Posted by David FG on October 28, 2005
In Reply to: Sliy varr posted by Lewis on October 27, 2005
: : : : : I am from Austria and have an argument with a friend (whoes roots are scotish) about the word "shlanzie var", if it is Scotish or Irish. I would be glad to find out if I did the right spelling and where it really comes from.
: : : : : It's spelt Slainte Mhath (plus some accents that I don't know how to reproduce online), and it is both Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic, these languages being twins.
: : : Is there any rational method to detect how Irish is pronounced? It's certainly not phoenetic. Is "Mhath" really pronounced "var"? My ancestors were (as the rhyme goes) "men that god made mad/for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad." And their written language impenetrable.
: : What makes the spelling of Irish (and Scots Gaelic) so apparently irrational is that it is designed not simply to convey the sound, but to show the sound's relationship to the root form of the word, the one you will find in the dictionary. Any word in a Celtic language beginning with an initial M will - under a number of grammatical circumstances - mutate to a V sound, and Irish orthography represents this change by adding an "h". Several other initial letters mutate in the same way, and in each case the mutated sound is represented by that letter plus "h" . Once you have cracked that code it actually makes reading Irish easier because you can see straight away what the root form of the word is. The spelling of Welsh, another related language in which initial sounds mutate similarly, is on the contrary strictly phonetic. E.g. there is a hill in Snowdonia called Moel Famau which means "mother's hill" . "Hill" in Welsh is "moel" and "mother" is "mam"; put together the initial M sound of "mam" mutates to a V sound (a single F is pronounced V in Welsh). Under this system it's easier to see how to pronounce a given word but the connection with the root form is less obvious. (VSD)
: I always thought it pronounced 'sliy varr' - is that near enough to not offend?
: I have some 'made in the hills by a mate of Gerry' poteen in my freezer - as that is where I always keep eau-de-vie like Poire William, Genever, Vodka, etc - is that an offensive practice? I wouldn't put whisk(e)y in the fridge, but the high-strength spirits drunk neat seem very good ice cold.
As an Irishman with a modest acquaintance with Irish (why do the English insist on calling it 'Gaelic' by the way: it is called Irish by those of us who speak it,) I would like to divulge the real reason why the spelling seems (to English eyes) so at variance with pronunciation: it is a part of the ages-old campaign to confuse the English. Simple.