27 December 2017

Irish word of the day

the loneliness felt at cock-crow
(pronunciation here)

I cannot speak a word of Irish, which is the official language of Ireland, in use - so to speak - at least for the last 2,500 years, outlawed by the British in the 19th century, an act that eventually, during the fight for independence in the 20th century, lead to the modern era Celtic Revival including a sudden deep interest in the Irish language. So, thank you Britain.

All I know is trivia, that there are no Irish words for yes or no, but at least three for woman. Also, three different sets of numbers, one for humans, one for non-humans and one for the maths.

My Irish family can speak Irish, some better than others, some mumble along if need be. Most of them have complicated Irish names like Caoilfhoinn, Rionagh, Eavan, Aoife, Oisin, Tadgh - and these do not even include what my man's R stands for or our daughter's S, but both are equally mysterious.
My Irish family has a great time listening to non-Irish speakers trying to pronounce their names. They all hated  - more or less - having to learn Irish at school and university where it was compulsory. R had to sit his Irish exam twice before he was allowed to teach science.
My Irish family couldn't give a damn whether anybody speaks Irish or not as long as they speak up and share what's bothering them.

As for cock-crow, this is the time in very early morning when it begins to get light.  Just in case.

Whereas loneliness is up for individual definition.
But when you bung it all together, cock-crow, loneliness, early morning, a distant single bird waking up with a chirp, your lack of sleep, the human silence everywhere, that big knot of fear in your stomach, an inconspicuous little box of dreadful drugs on the bedside table, there's that one word for it in Irish. Just in case.

Ancient Irish traditional tune in support of my post:


  1. I love this word, love that the Irish have a word for it. Love that is obviously an old word too, which means that people have been feeling loneliness for centuries, which means I'm not alone in feeling lonely.

    My granny was Irish, born in County Cork. Sadly I only ever met her twice in my life. Apparently she had a wonderful sense of humor which makes sense, my mum did as well.

    And because you posted larmhaireacht, I looked it up and found another useful word to add to my vocabulary. Thank you.

    This verb doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English; it means to smear something (or someone) with excrement.

  2. I know the feeling of that word so well, the moment i open my eyes each morning, before i can properly brace myself for the day. it is the moment when i miss everyone who isn't here, and everything i have lost, or never had. how can one miss what one never had? ancient memories inform that word. it is a good one to know, just in case.

  3. Well. A language that has a word for what I've been calling "existential angst" for forever because I had no other word for it.
    Thank you.

  4. English falls so short of words that really convey proper sentiments.
    I think we should start looking up words in different languages that do a better job and begin inserting them until they become common. That's what people around the world do with English...although I don't know why.

    I just finished watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix. I loved it. An overly dramatic period peace about the troubles in Ireland just before they became the "troubles". And the star, Cillian Murphy, be still my heart!

  5. Love he music - better than any drug!

  6. and they say English is hard to learn. I listened to that pronunciation 3 times. at least half those letters weren't necessary. and I did not know that Here Comes The Sun, one of my favorite songs by the Beatles, was an Irish tune. I used to sing it to my grandkids when I would go over to visit. Their dad at the time was a night worker/day sleeper and he would keep all the curtains drawn in all the rooms. I'd go in the kids room to play and the first thing I would do would be to open the curtains and sing that song.

  7. I didn't know anything about the history of the Irish language, but I had noticed over the years Irish words that seemed unpronounceable to me. I love the cock-crow time of the day. That first hint of light always draws me from my bed to run to the window to watch our earth move slowly toward it.

  8. I never thought of cock-crow as a lonely time -- but of course, circumstances could change that! I know virtually nothing about the Irish language. We have a couple of kids at school with Irish names, and it seems to me that there's no resemblance between the spelling and the pronunciation.

  9. I had Irish every day at school from age 4 to age 18 and I never learned that word but I know the feeling well. I'm reading a book about all the linguists from England and the continent whio came to the Blasket Islands in the early 1900's to study Irish and the islanders because they supposedly spoke a purer form being cut off from the mainland. The book's a bit of a slog but I'm persevering because it's bringing all sorts of Irish words up from the dark caves of my mmemory and I'm loving that.
    Note to Liv - We've been watching P.B. too. They may be Irish tinkers but it happens in Birmingham, UK.

    1. I know so many people who took a dislike to Irish because of their experience in school - and having to read Peig Sayer's book.

      You may like to watch this fairly lighthearted Irish TV series about a slightly overdedicated young guy attempting to travel around Ireland only speaking Irish: https://youtu.be/eyll-bBZzyk

      And more in detail, a documentary from the 1980s about the Blaskets. I am only mentioning it because the film maker was at the time a member of my Irish family (since divorced): https://youtu.be/DM166JoI-Us

    2. Thanks for those links Sabine. I'll check them out. Hope you're having a good start to 2018!