Féin and Don Chíchóté that are a long way from being the original Cork Irish.]

To think that PUL only began publishing in Irish in his mid-50s! And yet he managed to achieve all this….

Gin gan Teimheal

I found PUL’s translation of the Roman Catholic Marian hymn “O Mother, I could weep for mirth!”, which I think is also known as “Immaculate, Immaculate”, in Gearóid Ó Nualláin’s autobiography, Beatha Dhuine a Thoil. I had never heard of this hymn, but I believe it is well known as part of Irish heritage. The first verse and chorus of this hymn in English is:

O Mother! I could weep for mirth,
Joy fills my heart so fast;
My soul today is heaven on earth,
Oh could the transport last!

I think of thee, and what thou art,
Thy majesty, thy state;
And I keep singing in my heart—
Immaculate! Immaculate!

PUL seemed to dislike the English words. he wrote (in a letter, written in English, dated March 24th, 1919, which Ó Nualláin translates into Irish):

Roinnt laethanta ó shin fuaras leitir ón Athair Ailbhe, O.S.F.C., dhá iarraidh orm roinnt dánta diaga d’aistriú ó Bhéarla go Gaelainn. Ceann díobh san ab ea an dán san, ‘Immaculate, Immaculate.’ Duart leis ná féadfainn é sin aistriú go Gaelainn, mar ná raibh brí ná ciall leis. Má fhéachainn tú ar an ndán san chifidh tú ná fuil ann ach ‘ráiméis.’ ‘Oh! Mother, I could weep for mirth!’ Ní fhéadfainn ‘ráiméis’ d’aistriú go Gaelainn. ’Sé rud a dheineas, an ‘brí’ ba chóir a bheith sa Bhéarla a chur síos sa nGaelainn. Agus seo chút cóip dem dhánsa:—

1.

‘A Mháthair Aonmhic Dé na gcómhacht,
Táim lán de mhórtais croí,
Ag trácht im smaointe ar ní thar meóin,
Do ghabháilse, a Stór, gan teimheal!
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
Is iúnadh saeil tu i gceart!
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
Mo ghrá do chroí!
A Mháthair Rí na bhFeart!

[mórtais: high spirits, exultation
meóin: mind, whim, fancy
gabháil: to be conceived; teimheal: tarnish, stain; gan teimheal: immaculate, without stain of sin]

2.

‘Do fágadh daoine ag tíocht i mbrón
An bháis, le fóirneart fíll,
Do sháraigh Íosa an íde rómhatsa—
A Pháis ba ghlórmhar díon,
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
Is iúnadh Naomh tu ar Neamh,
Do thugais dóibh
An Slánaitheóir,
’S do’n chine daonna ar fad.

[tíocht: coming, arriving
fóirneart: brute force
íde: plight]

The meaning of do sháraigh Íosa an íde rómhatsa—, A Pháis ba ghlórmhar díon is unclear to me. If someone understands this, I would welcome help on this.

3.

‘Do mheall an annsprid meabhair na mná,
Chuaigh an nimh trí lár a croí,
Ach do chas an feall ar an namhaid i dtráth,
Den nimh dhein grá neamhní.
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
A Ghin gan Teimheall,
Is iúnadh deamhan tu, thíos!
Do shál ar cheann
An Rí go teann,
’S a tháinte fann dá dhruím!

[i dtráth: in due course
sál: heel, a reference to Mary crushing the serpent of Eden in the head
teann: firm?
táinte: wealth; fann: feeble]

The meaning of the final sentence here is also unclear to me.

4.

‘A Mháthair Aonmhic Dé na gcómhacht,
Táim lán de mhórtais croí,
Ag trácht im smaointe ar ní thar meóin,
Do ghabháilse, a Stór, gan teimheal!
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
A Ghin gan Teimheal,
Beir leat me suas chun Dé,
I radharc na soíllse,
I radharc an aoibhnis,
I radharc an TRÍR ’na nAON!’

The letter then goes on (in Ó Nualláin’s translation):

Níl aon ‘smaoineamh’ gur fiú trácht air sa ndán Béarla. Tá roinnt smaointe fé leith curtha síos agamsa. Ar an gcéad dul síos ‘iúnadh saeil’ ab ea an ghabháil gan teimheal. Ar an dtarna dul síos d’ ‘iúnadh Naomh ar Neamh’ í. Ansan, b’iúnadh uathásach do sna deamhanaibh atá in Ifreann thíos í. Tá dá bhrí leis an bhfocal Laidne Conceptio: ciallaíonn sé an ‘gníomh’ lena ngabhthar an ghin; agus ciallaíonn sé an ‘duine’ do gabhadh. Sa Ghaelainn, ‘gabháil’ is ea an gníomh, agus ‘gin’ is ea an duine. Fágann san gurb ionann ‘Gin gan Teimheal’ agus ‘Immaculate Conception,’ nuair a bhíonn tagairt a dhéanamh don Mhaighdean Ghlórmhair féin. Is minic d’airís an focal, ‘tá sé sin thar meóin ar fad!’

Aesop a tháinig go hÉirinn

Gréagach dob ea Aesop. Rugadh é tímpall sé chéad bliain roimh Chríost. Daor dob ea é. Do mhair sé le línn Sólóin, an t-ollamh dlí ba mhó dá raibh ar Ghréagaibh. D’ínseadh sé na Fabhaill mar sholaoidí, chun cómhairle a leasa ’ thabhairt do ríthibh agus do chómhachtaibh na haimsire sin. Táid na Fabhaill chéanna dá n-ínsint ó shin anuas i dteangthachaibh agus in úrlabhraibh an domhain. Táthar dhá n-ínsint anois anso i nGaelainn bhreá bhlasta bhínn.

1. An frog agus an mada rua. [The Quack Frog. See here.]

Tháinig frog mór buíbhreac aníos as an loch agus do shuigh sé ar an bport agus chuir sé fógra amach, dhá rá gurbh árdliag é agus go raibh leigheas gach galair aige. Thánadar na hainmhithe go léir fé dhéin an leighis. Bhí an mada rua ann. D’fhéach sé ar an bhfrog. Nuair ’ chonaic sé an t-ainmhí beag suarach do chuir sé drannagháire as.

“Airiú greadadh chút!” ar seisean, “má tá an t-eólas úd go léir agat fé mar ’ fhógrais dúinn, nách mór an iúnadh ná himreann tú beagán de ar do chorpáinín féin. Níl éinne anso inniu is míchúmtha ná thu. Agus cheapfá a chur ’na luí orainn go bhfuilir ábalta ar ár ngearánta go léir do leigheas. Thit tonóisc beag amach dómhsa agus baineadh an t-earball díom. Cheapas, nuair ’ airíos an fhógairt seo uaitse, go mb’fhéidir go gcurfá earball in’ inead orm. Ní fheicim, ámh, go bhfuil earball ort féin. Preit! a dhuine, cá bhfios dod leithéidse cad a bhaineann le hearball!” Agus thug sé a chúl air go míchéatach agus d’imigh sé. Do lean an chuid eile é agus iad go bréan díobh féin.

An Múineadh

An té ná féadann a ghnó féin do dhéanamh is deocair a rá go bhféadfaidh sé gnó an fhir thall do dhéanamh,

“Do ghnó féin dein, a dhuine,
Ná bac mo ghnó, ná mise.”

Vocabulary (in the order that it is required above)

Gréagach – a Greek (the notes to the 1903 edition say specifically the dative plural of this word is Gréagaibh, as above)
daor – a slave
ollamh – doctor, professor, learned man; ollamh dlí, professor or doctor of law
ríthe – kings
cómhachta – powers, authorities
fabhaill – fables
teangthacha – languages (the th is required in Cork Irish, as it forced the diphthong in the previous syllable)
úrlabhra – speech (normally singular, but used in the dative plural here in the sense of “languages, spoken tongues”)
frog – frog (frogs are said to have been brought to Ireland with William of Orange in the 17th century, hence the lack of an Irish word for them)
mada rua – fox (the pronunciation of “madra rua” is just mada rua in Cork Irish)
buíbhreac – speckled with yellow spots
port – bank of the river
fógra – announcement
árdliag – an excellent doctor
leigheas – cure
galar – sickness, illness
ainmhithe – animals
fé dhéin – towards
drannagháire – a mocking smile
greadadh chút! – damn you!
iúnadh – surprise (ionadh)
imrim – I bring something into play (imrím)
corpáinín – little body
mí-chúmtha – misshapen
gearánta – complaint (including in the medical sense)
tonóisc – accident (otherwise found as tionóisc)
fógairt – announcement
inead – place (rud a chur in inead ruda – to replace something)
preit! – nonsense! tut tut!
cúl – back (do chúl a thabhairt air – to turn your back on him)
míchéatach – highly indignant, peevish, ill-humoured
bréan – foul-smelling (go bréan díobh féin – thoroughly disgusted with themselves)

Guilt, or self-righteousness?

For conservatives prepared to consider the proposition that there is some kind of fundamental distinction between Western culture and that of the other civilisations of the world, the distinction is sometimes seen in terms of morality. We are, according to this interpretation, a more moral people. We can see this most readily in terms of a contrast with the East Asian civilisation. In China, the interests of the collective (family, nation, state) override moral considerations. Chinese people who know of their government’s use of late-term forced abortions to enforce the national family planning policy often simply deny that anything of the sort takes place; or, when presented with evidence, they get angry and start shouting. Anyone who has lived in China will know that discussions of Chinese brutality towards China’s own ethnic minorities proceed in a very unfruitful way. The Chinese government is prepared to peddle the most transparent lies, such as claiming that a small group of Tibetan refugees, shot dead by China’s border guards for fleeing the country, as shown on a mountaineer’s videotape, actually attacked the border guards. Lies come easier to the Chinese, which is why we call them “inscrutable”: we cannot gauge their moral sensibility.

The abuse whereby Chinese workplace bosses would refuse to allow their employees to marry—they were required to sign the documents—unless the bride first gave her virginity to the boss has been stymied by a change in the law, which does not now require workplace approval for the match, but sexual abuse in the workplace is not only rife, but standard, in China. The parents who lost their children in the Sichuan earthquake of 2009 were arrested for protesting over the schoolhouses that collapsed like jelly as the money for school construction had been siphoned off by corrupt officials. Of the 80-odd earthquake orphans who were disabled as a result of the earthquake, not one—not a single one, according to the Chinese press—found a family in the world’s most populous nation willing to adopt him. As far as most moral issues are concerned, the Chinese do not really seem to “care”.

We care. It is what we do as Westerners. We are the nations intent on building up geo-political rivals by subsidies and technological transfer. Hillary Clinton cares about the rioting Egyptians (although apparently much less about the displaced Palestinians in much worse circumstances). From racism to sexism to homophobia to destruction of the environment, Western political views are directly informed by a sort of cod-altruism. We are worried about the plight of slaves in Mauritania and about child labour in Pakistan. And such supposed “altruism” feeds directly into the politics of guilt: it is “unfair” that other nations are poorer than we; we were the ones who engaged in the triangular slave trade; we are not doing enough to help the homosexuals of Iran; the underclass in Britain cannot be expected to control their own fertility, even in the age of the “morning-after pill”, and so it would be “unfair” not to subside their unproductive lifestyles; and the death penalty for cold-blooded killers would be cruel, as social disadvantage is deemed to play a key role in such individuals’ personalities.

Clearly we are different from the other civilisations of the earth. And it is not just the Chinese who fail to measure up to our moral standards. While the Islamic civilisation includes a large and unbending moral component, one of the key things that stands out is the cruel use of state power to enforce their moral code. For some reason, Islam never set out to create individuals who were morally upright; it did not set out to build individuals who did not need cruel punishments to stay in line. Hilaire Belloc’s wonderful tale, The Mercy of Allah, sets out an understanding of Muslim society that is every bit as selfish and greedy as Chinese society. To rob others, unbeknown to them until you are far off, is shown in that book as viewed as “the mercy of Allah”, who facilitates the crime. Christian concern for others, even those you do not know, does not seem to be present in those societies. In Britain itself, the paedophilia and sexually predatory behaviour of young Muslim men, long suppressed as an item of news, has recently hit the headlines. What surprises you is that such behaviour is not rare or a fringe activity, but one participated in by large numbers of Muslim youths working together. Crime statistics are apparently “top secret” in the UK, but statistics from a range of Western countries confirm the prevalence of crime among the non-European part of the population. In Sweden, for example, the still demographically small first- and second-generation immigrant population is responsible for a large majority of rapes and sexual assaults.

True, violent crime is less common in China, where it is the overwhelming social norm for men to frequent brothels, and the lower level of violence can also be explained by higher average IQ levels in East Asia, which produce a fairly stable population, who prefer to use their intelligence to rip others off financially than to use their fists or force themselves on lone women. Indian and Pakistani doctors in the UK are known for “feeling up” their female patients—presumably in their culture they would get away with this behaviour, and “anti-racism” ensures they often do in Britain too. Real hard violence, as a social norm, is, however, rather found in the African-descended part of the population, who lack the IQs of the Chinese and the economic prospects of everyone else. Many geneticists believe that not only IQs but also the tendency towards aggression is coded for in human genes, and further solid information on this subject is eagerly awaited by conservatives.

So it seems clear that there is a real difference between the West and the other civilisations. This is not to deny that bad behaviour has not become much more prevalent among the Western underclass, possibly as a side function of state sponsorship of sexual incontinence and unmarried motherhood. The “wigger” phenomenon suggests that British youths are modelling themselves on their Afro-Caribbean counterparts, with negative social consequences. However, these phenomena are the result of the distorted morality or guilt of the Western middle classes, who have allowed bad behaviour to take root rather than being “judgmental”. This produces the curious circumstance that, whereas other civilisations, such as Islam, are unofficially immoral, in contrast to the full Islamic law, which would be unbendingly moral, we now officially support immoral lifestyles. Islamic revulsion at Western society has been frequently described in the press: it seems that calls for social integration fall on deaf ears, when that society smiles at images of young women drunk and half-naked lying on the pavement. At least officially, in their own communities, the Muslim leaders are not afraid to denounce immorality. It seems we are both more “caring” and less strict on the moral front than they are, or at least claim to be; there is a good deal of evidence that private moral behaviour is much worse in the Muslim community than it would be in mainstream Britain.

This produces a complicated picture. How can we be more moral if we are morally lax? The solution seems to lie in the cod-altruism mentioned earlier. Western society, and particularly Anglo-Saxon society, is noted for its sanctimonious and self-righteous tone. Western society functions as a competition for moral status, a game of moral “one-upmanship”. I think this explains the pretence of altruism: by displaying your concern for others, you prove your superiority to others, in this game at least. Free Tibet! I’d rather pay a bit more in tax! Save the whale! One of my best friends is black! We mustn’t be judgmental! All these are particular manifestations of the game of moral status.

Actually, the self-righteous do not actually give a damn about any one of their causes. I have tried to winkle out the bottom line of their altruism: when the self-righteous witter on about their concern for the 3,000 desaparecidos of Chile, I ask them if they are as concerned about the 30,000 members of the Matabele tribe slaughtered by the anti-imperialist, Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe. That generally leads to a tense conversation: their eyes glaze over, they refuse to listen to any more facts and get angry. Yet, if they really were altruistic, they would care about deaths at the hands of anti-imperialists too. It was shown at one point in the Somali famine that the agricultural situation had recovered in that country, but the fact that Western food donations kept rolling in made farmers reluctant to cultivate their fields. Why would it make any difference to the self-righteous if they were actually harming the Somalis by their vaunted “kindness”? Does it make any difference to them that the welfare benefits system has led to a large rise in the numbers of children brought up by single mothers? And that that situation is linked, in one of the strongest statistical links in the social sciences, with crime, delinquency, drug abuse, and the physical and sexual abuse of the children, often by their mothers’ string of “partners”?

If we are “moral”, we are moral in a way that is largely intended to flatter ourselves. That is why the objects of our concern are so curiously selective. In the 1990s, we were oh-so-concerned about the driving of the Bosnian Muslims out of their “safe havens”, which we viewed as part of a wonderful attempt to create a multi-ethnic society (ahem! among people killing each other), and yet the driving of the Croatian Serbs out of their “protected areas” failed to provoke a similar reaction. It was ordinary people who bore the brunt in both cases. It could be said that Western people are idealistic, and that they pick out the cases to show concern over with a careful eye on what would make themselves look good morally.

That is not to say that self-righteousness is not connected in some way with real morality. The fact that in most of these cases people are being treated in ways that would call for compassion—especially if you were a member of that society, and rather less credibly if you are just enjoying the sensation of concern via the television screen—is what the claim to altruism rests upon. To that extent, it seems that “youthful idealism” is used by a more cynical class of free riders to stake out their own claim to moral superiority, while not really giving a damn. I am a long way from condemning genuine altruism, although it would be very rare, and I do not think I have come across it in British society. Anyone who is really concerned about the starving millions in Africa would sell his house and give the money to the starving. I would not discourage anyone from doing so, as long as no-one else (for example, wife and children) were affected, in which case imposing suffering on them would not be genuinely altruistic. Quite simply, I myself do not care about the starving in Ethiopia—it is a very abstract concept to me, and charity is better directed to one’s own immediate community—but then neither do the self-righteous; the difference is, I do not feel the need to indulge in gesture politics on the issue.

Self-righteousness has become the moral stance of the British elite, many of whom are making large sums out of their concern for others. I am sure senior civil servants, bureaucrats in the health service, headmasters on six-figure salaries in failing schools, “quango queens” and charity directors all tell themselves that they are handsomely rewarded for their superior morality. They are all trying to do good, or so they tell themselves, and if they are actually imposing a financial burden on the low-paid, siphoning money off from front-line healthcare, teaching trendy subjects they know will damage the life chances of their pupils, wasting money on fatuous and politically motivated campaigns, and even directing money collected as “charitable donations” into their final-salary pension funds, they are able to rationalise it in some way to themselves. How lucrative “caring” has become! Quite often these people are prepared to siphon off large sums of money into overseas projects (collecting their salaries on the way). I would argue that the Chinese-style naked pursuit of self-interest at least has the advantage of allowing the Chinese to support their own society. They do not have to pretend to care about the Sudan, and so they can keep all their money in China. And they do not need to feign concern about the human rights of murderers, and so are free to support the death penalty and keep China a stable, low-crime society. And the Muslim society of wealthy Saudi Arabia sees no need to fund unmarried motherhood, so helping to ensure that most children in that society are brought up by both of their real parents. Amazing, is it not, how self-interest often fosters a healthy society?

How did Western society become so self-righteous? Is this merely a phenomenon of the twentieth century as our Christian culture receded? I would argue that the sanctimoniousness of the elite, and their middle-class hangers-on, has huge material advantages for the elite, in that it has vastly expanded the size of the state, but there are other advantages too for the elite of this form of self-righteousness. Whereas traditional morality required them to set a social example themselves, the new form of cod-morality requires nothing of them personally. You can be a serial divorcer and abandoner of children, and as long as you are passionate anti-racist and concerned about global warming, you are still a good person today. The cod-morality requires nothing more than occasional lip-service, whereas traditional morality was a tight life-long straitjacket of behaviour. We have reached the point where morality is what you say and not what you do. A pleasant person who never does anything to harm others, but voices his opposition to immigration—I would put myself in this category—is deemed in self-righteous circles to be a “nasty individual”, based entirely on his views. Someone who has ruined the lives of his wife and children has only to mouth platitudes to become accepted in the best company.

Clearly, though, self-righteousness is connected to our erstwhile morality. Even in the old days, those who were determined to be seen to be behaving in line with the church’s moral precepts were seen as self-righteous. They cultivated their moral images every bit as much as the new elite cultivate theirs. From one point of view, the change in society has been nothing more than a shift in the focus of morality, from sexual to racial matters. Incidents such as the persecution of the witches of Salem in early America show that the same tendency to self-righteousness, together with a taste for persecuting others that is very much alive in the new political correctness, has been there all along. Yet the difference is that the old self-righteousness of the family and the church fostered a good society: it held the fabric of the family and nation together. The new self-righteousness is destructive of the fabric society because it opposes the family and the nation, and it is for that reason, and not its mere sanctimonious tone (unbearable though that is), that I oppose it.

Finally, the church itself warned of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were probably not engaging in any form of immorality, but it was their self-righteousness that offended Jesus, who condemned them as “whited sepulchres”. A nation steeped in the Bible was on the look-out for self-righteousness, and this at least meant that a genuine difference between real morality and the cultivation of a fake moral image was clear to all members of society back then. Could it be that, as we have in the main abandoned Christianity, we no longer see the distinction between righteousness and self-righteousness? That having been weaned off the Bible, we take claims of morality at face value?

It was always a problem for the Christian church that it called for righteousness and condemned unrighteousness while claiming to oppose self-righteousness too. Is it not self-righteous to tell others to be righteous? I can only square that circle myself with the concept of a nation that is Christian, rather than individuals who are Christian. At one stage, Englishmen were told they were “building Jerusalem”, that England must become the kingdom of God on earth. It was not a messianic vision of the Second Coming of Christ, but was rather a messianic vision of a good society, right here in England. Once the values that were once seen as moral and right are assimilated by the majority of society, it becomes harder for one individual to stake a greater claim to morality by adhering to them. They were once the norm in society. True, there were individuals hamming up their devotion to God, but there was nothing unusual back then about loving your wife “till death do us part” and bringing up your children to behave themselves. This moral tone was what was great about England—we were individuals with integrity, not individuals who it took the strictures of a cruel and barbaric shari’ah law to keep in line. The goal of the Church of England was never merely to create moral individuals, but to create a society where moral behaviour was the accepted social norm. Whether the theology of the Bible was true or not, it is a fact of history that the “new personality” spoke of by St Paul was put on by many—the majority?—of Englishmen, and that a society that worked on its precepts brought the religion of Christianity alive regardless of the facts of science and history.

So it seems to me that our traditional morality has metamorphosised into the self-righteousness, the cod-morality, of our new elite. Having been profoundly influenced by the Gospels, our nation was ripe for the emergence of anti-racism and various forms of synthetic outrage to replace the old certainties. Is this some kind of original cultural flaw in the Western societies? Does our oft-proclaimed moral superiority conceal a tendency towards self-deception and gesture politics? The irony is, when the Western civilisation was at its height, it was better than the rest of them put together!

the pronunciation of the autonomous

We know from The Irish of West Muskerry that Amhlaoibh Ó Loinsigh pronounced the present and future autonomous endings broad and the conditional and imperfect autonomous endings slender:

glantar, buailtear: /glɑntər, buəlʹtər/
glanfar, buailfear: /glɑnfər, buəlʹfər/
glanfaí, buailfí: /glɑnfʹi:, buəlʹfʹi:/
glantaí, buailtí: /glɑntʹi:, buəlʹtʹi:/

However, it is likely that the original pronunciations were rather, those indicated by the spellings.

Some indication of the pronunciations preferred by PUL is shown by the spellings in this works. There is always a question of whether an editor has intervened and changed his preferences, but I notice this letter from PUL to Gearóid Ó Nualláin, quoted in his autobiography, Beatha Dhuine a Thoil (pages 137-138):

I have never heard, e.g., buailfear. What I have heard is buailfar, with the l slender and the f as broad as it is in ólfair. But I have always heard buailtear. I dare say some people have heard buailtar. If they have, then they ought to write buailtar, and then we should know that they have heard it.

Interestingly, PUL clearly does not have the same pronunciation as AÓL in the present autonomous. We may write PUL’s choices thus:

glantar, buailtear: /glɑntər, buəlʹtʹər/
glanfar, buailfear: /glɑnfər, buəlʹfər/

However, PUL consistently wrote curtar and curfar for what would nowadays be cuirtar and cuirfar. It seems clear that he did have a broad rt and rf in both of these words: /kurtər, kurfər/.

In the conditional autonomous PUL’s works are less consistent, with both -faí and -fí found in spelling. But the slender -fí in aithneófí /a’nʹho:fʹi:/ points to a slender pronunciation across the board. Note that he wrote both curfaí and curfí, but probably had a slender rf in this word, /kur’fʹi:/.

In the imperfect autonomous PUL consistently used a slender ending. Note the spellings curtí /kur’tʹi:/ and ceannaítí /kʹa’ni:tʹi:/ (ceannuightí in the original spelling).

So it seems that PUL had the following:

glanfaí, buailfí: /glɑnfʹi:, buəlʹfʹi:/
glantaí, buailtí: /glɑntʹi:, buəlʹtʹi:/

As Gaelainn?

Ignoring completely the grammatically incorrect use of as Gaeilge in Standardised Irish (Gaeilge=Gaedhilge in the old script, the genitive of the noun, where the dative should stand), it is interesting to revisit the question of whether there is any difference between as Gaelainn and i nGaelainn.

The point is not often raised today, but PUL wrote in a letter to Gearóid Ó Nualláin on this point on April 4th, 1914:

‘do sgrí a Gaeluinn.’ Féach, ‘Abair as Gaoluinn é,’ ach ‘sgríbh i nGaoluinn é.’ Ní deirtear ‘as Gaoluinn’ ach le caint. Deirtear ‘i nGaoluinn’ le sgríbhinn nú le clódhbhualadh, nú le haistriughadh. Deir Eoghan Ruadh le Cailbhin i n-áit éigin, ‘An masluightheach a dh’aistrigh i mBéarla an Pháis’ (.i. the Mass).

In other words, as Gaelainn refers to speech. You can speak as Gaelainn. But you can only write i nGaelainn.