Irish Language Blog

Rac-cheol, Punc-cheol, Popcheol, Snagcheol, and My Favorite Standby, Ceol Traidisiúnta! (not to mention Rac-cheol Sícideileach, Rac-cheol an Deiscirt, Ceol Gangsta, Ceol Gaspal, Ceol Rithim agus Gormacha) Posted by on Jun 11, 2009 in Irish Language

You may have figured out the Irish word “ceol,” or its variant, “cheol,” from the title. 


Of course, you may have already seen it, perhaps in pubs signs advertising “ceol agus craic.”  


You might have wondered why, knowing my addiction to fleiscíní (hyphens), in their proper place, I carefully put in the hyphen in “Rac-cheol” and “Punc-cheol” and not in “Popcheol” or “Snagcheol.”  Well, part of the answer is that if anyone had been writing, in Irish, about pop music or jazz a hundred years, there would have been hyphens all around.  In fact, Irish used to have a lot more fleiscíní than it does today.  We used to write “an t-Éireannach” and “an t-Albanach,” but now we omit those fleiscíní, in the name of athchóiriú chun éifeachta (streamlining) the punctuation.  So, yes, at one time all four examples would have been consistent. 


So, what’s the catch?  As you observed, there’s no hyphen after the prefixes “pop” and “snag”.  Look again at the prefixes “rac-“ (rock) and “punc-“ (punk).  What do they have in common?  Hint: it has to do with litriú (spelling), not ciall (meaning). 


Now look at these examples (you don’t have to know what they mean to start to see a pattern):


sean-nós but seanmhadra


droch-chapall but drochlá


droch-cháil but drochainm


The pattern is that when the second part of a compound noun begins with the last letter of the prefix, you continue to use the fleiscín.  And yes, there are some exceptions to that restriction, but sin Á.B.E.  And there are even some parallels in English, for example, some diehards who still hyphenate “co-operate” or “co-ordinate” but who probably wouldn’t hyphenate “copolymerize.”   Mar sin de, rac-cheol, punc-cheol, and for that matter, should the topic arise, droch-cheol. 


What about the more specific types of music described above?


sícideileach:  remember that Irish, in its own way, has a phonetic system and it doesn’t include keeping the letter “p” in front of a word when it is silent.  Irish is in good company in this regard, cf. sicodélico and sicología, which are at least a variant spellings of the “ps” forms sa Spáinnis.  So try this word with a “p” in front, smaoinigh ar na seascaidí saorálacha (the swinging 60s), and you should have it.


Deisceart, the South (can pertain to any country); an Deiscirt, of the South, presumably it’s Deisceart na Stát Aontaithe atá i gceist sa stil cheoil. 


Rithim: rhythm, and the color name “gorm” (blue) should clue you in on the last bit. 


Can you figure this one out? ceol grúinse.  Hint: nirbheána!


This blog was primarily to introduce variations on the theme of the word “ceol” itself.  Stay tiúnta leis an mblag seo for more details on different types of ceol, uirlisí ceoil (instruments of music), agus stíleanna.  But of course, there might be a few other ábhair (topics) idir an dá linn (between the two time periods).


Pronunciation tip:


“c” is always hard in Irish, so it will either be like the “c” in “cute” or in “cool.” 


“ch” is softened (lenited), meaning it’s really just a puff of breath.  It’s fairly close to the initial “h” of English “humid,” “hew,” or “Hugh,” (but not like the “Hoo” of Horton or Sutton fame and not like “who”).  In other words, like “Hughie,” (a boy’s nickname) but not like “hooey!”


Freagra: grúinse, grunge

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  1. Róislín:

    Suimiúil na pointí seo a fheiceáil sa Spáinnis! An bhfuil tú ag lahbairt Gaeilge le fada? Cad é a spreag tú?

    Interesting to see all this in Spanish, which I studied a bit at the university level. Have you been speaking Irish for a long time? What inspired you?

    Le gach dea-ghuí – R

  2. shane:

    how about you stop yammering on about the grammar of different types of ceol and actually rcommend some decent Rock bands as Gaeilge. This is the first sit I found when I typed in Rac Ceol As Gaeilge…… quite depressing really.

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