A Cute Irish Accent

Irish accents, dontcha love ’em?

In this case I’m talking about Irish language (Gaeilge) orthography, specifically the Irish language equivalent of the acute accent, the fada or síneadh fada.

The fada in Irish.
The fada accent in the Irish language; used on vowels, in this case the letter “O”.

A letter in the Financial Times newspaper points out how the presence or absence of the a fada results in different words. Brendan Cahill corrects the newspaper  for its omission of the fadas on their spelling of “Áras an Uachtaráin”, the formal address of the President of Ireland.

Brendan Cahill is quite right, of course, about how the fada can change the meaning of a word otherwise spelled the same way in Irish. “Sean” for example means “old”, whereas “Seán” means the name “John”).

In this case however, I think that given the context, “Aras an Uachtarain” is unlikely to cause any real confusion for readers.

This is not always the case, however.

A missing fada from the Irish word “Mná” on a toilet door in Ireland once confused the late, great actor, polyglot, and polymath Peter Ustinov. He assumed it was a misspelling of “Man” in the plural.

“Mná” in Irish means “Women”.

How inconvenient.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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