When I was growing up in Ireland my mother and grandmother spoke a form of English, peppered with Irish words. It wasn’t until I moved to America that I came to realize how many expressions escape my lips that are nowhere to be found in the Oxford English dictionary.
When polishing furniture I was always told to put a “snas” on it rather than a shine. We’d pass the “bainne” around the table, not the milk. When telling of old wives tales we’d refer to “piseoige” rather than superstitions, and to this day I find it very hard to think of the word superstition.
I learned to speak Irish during my 13 years of schooling in Ireland. My mother completed her education through Irish, and many of the bedtime stories she read to us when we were children were in Irish.
When I left Ireland over 20 years ago, I was pretty much fluent in the language. Alack and alas, I have not used it much since and my vocabulary is disappearing pretty fast.
The only time I used Irish in the past few years was after my triplets were born. One of my little boys had terrible colic, and the only thing that settled him was a bout of swinging and singing in Mommy’s arms. Now I am no singer, but when I lilted old Irish tunes he always seemed to settle. I laughed when I read the following quote. I agree wholeheartedly.
“There is no language like the Irish for soothing and quieting.”
- John Millington Synge
It saddens me when I realize my children have little knowledge of the language of their forefathers, a beautifully expressive tongue. I remember learning of Pádraig Pearse’s belief that our language is the soul of our country.
“Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam.”
“A country without a language is a country without a soul.”
I would love to revive my own mastery of the Irish language, and start introducing my children to some words. Since starting my blog I have learned there are some incredible resources for learning Irish on the internet.
Do you find certain Irish phrases / slang have stuck with you?
Let us know below.
* Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.