An American in Dublin—Attempting to Pronounce Traditional Irish Names By Sarah Meade, PA
Four months ago, I left the US to come to study media and communications here in Ireland. Although there are differences in lifestyle and culture, I adapted fairly quickly to life in Dublin and embraced Ireland with open arms.
During my time in Ireland both as a student and as an intern at Kilkenny, I have come to understand (and use) many expressions we don’t have in the States.
Sayings like “what’s the craic?” and “that’s gas” were definitely confusing at first, but now are a part of daily life. And other phrases such as “thanks a million” or “grand” are growing closer and closer to becoming a part of my permanent vocabulary.
While I have grown accustomed to much of the “lingo” on the Island, there is one thing I can’t seem to get. The pronunciation of Irish names.
While I find the Irish language to be very beautiful, I do not speak or understand it. This being said I do not know all of the rules that apply, not only to the words but also to the traditional names.
Names like Siobhan, Tadgh, Caoimhe, Seamus, and Aoife are almost impossible to pronounce without knowing things like si makes a sh sound or that bh creates a v sound. Even with those helpful instructions, I can’t help myself from reverting back to the classic “sound it out” method which simply does not apply here at all.
Throughout my time here I have encountered many Niamh’s and Ciarán’s and still, if asked today, would not know how to pronounce them from the spelling. Although I have learned a lot of things during my four months in Ireland, I have come to realize that Irish names are not one of them.
Even though I will never take to pronouncing traditional Irish names, I do appreciate their sound and meaning. The names hold nice sentiment and pay tribute to this beautiful country. And although to me the spelling is impossible to understand, the names themselves are beautiful.
Soon I will be back in the land of Ashley and Chad, and I’m sure will grow to appreciate the history and loveliness of traditional Irish names all the more.