Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brush Up Your Irish with Katie and Seán Bán: Part 3 of 3

And here's the final part of the celebration of the greatest piece of extempore spoken Irish since God knows when. Seán Bán Breathnach's teary commentary on Katie Taylor's gold medal did more for Irish than a hundred studies or rubbish Departmental initiatives. I hope, in my own barely-competent way, I've taken some of the mystery out of the language so far, and people are looking forward to brushing up on the Gaeilge as Autumn falls. Anyway, back to the great man talking about the great woman.

Deich pointe in aghaidh a h-ocht, go h-oifigiúil anseo. Ó, dó a dó, sa chéad cheann, dó a h-aon ag Ochigava sa dara cheann, ceathair a h-aon ag Katie an triú babhta - sin é an ceann!

Ten points to eight, officially here. Oh, two-two in the first one, two-one to Ochigava in the second one, four-one to Katie in the third round – that was the one!

My Collins Irish Dictionary iPhone app lists six different meanings for the word “a.” It’s the language’s jack of all trades. You use it talking to someone (“a Sheáin”), as a preposition (“tabac a chaitheamh”), as a possessive adjective (“a athair/a h-athair/a n-athair” – his/her/their father), a participle with an abstract noun (“a leithéid,” as we’ve seen already), a relative participle (“an fear a bhris banc Monte Carlo” – the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo) and, as here, to count – a h-aon, a dhó, a trí. Phew! Why pile so much onto one one-letter word? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t rule out the Famine.

Tá sí ag breathnú suas sa spéir anseo - tá sí ag dul sásta go dtí na cúinne go gairid, tá sí ag cur an … dearg uirthí, tá sí ag dul amach as an fáinne anseo agus, a lucht eisteachta, dáiríre píre, … seo deor as do shúile. Tá sé an-deacair deor a bhaint as a chuid súile, tá sé ag tarraignt isteach ar cúig nóiméad tar éis a chúig, a lucht eisteachta, tá an stáir á dhéanamh.
She’s looking up to the sky here  - she’s happily going quickly to the corner, she’s putting on the red … she’s coming out the ring here and, listeners, honestly, [this would draw] a tear from your eye. It’s very hard to draw tear from your eye, it’s drawing in for five minutes past five, listeners, history is being made.

Stick a síneadh fada on the ‘a,’ of course, and you can get another day’s work out of it. This comes down to idiom – one of the reasons Gaeilgeoirs get thick about people translating directly from English is that it crushes the idiom that’s natural to the language. I’ve translated “tá an stáir á dhéanamh” as “history is being made” because that’s idiomatically correct English. But the phrase doesn’t literally translate at all – its construction is unique to the language itself. History is of the making, history is in the making, history has the making – something like that.

The big lesson here is when you’re working backwards. If you want to translate “history is being made”, don’t translate it as “tá an stáir ag bheith déanta.” A million fingers scratching one million miles across one million blackboards couldn’t be more horrible.

Why overload the “a” further with that fada? Musha Cromwell, don’t you know well.

Tá sé buaite ag Katie Taylor, 'sí Katie Taylor as Brí Chualann, sé bhliana d'aois, sé bhliana fiche d'aois, seaimpín Olympics don bhliain dhá mhile agus a dhó-dhéag. Le sin, agus mo cheainín bocht … go deo, le sin, ar ais … sa stiúideo.
It’s won by Katie Taylor, it’s Katie Taylor from Bray, six years old, twenty-six years old, Olympic Champion for the year thousand and twelve. With that, and my poor head … for ever ... back to the studio.

And here SBB, or what’s left of the poor man, wraps up and hands back to the studio. You’ll notice I’ve left out words in the past two extracts, and this is the most important lesson of all.

Reader, I haven’t a rashers what those words were. I couldn’t make them out. But here’s the thing – that’s ok. You’ve never going to catch all the words. Never. You can’t let the odd word here and there discombobulate you – as you may in fact be discombobulated just now by that most excellent jawbreaker. Missing the odd word is fine. Gaeilge, like golf, is not a game of perfect. Go n-éirí leat.