Irish Language Blog

Cén Ghaeilge atá ar ‘FIFA’? Posted by on Jun 23, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

It seems that ‘FIFA,’ like many a good acronym (acrainm), has long been a word unto itself, used in many languages.  But many languages also have a translation of the phrase “Fédération Internationale de Football Association” (FIFA).  In Wikipedia, I find examples ranging from “Die Internasionale Federasie vir Voetbal Assosiasie” to “Egbe Ipapo Kariaye Ajose Boolu-Elese.”  That’s as close as I could get to samples from A to Z.  An bhfuil a fhios agat cé na teangacha iad? (Freagraí thíos).

So, in line with those, there is an Irish translation, which we’ll look at in this blog:

an Comhaontas Idirnáisiúnta Sacair

As such translations go, I’d say it’s pretty straightforward.

an [un], the

comhaontas, [KOH-AYN-tuss], federation, from “comh-” (co-) and “aontas” (union)

idirnáisiúnta [IDJ-ir-NAWSH-oon-tuh], a straightforward combination of “idir” (between) and “náisiúnta” (national)

sacair [SAHK-irzh] of soccer (i.e. of “association football”).  This is the genitive case of “sacar” (soccer); note that the difference is in the final “r,” which is now “slenderized,” with the inserted “i.”  This “slender r” sound is almost non-existent in English, but it does occur in other language families, like Slavic.  The best comparison in sound, I think, is to the Czech name Jiří, which one can easily look up online for pronunciation guides and sound files (naisc thíos)

Why did I transcribe the sound as “zh”?  Precedent.  The Irish slender “r” sounds, to some extent, like the ‘J” of French “Jacques,” and the “s” of English vision,” both of which are sometimes roughly transcribed as “zh.”

Actually, I wonder how the “zh” transcription started getting used for all these different letters, since I don’t really see any English words that actually have a “zh”.  Wikipedia gives the Polish town name Zabrze as an example of this sound (referring to the “-rz-“, not the initial “z”) and even that’s not “zh.”  And I think the transcribers are getting fairly desperate when they pick a southern Polish town name as the “English” example of a sound.  But it works.  And actually, now that I look into it a bit further, in Russian, there’s also Zhdanov and Zhitomir as place names and Zhukov as a surname.  So I guess the “zh” practice started from transcribing Russian.

At any rate, that’s the phrase and the basic pronunciation.  But it wouldn’t surprise me to hear “FIFA” inserted into an Irish sentence, as it might be in other languages besides its original French.

An interesting point of comparison to saying “FIFA” in other languages is the use here of the word “sacar,” since “football” as such, in Irish (peil), generally refers to Irish football.

In fact, I wonder if there’s an agreed-upon literal term for “association football,” as such, in Irish.  It doesn’t appear so, from what I’ve found so far.  Food for future thought?  I don’t see many examples that would even lead to the existence of such a phrase, but the most prominent one I find still uses “sacar” (craobh sacair Airm, Army association football championship, i.e. Army championship for association football)

In considering that issue, it’s important to remember that “association football” (sacar) is not the same as a “football association,” which would be “cumann sacair” in Irish.   The term “association football” got started around 1863 to distinguish this game from rugby football (rugby union football).  The ‘-er’ ending, added to “Assoc,” is considered an Oxfordism, in the same -er/-ers tradition as rugger, eccer, All Soggers, Maggers Memoggers, and Wuggers.

And the French word-order adds to mix here, since the French say “football association” (i.e. association-style football) for “association football”!  It’s the usual French word order, adjective second.

And a final curious note, IF (agus is “if” mór é), we made an acronym out of the Irish version of FIFA, an Comhaontas Idirnáisiúnta Sacair, we’d get “CIS,” which would look like it should pertain to a different sport altogether, CISpheil (basketball).  Ach ná bí buartha — níl ann ach comhtharlú amach is amach.

SGF – Róislín


Afracáinis: Die Internasionale Federasie vir Voetbal Assosiasie

Iarúibis: Egbe Ipapo Kariaye Ajose Boolu-Elese

And what’s “Iarúibis“?  Yoruba.  Remember, very few Irish words actually have a “y” in them, most, probably all, of the few examples being borrowed or scientific words like “yóyó” and “y-chrómosóm.”

How to pronounce Jiří (a sampler): (uses “zh” to transcribe the sound) (sound file);_ylt=A0LEV1iZyqlTGREAln5XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEzcGV2dXJrBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNQRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1FCQUNLMl8x?qi (uses “zh” to transcribe the sound)

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