Word Nerd Alert! I am a self-professed word-aholic. Even in my young years, I read dictionaries for fun. It was no surprise then to anyone when I chose English as my major in college. It was also no great surprise that my two minors were Native American Studies and Celtic Studies. The only great curiosity was what I was going to do with all of that knowledge.
One of the research papers which I submitted in my final year covered commonly used words or phrases in day to day English which are rooted in Irish or Celtic languages. You would be surprised just how much Irish is spoken here in America without even a thought or clue!
There are the obvious ones, of course, banshee, hooligan, blarney, shamrock, etc. We use these in the course of clarifying our irishness. We use them in telling the scary stories our parents handed down from their parents. There are many others though that you might not have considered.
How many times have you said “Stop Bothering me!” without a thought other than to stop the annoyance? Bother is derived from the Old Irish word “bodhar” which means “deaf”. It was introduced into the English language in the 18th Century. I suppose when someone is bothering you, you turn a deaf ear.
Perhaps you have heard the phrase “blown to smithereens”, which is a phrase that started out as an English word, “smithers”, and was introduced to the Irish. The Irish gave it a diminutive suffix and used it as “smidrini” from which we took “smithereens”.
We say “there was food and drink galore” meaning in plentiful supply but do we stop to ask where galore started out? Galore comes from the Irish phrase “Go Leor” meaning plenty or enough. It is traceable as an English word back to 1628.
When you order whiskey, neat or on the rocks, you are indeed speaking Irish. After all, we gave “uisce beatha” to the world. Uisce beatha translates to water of life and, indeed, to many an Irishman or woman, whiskey is life restoring.
There you have it, gaeilge á labhairt anseo, Irish spoken here. We are all multi-lingual it would seem. So many “English” words are brought in from other languages and other cultures. What English words can you think of that you use daily that are Celtic in origin?
By Catherine Lilbit Devine ©2013
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