Irish Language Blog

Lá Breithe Sona Duit, a Ghrúdlann Mhic Aonghusa (1759-2009) Posted by on Sep 25, 2009 in Irish Language

Another noteworthy news event gives us the opportunity for a velvety smooth vocabulary lesson.  Yesterday (an ceathrú lá is fiche de mhí Mheán Fómhair) was the 250th anniversary of Grúdlann Mhic Aonghusa.  At least that’s what the name would be in Irish, though there doesn’t seem to be too much precedence for its use.  Although Guinness does (or did) sell some Irish language merchandise, most notably “t-léinte,” I just checked and don’t see the t-shirts on Guinness’s current webstore.  They do seem to be for sale elsewhere online.  Does that mean my t-léine has become an “earra inbhailithe” (collector’s item)?  The t-shirt doesn’t actually translate the surname Guinness though – that remains as is, i litreacha móra feiceálacha soléite (in large conspicuous easily readable letters).  


Google gives me a total of five hits that actually use the phrase “Grúdlann Mhic Aonghusa.”  Modernizing the spelling of the surname to “Grúdlann Mhic Aonasa” gives no hits.    


Searching for “Grúdlann Guinness,” which would probably be the most practical way to look for discussions of the Guinness brewery in Irish, gives a grand total of six hits also. 


Back to the sloinne (surname), at any rate.


Mhic Aonghusa  or Mhic Aonasa [vik AYN-uss-uh], of the son of Aongus (Angus).  This sounds pretty much the same, whichever way you spell it.  The older spelling obviously shows the connection to Aongus more clearly, but like a lot of lenited consonant sounds in Irish (here “gh”), it’s basically been softened into no sound at all, as shown by the modern spelling.   This is the possessive form of the surname, so “mhic” is used instead of “mac.”



lá breithe sona duit (or “dhuit”) [law BREH-heh SUN-uh ditch, OR γitch (hitch, if the vocal cord vibration of γ escapes you).  Please note that while this phrase with the word “sona” lenited to “shona” as been creeping around the Internet virally for at least about 10 years now, there is no reason for lenition here.  This has probably crept in, by analogy, to “Nollaig Shona” (Happy, or Merry, Christmas).  Since “Nollaig” is feminine, grammatically, the adjective modifying it (sona) does take lenition.  Since “lá breithe” is masculine, the adjective modifying it (sona) stays as “sona.” 


feiceálacha [fek-yawl-ukh-uh], plural of feiceálach [fek-yawl-ukh].  If you notice anything a bit jumpy about the sound of that word, well, I’d say that’s up to your “samhlaíocht” (imagination).  The basic meaning of “feic” in Irish is “see.” 


Hmmm, we’re out of space and the aspect of this blog that’s so dubhveilbhiteach will have to wait until an chéad bhlag eile.

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