Irish Language Blog

The Curious Case of Dúitseach-Ollannach-Ísiltíreach (An Afterthought re: Logainmneacha) Posted by on Aug 2, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

After all this talk in recent blogs about singulars and plurals, and “sa’s” and “san’s” and “sna’s,” one might wonder, what’s the deal with “the Netherlands” – in Irish, of course. Perhaps all the more so since there are some ancient Celtic connections to the area now known as the Netherlands, like the Celtic coin hoards found in the last few years in Echt (Limburg) and the Amby area (Maastricht). And also because I’m sure we have some readers from the Netherlands on this list, at least based on the Easter Rabbit ear discussion of about a year ago (nasc thíos), which I see got translated into “Ollainnis” in another website.

Here are the key terms and phrases, with a similar tripartite dilemma to that which exists in English, with the overlapping terms “Holland,” “Dutch,” and “Netherlands.”

the country: An Ísiltír

in the Netherlands: san Ísiltír

Despite the fact that the English word appears plural, with the “-s” ending (Netherlands), the Irish word is singular, so we use “san” not “sna.” In this regard, the Irish is more like the native name for the country, Nederland, which is singular.

“Holland” as a geographical term: An Ollainn

in Holland: san Ollainn (sa becomes san since Ollainn starts with a vowel)

South Holland, the province: an Ollainn Theas

in South Holland: san Ollainn Theas

North Holland, the province: an Ollainn Thuaidh

in North Holland: san Ollainn Thuaidh

the language: usually “Ollainnis,” which literally is a little more like saying “Hollandish,” not that we really say “Hollandish” very much in English, at least not in my experience. “Hollandaise,” maybe, for anlainn (sauces), ach sin scéal eile, and remains as “Hollandaise” in Irish (anlann Hollandaise).

Netherlanders call their language “Nederlands,” with the “-s” ending functioning similarly to the “-ese” or “-ish” endings we find with other language names in English (Japanese, Spanish, etc.). The more logical name in Irish is “Ísiltíris,” which is sometimes used, but mostly, it seems, in online sites that copy from each other. Most Irish speakers, when talking about “Dutch” speakers, say “Ollainnis,” again, at least in my experience.

the nationality: technically, “Ísiltíreach,” more like saying “Netherlander.” Also in use are “Dúitseach” (a Dutchman) and “Ollannach,” literally a “Hollander,” which should, I suppose, mean someone from An Ollainn Theas or An Ollainn Thuaidh, but is often used more generally, like “Dutch” is in English. “Dutch,” is of course, the real misnomer in this situation, being based on the word “Deutsch.”

The issue persists in Pennsylvania, where an enormous tourist industry is built up around the “Pennsylvania Dutch” concept, even though the original settlers were Swiss-German. Locally, the actual Swiss-German descendants call their language “Deitsch” or some variation thereof, and calling it “Pennsylvania German” is often considered pedantic. There are also related words, like simply calling the Lancaster County, Pa., accent “Dutchy.”

the adjective: usage depends on context, formality, and in some cases, I think, simply tradition

Early Netherlandish and Flemish painting: Luathphéintéireacht Ísiltíreach agus Phléimeannach (from Ireland’s National Gallery’s website, leagan Gaeilge;

Dutch painting: Péintéireacht Dhúitseach (also from the National Gallery’s website, leagan Gaeilge) I guess I’ll have to brush up on my art history to fully understand the difference between Netherlandish and Dutch painting.

Dutch elm disease: galar Dúitseach leamhán

Dutch auction: ceant Ollannach

Netherlands guilder: guilder Ísiltíreach, but we also have Dutch guilder: gildear na hOllainne (lit. guilder of Holland)

Dutch lop-eared rabbit: coinín spadchluasach Dúitseach (now how did the rabbit get to be called “Dutch”? – Níl a fhios agam!)

“Dutch gin” doesn’t use the word “Dutch” at all: Ginéiv

I guess that just about sums it up, at least as far as the terminology goes. As for all the whys and wherefores of it, frankly, I’ve always found it a bit baffling, why we have so many overlapping terms. “Frankly?” Hmm, maybe sometime I should make that word ábhar blag eile (Frankish, French, to be frank, to frank, lingua franca, etc.) — lots of food for terminological thought there too! SGF, ó Róislín

Naisc: (9 Aibreán 2010)

agus an scéal leantach: (10 Aibreán 2012)

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