Remember when “tweets” and “twittering” mostly referred to birds, especially the “spideog” or the “smólach imirce“? Or perhaps the sound of “caint eachtrannach” (the speech of aliens) as in H. G. Wells’ insect-like Selenites? You might recall that they made “a slight elusive twittering” as observed by Messrs. Bedford and Cavor (The First Men in the Moon, 1901).
But today those usages are almost entirely superseded by “Tweet” and “Twitter” as aspects of social media, starting in 2006. So what’s the Irish for them?
Well, if we jump back to éin, eachtrannaigh, and the like, the words for a “tweet” included “giolcadh” [GyUL-kuh] and the onomatopoeic “bíc” [beek] and “gíog” [gyeeg]. All of these could also mean a “chirp.” There were (and still are) at least three choices for “to tweet”:
1) giolcadh (same as above but just a different part of speech)
2) bíc a ligean, lit. to let or release a tweet or chirp
3) gíog a ligean, lit. to let or release a tweet or chirp
The new word of choice, though, the one that specifically refers to social media, is “tvuít” (pl: tvuíteanna) for the noun and “tvuíteáil” for the verb, as in:
Tá mé ag tvuíteáil tvuíte anois (I am tweeting a tweet now, lit. “I am at the tweeting of a tweet,” since we need the “of a” form, “tvuíte” after “tvuíteáil”
Tvuíteálaim gach lá, I tweet every day.
Ní bhím ag tvuíteáil go minic, I don’t tweet often (lit. I don’t be tweeting often).
As for “my tweet,” “your tweet,” etc., there’s not much conclusive evidence on whatever the new usage will be. Séimhiú nó gan séimhiú? It would either be “mo thvuít” (do thvuít, a thvuít, etc.) or the séimhiú might be dropped, given that “tv” is already an unorthodox consonant cluster in Irish.
As for “twitterer,” in Irish that would traditionally have been “giolcaire,” not surprising given “giolcadh” and “giolcaireacht” above. But today, the social media term is either “tvuíteálaí” [TVEETCH-awl-ee] or “tuíteálaí” [TWEETCH-awl-ee OR TEETCH-awl-ee] formed much like many other occupational terms, with the “-(e)álaí” suffix.
Oh dear, does that mean that tweeting has actually become an occupation? Well, not really, I suppose. The ending “-(e)álaí” shows up a lot in Irish, both for occupations and simply to specify types of people, machines, or devices (tógálaí, a builder; ardscórálaí, a top scorer; dornálaí, a boxer; suiteálaí, an installer; tatuálaí, a tattooist; útamálaí, a mullocker; comhphróiseálaí, a coprocessor).
“T(v)uíteálaí” is also used for a “tweeter,” and here are its other forms, using the “tv-” consonant cluster, since that seems more consistent to me:
an tvuíteálaí, the twitterer, the tweeter; this also means “of the twitterer” and “of the tweeter”
tvuít an tvuíteálaí, the twitterer’s tweet, or the tweeter’s tweet
na tvuíteálaithe, the twitterers, the tweeters
na dtvuíteálaithe [nuh DVEETCH-awl-ih-huh], of the twitterers, of the tweeters (and yes, that’s a rare occurrence of the “dtv” cluster–mh’anam!–assuming urú still applies)
tvuíteanna na dtvuíteálaithe, the tweets of the twitterers, the tweets of the tweeters
Now all we need to do is figure out how to say that somebody was in a “twitter-beef” with someone else. Hmm, “beef,” literally, is “mairteoil,” but, unlike the English word, “mairteoil” really does just refer to meat. For the sense of “complaint” or “grumble,” we’d have to turn to words like “gearán,” “casaoid,” or “cnáimhseáil.” I’ll go with “cnáimhseáil,” since it at least conjures up the image of a small “cnámh” (bone). So, how about, “Tá sé i gcnáimhseáil tvuíteála leo” (lit. He is in a complaint of twittering with them)? Or “Tá sé ag tvuít-chnáimhseáil leo” (lit. He is tweet-complaining to/with them)?
Hmm, does that mean we could have a “twitter-beef-bone” to pick with someone? Bhur mbarúlacha? Ná habair nach teanga bheo í an Ghaeilge! SGF, Róislín
Nótaí: “Spideog” is the Old World robin while “smólach imirce” is the New World robin (lit. thrush of migration). “Eachtrannach” can mean either “an alien” or “of aliens,” the extra-terrestrial type, that is. “Seiléinít” is the Irish for “selenite,” the mineral, but so far I haven’t found any related Irish words for the inhabitants of the moon. Perhaps, like Wells, one might use the same word for the moon creatures (seiléinít, pl: seiléinítí) or one might add an ending “seiléiníteach” (pl. seiléinítigh). Either way, it’s named for “Selene,” the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology. Maybe I should just tweet her and find out her preferred usage. After all, if she is the “Gealach” (“moon” in Irish), she should be adept at matters “Gaelach“!