Irish Language Blog

Beagáinín Eile sa “Teanga” Téacsaise: 9L is am Posted by on Mar 3, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Seo sampla deas de théacsais: 9L is am.  An dtuigeann tú é?  Key thing, I’d say, especially for relative newcomers to Irish, is that you want to think of the phrase fully in Irish.  Since the amount of English-based texting far exceeds the amount that’s Irish-based, we may have to remind ourselves that here we read the number “9” as “naoi” (pronounced more or less like “nee”), not like “nine” in English or any other language.

So our first word is “níl,” which means “isn’t” or “there isn’t” or related forms of the verb “to be” in the negative.

The next word, “is,” is short for the Irish “a fhios,” which literally means “its knowledge” or “the knowledge of it,” from the words “a” (its, his, and more but sin Á.B.E.) and “fios” (knowledge).  Since “a” is considered masculine here, it causes séimhiú, so “fios” becomes “fhios.”  And since the “fh” of “fhios” is silent, “is” is the text version of “its knowledge.”  Remember, also, the “s” of the Irish word “is” is “hard,” like “miss” or “hiss,” not like the English “is” (which rhymes with “fizz” or “quiz”).

The last word, “am” is short for “agam” (at me).  In Irish, it would be pronounced with an “ah” sound, sort of like German “Rahm,” but without the “R,” of course.  This shortened form is very typical in Conamara, so the abbreviation works great for a least a good percentage of Irish speakers.  In traditional (non-text) writing, the apostrophe is often included, to show that it’s contracted, but that seems superfluous if we’re texting anyway.  If you really want the “g” of “agam” in there (i.e. if you pronounce “agam” as “uh-GUM” or something like that), I suppose you could add the letter “g.”  Cén dochar?  Just be sure it’s not misinterpreted as the Irish word “gám” or its variant “gámaí,” which means a “gaum,” if you like, or in non-Hiberno-English, a “dolt” or a “fool.”  And for that matter, I guess you want to make sure it’s not interpreted somehow as the American slang for “leg,” or, wonders never cease, I just double-checked “gam” in an English dictionary that says a “gam” is also “a herd or school of whales.”  Funny, I thought whales traveled in ráthanna (pods), but, well, group names for animals, sin (once again) ábhar blag eile!.

So, to read “9L is am,” forget your English numbers and forget about any similarity “is” and “am” might have to the English verb “2B.”  And, to paraphrase Henry Higgins, “you’ve got it!”  Fully written out, it is “Níl a fhios agam,” which means “I don’t know.”

Anois, cén téacsais a bheadh ar “Diabhal a fhios agam” (devil its knowledge at me).  This is more or less like saying “devil” (etc.) if I know,” a bit more emphatic than just “I don’t know.”  Hmmm, here’s a possible symbol, looks a bit like the typical image of the head of “an diabhal.”  I doubt this key could actually be pressed on a phone, since I found it under “insert symbol” for word processing.  But if you can access the 005E wingding, you could type ^ is am.”  Smaointe?  If that first symbol didn’t come out on your screen looking like a ram’s head, then please check out that 005E character.  Other suggestions welcome, since the first time I tried the symbol, it got converted to a caret in the clipboard.

Pé scéal é, SGF, Róislín

Gluaisín: dochar, harm; ráth, f, a shoal or pod of fish, etc. (as opposed to the perhaps more familiar “ráth,” m, earthwork ring-fort or a “rath,” frequently used in Irish place names); smaointe [SMWEEN-tchuh], thoughts

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