Irish Language Blog

Cóid Phoist  – faoi dheireadh  ach cén costas don teanga?  (The New Irish Postal Codes) Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Learners of Irish outside of Ireland often show surprise at the way addresses  (seoltaí) are typically taught in Irish language textbooks, especially ones that primarily depict rural life (an saol faoin tuath).  Typically, there will be the addressee’s name, a house name (Radharc na Farraige, mar shampla), a townland name (An Cnoc, mar shampla), a town or village name (An Cheathrú Rua, mar shampla) and a county name (Contae na Gaillimhe, mar shampla).

Gan uimhir ar an teach agus gan chód poist.  No house number and no postal code.  No house number, because often they were not needed, and no postal code because there was none.

Ireland has just launched its postal code (Eircode) program for the entire nation.  Previously, there were “postal districts” used as codes for Dublin, like “Dublin 4,” and Cork had numbered “postal districts” but the “districts” were different from postal codes as such.

In a nutshell, the main issues that I have noticed in news article and forums and chats are the slighting of the Irish language, the prioritization of English forms of names, the ineffectiveness of the system, and the cost.  There is ample coverage of these issues in the media in general, and I’ve included a few links below.  My main goal for today’s blog is simply to look at the two different Irish terms for “postal code” (yes, there are two) and for the benefit of American readers, a passing comment on the fact that these are not “ZIP codes,” as such.

The two terms are “cód poist” and “postchód.”  “Cód poist” seems to be by far the more widely used, with approximately 1,040,000 Google hits (amais Google).  “Postchód” gets 103,000 (103,000 amas).  I wish I had thought to check these before the July 13 launch, but so be it.  It would have been interesting to see if the proportion of hits per term was about the same, even before the recent hullaballoo about the codes.  Those high numbers are also “unsorted,” meaning there may be duplicates or irrelevant results.  But in general, these kinds of comparisons give a rough idea of word usage.

So let’s look at these two terms, with their plurals and other forms:

A. cód poist [kohd pwisht], postal code. The familiar word “post” has changed to “poist” because we’re really saying “code of post.” Remember, Irish “post” is a close rhyme to the English words “must” and “fussed,” not to the English words “most” or “host.”  So “post” in Irish doesn’t have the “long o” sound of the English word “post office.”

If you’re talking about postal codes, plural, you would say “cóid phoist.”  “Cód” becomes “cóid” [say “kohdj] and “poist” changes to “phoist” [fwisht].

In the first article listed in the webliography below, you’ll see that the phrase for “of the postal codes” is “na gcód poist.”  So we have three slight changes: 1) eclipsis (“c” becomes “gc”), b) a return to the regular (broad) “d” (not the “slender” d which has a “j-ish” sound), and c) dropping the lenition of the “p” that we saw in “cóid phoist.”  All happening quite systematically, since “cód” is a straightforward 1st-declension masculine noun, like many you’ve probably seen before (arán, cupán, capall, fear, zipchomhad).

B. postchód [pust-khohd]. Here we have a compound word, with “post” as the first element and “cód” as the second. “Cód” gets lenited (“c” becomes “ch”), since it’s the second element of the compound.  The same thing happens with thousands of comhfhocail in Irish (cloigtheach, dordchláirnéid, dordghiotár, gobcheol, grianghraf, rapcheol, roc-cheol, snagcheol, and, for that matter, zipchomhad, mar shampla).

To make “postchód” plural, it becomes “postchóid,” again with the slender “d” (the “d” as in Dia, Diarmaid, leid, and méid).

“The postal codes” (plural) is “na postchóid.”

To say “of the postal codes,” the phrase becomes “na bpostchód,” with the eclipsis of the “p” and the loss of that inserted “i.”  Sampla: ceist na bpostchód.

As for the “zip” element of the American designation “ZIP code,” suffice it to say that the word has nothing to do with the Irish terminology.  In Irish, “zipper” is “zip” and “to zip” is “zipeáil” (unzip, dízipeáil) but neither of these are connected to postal codes.  In Irish, an American ZIP code is referred to as a “cód poist,” the same as for any other country, not a “code of zip” or some such structure.  None of the words for “zipping” in Irish have anything to do with mail service.  A bit ironic, though, isn’t it, that the Irish for a “Zip file” ends up being “Zipchomhad,” with the “-chomhad” part pronounced “khohd” (i.e. with a long o).  The “-chomhad” element comes from “comhad” [kohd], a file.  Try saying it out loud for the full éifeacht íorónta.  But it’s simply “comhtharlú,” a sheer coincidence.

Why “ZIP” anyway, and why caps?  The nutshell answer is it’s an acronym for “Zone Improvement Plan.”  But it’s also a clever pun, suggesting that the mail would zip along faster if the code were used.  And of course, zippers make fastening clothing or bags much quicker, so there’s an indirect relationship.  And why are “zippers” called “zippers” anyway?  It’s onamataipéach (onomatopoeic), based on the sound the zipper slider makes.  Deirtear sin, pé scéal é.

Apparently Ireland is the last country in western Europe to set up a nationwide postal code system and it certainly has raised many “ceisteanna.”  Will it settle into a “seirbhís úsáideach“?   Will it offer better recognition to an teanga Gaeilge in the future?  I’m tempted to ask if Ireland really has a new efficient effective córas cód poist or whether it’s simply a new serving of old codswallop.   Or perhaps a dose of old codology.  Do bharúil?  SGF — Róislín

Ceann de na hailt is sine faoi na cóid:, Míbhuntáistí na gCód Poist, le Pádraig Mac Éamoinn, Meitheamh 2005.

Cúpla cinn ón bhliain seo caite (2014), 4/28/14, 11/5/14, 11/10/14

Agus an hurlamaboc deireanach (2015), 7/2/15, 7/12/15, 7/13/15, 7/13/15, 7/14/15, 7/14/15, 7/15/15, 7/15/15, 7/17/15, 7/17/15

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

Leave a comment: