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

About Ultan Ó Broin

Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), Oracle applications user experience senior director, works from a plane on evangelizing the importance of usability to Oracle’s development community and leading usability research into how enterprise apps users work globally. With over two decades experience and insight into globalization issues, he has an established track record of published articles, papers, presentations, blog articles and tweets on just about every aspect of the industry. He is currently pursuing a PhD, researching information technology and accessibility. Any views expressed are his own and do not reflect the views of Oracle, unless explicitly stated.

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