Irish Language Blog

Na hAmadáin (ar leanúint) – The Fools (continued) Posted by on Apr 3, 2009 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

  By now you might be wondering, so what is the Irish word for a female fool?  You might have encountered it already, if you’ve read Charles Kickham’s 1879 novel, Knocknagow, which uses an anglicized form of the word, “oonshugh.”  English-medium Irish literature of that vintage tends to be full of Irish words, but often heavily disguised by anglicized spelling. 

  On April 1st of 2008, you might have been tricked by the prank announcement of an arts management funding program, which got the word almost right, just missing a síneadh fada (long mark).  The generous (but fictitious) program promised grants for activities such as attending international conferences or cultural events.  The program was called Oinseach.  Clicking on the link provided simply led one to a site promoting music. 

  With the síneadh fada in place, the word would be óinseach and the anglicized spellings of it include “oonshugh” and “ownshuck.”  It generally means a “female fool,” but sometimes is used for men also.  The diminutive is “óinsín” (little fool).  The full set of forms for óinseach is: an óinseach (the fool), na hóinsí (of the fool), na hóinseacha (the fools), and na n-óinseach (of the fools).  . 

  Another set of words for “fool” includes the following:

   gamal or gamarall: a fool, lout, or gomeral

   gamalóg:  a stupid-looking or foolish woman (you’re taking your chances with that one!)

   gambairne  or bambairne: a fool.  Bambairne can also mean “a rustic” or, somewhat curiously, “a big strong person.”  Gambairne can also mean “a long-legged person”!

   gámaí or gám: a fool, a dolt, or, in Irish English, and some American regional English, a gaum

   and finally, a verb related to all of this, gámaíocht:  behaving like an open-mouthed fool.

And of course, there’s always amadán (pl: amadáin), the most basic word for ‘fool.’

   Bhuel (well), that will have to cover fools, at least until this time an bhliain seo chugainn (next year), when no doubt, we’ll unearth some more related terms.  Meanwhile, we’ll turn shortly to some terms for cleverness, smartness, and cuteness (in the traditional sense, not physical appearance), and uncover the symbolism of the name of one of Roddy Doyle’s characters, Dublin-born Henry Glick, in his trilogy, The Last Roundup.

Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín









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