Irish Language Blog

Which Irish Speaker Visited ‘Oirthear na Gearmáine’ (East Germany) in 1960? (cuid/pt. 2) Posted by on May 13, 2018 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

map:, cropped, public domain; Lipéid agus téacs Gaeilge le Róislín, 2018

As you may recall, the most recent blogpost was about the Irishman (an tÉireannach) who went to East Germany (Oirthear na Gearmáine) in the year 1960, a time when very few tourists (turasóirí) were visiting the country (an tír).  The “Éireannach” in question was Seán Ó Maoilbhríde, who wrote an article in Irish about his experience (“Éireannach in Oirthear na Gearmáine”).  The article (an t-alt) was published in the journal Comhar in 1961 (naisc thíos, don alt agus don iarbhlagmhír).

As mentioned previously, the sketchy biographical picture that I have been able to put together for him is that he was a schoolteacher in England, probably Birmingham or the vicinity, that he had an M.A. degree, and that he was interested in the relationship between Ireland, England, and the rest of Europe, including the parts of Europe that were “ar an taobh thall den Chúirtín Iarainn,” to use his own phrase.  Another Irish speaker with the surname (sloinne) “Ó Maoilbhríde” also wrote for Comhar at around the same time, and also on the topic of teaching school in England, so it seems quite likely that they were brothers.

I don’t have a birth date for Ó Maoilbhríde, but since his first article for Comhar was published in 1946, I’m going to estimate around 1920.  As I requested in the previous blogpost (iarbhlagmhír), if anyone knows any further details about this man’s life, it would be fascinating to find out.  Iarmhic léinn ar bith (Any former students)?  Páistí (children)?  Comhghleacaithe (colleagues)?

Before we look at our next five vocabulary words, selected from Ó Maoilbhríde’s article, let’s also look at the words for East and West, for Germany, for Berlin, and in general — since this blogpost (an bhlagmhír seo) is part of a mini-series (mionsraith) on the points of the compass (airde an chompáis).  For relative newcomers to the Irish language, by the way, that “airde” isn’t the word “airde” that you may know for “height” (based on “ard,” high, tall).  Instead, it’s the plural of “aird,” which means “direction” or “point of a compass.”  This is the word that’s related to the Scots “airt,” as used by, among others, Robert Burns, in his song, “O Tibbie, I hae seen the day” (Altho’ a lad were  e’er sae smart, / If that he want the yellow dirt, / Ye’ll cast your head anither airt, / And answer him fu’ dry.)

For East and West Germany, as the country was formerly divided, we have the two terms:

Oirthear na Gearmáine, East Germany (with “oir-” being the core element that means “east”, as also found in soir, anoir, and thoir),

Iarthar na Gearmáine, West Germany (with “iar-” being the core element that means “east,” as also found in siar, aniar, and thiar)

But remember, we also talked about the use of “Thoir” and “Thiar” in place names, e.g. Tíomór Thoir (East Timor) and An Sahára Thiar (Western Sahara).  I double-checked the usages for East and West Berlin, and, lo and behold, I found about equal distribution online for “Oirthear Bheirlín” and “Beirlín Thoir” and for “Iarthar Bheirlín” and “Beirlín Thiar.”  So far, I haven’t found any one source that seems to be completely authoritative for this, or that acknowledges the two styles, and gives preference.  So, I assume, at least for the time being, that it’s up to the user. At any rate, for the general reader, I’d say be prepared to see either style.  And if you yourself are writing, with the “Oirthear” and “Iarthar” forms, remember that the country name is in the genitive case — that explains the final “-e” of “Gearmáine,” (from An Ghearmáin, Germany, in the subject form).

Having said all that, here are five additional vocabulary words that may be of interest.   Please remember, I’m not reproducing the entire article here, for copyright reasons, but there is a link to it on JSTOR at the end of this blogpost.

Agus seo cúig fhocal eile ón alt sin:

a líon daoine, its population; normally I’d expect to see “daonra” these days for “population,” but “líon daoine” also makes perfect sense (lit. “complement or fill or measure of people”)

amhóg, often spelled “abhóg” these days: a bound or a jump.  Ó Maoilbhríde uses the phrase “de thri amhóg a chuamar ann,” which we might translate as, “in three stages we went there” or “there were three legs to our journey there.”  “Three jumps” in Irish is about as logical as “three legs” in the English expression.   As he elaborates, they flew from London to Brussels, Brussels to Berlin, and were driven to Erfurt.

sár-bhóithre mótair, motor highways (lit. super-motor-roads)

ar fuaid na Gearmáine, often written as “ar fud na Gearmáine” these days: throughout Germany

na pictiúirí reatha — a phrase you probably wouldn’t hear much today, lit. the running pictures (i.e. the moving pictures), mostly today we hear “scannáin” (films, movies, singular scannán; btw, “scannán” also means “membrane”).

Once again, I hope you’re following along with the article in, or if you have the 1961 issue, in Comhar itself.  And I hope you find this man’s “turas” as fascinating as I do.  SGF — Róislín

nasc:, retr’d o5/25/18  Comhar   Iml. 20, Uimh 2, Feb., 1961   JOURNAL ARTICLE  Éireannach in oirthear na gearmaine   Seán Ó Maoilbhríde  Comhar  Iml. 20, Uimh 2 (Feb., 1961), pp. 11-12, 14   Published by: Comhar Teoranta  DOI: 10.2307/20550939   Stable URL:   Page Count: 3

iarbhlagmhír faoi Sheán Ó MaoilbhrídeWhich Irish Speaker Visited ‘Oirthear na Gearmáine’ (East Germany) in 1960? (cuid/pt. 1)Posted by  on May 8, 2018 in Irish Language

Naisc faoi airde an chompáis:

Saying ‘East’ and ‘West’ in Irish, or, de réir an tseanfhocail, ‘Soir gach siar, faoi dheireadh thiar’ (le Róislín)

Saying ‘North’ and ‘South’ in Irish (A Follow-up to the Blogpost on North and South Korea)Posted by  on Apr 28, 2018 in Irish Language

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