Monday, July 5, 2021

My Latest Article in the Burkean

In my latest article in The Burkean, I make the suggestion (only partly tongue-in-cheek) that, as well as trying to revive the Irish language, the Irish should also start cultivating an Irish-English creole for use in everyday life.

I was pleased that the article got a lot of comments. Some of those commenting assumed I was proposing an Irish-English creole to replace the Irish language. It's my own fault that I gave this impression, I suppose, but that's not what I meant.

The survival of the Irish language seems assured for the foreseeable future, which is wonderful. But it remains spoken by a tiny minority who are almost invisible (or, more to the point, inaudible) in daily life. You are far, far more likely to hear Portugese or Polish spoken in an Irish street than you are to hear Gaelic. (I'm not complaining about the people speaking their own natives tongues, please note.)

All my life I've been preoccupied with daily life, with the ordinary. I'm not interested in cliques or minorities. Just as I have no enthusiasm for poetry as the preserve of a clique, I have no interest in Irishness which is restricted to certain social circles or coastal villages or anything like that. The only thing I find meaningful is whatever penetrates the suburbs and supermarkets where most of us live out our lives. I'm not saying I'm right or wrong about that, but it's just the way I am. Nor am I dismissing that small minority of Irish people who do speak their native tongue on a daily basis-- I think they are national treasures.

I've also become frustrated with all-or-nothing thinking. I believe schemes of social or cultural reform should concentrate more on piecemeal, attainable goals. Whatever you think of feminism (and I'm no fan of it, in most of its manifestations), it certainly achieved wonders through this gradualist approach.

It's become obvious right now that there is not going to be a widespread revival of spoken Irish any time soon. Learning and speaking Irish is very daunting. Seasoning our English with more Irish words might, I thought, be a less daunting prospect, one that was more accessible to the multitude. Just a suggestion.


  1. The book (I think) I've referred to in an earlier comment had a chapter on inner-Dublin cant and slang stretching back to the close of the 18th century,as indecipherable as the theives' cant used in some translations of Les Miserables.
    "If Zozimus (the balladeer) was alive today he'd have to employ an interpreter. No one would understand him and his Newgate Cant. If he said 'he was sweating his duds to ris it' his interpreter would have to explain that Zozimus was going to pawn his clothes to raise a few shillings. The old Newgate slang had a beauty of it's own and can be found in the ballads LUKE CAFFREY'S GHOST, DE NIGHT BEFORE LARRY WAS STRETCHED,etc"
    Australia Post has just started a campaign to include indigenous languages when addressing things. Not sure how exactly it's meant to work,but maybe it'll serve as encouragement to other places.

    1. It's extraordinary how quickly slang dates. I can remember how people in my school started using slang from Roddy Doyle's Barrytown films when they became popular. I'm told the slang existed previously, and I believe it, but I'd never heard it used before. "Gargle" for alcohol, for instance.

  2. The Irish language will be revived along with the High Kingship.
    Support the O'hEalaithe claim
    James Healy