Irish Language Blog

Capsúlbheathaisnéis: Proinsias Mac Cuarta (aka Frank McCourt), 19 Lúnasa 1930 – 19 Iúil 2009, ar Shlí na Fírinne anois Posted by on Jul 23, 2009 in Irish Language

Barely back from Azkatraz 2009, and with the capsúlbheathaisnéis of the late Michael Jackson still looming, there is more sad news, bás Phroinsias Mhic Cuarta, or as most people would more likely say, bás Frank McCourt. 


My Michael Jackson blog spent some time discussing the gaelicization of names, including non-Irish celebrities and international figures.  In the case of Frank McCourt, the transition is seamless, and a good opportunity to learn yet another set of names in their normal and possessive forms, the latter being the dreaded tuiseal ginideach. 


Is there much precedent for using “Proinsias” for “Frank” and “Mac Cuarta” for “McCourt” in his case?  Fíorbheagáinín (a very very little bit)!  Here are some Google results as of 7/23:

“Frank McCourt”: 1,610,000 (milliún, sé chéad is a deich míle) – of course, that’s unmodified, so includes all Frank McCourts ever mentioned on the Web.

“Francis McCourt”: 4,390 (ceithre mhíle, trí chéad is a naoi).  I bhfad níos lú (much less) – looks like he’s mostly referred to by his leasainm (nickname), Frank.  Again, this is all Francis McCourts on the Web, but it seems that the vast majority of reported uses of the name refer to the Brooklyn-Limerick author.

“Francis ‘Frank’ McCourt”: 22,690 (dhá mhíle is fiche, sé chéad is nócha, or as some people have started saying “fiche is a dó míle, sé chéad is nócha). 

Proinsias Mac Cuarta”: 2 (dhá amas, two hits, sin é).  Bhuel, at least I wasn’t the only one to use Frank’s name in Irish!


In the remainder of this blog, I’ll only have time to discuss the name itself.  So please stay tuned for a further tribute to “an fear seo agus a shaothar” (this man and his work).  As you’ve no doubt gathered, “Proinsias” is “Francis.”  In the possessive form, you lenite the first letter (P changing to Ph).  For the surname McCourt, the basic Irish form is “Mac Cuarta” and the possessive form of that is “Mhic Cuarta,” with “mhic” pronounced like “vik.”  For any women out there wondering about “Frances,” the feminine form, the Irish version is “Proinséas” and the surname changes also to “Nic Cuarta” (unmarried) or “Mhic Cuarta” (married). 


The leasainm “Frank” also has an Irish version, “Frainc.”  It isn’t spelled with the letter “k,” since “k” is virtually non-existent in Irish. 


The title of this blog also used the phrase “ar shlí na fírinne,” which is roughly equivalent to R.I.P.  It literally means that the deceased is “on the path of truth.”  And that’s about all the spás I have, so, a lucht léite mo bhlag (readers of my blog), please “coinnigh do ghreim” (sit tight) and the promised capsúlbheathaisnéisí themselves will be forthcoming.  I am still champing at the bit to write the donkey sanctuary blog, but sadly, Frank McCourt’s death has occurred and will take priority for the time being. 


Leideanna Fuaimnithe: Proinsias [PRIN-shuss], ar shlí na fírinne [err hlee nuh FEERzh-in-yeh, note the “s” is silent], Phroinsias [FRIN-shuss], bhuel [wel], leasainm [LyASS-AN-yim], ghreim [rzhim, no real equivalent to English, but the slender “r” here has a buzzing quality, like the “j” sound in French “Jacques;” the “gh” is virtually silent, with a very slight “yuh” sound before the “r” if you really articulate it.] 

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  1. jennifer Finney:

    Im just beginning to learn more Irish now that I have a son and want to teach him. I dont care what language it was put in Im sure I could recognise Frank McCourt’s name in any form. Now that you have made me aware of his passing Im going to go cry until I puke now.

  2. Róislín:

    A Shinéad, a chara, (Sinéad is the usual Irish equivalent for Jennifer — or you could go for the Welsh, Gwenhwyfar!),

    Glad to hear of your interest in Irish and that you want to teach it to your son. Cén aois anois é? (How old is he now?). Bliain? Dhá bhliain? Trí bliana? Ceithre bliana? Níos sine? At any rate, childhood is a great time to learn a language, so go for it! I lived in India for a year as a child and spoke Hindi fairly well at the time. It’s quite rusty now, but I still do know some (and reading Transparent’s Hindi Blog helps me remember more!). And the more languages you learn, the easier the next ones become.

    I take it you were an avid reader of Frank McCourt. The world is saddened by his loss, but at least he was finally able to write the books that were in him, after, was it tríocha bliain (30 years) or so of teaching. I read somewhere that some of his writer friends had no idea that he had such serious goals for writing. All the best, and thanks for reading the blog. – R

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