Irish Language Blog

Ó BB7B go GOA: Irish abbreviations (giorrúcháin) and textese (téacsais) Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

As lives get more and more abbreviationized and acronymized in the English-speaking world, we may as well look at what’s happening in the Irish-speaking realm.

Let’s start with the oldest one I know of — BB7B.  Its age is a reminder that using abbreviations, acronyms, and other space-saving approaches in writing isn’t a new idea — they certainly predate téacsais.  For example, if I recall correctly, the “tilde” above the “n” in Spanish (ñ) came from writing a small “n” above the “n” in the main line of the text in medieval manuscripts (for words that originally had two n’s).  Saved spásVeilleam was an-daor, or probably more accurately, time-consuming and laborious to make!  BTW, “tilde” is the same in Irish and in English, but I do like the sound of the Irish plural, tildí — 9L is agam kn fa.  I don’t know why I like the sound so much but maybe because “Tildy” was a popular leasainm for “Matilda.”  Maybe that’s resonating in my head, combined with “bilby,” “Heidi,” and “Migildi Magildi.”  Ar aon chaoi

Oh, and we’ll get to the Irish for “btw” later in this blog.

In the phrase “BB7B,” the character that looks like the number seven (7), is actually an old symbol for “and,” much like an t-amparsan (the ampersand: &).  The character should be written subscript, i.e. straddling the base line of the text, but it doesn’t always come out that way in print.  So we may see it looking like “BB7B.”

Hmm, I just noticed that eochair an amparsain and an eochair 7 are the same on my eochairchlár.  I wonder if that was coincidence, way back in the early days of qwerty design.  Ceist do bhlag éigin eile, áfach.

So much for how to write it.  What does it mean?  “Beir bua agus beannacht.”  Literally, “Take victory and a blessing.”  It’s a nice way to close a letter, although it does sound a little formal and hortatory to me these days, as opposed to, say, SGF.

And here are a few more:

9L for níl, sounds like “naoi” (9) and the letter “l.”  It’s not as if using “9L” for “níl” really saves that much space — it saves one character.  But saving spás doesn’t always seem to be the main goal in these abbreviations.  Sometimes it’s just fun, like the rebuses  (na réabais) of old.

kn for cén, sounds like “kay-en.” “Cén” means “which” and is sometimes translated as “what,” as in “Cén leabhar?” or “Cén t-ainm atá ort?”  The actual letter  “k” is almost non-existent in actual Irish words but it’s reasonably useful here, since most Irish speakers also know English.  Sampla: 9L is agam kn fa = Níl a fhios agam cén fáth.

kj for “goidé” or “cad é,” reflecting the northern (Donegal and Northern Ireland) phrase for “what.”  This form contrasts with the standard word, which is simply “Cad …?” and the Connacht one (“Céard …?”).  In the northern pronunciation, the “d” of “cad é” is pronounced slender, a lot like an English “j,” so “cad é” sounds like “kuh-jay.”  The alternate spelling, “goidé,” which is (maybe by now I should say “was”) traditional in the North, shows this clearly, since the “d” is written slender.  Remember your slender d’s, as in “Diarmaid” and “Dia,” in contrast to broad d’s as in “Dónal” and “donn.”  Sampla: kj mar ta 2? (Goidé mar atá tú?)

BTW.  So I slipped the English version in above.  The usual phrase for “by the way” in Irish is “dála an scéil,” so the abbreviation is “DAS.”  I use this sometimes, but somehow it constantly reminds me of Ram Das, the character in A Little Princess.  It also looks like the German word “das,” which I find it a bit distracting.

SGF for “Slán go fóill.”  This one I use a lot, as regular readers of this blog probably recognize.  Very useful, definitely saves space, and isn’t readily mistaken for anything else, in English or other languages, although we do have Svenska Golfförbundet, Stochastic Green Function (yikes — I don’t know what that is in English!), Société Géologique de France, and Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Finanzmarktforschung, and an SGF airport code, for Springfield, Missouri.  Hmm, what about the other 33 Springfields in the US, let alone the 36 or so Springfield Townships?  Oh, well, I don’t really need to know (9d 2 no (!).  As for that Swiss one, I can definitely see why they can benefit from an abbreviation — 52 characters reduced to three!

As for the two Springfield townlands in Ireland, in Co. Offaly and Co. Westmeath, somehow I don’t think they have aerfoirt.

9d2no  — that’s really an English abbreviation somehow using a bit of Irish as well (9d for “need” based on “naoi,” the number “9).   A little beyond beyond, I think, but it actually works for me.

And now, one of my favorites, because it’s clever, bilingual, and visual, and the meaning is endearing:

A# for “A thaiscidh” (pronounced “uh HASH-kee”).   It means “dear” or “darling” and comes from the Irish word “taisce” (treasure, or “cache” in computer usage).   In direct address, “taisce” would be spelled “a thaisce” [uh HASH-kuh].  The “a” shows that direct address is coming up, as in “a Sheáin” or “a Dhia.”

Speaking of “a Dhia,” we have:

OMD for “Ó mo Dhia” (Oh my God / OMG).  Not that “mo” was used that much in the vocative in Irish, traditionally, but, this phrase has become very popular anyway.

And finally,

GOA for “gáire os ard” (laughing out loud / LOL).  I enjoy this one, partly because it’s always fun to spot humor, partly because it’s pronounceable, and partly (and randomly) because it reminds me of visiting Goa, India.  Checking out acronyms on thefreedictionary website, I see that “GOA” can also, aptly, mean “Glossary of Abbreviations,” as well as, more strangely, “Gods of Arr-Kelaan.”  Hoodathunkit?

SGF agus TSAGBTSAS.  I doubt that last 9-letter one will really catch on (Tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as seo) …  ach, bhuel , I’ll try TSAGBTSAS here anyway and see if by any caolseans it catches on.  But, no, no sign of it so far, ar an Idirlíon.  – Róislín

Nóta: If you’re really interested in Tildy, which was the name of one of O. Henry’s literary characters, you can find her story at:, “The Brief Debut of Tildy.”

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  1. Mise Áine:

    Suimiúil, mar is iondúil, a Róislín.

    Bainim féin úsáid as MED (mar eolas duit/daoibh) go minic, ar twitter, agus, mar nach bhfuilim róthógtha leis an bhfocal ‘haischlib,’agus ó tharla go mbím ag cumadh liom, go rialta, cuirim ‘ábhará’ mar leagan Gaeilge ar an bhfocal ‘hashtag.’ Ach, sin mise!

    Is maith liom an focal sin ‘réabais’- ní raibh sé cloiste agam, cheana, agus shamhlaigh mé ‘réabadh’ leis an bhfocal nuair a chonaic mé é. Hmmm…

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Agus pointí suimiúla, a Áine, agus grma arís as scríobh isteach. Tá MED deas úsáideach agus is maith liom “ábhará” freisin. Maidir leis na réabais, is maith liom iad, pé ar bith teanga ina bhfuil siad. Léigh mé an píosa sin a scríobh tú, Focail Liom Focail Leat – an-jab!

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