Irish Language Blog

Dogs and Daideonna (Grandads) in Direct Address “i nGaeilge” – agus Mamónna Freisin (and Grandmoms too) Posted by on Jun 8, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

This is mostly for active Irish-speakers and learners, but might be of interest more broadly, given how many people write on the Internet about how kids can say “grandmother” and “grandfather” in a less formal way (pop-pop, meemaw, etc.).  Also, more than a few people talk to their dogs!

If you’re talking directly to Mamó, for example, you’d say “Go raibh maith agat, a Mhamó.” (Thanks, grandma) [say: uh: wahm-OH].

If you call your grandmother Móraí, you could say, “Cá bhfuil na brioscaí, a Mhóraí?” [say: uh WOR-ee].  The question is “Where are the cookies (biscuits)?”

If it’s Grand(d)ad, you could try, “Seo do shlat iascaireachta, a Dhaideo” [uh GHAD-joh], for “Here’s your fishing rod, Granddad/Grandad.”  Or to thank him for something, “Go raibh maith agat, a Dhaideo.”  For want of a better symbol here, I’ll use the “gh” symbol to represent the voiced dialect sounds which Irish shares with Spanish “agua” and German “sagen.” There’s no real equivalent in English.  This is the same sound that you would need to pronounce the name of one of Ireland’s leading Irish-medium poet today, “Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill” [NOO-uh-luh nee GHOH-nill]. The good news about this guttural sound is that once you have it mastered, you’ll use it over and over again, in phrases like “Dia dhaoibh,” “a Dhónail,” “a Ghráinne,” “spéir ghorm,” and “Bá Dhún na nGall” and “Pointe Dhún na nGall.” The same sound can be spelled “dh” or “gh” and is always next to broad vowels (a, o, u).

If you’re talking to a dog in Irish, lenite the dog’s name if it begins with b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, or t (i.e. add an “h” after the consonant and “soften” the sound).   Below are some famous dogs’ names as they would appear in direct address (Irish-speaking or not).  Of course, the final choice to call to them following the Irish rules, or not, would depend on the dog-owners, and maybe on the dogs themselves.

Bo -> a Bho, which hopefully wouldn’t be mistaken for “a bhó,” which would call a cow!  This “bh” sounds like a “w” so the phrase sounds like “uh woh.”  Tar anseo, a Bho.  Come here, Bo. (That would be for “Bo,” the Obamas’ Portuguese water dog, or, of course, any other dog named “Bo”)

Bran -> a Bhrain, the initial “bh” becomes “v” sound and there’s a change at the end as well, causing the “n” to become slender, a little like the “n” in the middle of “onion” or “minion” but without the following vowel sound.  Bran, being the dog of legendary Irish warrior Fionn Mac Cumhaill, would definitely have known Irish.  Sounds like “uh vran” in direct address.  Rith, a Bhrain!  Run, Bran!

Balto -> a Bhalto.  I’m sure the heroic Balto didn’t know Irish, but all names can make good practice.  Sounds like “uh WAHL-toh.” Maith thú, a Bhalto. Well done, Balto (for ensuring that the diphtheria serum safely reached Nome by dog team in 1925 despite the raging weather). He’s remembered today ó Alasca go Nua-Eabhrac, where there is a dealbh (statue) of him i bPáirc Lárnach (in Central Park).

Marley -> a Mharley [say: uh WAHR-lee], ón scannán (from the movie)

Pongo -> a Phongo [say: uh FONG-oh], ceann de na “Dalmátach agus Céad” (101 Dalmatians)

Snoopy -> a Shnoopy [say: uh HNOOP-ee], needs no explanation.

Some dog names wouldn’t change, depending on what letters they start and end with.  “Tar anseo, a Astro!” (Come here, Astro!).  Mar a gcéanna (likewise) le Lad, Lassie (“Abhaile, a Lad!” nó  “Is tú mo ‘Lassie-come-home,’ a Lassie!”), agus Rin-Tin-Tin (“Yó-ó, a Rinty!“) . Dá mbeadh na téacsanna i nGaeilge, that is.

You may have noticed the plurals in the title for this blog: Daideonna for Daideo and Mamónna for Mamó.

The plural of “Móraí” is “Móraithe,” following the same pattern as in “rúnaí” (secretary), plural: rúnaithe, and “amhránaí” (singer), plural “amhránaithe.”  In all these words, the letter “t” is silent, meaning that there’s just a breathy “h” sound to make the plural.

Quite coincidentally, “Moraithe” is a fictitious place name in an imaginary world, Carador, apparently created by the team, “K and R.“  Although their invented place names show a strong Celtic influence (Maelmuire, Gwynned [sic]), it is unclear if they realize that, except for a long mark, the place name “Moraithe” means “Grannies.”  At any rate, it’s all part of their website,

Pé scéal é, slán go dtí an chéad bhlag eile.  Anyway, farewell till the next blog. -_ Róislín


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  1. Mhaire Ui Ruairc:

    Re: Dogs and Daideonna (Grandads) in Direct Address “i nGaeilge”

    Loved this post. Go raibh agat.

  2. Róislín:

    A Mháire,

    áthas orm gur thaitin sé leat (glad you liked it!) – R

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