Logainmneacha Ceilteacha agus Náisiúntachtaí a Ceathair: Celtic Place Names and Nationalities 4 – The Isle of Man (Mann) and the Manx Posted by róislín on May 6, 2009 in Irish Language
We’ve recently discussed the place names Albain (Scotland), Éire (Ireland), and An Bhreatain Bheag (Wales). Today we’ll turn to the Isle of Man (IOM), an island which is not part of Britain nor of the United Kingdom, but which has been a British crown possession since 1828. Under the auspices of the British Home Office, it is self-governing for internal affairs. Below you’ll find some examples of how to use the place name and how to indicate that a person, thing, or, we can’t resist for this lesson, a cat, is Manx. I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about the famous Manx cats which are gan ruball (tailless).
The island can either be referred to using the word “island,” as in the Irish “Oileán Mhanann” and the Manx “Ellan Vannin,” or just by saying “Manainn,” which has the possessive forms, “Manann” and “Mhanann.” Likewise, in English, the island can be called simply, Man, sometimes spelled “Mann.”
Manannach, a Manxman or Manx person. Like the terms for Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, it can be made feminine, “Manannach mná,” but, as I’ve previously mentioned, this form is rarely used. The feminine form basically means “a woman Manxman.”
an Manannach, the Manxman. Since “Manannach” starts with a consonant, there are no special rules to remember for prefixing letters when you add the definite article, as we had with “an tAlbanach” and “an tÉireannach.”
Manannach is also the adjective form but sometimes just the place name itself is used as an attributive noun, eg. “slinn Mhanann” (Manx slate, the island’s bedrock).
The cat Manannach (Manx cat) is famous for being tailless. In the Manx language, they are called Kayt Manninagh or Stubbin. There are two folk explanations for the cat being tailless. One is that Noah shut the door on the cat’s tail in his rush to get all the animals into the Ark. The other is that they are the offspring of a cat and a rabbit. In reality, the explanation is genetic.
Then there is the Manx Rumpy chicken, for which I cannot find and decline to attempt a translation into Irish. Ironically, it’s not actually a breed found on the IOM but it is named because of its similarity to the Manx cat in terms of taillessness. Well, maybe I should attempt a translation. It’ll teach some interesting vocabulary anyway. Generally speaking, there’s no equivalent in Irish to the “-less” suffix in English, so Irish will use a two-word phrase, like “gan ainm” (nameless, lit. without name) or “gan dochar” (harmless, lit. without harm). Sometimes a negating prefix “neamh-“ is also used, as in “neamhurchóideach” (harmless) or “neamhrialta” (irregular). For “rumpless,“ we could start with “prompa” (rump) and say “neamhphrompach,” calling the bird “Sicín Manannach Neamhphrompach,” which does seem a bit verbose and, admittedly, doesn’t have the folksy appeal of “Manx Rumpy.” I could be tempted to use an existing Irish word, proimpín, meaning “a bird’s posterior” or “a small rump,” but given the unfamiliarity of the actual bird, I’m not sure that using “proimpín” would convey the bird’s true rumplessness. We could improvise with “Neamhphrompa Manannach,” and trust that word order will distinguish this from a rumpless Manxman. On the other hand, since this breed of chicken is named after the Manx cat, and is not necessarily Manx itself, perhaps we should remove the reference to Mann altogether. Bhur mbarúlacha (your opinions)?
There is a precedent for geographic references not being used as terms get translated from language to language. Consider, for example, the Manx shearwater (a type of sea-bird). The Irish phrase for it, cánóg dhubh, doesn’t refer to Mann at all, but simply means “a black shearwater”). Another case of the missing geographic reference is in the Irish for “Jerusalem artichoke.” Anyone care to guess? Hint: it has nothing to do with Jerusalem itself; that much is a misunderstanding of “girasole” (turning to the sun).
Some phrases with the place name Manainn or Oileán Mhanann include:
i Manainn or in Oileán Mhanann: in the Isle of Man
ar Mhanainn or ar Oileán Mhanann: on the Isle of Man
go Manainn or go hOileán Mhanann: to the Isle of Man
– Bhur mblagálaí, Róislín
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