Irish Language Blog

Harry Potter agus an Órchloch: Sraith Ócáideach d’Fhocail Shuimiúla sa Leagan Gaeilge (Cuid 2-B: níos mó faoin bhfocal “amadán”?) Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blogpost (nasc thíos), we looked at three ways to say “fool” as they appear in Harry Potter agus an Órchloch, the Irish translation of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (aka in the US:  … and the Sorcerer’s Stone ).  We saw “amadán,” “pleidhce,” and “pleidhce amadáin.”   Today we’ll look a little further at “amadán,” specifically at the Hiberno-English versions of the word.  There are about a dozen.  Some of them can be seen in the labels I’ve added to the illustration from the Ship of Fools in the graphic above; of course, those fools probably had no idea they would ever be used to demonstrate a point of Hiberno-English vocabulary.  But I doubt they’d mind.

First, a quick review of “amadán,” “pleidhce,” and “pleidhce amadáin” :

an t-amadán, the fool; an amadáin, of the fool; na hamadáin, the fools; na n-amadán, of the fools

an pleidhce, the fool; an phleidhce, of the fool; na pleidhcí, the fools; na bpleidhcí, of the fools

an pleidhce amadáin, the silly fool; an phleidhce amadáin, of the silly fool; na pleidhcí amadáin, the silly fools; na bpleidhcí amadáin, of the silly fools

And in direct address (to call someone a “fool” or “a silly fool”), with the “p” of “pleidhce” changing to “ph”:

a amadáin, not real different from the basic pronunciation, but the mouth position for the final “-áin” is tenser than for a regular “-án,” a little more like “-aw-in,” but run together really smoothly.

a phleidhce [uh FLY-kyuh, with the “ph” like “f” and the “eidh” like “my” or “buy,” not as in the Irish “beidh.”  The “c” is as in “cute” (I’d use the superscript there too, to explain the English: kyoot).

a phleidhce amadáin, same lenition of “pleidhce”

Now for the Hiberno-English versions.  Note that several of them use “dh” to represent the Irish broad “d” sound, as in “dona,” “dána,” and “Dónal.”  In Irish, it’s not written as “dh” but the anglicized “dh” spelling has been a traditional way to express the “dental” quality of the “d,” with the tip of the tongue touching the back of the upper teeth.  A classic examples of this style of spelling in Hiberno-English is “a dhrop o’ wather,” or perhaps more flavorfully, “a dhrop o’ da craythur.”  It may still take some getting used to, but, for newcomers to Irish, at least we can say that when you see “dh” in this spelling system, it’s not the separate “d-h” sound of words like “Broadham” or “Woodhouse.”

1.. omadhaun gets 12,600 hits in a Google search, and was used pointedly by Hugh Kenner (1923-2003) in his _A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers_ , where he writes of “… the tin trumpets some of the omadhauns had brought along to bray with.” BTW, the “colder eye” part of his book’s title refers, as you probably remember, to Yeats’ poem, Under Ben Bulben (“… Cast a cold eye, on life, on death. Horseman, pass by!). Probably a painstaking trek through these hits would reduce the number greatly, to the more meaningful ones with context, but it’s too big a number for me to even start.  Lá na coise tinne, b’fhéidir.

2.. amadaun gets 58,200 Google hits but a lot of these seem to be Spanish “amada,un” or “amada un” — some day I’ll sort through all that and get a more accurate count. “Omadhaun” appears less likely to spell anything in some other language

3.. omadawn gets 5,960 hits, reducing down to 185 reasonably meaningful ones and there are 560,000 for “ommadawn,” including the 1975 album by the English progressive rock musician Mike Oldfield (perhaps best known for his 1973 hit, which I will take the liberty of translating into Irish here: “Clogfheadáin,” or to take it a little more literally, “Cloganna Feadánacha” — an cuimhin leat é? Nó an chuid de atá i bhfuaimrian an scannán The Exorcist?). Actually, the number 560,000 jumped down to 125,000 when I tried to omit “Oldfield” from the search (just to separate actual in-context uses of “ommadawn” from references to the album) but even with the cut, the album kept coming up in the hits.  By subtracting several search terms (oldfield, mikeoldfield, clodagh, simonds, liveleak, vimeo, soundcloud, mp3, smashwords, part 1, part 2, omma and dawn as separate terms, reflecting the draft spelling of the lyrics, and Virgin, for the record company), I got the total down to 68,100, but that’s still too many to wade through find the actual Irish colloquial usages, at least not until I find the time for that tionscadal ar lá na coise tinne.

Here are a few more spellings, as we also see in the graphic above:  ahmaudon, ohmadaun, omadaun, omadhan, omadhawn, omadhon, and omahdaun, all ultimately deriving from Old Irish “ón,” a fool, with the intermediary form “onmitán.” ”Ón” also gives us the modern feminine form “óinseach,” which itself has various anglicizations, such as “oanshagh,” “onshuch,” “oonshugh,” “ownshuck,” and “unshook.”

The “omadhawn” spelling goes back to at least the era of William Carleton, who in 1830 published a short story, The Hedge School,’ with the line “How can he, ye omadhawn, if we put a manwill in our pocket, and sware him?”  The “manwill” is a “Manual,” a Roman Catholic prayer-book.

So there are at least a dozen ways of anglicizing the spellings of “amadán“!  Curiously, I don’t know of any anglicized forms of the other word that Rowling uses for fool, “pleidhce‘ [PLY-kyuh].  If anyone does, please do write in and let us know.   SGF — Róislín

PS: There’s a lot more commentary about Oldfield’s Ommadawn at but just a passing reference to the meaning of the word “ommadawn” itself.  Some further insights into the title are at and at

Nasc: Harry Potter agus an Órchloch: Sraith Ócáideach d’Fhocail Shuimiúla sa Leagan Gaeilge (Cuid 2: pleidhce nó amadán nó pleidhce amadáin?)Posted by róislín on Jan 19, 2017 in Irish Language

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