Thursday, 27 August 2009

If I Had Nothing But A Kitten

My mother was awarded the Fainne, a badge given to people who could speak the Irish language fluently. It was something that Irish people of her generation wore with a good deal of pride. Sadly, I don’t speak the language at all since there wasn’t a lot of call for it in East London where I grew up.

Recently I was looking through one of my mother’s school books, A First Course In Irish Composition, originally written in 1925, though my mother’s edition was published in 1941. Even a cursory glance shows clearly how the shape and structure of the Irish language affected the way that Irish people came to speak English.

Below are English translations of a number of Irish proverbs that appear in the book. Some of them are hilarious, some are mystifying and some are like zen koans.

If I had nothing but a kitten I would be in the middle of the fair with it.
He who walks a long road grinds both fine and coarse.
The biggest war that ever there was someone came safe out of it.
The beginning of a shower is mist, the end of a battle is strife.
Putting off a thing is a putting that the thing is not the better of.

And here are three for writers to consider:

His own story is everybody’s story.
It is a bad thing not to have a story on the tip of your tongue.
Don’t judge the first story till the second story reaches you.


Catherine Johnson said...

A Welsh one back at ya...
You look like you have swallowed a donkey
this is a description of someone in a bad mood, which no doubt you would be had you swallowed said animal.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks for that Catherine.