In my time with Suas I’ve made hundreds of phone calls, received hundreds of phone calls, and sent even more emails. This is all fine and easy until you throw in traditional Irish names. In the official written standard, Irish language is the Gaeilge language, creating names that are beautiful and pleasing to the ear, but impossible to read without their phonetic spelling or a handy Irish friend sitting nearby. Lately, I’ve been making even more phone calls than usual, so my cohorts at work have been suffering the constant interruption for a name pronunciation. Luckily for me, they don’t find it annoying…I don’t think.
I believe the Irish language is taught in all the Irish schools, and it is a good thing too, because it is a beautiful language. The language began to decline under British rule, but luckily never died out completely. I enjoy overhearing the occasional conversation in Gaeilge; it seems like a special bond the Irish share. On the LUAS, each stop is announced in both English and Gaeilge and you will find both English and Irish languages posted on all of the street signs. There are some words and phrases I’ve become accustomed to saying, like “sláinte,” a drinking toast literally meaning “health” or in our standard, “cheers.”
I’m going to give you the breakdown of some of the Irish names I’ve come across the past week while making phone calls. You’ll find that when you look at the name, you’ll think of a pronunciation that inevitably sounds nothing like how it’s actually spoken. I’m providing you with my own phonetic spelling, so here goes:
- Aoife – a girl’s name – pronounced EE-fa. This is the name I’ve become the most familiar with and I don’t hesitate any longer when I see it.
- Aisling – a girl’s name – pronounced Ash-ling. Yep, you didn’t see that one coming.
- Cian – a boy’s name – pronounced KEE-in. For some reason I first though “Sean” when I saw it, but I was way off.
- Siobhán – a girl’s name – pronounced Shuh-VAHN. The “bh” spelling in Irish names makes the “v” sound. Keep that in mind as we keep going.
- Sinéad – a girl’s name – pronounced Shi-naid. This is a highly popular name thanks in part to the singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor.
- Éadaoin – a girl’s name – pronounced eh-DEEN. So beautiful.
- Clíodhna – a girl’s name – pronounced CLEE-na. Such complicated spelling for such a simple name.
- Ailbhe – a girl’s name – pronounced Al-va. See, I told you to remember that “bh” sound.
- Óisín – a boy’s name – pronounced oh-shEEN. Similarly, the girl’s name Roisin is pronounced ro-SHEEN.
- Caoimhe – a girl’s name – pronounced KEE-va. Again, similarly, Ciara is pronounced Kee-ra.
I could go on and on with other names I’ve seen and heard, but I think you get the drift. I’ve definitely mis-pronounced a couple of these to my recipient on the other end of the phone line (Ciara, to be exact), but they’ve kindly let it pass. I think my American accent tips them off. 🙂 Hopefully, you’ve learned something, and someday when you take a trip to Ireland, you’ll be prepared to remember the names of all the friends you make!