Irish Language Blog

Bás Michael Jackson (1958-2009) Posted by on Jul 13, 2009 in Irish Language

Bhuel, tar éis a bheith ag smaoineamh faoi, after pondering the matter, I figured I may as well join the sluaite (hordes) ag scríobh faoi Michael Jackson. 


First stop, as usual, what else has been written about his death, as Gaeilge?  Can’t say I found mórán (much).  A cuardach Google limited to “Bás Michael Jackson” brought up 99 results, only one of which turned out to be in Irish.  How’d that happen?  An iomarca teangacha a bhfuil “bas” (gan síneadh fada) mar fhocal acu, go mór mór, an Fhraincis (see gluaisín thíos, for vocab help). 


Next stop, minus the word “bas,” to eliminate the French and other languages.  That brought me back to the móriomlán (grand total) of one result for “Bás Michael Jackson” as such.  Searching in the Irish version of Google didn’t seem to make any difference. 


Cúpla straitéis eile, a couple other strategies.  How about using the “gaelú” (gaelicization) of Jackson’s name?  But first, an explanation — names of celebrities and international figures are not usually gaelicized unless their bearer shows some precedent for doing so.  That’s generally true, even if they have Irish or partly Irish backgrounds.  Sampla gasta, a quick example, using Google hits as an admittedly rough frame of reference: “Bill Clinton,” 23,700,000 (ní nach ionadh); “William Clinton,” 356,000; “William Jefferson Clinton,” 320,000, but for “Liam Cliontún,” the gaelú of his name, the results were exactly tada, faic, a dhath ar bith – all Irish ways of saying “nothing.”  And that’s despite his dúchas Éireannach (Irish heritage).  Of course, I’m not saying here that no one has ever used the “Liam Cliontún” version of his name, just that it doesn’t show up in a Googlable manner.  If the results had been, mar shampla, “Bill Clinton,” 5, and “Liam Cliontún, 0, then I’d say, “completely inconclusive.”  But at 23 milliún+ to náid (0), I think we can safely say there’s no formal precedent for saying “Liam Cliontún” when referring to iaruachtarán na Stát Aontaithe (the former president of the United States), even if writing in Irish. 


For good measure, I even tried “Liam Clinton,” a hybrid version of the name, since some people are more comfortable changing their “ainm baiste” (given name) for use in Irish language classes or social contexts, but are less likely to adapt their surname, even informally.  Liam Clinton” gave me about 155 hits, of which only a handful were actually about an tUachtarán, the president.  There are other Liam Clintons in the world who come up in the search, including one who was born in 2009.  And most of the presidential references were due to glitches in wording, which meant that “Wil-liam Clinton” (with word-break) would show up in my search for “Liam Clinton,” where “William Clinton” would not.  So much for that ascaill (avenue), or, to be more concise, sin sin (that’s that). 


There are some exceptions to not gaelicizing names, mar shampla, An Mháthair Treasa, possibly triggered by the expected translation of the honorific, and Criostóir Colambas.


So, now back to Mícheál Mac Siacais.  Did searching for the gaelicized version of his name bring up any abundance of commentary as Gaeilge?  Can’t say it did.  I found a móriomlán of one actual article and two brief fan commentaries. 


I also tried searching for “bás Mhíchíl (Mhícheál) Mhic Shiacais,” using the name in the genitive case (Mhic instead of Mac, etc.) figuring that anyone who cared enough about the ábhar (topic) to write about it in Irish might have gone ahead with the gaelú anyway.  Glantoradh (net result), one repeat hit.


OK, so this has gotten me through blag amháin eile without even getting up to my intended project, a capsúlbheathaisnéis* of Jackson, as Gaeilge.  So far, I’ve only gotten through whether or not it made sense to refer to him as Mícheál Mac Siacais (Mac Siac-Ó?).  So the capsúlbheathaisnéis will have to wait for blag eile, and will be forthcoming, more on the “forth-“ (sooner) side of things if I hear from readers that they are interested in the ábhar.  More on the farther side of “forthcoming” má chloisim (if I hear) tada, faic, a dhath ar bith uaibhse (from ye).   Even though my own musical taste is much more traidisiúnta, I’m happy to write about virtually any topic that is tráthúil (timely) agus i mbéal na ndaoine (being talked about).  But there are other topics looming large, tearmainn na n-asal (the donkey sanctuaries) agus an chéad scannán eile i sraith Harry Potter, mar shampla, so do let me know má tá suim agaibh!


Sin é – Róislín


*OK, OK, in the time-honored tradition of Gaeilgeoirí, especially those active before the general spread of World Wide Web and Internet usage, which brought online dictionaries and which I date to about 1994, I made up the word “capsúlbheathaisnéis.”  I find no precedent for it online.  But that is how new words get started.  Hint: beathaisnéis itself comes from beatha, life + faisnéis, information, i.e. biography.  I didn’t choose to say “beathaisnéis chapsúil,” since to me that would sound more like the life story of a capsule (say what?), from being part of sheet of plastic to being a tablet filled with medicinal powder.  Not real exciting – it would sound a bit like the booklets we used to have ar scoil (at school), like “The Story of a Coffee Bean.”  These  would cover the saolré (life-cycle) of the pónaire chaife (coffee-bean) from péacán (sprout) to cupániáva.”  Not that a pónaire chaife is really a pónaire, it’s really a síol (seed), ach sin scéal eile – Á.B.E.! 


Gluaisín [GLOO-ish-een]: an iomarca [un YUM-ark-uh], too many; a bhfuil … acu [uh wil … AHK-uh], that/which have; gan [gahn], without; go mór mór, especially; an Fhraincis [un RANK-is, silent “f”], the French language, scannán, film, movie; sraith, series (“th” is silent). 

Leideanna Fuaimnithe: faic [fwack], capsúlbheathaisnéis [KAHP-sool-VA-hash-naysh, silent “t”], uaibhse [OO-iv-sheh], beatha [BA-huh], faisnéis [FASH-naysh]. saolré [seel-ray], síol [sheel]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Keep learning Irish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Jessie:

    Hi … I’m looking for the Gaeilge of ‘daughter of’ … so our lines were originally matrilineal, so what would a woman be if she was actually Joan of Anne?

    Sinead Mhic Aine? of Sinead NahAine?

    • róislín:

      @Jessie “Nic” or “Ní” means “daughter of” in surnames (Áine Nic Liam agus Úna Ní Mhurchú, mar shampla), but neither “nic” or “ní” is used in ordinary speech for “daughter.” However your system seems to be based on first names only (the same way many surnames originated). In that case you might want to use the regular word for daughter, iníon.

      “Mhic” is short for “Bean Mhic” meaning “wife of” as in “Máire Mhic Liam” or “Máire Bean Mhic Liam.”

Leave a comment: