Letter to Fleming, March 1918

Caisleán Ua Liatháin

Cae. Chorcaí. 10. Márta. 1918

A Athair a chara,

Táim ábalta ar cheisteannaibh a fhreagairt maith go leór, baochas le Dia!

A new programme of books” Clár nua de leabhraibh is the true Irish. Both the programme and the books are new. If the books only were new it would be clár de leabhraibh nua. If the programme only were new it would be clár nua de leabhraibh. I would not use clár nua leabhar at all. It is quite ambiguous. No person can tell whether the nua refers to clár or to leabhar, i.e. whether it is clár nua-leabhar, or clár-nua leabhar. Clár nua de leabhraibh fits everywhere. Tímpall an tí = “about the house (inside)”. Timpall ar an dtigh = “around the house (outside)”. In aice Bhriain = “near Briain”, in aice le Brian = “alongside of Brian”. A iníon chríonna – “his eldest daughter” or “his elder daughter”, or “his grown-up daughter”. The word for “precocious” is seanachríonna. Nách seanachríonna an bioránach é! = “What a ‘crabbit’ chap he is!”

Airc = “greed”. Flosc = “the excitement and delight of a child when going for dinner, or some such anticipated enjoyment. Any similar excitement is flosc. Doircheacht is the natural living word; dorchadas is the pedantic word. Take your choice.

p219. I have never heard ciall dhaonna, but I have heard always ciall chóir, never c. cóir. But I have heard both ciall mhaith and ciall maith.

I have heard gach smaoineamh im aigne agus gach féith im chroí = “every thought in my mind and every feeling in my heart”. Fan é. Fan is used just like gan. Gan é = “without it”. Fan é = “parallel to it”. If it be followed by the substantive it takes the genitive. Fan an chlaí = “along the fence”. But along it = fan é. That is what I have heard. I could not say fan é sin. I should name the thing and put it in the genitive. Fan an bhóthair sin, fan an chlaí sin, fan na cluaise sin, &c. But cuir fan é é = “place it parallel to it”. Táid siad fan a chéile = “They are parallel to each other”. Tá an líne seo fan an líne sin = “This line is parallel to that line”.

228. Toradh is fruit, regardless of the person who benefits by it. For him the toradh is a sochar. As far as I remember slua is mas. or fem.

De réir do thrócaire agus méid do mhaitheasa. Those six words are one idea. If I wish to make two ideas of them I can, of course, say, de réir do thrócaire agus de réir méid do mhaitheasa. But I refer to treat them as one idea. Méid do mhaitheasa is the thing which is governed by de réir. Therefore it is not mhéid.

Dom féin d’éinne eile. When I read that I wondered why I did use . Then I went and read the whole paragraph and I found I could not use . Then came the question “why?” So I found that the desire in the instinct of the mind was, not to exclude any gátar which was on any person &c, &c. Hence, that I was forced by my instinct to use . In other words, the aon ghátar of the text is the same as pé gátar, and pé gátar should necessarily be followed by . The fact is and the trouble is that has necessarily a disjunctive effect. If I say dom féin d’éinne éile I must necessarily mean that the two sides of the alternative exclude each other, that if it is dom féin it is necessarily not d’éinne eile. Now as a matter of fact the desire in the paragraph is to include both alternatives, both dom féin and d’éinne eile. Consequently I must not exclude any gátar which is on any person, neither on a person who has done good to myself, nor on any person who has done good to any other person. The “or” of the English is not used as a true disjunctive. The Irish is a true disjunctive.

When I say in Irish aon ghátar atá ar éinne a dhein tairbhe dom féin nú d’éinne eile, you can’t have both gátar’s. If you take on you must exclude the other. Here is a common expression we used to have in our plays as children: éinne do labharfaidh, do gháirfidh, dhéanfaidh sraodh, casachtach, beidh an trom trom air = “Any person who will speak or sneeze or cough, the trom trom will be on him”. I think that is the best example I could give of the difference between the Irish and the English “or”and I give it from the childish play in which I had to sit and take the part when I was six years old. The very use of the word éinne, aon duine dhéanfaidh labhairt gáire excludes the idea of “or”. It is not a disjunctive. It includes all. You will have to think the matter over in Irish and you will get rid of that English “or”, whcih is a disjunctive that does not disjoin. If I say “Hard or soft will do” I ought to mean that “if hard will do soft will not do”, whereas I don’t mean any such thing. I mean that both hard and soft are suitable. In Irish, when I say déanfaidh dubh nú bán an gnó, I mean not that both are suitable but that either is suitable, which is quite a different thing, although the ultimate truth may be the same.

280. Ó chroí = ex corde; ód chroí = ex corde tuo. A person can use the term ex corde even though speaking of his own heart.

Ceist i dtaobh creidimh & ceist i dtaobh an chreidimh. Níl ann ach mar adeirtear sa Bhéarla “The faith” “faith” gan aon “the”.

287. Deintear aon aicme amháin de sna peacachaibh agus de lucht díchreidimh. Deineann an diabhal aon aicme amháin díobh. Tá greim daingean aige ar an dá aicme. Na would do very well, but it would make two classes of them. The devil lets them go together. “He is sure of both any day”.

284. Ionúine includes both the love of the heart and the esteem of a sound judgement, combined. Annsacht adds to those a drawing of the heart towards the object of the love. The strongest expression which a man addresses to a beloved one is when he calls her his annsacht, a abhaillín, agus a annsacht. But of course the annsacht in the text is not exactly that. All the nice words express the mind of Muire Mháthair on that occasion and the last one, annsacht, is the awful delectation, which at that moment, drew her heart out of her bosm, into the heart of the Holy Ghost!

In my mind fan is a prepositioin and it governs the accusative é in the phrase fan é, just as gan does in the phrase gan é = “without it”.

Now I want to say one word about the Irish word for “sheep”. It is a word of two syllables, caoi and ra. Put those two syllables togethere and you have caíora. Caoire is the plural, and it is a word of two syllables also. But in caíora, the r is quite broad and in caoire the r is slender.

Oh” says the pedant, “you can’t have í before r and a after it”. Oh, but I say you can and must!

There never has been a rule which has been so frightfully absued as that rule of caol le caol agus leathan le leathan. It is a rule which belongs exclusively to the ear, just as the use of sharps and flats in music belongs exclusively to the ear, and the pedant has made it a rule for the eye! The result is that the pedant has produced in the writing of Irish, combinations of letters which are quite unpronounceable. Take the word fuíghealach [fuíollach] = “a remainder”. Now, for my ear that word has two syllables, fuí, and lach. Put them together and you have fuílach. I deny any pedant that ever lived to pronounce those two syllables as they stand, giving those six letters their natural value, and not to be understood by any Irish speaker living! Take the Irish words for “bron”. It consists of two syllables ber and tha. Put them together adn you have the word bertha. But the pedant, using his eye, not his ear, insists on writing it beirthe, a word which no Irish speaker has ever spoken! It is very near the sound of the Irish word for “boiled”, i.e. beirithe.

Of course the rule caol le caol agus leathan le leathan is a splendid rule, the grandest that has ever been used in any language. But it belongs to the ear. The eye has got nothing whatever to say to it. What in th world would be thought of a person who would insist on writing flats and sharps in music without using his ear! And here we have people constantly using this Irish rule, not by the ear but by the eye!

If a person wants to write the Irish for “They saluted”, he writes down do bheanuigheadar dá chéile. Now if he were to write bhenídar I could defy any native Irish speaker to pronounce that short word of seven letters instead of twelve, giving its full Irish value to each letter, without being at once thoroughly understood by any native Irish speaker that I have ever known. Let any person just try. Remember that the Irish e is really ea. The letter e takes, from its very nature, a slender consonant before it and a broad consonant after it. Then you have bhen and í and dar. Put them together and pronounce them, giving each letter its full natural value, and I defny you not to say exactly bheanuigheadar, as the pedant wishes you to say it.

Of course I can understand the propriety of preserving the footprints of the derivation of the word. But to cram twelve letters into a word which consists of only seven distinct articulate sounds is ridiculous.

But how were those twelve letters brought in at first? Here is how it happened.

The bh comes first. Then the e. But the pedant did not know that e is by its nature followed by a broad consonant. Hence he put a between it and the broad n. Then he had bhean. Then he saw that a broad consonant should come between the n and the í, so he wrote . Then he had bheanuí. Then he felt that a gh must come next to the í. Then he had bheanuigh. Now he saw the slender í before the gh. Of course he felt bound to observe the Rule so eh put an e after the gh. The he had bheanuighe. Then he saw that the d of dar should have a broad consonant before it because it had a broad vowel after it, so he wrote bheanuighead. Then he put on his ar and he had bheanuigheadar!

[Incomplete.]

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About dj1969

at the conservative end of the libertarian spectrum
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