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Deir seachtar (7) i nGaeilge gur “Gael-Mheiriceánaigh” iad ach deir 2805, “I’m (an) Irish-American,” de réir cuardach Google Posted by on May 28, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

“Deir seachtar (7) i nGaeilge gur ‘Gael-Mheiriceánaigh’ iad ach deir 2805, ‘I’m (an) Irish-American,’ de réir cuardach Google.”  Well, that blog title should be an attention-getter!  Not that Google searches are “bun agus barr an scéil” (the be-all and end-all) of information gathering, but this search result does provide food for thought.  This article shows the results of searches limited by quotation marks, so only the phrase sought is reported.  In other words, the results don’t include, for example, all instances of “American,” only those preceded by “Irish-.”

On May 24, 2009, in the entire cyber-universe searched by Google, a total of seven sources were found that used a statement with the speakers saying in Irish, in the first person, that they were “Gael-Mheiriceánach.”  This is a compound word based on “Gael” (an Irish person, mostly used now in a cultural sense) and “Meiriceánach” (American).  You can say:

Is Meiriceánach mé. I am an American.

Is Gael-Mheiriceánach mé. I am an Irish-American (note m -> mh change after “Gael-“)

Gael-Mheiriceánach” can also be used as an adjective to say that a person, thing, or concept is “Irish-American,” as opposed to the person being an Irish-American.  For example, “Is nós Gael-Mheiriceánach é a bheith ag díol béigeal uaine le Lá Fhéile Pádraig a cheiliúradh” (It is an Irish-American custom to sell green bagels to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day).

To say “I am Irish (of Irish nationality), most people would say “Is Éireannach mé.”  A future blog will discuss the compound word “Éireannach-Mheiriceánach,” which is also in use, with a slightly different nuance from “Gael-Mheiriceánach.”   No “hits” at all were found searching for the phrase “Is Éireannach-Mheiriceánach mé” (I am an Irish-American) so, for current purposes, we’ll emphasize the word “Gael” to  express Irish-Americanness.  Very few people would officially label themselves solely as a “Gael” these days, but there are many useful related terms and phrases, such as:

Glór na nGael (, lit. “The Voice of the Gaels,” a group dedicated to promoting the Irish language

Fíorghael, lit. “a true Gael,” a term typically used to mean an “over-the-top” Irish person, and, since 2005, a comic Irish-medium short directed by Macdara Vallely and produced by Zanzibar Films (

In this cuardach Google (Google search), there were only seven self-identifying statements of Irish-American ethnicity given in Irish but there were about 2800 where the speaker says “I am Irish-American” or “I am an Irish-American” in English.  Now juxtapose that with the fact that about 40 million Americans claim some Irish heritage.  Certainly, many millions of these may think of themselves as being Irish-American without necessarily saying so in a manner searchable by Google, but we can use the search as a rough benchmark of identity.  About one in every 5.5 million Irish-Americans bothers to say in a searchable manner and in Irish, “Is Gael-Mheiriceánach mé.”  And that’s assuming that the seven statements collected are actual facts about the speakers; they could just be statements created for other purposes, such as examples of grammar using the Irish verb “is.”  But with a sampla (sample) of seven, I’ll just go ahead and claim all of them for present purposes.

About 400 times as many people say, online and searchably, that they are Irish-American in English as say it in Irish.  That’s the 2805 as opposed to the seven!

Next comparison, na Franc-Mheiriceánaigh (French-Americans), who number about 11 million, about a quarter the number of Irish-Americans.  How many of these write online, searchably and in French, that they themselves are French-American, again as of May 24th, 2009? 172, including both the masculine and feminine forms.  That’s 24 times the number who proclaim their Irish-American identity in Irish. 

How many of these 11 million say they are “Franco-“ or “French-American,” writing online in English? 118.  So, when it comes to discussing identity, the French-Americans are much more likely to state their ethnicity in French than in English.  I know it’s a small sample and should be repeated on different dates and with different search engines for better accuracy, but nonetheless, the treocht (trend) is clear.  If anyone would like to rerun the search and report the results in the “comments” section, bheadh suim agamsa agus ag na léitheoirí go léir ann, tá mé cinnte (All the other readers and I would be interested, I’m sure). 

What does this tell us?  There are about four times as many Irish-Americans as French-Americans in the U.S. but they are far less likely to talk about their identity in Irish than the French-Americans are to discuss their identity in French.  Yes, I know–we all know–that French has been a much more accessible language than Irish for decades, perhaps centuries.  But, finally, perhaps we could say, it’s a good time to be learning Irish, talking about one’s identity in Irish, and generally giving the Irish language a cibearphróifil (cyber profile) that’s at least comparable to that of other languages.  So, chugam bhur mbarúlacha, le bhur dtoil.  So, send me your opinions, please.  And yes, one of these days, I’ll tackle the compound identities many of us have on this side of the lochán (pond). 

Pronunciation Tip a hAon: m -> mh (say: “v”): Remember that after the words “Gael” or “Éireannach” used as prefixes, there is softening (lenition) of the next consonant.  Traditionally, these words are written in Irish with fleiscíní (hyphens).  They used to be in English, as well, but that technicality seems to be dying out, as we see in phrases such as, “I am Irish American” or “He is African American.”  At any rate:

Gael-Mheiriceánach: GAYL-VER-ik-yawn-ukh (Irish-American)

Éireannach-Mheiriceánach: AYR-un-ukh-VER-ik-yawn-ukh (Irish-American)

Those identities would be opposed to the phrases “Gael Meiriceánach” or “Éireannach Meiriceánach,” which would mean “an American Irishman,” normally understood as an Irish person residing in the U.S.  Among other places, this distinction is carefully noted in the book, The Legend of Being Irish-American, edited by David Lampe, which includes “Irish-American” and “American-Irish” poetry.  Please note that in Irish there is no fleiscín (hyphen) or lenition in the phrases “Gael Meiriceánach” or “Éireannach Meiriceánach,” since here, “Meiriceánach” is the adjective, modifying “Gael” or “Éireannach.”

Sometimes, looking around at printed English, I think that I’m one of the last people on earth who believes in the use of hyphens and apostrophes.  If you’re of the same mind-set, maybe you could send a comment and let me know you agree!  Our slogan, perhaps: Fleiscíní agus Uaschamóga Abú!, which could loosely be translated as “Up hyphens and apostrophes” or “Hyphens and apostrophes rule!”  Why are they important?  As the Irish example above shows, they can change meanings!

 Pronunciation Tip a Dó: The Irish verb “is,” while it may look like the English verb “is,” is pronounced differently; it rhymes with “hiss” or “miss,” while the English “is” rhymes with “fizz” or “quiz.”

Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín

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  1. miceal o cruadhlaoich:

    Uair amhan nuair a bhios og ceap me go raibh an gailge ana deachair a fholaim. Seo un cead uair a scriobh me aon fhocail go dti un t-am seo.
    La breadh brochalac is eadh an la seo an 27 la de meanfohar. Nil se ro fuair agas ta an grian ag tenamh
    Leanfaidh me ar aghaidh leis an sceal seo in n-am eile. Ta an nodhlaigh at teacht agus nil mooran arigid agam. Da bhrioth sin caithidh me a ra nach mbeidh nodhlaidh ro mhath againn
    Anaois as go brath liom is mo eribil ar my dhrom
    Is mise Miceal Scriobh liom

  2. Róislín:

    Go raibh maith agat as do phost, a Mhíchíl. Tá áthas orm a léamh go bhfuil tú ag tosú ar an nGaeilge arís. Ar bhealach tá an Ghaeilge deacair, go mór mór mar gheall ar an litriú a deir a lán daoine. Tá a lán litreacha tostacha ann, mar shampla sna focail “foghlaim” (learning) agus “taitneamh” (shining).

    Scéal suimiúil freisin faoin fhocal “Nollaig” (Christmas). Bhíodh an litir “d” ann in ionad an chéad “l” (Nodlaig). Ach bhí an “d” sin tostach agus mar sin athraíodh an litriú go “Nollaig.”

    Tá súil agam go mbeidh Nollaig mhaith agat, pé scéal é, d’ainneoin cúrsaí an tsaoil mar atá siad. Níor thosaigh mise a bheith ag smaoineamh ar an Nollaig fós, leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh, mar tá Oíche Shamhna ag teacht agus ansin Lá Altaithe i Meiriceá (nó Lá na dTurcaithe, mar a deirtear).

    Beir bua!

  3. E. Russell:

    Ón Vicipéid:

    ‘ Is iad na daoine geala an grúpa ciníoch is mó sa tír; is iad na Meiriceánaigh Gearmánacha, na Meiriceánaigh Éireannacha, agus na Meiriceánaigh Sasanacha na 3 grúpa sinsear is mó. Is iad na Meiriceánaigh Afracacha an mionlach ciníoch is mó agus an an tríú ‘

    Meiriceánaigh Éireannacha!
    Meiriceánaigh Éireannacha!
    Meiriceánaigh Éireannacha!

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