Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Oul Boreen

Streetnames in Irish can be quite controversial and provoke serious semantic wars between rival camps of streetnameologists.

Part of the problem is that the original versions of most of the street names, at least in the cities, are in English. Irish versions are frequently nothing more than clumsy transliterations of the original English, and even where a distinctive Irish language name does exist, it has most likely been forgotten and is now replaced with one of the aforsaid abominations. And this is before we even come near the subtle inflexions of Irish grammar.

Séamas Ó Brógáin has a good discussion of some of the issues on his excellent site and he also offers a list of sensible Irish versions for most Dublin streetnames. I have stuck a few examples of current abominations on my own site.

Titles like row, lane and terrace can be problematic in Irish. Lane is normally translated as lána and this lacks a certain elegance and distinctiveness.

While in Galway recently I noticed the use of bóithrín or little road for this and it struck me as very appropriate as the term is not used to render any other English equivalent. So why is it not in wider use in Irish, I asked myself? [translation for my English readers = wondered]

I came to the conclusion that it is all the fault of the Leprechauns who have devalued the term by including an anglicised version in their paddywhackery vocabulary. The Oul Boreen invokes images of poverty, bare feet and even famine itself. Nobody in Ireland today would like this for an address in preference to Southfork or even Mornington Crescent.

So here's the plan. It's time to reclaim the Oul Boreen and recycle it back into the lilting Irish from which it originally came. Lead on Galway!

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