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Saturday, November 12, 2005



By: John Robert Mallernee, Clan Bard

Well, now I'll once again demonstrate my ignorance by trying to teach YOU a subject I don't know!

We have a new guy here at the Ol' Soldiers' Home, who retired from the United States Marine Corps, and then completed a second career, retiring as a deputy sheriff in New Hampshire.

Of Clan Campbell, he is very proud of his Scottish military heritage, quite knowledgeable of Scottish culture, owns three different kilts, religiously attends every local Scottish event, has visited Scotland, and wears the official insignia of a Highland regiment tattooed on his arm.

I had learned on the Internet to pronounce "Slainte" as "Slahn-cha".

But, this new guy says I learned it incorrectly.

He says "Slainte" is actually pronounced "Slawn-juh" (or something resembling that).

As I'm writing this, I wish I could double-check with him, but right now, he's away attending Scottish gatherings in New England.

When you first meet someone in the Highlands or Islands where this language is still spoken, you might wish to ask them their name.

To do this, you say, "De an t-ainm a th' oirbh?", which is pronounced "jay ahn teh ahn-num a or-riv".

This is the formal style of address, used respectfully with strangers or those in authority.

There is an informal version, used for children or students, but I'll not bother with that.

The fact is, EVERY thing you choose to say in Scottish Gaelic has a formal version and an informal version, but whenever possible, I'm only teaching the formal version, as I'm already confused enough, and don't need to make things worse.

I figure if you always address someone formally, you won't accidentally insult them.

When giving your own name, you would say, "Is mise (your name)", which is pronounced "Is mish-sha" and the literal translation is, "Am I".

For instance, I might say (if I thought I could get away with it!), "Is mise Baird Iain Mac Uilleam a Clann Mac Eanruig".

It would be pronounced as "Is mish-shah bayard Eeyan Mack Oollyum ah Klawn Mack In-rick", and literally means, "Am I (the) Poet John, Son of William, (and) of the Children of the Son of Henry".

How's that for a mouthful?

If you'll use your home computer to look it up on the Internet, you'll find that every common English name has its equivalent in the Highlander tongue.

Now, I reckon nearly everybody knows that the word "Mac" means "son".

But, females do NOT use "Mac" in front of their father's name.

The word for "daughter" is "Nic", which is pronounced as "Nick", and thus, females refer to themselves as "Nic Eanruig" (or whatever).

As in all my previous reports, I invite any of you to correct me if I'm doing any of this wrong, for I've never been to Scotland, and I'm trying to learn, a little bit at a time, while handicapped by very limited resources.

If you want to inquire where someone is from, you ask,

"Co as a tha sibh?", which is pronounced, "ko ahs ah hah shiv?"

Each country has its own name in Gaelic, but if you tell them you're from "America", they'll still understand you.

Well, I reckon that's about enough for now.

I hope my efforts are able to help somebody, but sometimes, I've really got to wonder?

Slainte mhath, y'all!

John Robert Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

" - - - the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, and we in dreams behold the Hebrides."


Cheryl said...

Thank you very much! I came looking for slainte (would still like to hear someone who was raised with it say it) and learned about "nic" in place of "mac".

Interesting blog you have here, I'll "fav" it so I can come back and read more later.

Anonymous said...

i do believe that slainte is pronounced slawn-juh

i had heard this term used before i thought its spelling was at first slauncha, but after a recent irish movie release i had thought it were slangia

all other searches to find out what the irish word for cheers brough back only irish script

thank you for this post in clearing up my search of a few months

Anonymous said...

to Cheryl:

if you'd like to hear someone irish say slainte in the movie boondock saints 2 they toast a shot to each other, pretty close to the real thing. dont know if thats good enough for you, but its one source to help you out.