Irish Language Blog

How To Say ‘Tweet’ and ‘Twitter’ in Irish Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Remember when “tweets” and “twittering” mostly referred to birds, especially the “spideog” or the “smólach imirce“?  Or perhaps the sound of “caint eachtardhomhandach” (the speech of extra-terrestrials) as in H. G. Wells’ insect-like Selenites?  You might recall that they made “a slight elusive twittering,” as observed by Messrs. Bedford and Cavor (The First Men in the Moon, 1901).

But today those usages are almost entirely superseded by “Tweet” and “Twitter” as aspects of social media, starting in 2006.  So what’s the Irish for them?

Well, if we jump back to éin, eachtardhomhandaigh, and the like, the words for a “tweet” included “giolcadh” [GyUL-kuh] and the onomatopoeic “bíc” [beek] and “gíog” [gyeeg].  All of these could also mean a “chirp,” if talking about birds or extra-terrestrials.  There were (and still are) at least three choices for “to tweet,” regarding birds or extra-terrestrials:

1) giolcadh (same as above but just a different part of speech)

2) bíc a ligean, lit. to let or release a tweet or chirp

3) gíog a ligean, lit. to let or release a tweet or chirp

The new word of choice, though, the one that specifically refers to social media, is “tvuít” (pl: tvuíteanna) for the noun and “tvuíteáil” for the verb, as in:

Tá mé ag tvuíteáil tvuíte anois (I am tweeting a tweet now, lit. “I am at the tweeting of a tweet,” since we need the “of a” form, “tvuíte” after “tvuíteáil

Tvuíteálaim gach lá, I tweet every day. 

Ní bhím ag tvuíteáil go minic, I don’t tweet often (lit. I don’t be tweeting often).

As for “my tweet,” “your tweet,” etc., there’s not much conclusive evidence on whatever the new usage will be.  Séimhiú nó gan séimhiú?  It would either be “mo thvuít” (do thvuít, a thvuít, etc.) or the séimhiú might be dropped, given that “tv” is already an unorthodox consonant cluster in Irish.

As for “twitterer,” in Irish that would traditionally have been “giolcaire” (re: birds, etc.), not surprising given “giolcadh” (above) and “giolcaireacht,” a related form.  But today, the social media term is either “tvuíteálaí” [TVEETCH-awl-ee] or “tuíteálaí” [TWEETCH-awl-ee OR TEETCH-awl-ee] formed much like many other occupational terms, with the “-(e)álaí” suffix.

Oh dear, does that mean that tweeting has actually become an occupation?  Well, not really, I suppose.  The ending “-(e)álaí” shows up a lot in Irish, both for occupations and simply to specify types of people, machines, or devices (tógálaí, a builder; ardscórálaí, a top scorer; dornálaí, a boxer; suiteálaí, an installer; tatuálaí, a tattooist; útamálaí, a mullocker; comhphróiseálaí, a coprocessor).

T(v)uíteálaí” is also used for a “tweeter,” and here are its other forms, using the “tv-” consonant cluster, since that seems more consistent:

an tvuíteálaí, the twitterer, the tweeter; this also means “of the twitterer” and “of the tweeter”

tvuít an tvuíteálaí, the twitterer’s tweet, or the tweeter’s tweet

na tvuíteálaithe, the twitterers, the tweeters

na dtvuíteálaithe [nuh DVEETCH-awl-ih-huh], of the twitterers, of the tweeters (and yes, that’s a rare occurrence of the “dtv” cluster–mh’anam!–assuming urú still applies)

tvuíteanna na dtvuíteálaithe, the tweets of the twitterers, the tweets of the tweeters

Now all we need to do is figure out how to say that somebody was in a “twitter-beef” with someone else.   Hmm, “beef,” literally, is “mairteoil,” but, unlike the English word, “mairteoil” really does just refer to meat.  For the sense of “complaint” or “grumble,” we’d have to turn to words like “gearán,” “casaoid,” or “cnáimhseáil.”  I’ll go with “cnáimhseáil,” since it at least conjures up the image of a small “cnámh” (bone).   So, how about, “Tá sé i gcnáimhseáil tvuíteála leo” (lit. He is in a complaint of twittering with them)?   Or “Tá sé ag tvuít-chnáimhseáil leo” (lit. He is tweet-complaining to/with them)?

Hmm, does that mean we could have a “twitter-beef-bone” to pick with someone?  Bhur mbarúlacha?   Ná habair nach teanga bheo í an Ghaeilge! SGF, Róislín

Nótaí:  “Spideog” is the Old World robin while “smólach imirce” is the New World robin (lit. thrush of migration).  “Eachtardhomhandach” can mean either “an extra-terrestrial” or “of extra-terrestrials.”  “Seiléinít” is the Irish for “selenite,” the mineral, but so far I haven’t found any related Irish words for the inhabitants of the moon.  Perhaps, like Wells, one might use the same word for the moon creatures (seiléinít, pl: seiléinítí) or one might add an ending “seiléiníteach” (pl. seiléinítigh).  Either way, seiléinít is named for “Selene,” the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.   Maybe I should just tweet her and find out her preferred usage.  After all, if she is the “Gealach” (“moon” in Irish), she should be adept at matters “Gaelach“!

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  1. Mise Áine:

    Teanga bheo í gan dabht, a Róislín!

  2. An Croí Ait:

    “All of these could also mean a ‘chirp.'”
    Eh….all of that could be more than silly.

    To tweet = giolcadh, bíc a ligean nó gíog a ligean, an ea?
    Deirim ‘úf’ leo go léir mar tá siad uafásach. Seafóid. Mí-stuama. I bhfad ó fhuaim na néan chomh maith.
    An mbeidh muid ag cur Gaeilge ar Facebook agus Google freisin?

    Tweet, sin Tweet. Ná cuir Gaeilge air!
    To Tweet, sin tweeteáil mar tá ciall leis.

    Agus an diabhal tvuít sin leis an v ann?!**
    Ní leor seafóid a rá faoi sin. An bhfuil sibh ag iarraidh muid a cur soir? Ná déan é, ar son na teanga!
    Iomlán craiceáilte!

    Ná glac leis, a Róislín led’ thoil agus ná múin é agus ná scaip é ach stop agus déan smaoineamh air is feicfidh tú nach bhfuil ciall dá laghad leis agus go bhfuil sé ag déanamh dochar don teanga.

  3. An Croí Ait:

    My answer in English:
    To learners of Irish I say please do not learn all that was written above. It is complicated and awkward and a bad idea that I hope will soon be discarded.
    A word was chosen for tweet and words were discovered that
    “could also mean a ‘chirp.’” That was an unnecessary search and a major stretch at getting an approximation of a sound.

    So, you’re supposed to learn that
    To tweet = giolcadh, bíc a ligean or gíog a ligean
    #1 Try saying these or writing these. They’re really awkward.
    #2. They don’t even sound like the sounds of birds.
    #3. Why would you translate Tweet at all? Will we translate Facebook and Google too? NO! That’s stupid.

    So, dear learners, Tweet stays as Tweet for many people who are happily tweeting away in Irish and using that spelling. To make it a verb they add …eáil and it becomes tweeteáil because that makes sense and it is easy.

    As for the insane idea to drop a v into the word, I have no words to describe how mad it makes me feel that people are complicating things so much when there is absolutely no need for it. Such behavior will only frustrate people and drive them any from the language.

    Róislín, I ask you not to accept the ill-conceived and frustrating terminology put out by well-meaning people who are guilty of overthinking in the extreme. I ask you not to teach it or pass it on to students. I ask you to stop and think and you will see that there is no sense in it and it WILL do damage to the language.

    Thank you and the best of luck to all Irish language learners when they are ag tweeteáil. It’s a great way to practice your Irish.
    Bígí linn ar Twitter agus beidh fáilte mór romhaibh ♥

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