If ‘straoiseog’ is ’emoticon,’ then what’s the Irish for ’emoji’?

Posted on 14. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Well, the short answer to the title question (“What’s the Irish for ’emoji’?), is pretty straightforward–there doesn’t seem to be an Irish word for “emoji.”  Nothing surprising there, since many languages seem to have absorbed the Japanese word ’emoji’ as one of their own.  Irish, on the other hand, has come up with a unique word for “emoticon,” which is “straoiseog,” based on ‘straois” (a grin, a grimace –interesting that they can be the same word, ach sin ábhar blag eile).  “Emoji,” however, seems to remain “emoji.”

But there are still some questions about using the word “emoji” in Irish, much like there were questions about adopting the word “euro” in the late 1990s.  In Irish, there’s always the question of gender (including of borrowed words), how to use the definite article with the new word, and how to make it plural.  So far, I haven’t found the word “emoji” in any Irish dictionary, so there are no official dictionary guidelines regarding its usage, fad m’eolais.

In this blog, we’ll look at using the word “emoji” in an Irish language context, after briefly checking out its Japanese background.

One of the most curiously coincidental aspects of this investigation is that, in English, both “emoticon” and “emoji” appear to start with the same core element–“emo.”  <sound of mental brakes screeching to a halt>.  But wait … it’s not really like that!   The “e-m-o-” of “emoticon” does come from the English word “emotion” but the “e-m-o” of “emoji” is a result of how the two Japanese words combine (e, picture + moji, letter/character).   If anyone reading this blog is also a cainteoir Seapáinise and can add any further depth to these translations, that would always be welcome.   Now my guess is that Japanese would probably offer various ways to combine “picture” and “letter,” and that this particular combination was selected because of the way it would parallel “emoticon.”  But technically, while both “emoticon” and “emoji” are “portmanteau” words, the elements from which they are made are quite different.

So now, let’s look a little closer at the word “emoji” as we might use it in an Irish sentence, with gender (apparently none), definite article use, and plural being our main concerns.  Generally, it’s the lack of specifics which is of interest here.

1) gender: like other borrowed words, notably “euro,” the word “emoji” appears to have no gender in Irish.   If it makes its way into a dictionary, it will probably be labeled “s” (for “substantive”), not “m” or “f” (for the standard masculine or feminine).

2) saying “the emoji” as opposed to “an emoji”:  With no indication of gender for this word, using the definite article with it will follow the path of least resistance: “an emoji” (the emoji).  For anyone really new to Irish, remember that “an” means “the” and that there is no specific way to say “an apple” or “an orange” or “an emoji.”  Those are just “úll,” “oráiste,” and “emoji.”

It’s easy enough to get used to saying “an emoji” for “the emoji” in Irish, but it is a little unusual when we’re used to thinking if it’s masculine, it’s “an t-emoji” and if it’s feminine, it’s “an emoji.”  In Irish, you can usually reverse-engineer a phrase with “the + noun” and determine the gender of the noun.  And remember, especially those of you who are native English speakers, almost all nouns in Irish have gender, regardless of any biological relevance (a quick sampler: “bord” and “amhras” are masculine while “síleáil” and “Gaeltacht” are feminine).  English is fairly unique among European languages in having abandoned grammatical gender.

I also find it a little strange to have “an,” which looks like an English word, and “emoji,” which is the same in English, right next to each other.  I sort of have to keep reminding myself that “an emoji,” in an Irish context, is “the emoji,” not “an emoji.”

It may be an increasing trend for borrowed words in Irish to be genderless, but it’s at least worth noting that some relatively recent additions to Irish vocabulary have been gaelicized and do have gender, such as “móideim” (masculine) and “teilifís” (feminine)

At any rate, it seems, so far, that we have:

emoji, an emoji

an emoji, the emoji

3) Finally, for the plural, I have found exactly no guidelines on the Web.  To me, “emojithe” seems quite reasonable and natural, based on Irish words that normally end in “-í” (rúnaí, pl: rúnaithe; tógálaí, pl: tógálaithe).

Often, in English, the word “emoji” is considered to have no separate plural form, like the native English words “sheep” and “deer.”  In that case we could just say, “An bhfaca tú na emoji sin?” (Did you see those emoji?)

Another alternative would be to give the word the English “-s” ending for plural (emojis), as is sometimes done in Irish.  “Leoraí,” for example, borrowed from the English “lorry,” has two possible plurals, the more official one based on Irish grammatical structures “leoraithe,” and the other, a dialect form, “leoraís,” pronounced, a little unusually with a broad “s” (as in “hiss”) although the spelling would suggest a slender pronunciation (as in “fish”).

As for what to do with a plural form plus the definite article (the emojis), again, I get no results online.  Normally if an Irish plural noun begins with a vowel, we prefix an “h” in front of it (na húlla, na horáistí), but I find no precedent, one way or another for “emoji.”  A similar question exists for “euro,” as used in Irish, and for which I have seen both “le euronna” and “le heuronna” (for paying by euro) in reasonably official-type documents.  In the case of “le heuronna” the “h-” prefixing is because of the preposition “le” (with), not because of the definite article (“na“), but the same basic issue applies.

So that leaves us with a variety of possibilities:

emoji, plural of emoji

emojithe, plural of emoji (my suggestion, at any rate)


na emoji , the emoji

na emojithe, the emojis


na hemoji, the emoji

na hemojithe, the emojis

Related to the idea of plural is counting emojis.  How to say “seven emojis,” for example:

a) follow the traditional rule for nouns beginning with a vowel, and prefix an “n-” (seacht n-emoji), like “seacht n-úll” or “seacht n-uaire“)

b) drop the rule, as is usually done with the word “euro,” giving us “seacht emoji” and “seacht euro.”

It’s all a fairly recent topic, since the emoji concept itself is fairly new, even in Japan (late 1990s) and later outside of Japan.  So, on the one hand, it makes for a fun, novel topic to write about.  On the other hand, as you can see, there aren’t really many answers, or even examples of usage, out there for Irish.  If you’ve seen any examples online or on your phone that point to gender or number aspects of this word, it would be great if you could write in and let us know how people are using the word “emoji” in an Irish context, based on your observations.

Tá an bhlagiontráil fada go leor anois agus mar sin, beidh orainn fanacht go dtí an chéad iontráil eile le rud éigin faoi “straoiseog” (emoticon) a scríobh.  Go dtí sin – Róislín

For a little further reading on “emoji” as a word, in English, you might want to check out:

http://observer.com/2014/11/what-is-the-plural-of-emoji/, by Mathew Kassel (21 November 2014).  Usage in English varies, with both “emoji” (no plural marker) and “emojis” currently in use.  Kassel points out that the AP style guide specifies “emojis” as the plural, although beyond that, usage varies.  Kassel also quotes Mark Allen, a board member of the American Copy Editors Society as saying that “emojis is the better English plural.”  Allen further comments, on linguistic purism, that ‘Purists will insist on ‘I found some great emoji’ rather than ‘I found some great emojis.’  They might also visit several baseball stadia, driving there in their Prii.”

The issue of skin-tone in the emojis has been prominent, although a little off topic for us here.  You might want to read about it at: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/02/finally-emoji-people-of-color/385843/, by Robinson Meyer (23 February 2015)

So how does ‘#’ mean ‘sweetheart’ in Irish texting?

Posted on 10. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

So how does ‘#’ mean ‘sweetheart’ in Irish texting?  Well, it all depends on what you call the ‘#’ sign.  And that may depend on where you live.

In the U.S., it’s usually called the “pound sign” and the corresponding symbol on a telephone keypad is called the “pound key.”  For certain touch-tone applications, the instructions would include, “press the pound key.”  All well and good, but that doesn’t have anything to do with “sweetheart.”

In Europe, especially the UK, where the currency is in pounds, the “pound sign” is a completely different symbol and it has a different meaning.  The symbol is ‘£’, from Latin ‘libra,’ and it’s used for saying how much something costs.  The Irish for this “pound sign” is, quite straightforwardly, “comhartha puint,” from “comhartha” [KOHR-huh, silent t], sign, and “puint” [pwinch], the genitive case of “punt,” pound.

So we need to look at another name for the symbol ‘#.’  And it’s readily available.  The Irish name for this symbol is “haischlib” [hash-hlib], based on the words “hais” [“hash” as in “hash-key”] and “clib,” as in a “shoe-lace tag” or some other small tag.  For the pronunciation of “hais,” like the English word “hash” or “cash,” remember, this is the slender “s,” not the broad “s” of Irish “sórt” or “sona.”  The “ai” is an “æ” sound, as in English “cat” or “bat,” not like the English “ai” we see in “rain” or “tain” (the English word “tain,” that is, not the Irish word “táin“).

As for “clib,” prior to its extended usage in computer terminology, it was primarily limited to some specific arenas like shoe-lace tags, ear tags for animals, and fin clips in fishing.  There are at least six other words for “tag” in Irish, but discussing all of them would be too much for this blog post.  If you’re interested, they are: giobal, liobar, cluaisín, nath, mana, and luinneog, at least for starters, and that’s not counting the “tag” of “rag-tag and bob-tail,” which seems to be lumped together into one word, “an gráscar.”  In the compound word “haischlib,” the “clib” part is lenited, becoming “chlib.”  The “c” is no longer pronounced.  It’s silent, and the remaining initial sound, admittedly not typical of English, is “hl.”  I suppose the pronunciation of the initial “hl” could be compared to that of the Old Norse protectress goddess, Hlín, but I’d like to hear an Old Norse speaker to be sure.  That’s “cainteoir Sean-Lochlainnise,” not “seanchainteoir Lochlainnise”  — nice how the Irish is more specific).  Anyway, the “hl” sound is basically saying “huh” and “luh” at the same time.  Good hluck with it!

The question still remains, what does the “hash-key” have to do with “sweethearts” or other terms of affection?  Now, we need to look a similar-sounding word in Irish, “thaisce” [HASH-kyuh] or, as some say, “thaiscidh” [HASH-kee, the d is silent].  This is the direct-address form of the word “taisce” [TASH-kyuh], which has several meanings in the physical sense (treasure, deposit, hoard) or, in the more abstract sense, “sweetheart.” In direct address, that is, if you want to say, “I love you, sweetheart,” the “t” becomes “th” and the “t” is silent.  To address your sweetheart, you start out with “a,” the vocative particle, as you would with any other name or term of endearment or disparagement (a Sheáin, a Cháit, a ghrá, a cheann cipín).

So some  choices for “I love you, sweetheart,” are “Mo ghrá thú, a thaisce” or “Tá mé i ngrá leat, a thaisce.”

And that brings us full circle, since saying “a thaisce” sounds a lot like saying “hash-key.”  So we can simply type “#” and save ourselves eight characters.

But, hmm, what if you want to hash-tag “sweetheart” as a topic of discussion?  I guess it would be: ##.  Or, for that matter, to hash-tag the term “hash-tag.”  But perhaps we’ll look further into that i mblagiontráil eile.

I first became aware of the coincidence of these sounds around five years ago, but I’m wondering if any readers know of its use any earlier.  Or whether one specific person is known to have used it first. Eolas ar bith ag duine ar bith agaibh?  SGF — Róislín


When is ‘hanging’ not based on ‘croch’ in Irish

Posted on 05. May, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

'crochta' nó 'ar crochadh' nó 'léibheannach' i nGaeilge?  Agus cá bhfuil siad? Na freagraí?  Léigh leat!  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon.jpg, fearann poiblí)

‘crochta’ nó ‘ar crochadh’ nó ‘léibheannach’ i nGaeilge? Agus cá bhfuil siad? Na freagraí? Léigh leat! http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon.jpg, fearann poiblí)

Well, the flip side of our title would be, “When the word ‘crochis used to indicate hanging in Irish.”  So this blog will deal with a little of both, some typical phrases with “crochta” or “ar crochadh,” and some phrases that use “hanging” in English but completely different words in Irish.  And, just as a little spoiler, we’ll end up taking a brief linguistic trip back in time to “An Bhablóin.”

Remember, the basic meanings of the verb “croch” [say “krokh”] include:

hang, hoist, raise up, lift, carry, throw down (in cards), clear off, dangle, droop, and crucify (when used with “ar chrois“)

With “crochta” [KROKH-tuh] we have:

babhla crochta, [BOW-luh, with the “-ow” like “cow” or “now” …] a hanging bowl

droichead crochta, a suspension bridge

geata crochta, a portcullis, lit. a “hanging gate”

inneall crochta, an outboard engine

oighearshruth crochta [OY-ur-hruh, with the “g,” s,” and “t” silent], a hanging glacier

planda crochta, a pendant plant

taca crochta, a flying buttress (not that the buttress really flies, of course–rather, I guess, we’d say, it hangs)

urlár crochta, a raised (“hung”) floor

And with feminine singular nouns, the form  is “chrochta” [KHROKH-tuh] as in:

caint chrochta, affected speech

mala chrochta, a steep incline, and yes, “mala” also does mean “eyebrow,” but presumably context clarifies the distinction!  And this is definitely not the word “mála,” which means “bag,” and which most people probably learn before learning “incline” or “eyebrow.”

fána chrochta, a steep decline or downward slope

Other items are typically described as “ar crochadh” [erzh KROKH-uh] as in

bláthchiseán ar crochadh [BLAW-HyISH-awn …], a hanging flower-basket (from “bláth,” flower + “ciseán,” basket; when combined the initial “c” is lenited and so is not pronounced).

ceithearnach ar crochadh [KyE-hirzh-nukh], a hanging pawn, in chess (a “ceithearnach” being a “kern” or “foot-soldier”)

And when is “hanging” in English not “hanging” in Irish?  Here are a couple of examples:

slapar, a hanging branch, also a loose garment or fold of skin, a cow’s dewlap, or, in horticulture, a slip (a small cutting of a plant, as used for ‘beangú,’ grafting)

taipéis bhalla [TAP-aysh WAHL-uh], a hanging tapestry or wall-hanging, lit. a wall tapestry

And, as promised, touching down in ancient Babylon,

Gairdíní Léibheann na Bablóine, lit. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, lit. the Gardens (of) Terraces (of) the Babylon, using “léibheann,” a level space, terrace, or platform, as seen in “saothrú léibheannach” (agriculture on terraces), although a “terrace house” is usually “teach sraithe,” using “sraith” (series, ply, row, tier, etc.), not “léibheann.”  As I understand it, “terraced” is a better description of those gairdíní Bablónacha, anyway–they weren’t really “hanging” as such.

The term “terraced house” isn’t usually used in the US (not sure about Canada– a Cheanadacha?) but the closest equivalent would be the “rowhouse,” also a “teach sraithe” in Irish.  But the term “terraced housing” emphasizes the presence of small gardens in the front of the house whereas a typical row house will open right onto the street.

I’ve sometimes wondered, when the Herman’s Hermits’ song, “No Milk Today,” was popular in the US, whether the young American aficionados of the song really understood the reference to terracing in the line,

“But all that’s left is a place dark and lonely
A terraced house in a mean street back of town
Becomes a shrine when I think of you only
Just two up two down.”

Anyway, back to “hang” itself.   As for the colloquialism, “hanged if I know,” most equivalent phrases in Irish don’t reference “hanging” at all.  Some equivalents are “Níl barúil agamsa” (I haven’t got an idea), and a little more dramatically, “Dheamhan a fhios agamsa”  or “Diabhal a fhios agamsa.”

Well, hang it all (mo dhiomú air!), it’s about time to wrap up this blog.  Hope you found it helpful.  – SGF – Róislín