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05-02-2009, 19:35   #1
Múinteoir
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Putting English language apostrophes in Irish language names

TBH, this could go in the English or Irish forum, but I chose to put it here, since this is a mistake that is almost exclusive to English speakers and Irish language names are inevitably buried in a sea of English.

Take a relatively famous Irish language name like Dara Ó Briain. For argument's sake, we can take it that the surname is historically anglicised as O'Brien (from the Irish, meaning 'Grandson of Brian'). But under no circumstances should anyone be writing O'Briain, not to mention the print overload of Ó'Briain.

Ó (sometimes archaic spelling Ua) comes from an old Irish term meaning 'grandson' and has no relationship to the English abbreviation o'/of (Will o' the Wisp, Sheaf o' Wheat, Cat o' Nine Tails etc.), even though English civil servants seemed to have come to the conclusion that it was, in their dealings with Gaelic-Irish names over many centuries. So you wouldn't believe how ridiculous it seems to someone even vaguely in the know, when people start applying English punctuation on an Irish language name.

It's actually a case of mixing the punctuation/grammar of two completely different languages together in a big mash and before anyone states that it somehow doesn't matter, you can be damned sure you wouldn't do it in the spelling of any other language (How about a hyphen in 'Von-Hindenberg', just for the laugh). A lot of its usage seems to be based on nothing more than "sure it's only Irish, so who gives a sh*t."

So spare a though for that poor little Ó and try not to burden it with extra un-necessary shoulder baggage.

Last edited by Múinteoir; 05-02-2009 at 19:38.
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05-02-2009, 22:36   #2
GhostInTheRuins
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Good post.

On a related note, the widespread practice of English speakers when writing words or phrases from different languages to leave out accents really annoys me, completely ignorant to the fact that it totally changes the pronunciation and meaning of said words.
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05-02-2009, 23:36   #3
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Wikipedia states that "Names that are not strictly native to English sometimes have an apostrophe substituted to represent other characters." In the case of the Irish Ó, it notes that the apostrophe stands in for the missing diacritical mark. Your assertion that the apostrophe comes instead from the English practice of contracting of to o' (as in Will o' the Wisp) thus seems questionable, and I'd love to see your source for this if you believe you are correct.

Regardless, such things happen with names. Many Americans today bear names that have been contracted, mistranslated, and/or had their spellings altered and their diacritical marks dropped from their European originals. To give three famous examples, van Rosenvelt became Roosevelt, Roggenfelder became Rockefeller, and Küster became Custer. But how would it look if we proposed "correcting" the spellings, and began referring to President van Rosenvelt, the Roggenfelder Center, or Küster's Last Stand? This obviously would be silly. We simply accept the bowdlerized version of the name as the name.

Frankly, if someone's birth certificate and passport read "John O'Reilly," it seems a bit harsh to tell him that his name is a "mistake." One can certainly trace the processes by which names have been altered over generations, but that is a bit different from indicating that someone's name is "ridiculous" because it doesn't meet with some originalist ideal.

Last edited by Permabear; 06-02-2009 at 12:23.
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06-02-2009, 08:48   #4
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But the OP (or is it O'P or Ó P?) is not objecting to somebody whose name is O'Brien being called O'Brien. The objection is, quite rightly, to calling someone whose name is Ó Briain something other than Ó Briain (and, in particular, calling them a name that could not reasonably exist within the language of the name).

I doubt very much if you will find people whose actual birth certificates or passports say, for example, Ó'Briain.

I believe the OP is correct to state that in the case of names in other languages, writers make an effort to spell them correctly, including accents and punctuation. It is reasonable to expect the same courtesy to be extended to names in Irish, particularly within Ireland.

The error is common, and it irritates me too.
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06-02-2009, 09:48   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Múinteoir View Post
TBH, this could go in the English or Irish forum, but I chose to put it here, since this is a mistake that is almost exclusive to English speakers and Irish language names are inevitably buried in a sea of English.

Take a relatively famous Irish language name like Dara Ó Briain. For argument's sake, we can take it that the surname is historically anglicised as O'Brien (from the Irish, meaning 'Grandson of Brian'). But under no circumstances should anyone be writing O'Briain, not to mention the print overload of Ó'Briain.

Ó (sometimes archaic spelling Ua) comes from an old Irish term meaning 'grandson' and has no relationship to the English abbreviation o'/of (Will o' the Wisp, Sheaf o' Wheat, Cat o' Nine Tails etc.), even though English civil servants seemed to have come to the conclusion that it was, in their dealings with Gaelic-Irish names over many centuries. So you wouldn't believe how ridiculous it seems to someone even vaguely in the know, when people start applying English punctuation on an Irish language name.

It's actually a case of mixing the punctuation/grammar of two completely different languages together in a big mash and before anyone states that it somehow doesn't matter, you can be damned sure you wouldn't do it in the spelling of any other language (How about a hyphen in 'Von-Hindenberg', just for the laugh). A lot of its usage seems to be based on nothing more than "sure it's only Irish, so who gives a sh*t."

So spare a though for that poor little Ó and try not to burden it with extra un-necessary shoulder baggage.
When I was an undergraduate I seem to remember being told that you did'nt put the "Dot" over the 'i' in Irish?

was that to do with the old gaelic script and has this changed since the more modern "English " version.??
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06-02-2009, 10:59   #6
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Now I'm confused—is the OP's point that someone such as Gaelic footballer Marc Ó Sé sometimes sees his name written as Ó'Sé, or O'Sé, or O'Shea?
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06-02-2009, 11:07   #7
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Originally Posted by donegalfella View Post
Now I'm confused—is the OP's point that someone such as Gaelic footballer Marc Ó Sé sometimes sees his name written as Ó'Sé, or O'Sé, or O'Shea?
Definitely not happy with those versions ,if I read him correctly.
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06-02-2009, 11:09   #8
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Then I think we should spare a thought for all the Eastern Europeans who see their names mangled here on a daily basis!
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06-02-2009, 11:14   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlutterinBantam View Post
When I was an undergraduate I seem to remember being told that you did'nt put the "Dot" over the 'i' in Irish?

was that to do with the old gaelic script and has this changed since the more modern "English " version.??
That's correct afaik. The dot buailte, as it is known, is an aspirated h above a consonant. The word bhí when I was in school was written bí with a dot above the b. Sorry I can't get the font to work.

/edit/ Here's an example of the script with aspirated consonants and un-dotted is. Link.

Last edited by Hagar; 06-02-2009 at 11:29.
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06-02-2009, 14:33   #10
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Yes and notice no 'dot' over the is.

Sorry, you mentioned that

The auld Muinteoir will have to get rid of those dots in his nick

Last edited by FlutterinBantam; 06-02-2009 at 14:34. Reason: adding a bit
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07-02-2009, 15:50   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donegalfella View Post

Regardless, such things happen with names. Many Americans today bear names that have been contracted, mistranslated, and/or had their spellings altered and their diacritical marks dropped from their European originals. To give three famous examples, van Rosenvelt became Roosevelt, Roggenfelder became Rockefeller, and Küster became Custer. But how would it look if we proposed "correcting" the spellings, and began referring to President van Rosenvelt, the Roggenfelder Center, or Küster's Last Stand? This obviously would be silly. We simply accept the bowdlerized version of the name as the name.

Frankly, if someone's birth certificate and passport read "John O'Reilly," it seems a bit harsh to tell him that his name is a "mistake." One can certainly trace the processes by which names have been altered over generations, but that is a bit different from indicating that someone's name is "ridiculous" because it doesn't meet with some originalist ideal.
Hi Donegalfella,

I think you're misrepresenting what I'm saying. First of all, I don't care how someone spells their own name; that's their choice, be it in English or Irish or any language for that matter. Indeed, I have no problem whatsover with modern spellings of Irish language names like Ó Cuív (instead of the traditional Ó Caoimh. Interesting letter to the editor of the IT on that particular subject here, if anyone is interested.).

What I do have a problem with, is people mis-spelling other people's names out of ignorance or sloppiness, especially in Ireland. Your surname, or any other surname may have gone through many mutations of spelling over history and you or anyone else are entitled to spell it how you wish, but I'm quite sure you wouldn't like someone changing it on your behalf without consultation. And in English, I'm quite sure someone with a name like O'Reilly would object to it being randomly spelt O-Reilly or Oreilly by others all of a sudden.

Quote:
Originally Posted by donegalfella View Post
Now I'm confused—is the OP's point that someone such as Gaelic footballer Marc Ó Sé sometimes sees his name written as Ó'Sé, or O'Sé, or O'Shea?
Unsolicited anglication (i.e. Ó Sé being turned into O'Shea without warning) does seem to be a thing of the past from my experience, but yes, sloppy spelling of Irish language names is a very common occurence today.

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But the OP (or is it O'P or Ó P?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hagar View Post
That's correct afaik. The dot buailte, as it is known, is an aspirated h above a consonant. The word bhí when I was in school was written bí with a dot above the b. Sorry I can't get the font to work.

/edit/ Here's an example of the script with aspirated consonants and un-dotted is. Link.
As Hagar has pointed out, the 'ponc' or 'séimhiú' (dot over consonants) is not the same as a 'síneadh fada' (accent over vowels) and isn't used in the modern Roman script.

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Originally Posted by FlutterinBantam View Post

The auld Muinteoir will have to get rid of those dots in his nick
Why? I'm not writing in the old Gaelic script. I'm writing in the Roman script, which does have dots over the i, even in Irish.
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07-02-2009, 21:31   #12
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Google for Cló Gealeach if you are interested in an old Gaelic font.
It's free compliments of its designer Colm Twomey
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07-02-2009, 21:42   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Múinteoir View Post
Hi Donegalfella,

I think you're misrepresenting what I'm saying. First of all, I don't care how someone spells their own name; that's their choice, be it in English or Irish or any language for that matter. Indeed, I have no problem whatsover with modern spellings of Irish language names like Ó Cuív (instead of the traditional Ó Caoimh. Interesting letter to the editor of the IT on that particular subject here, if anyone is interested.).

What I do have a problem with, is people mis-spelling other people's names out of ignorance or sloppiness, especially in Ireland. Your surname, or any other surname may have gone through many mutations of spelling over history and you or anyone else are entitled to spell it how you wish, but I'm quite sure you wouldn't like someone changing it on your behalf without consultation. And in English, I'm quite sure someone with a name like O'Reilly would object to it being randomly spelt O-Reilly or Oreilly by others all of a sudden.



Unsolicited anglication (i.e. Ó Sé being turned into O'Shea without warning) does seem to be a thing of the past from my experience, but yes, sloppy spelling of Irish language names is a very common occurence today.







As Hagar has pointed out, the 'ponc' or 'séimhiú' (dot over consonants) is not the same as a 'síneadh fada' (accent over vowels) and isn't used in the modern Roman script.



Why? I'm not writing in the old Gaelic script. I'm writing in the Roman script, which does have dots over the i, even in Irish.
Well does that not mean that the apostrophe should be in" O Briain" as its not in the old Gaelic script??

I'm not arguing, just asking.
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07-02-2009, 22:00   #14
Múinteoir
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlutterinBantam View Post
Well does that not mean that the apostrophe should be in" O Briain" as its not in the old Gaelic script??

I'm not arguing, just asking.
No. It's still a case of mixing the punctuation of two languages together, no matter what script it is.
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07-02-2009, 22:18   #15
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I'll buy that... tks.
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