Irish Language Blog

Ag Caint faoin Euro (Speaking of the Euro) (pt. 2) Posted by on Dec 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

We recently went through the ways to count words like “euro,” “úll,” and “uair.”  I included the last two since they illustrate additional features of Irish that don’t show up with the word “euro,” like lenition (séimhiú), eclipsis (urú), and h-prefixation. 

Another currency that might often be discussed (and counted) in Irish is the “punt.”  This could apply today to “an punt steirling,” or prior to the adoption of the euro in Ireland, to the “punt” as Ireland’s unit of currency.  The Irish punt (punt Éireannach) was decimalized in 1969/1971 and that system lasted until as long as the punt system did (1999/2002).  Prior to deachúlú, the Irish punt was divided into 240 pence and used terms like “scilling” and “coróin” for the larger coins.  If we pursue all that, it will definitely be in a later blog, although it is a fascinating topic! 

In the “córas deachúlach,” the Irish punt was divided into 100 pence (pingin).  The word “pingin” was considered one of the special unit-of-measurement nouns, at least by many speakers, and so it was counted slightly differently from “punt” itself, in terms of initial changes.

Conveniently, for showing contrast, both words start with the letter “p,” which can take both séimhiú and urú.  Let’s count, starting with “punt,” because it follows the standard rules, just like counting boxes or tables.  Note that there is no lenition with “one,” because that number comes after the noun.  Then there’s lenition for 2 through 6.

punt amháin, dhá phunt, trí phunt, ceithre phunt, cúig phunt, sé phunt

(the “ph” is pronounced like “f”)

And now for pence, according to the “units-of-measurement” rule:

pingin amháin (no change)

dhá phingin (lenition)

trí pingine, ceithre pingine, cúig pingine, sé pingine (no lenition but added ending –e)

And now 7 through 10 for both “punt” and “pingin”:

seacht bpunt, ocht bpunt, naoi bpunt, deich bpunt (eclipsis, no change to ending)

seacht bpingine, ocht bpingine, naoi bpingine, deich bpingine (eclipsis plus change to ending)

Remember that “pingin” can be pronounced either with the “soft ng” sound, like “singing” (but not “finger”) OR the “–ng-“ sound can drop out, leaving you with a long vowel sound, “ee,” in the middle of the word.  So the basic word could be “PING-in” or “peen.”  Also “pingine” was sometimes spelled “pingne,” just to add to the mix. 

Not everybody uses this special units-of-measurement rule, and especially in the North, I’ve heard “pingin” treated as a regular noun, like “punt,” or “bosca.”  Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve actually heard anyone          talking about “pingneacha” at all, since the euro came in. 

One other note about the “units-of-measurement” rule – not all possible units of measurement are included.  The word for “week” is (so seachtain, trí seachtainí, no lenition) but the word for “month” is not (mí, trí mhí, with lenition).  More on that later, má tá suim agaibh ann

Agus an dea-scéal? And surely you deserve one after all this!  Once you have multiples of ten (i.e. 20 and above, but not 10 itself), there is no lenition, no eclipsis, no prefixing, and no special endings!  So we could have:

fiche punt, tríocha pingin, daichead úll, caoga uair, seasca euro (no change for euro anyway, of course, but it’s in the list just for good measure), srl.

Of course, it would be nice, if we were counting our own euro(s) or pounds, to be counting in much larger numbers, like míle or milliún or even, thinking even more wishfully, billiún (hmm, gilliún?), trilliún or cuaidrilliún.  But all in good time.  Can’t say I know of any Irish words that equate to the uimhreacha bréige that exist in English, for really large indefinite amounts, but it wouldn’t be hard to create them (*geasuilliún, *scuailliún, *feantuilliún, mar shampla), or, my favorite would be “*ump déag,” but if it’s real money we’re talking about, I’d prefer to have more than “*ump euro déag.”  Guess why I chose “euro” there?  No lenition, no eclipsis, and no precedent for which mutations “*ump” might cause, if it really were an Irish word. 

Nóta: I’ve put two dates (with a slash) for the transitions to decimalization and to the euro because there are differences between the agreement to change and the implementation.  The general range of time is good enough for our purposes since we’re primarily concerned with whether to lenite or eclipse here, not the details of the history of coinage.  But I want to give people a rough idea of what time periods are involved, since many readers may have never seen pre-decimal currency in Ireland or in Britain or, if they’re relative newcomers to Irish, may not have seen the pence-pounds system since the euro is used in today’s Irish language textbooks. 

Fuaimniú: punt:  This is not pronounced like “punt” in American football or in boating, but more like the English “put.” These are all short “u” sounds but if you contrast “put” with the golfing term “putt,” which is like the football/boating punt, you should hear the difference.  “Punt” is actually also used for the currency of the following countries: An Éigipt, An Liobáin, an tSiria, an tSúdáin.  But I can’t say I’ve ever actually had occasion to use the phrases punt na hÉigipte, punt na Liobáine, punt na Siria, and punt na Súdáine in real life.  Tusa?

Gluais: bréag, lie, falsehood; bréige, fake, fictitious, lit. of a falsehood; dea-scéal, piece of good news; *ump déag, looks like I’ll have to accept the responsibility for this coinage for “umpteen” since I don’t see any other examples of it online and don’t recall ever hearing it.  If you actually use “ump déag” to count something (indefinitely), remember that since the number is in the teens, the item counted comes between the “ump” and the “déag” (ump rud déag, umpteen things), just like it would for a real number in the teens, like “aon rud déag” (11 things).

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