Tuesday, January 04, 2011


A few years ago, during one of my visits to Ireland, I caught an Irish-language short film on television.  It involved a woman and a blind man, strangers, who wind up on the same compartment in a mostly-empty train.  The man engages in a monologue which clearly annoys the woman, and then...well, I won't ruin the ending for you.  Let's just say after you see this, you might understand why my memory of this film was spurred by the last image on yesterday's Cake Wrecks post.  (NOT for the squeamish!)

The Irish language is a funny thing.  Like modern Hebrew, it's an issue of national cultural pride, but also something of a manufactured language.  Case in point:  one bit of Irish a lot of non-Irish speakers know (besides pogue mahone) is the word craic, pronounced "crack", defined in a mid-nineties radio commercial for The Travel Channel (in which an Irish bartender advises a visiting American that "there's plenty of craic to be had in the back room") as "fun" or "a good time."  But in fact, craic is a mid-twentieth century addition to the Irish language, and is borrowed from the English in the sense of "to crack up"  (with laughter) or "to crack jokes."  The respelling is just to make it more Irish-y, something like adding an "e" to the words "Renaissance Faire" makes it seem more Olde English-y.

When I was over in Ireland I met a man who looked for all the world like he should have been wearing a pith helmet and hunting elephants in late 19th-century Kenya.  He fancied himself something of an expert on the Irish language, which is taught in school and used in all government publications but is otherwise only rarely spoken or written.  He looked over his daughter's Irish homework for a few minutes, then looked up, abashed, and said "The language has changed a lot since I learned it."

Still, there are TV programs in Irish, and movies like this one.  I believe a lot of them are funded through government grants in an effort to keep the language alive.  The actor playing the blind man in this film, Brendan Gleeson, was actually once a teacher of Irish.  He later went on to play another character who was both a teacher and had vision problems - Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody in the Harry Potter films.

And now, without further ado, here is a bit of Irish-language horror for y'all, with English subtitles helpfully provided.  "Cáca Milis" - "Cake."

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