Hiberno-English Stocking Filler ?

Further to the discussions on language, I received a review by e mail,in the extended entry, of a new edition of A Dictionary of Hiberno-English by Terence Patrick Dolan, reviewed in this link at Bibliofemme.

“This is the dictionary’s second edition and there are over 1,000 new entries alone.
Calling it a dictionary is a bit off the mark; it’s a sort of dictionary meets encyclopedia with a bit of Schott’s miscellany thrown in. As well as lots of Hiberno English words from past and present, it contains proverbs, phrases and sayings – all backed up with handy information on usage, Gaelicisms, distinctive sounds and grammatical points of interest”.

If that all sounds a bit technical, fear not, because there’s enough fascinating bits of information and absorbable trivia here to make you want to poke in and out of these pages. Among the many familiar entries are chancer, banjaxed, left-footer, skinnymalink, wall-falling (to be desperate for) bogtrotter, chisler, DART accent and piss-a-bed (dandelions!). The Bertie Bowl even merits a mention. There are lengthier explanations too, as in the geographical location (and dubious morality) of the Monto area of old Dublin. “

From BookView Ireland, no. 112. Irish Emigrant Publications, e mail.

An expanded and revised edition of this well-received volume provides opportunities to discover the true meanings of words that we might have been using for years. The new edition has been published to take cognisance of the fact that language is constantly evolving; it is pointed out in the introduction that the number of Irish words commonly used in English conversation has been falling in the past few years. I was interested to discover that the word ‘ribe’ means a single strand of hair, since I often heard a friend use the word but never really understood the context. It must also be sheer coincidence that, having read the definition of the word ‘reics, rex’, I immediately came across its use in one of Cormac MacConnell’s articles. The word ‘scut’ can apparently have three different meanings – Patrick Kavanagh uses it to denote a person of bad character in “Tarry Flynn”; Dubliners use at as a verb, meaning to hang onto the back of a bus or lorry; and it can also be used to describe a new boy in a boarding school. Terence Patrick Dolan, in compiling his dictionary, has provided us with an indication of the rich and varied source of the words we use.
(Gill & Macmillan, ISBN 0-7171-3535-7, pp278, ย€29.99)

  • maca

    Prof. Dolan also maintains an online archive of Hiberno-English: http://www.hiberno-english.com/. Good website.

  • Davros

    That’s a good one ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Chris Guthrie

    As Hiberno-Scots (i.e. Ulster Scots) has been recognised as a language separate from Scots, what’s to stop Hiberno-English gaining recognition as a language separate from Standard English?

  • maca

    “what’s to stop Hiberno-English gaining recognition as a language separate from Standard English?”

    It can easily be argued that HE is a language as there is no clear accepted definition of what is a language or dialect (that I know of). But that would be silly IMO. What would be the point?

    I’d be more concerned with the problem of people trying to stamp out HE (teachers, society in general). There’s no reason why we can’t be proud of our own version of English withut having to wipe it out and become British-English speakers.

  • George

    “what’s to stop Hiberno-English gaining recognition as a language separate from Standard English?”

    Everything. It’s a diallect and not a language.

  • slackjaw

    ‘Everything. It’s a diallect and not a language.’

    Didn’t stop French, Spanish and Portuguese….

  • slackjaw

    …although I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one ๐Ÿ™‚

  • maca

    “It’s a diallect and not a language”

    Slackjaw is right George. Very hard (if not impossible) to say what is really a language or dialect. Compare Chinese with Scandanavian languages mar shampla.

  • maca

    That should have been:
    “Compare Chinese dialects with Scandanavian languages mar shampla.”

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    This was in the “Vocabulary/Grammar” section of the Hiberno-English site:

    The pronunciation of Hiberno-English also reflects the sounds of Irish. For instance, the insertion of a vowel, known as an’epenthetic (= inserted) vowel’, in such words as ‘film’ (pronounced ‘fillum’), or ‘worm’ (pronounced ‘worrum’). In general, Irish people use the vowels and consonants of the Irish Language in pronouncing Hiberno-English.

    I remember an ad for Erin soup on telly years ago, which illustrated this point. When asked what she thought of a sample of mushroom soup she had just tasted, an elderly Dublin lady exclaimed “It’s fulla mush-er-oo-ams!”

  • George

    Only dialects which have been reduced to writing (a prerequisite for standardization) and been standardized are languages, everything else is something else (dialect, vernacular, patois).

    As this hasn’t happened in this instance (although the dictionary is a start) I believe we can safely say Hiberno-English is a dialect of standard English and will remain so for our lifetimes.

  • maca

    Are you sure of that George?
    If we were to examine all languages would we find that they have all been standardised?

    Hiberno-English has had a dictionary for many years (afaik) not to mention been in writing for many decades.

    “reduced to writing” explain, if you don’t mind?

  • George

    that there is a standardized way of writing Hiberno-English, which is different to standard English.

    This is just one view of the difference between language and dialect as one can always argue there is no difference.

    Also, whether something like Hiberno-English is a dialect of another language (English) or a separate language is also dependent on the relative political power of the speakers of that language/dialect.
    The decisions about what are “languages” and what are not, are thus political decisions.
    powerful nations can claim that what they speak is a language and what less powerful groups speak are dialects.
    From Terralingua:
    Political definitions of a language would be: “a language is a dialect with an army (and a navy)” or “a language is a dialect with state borders” or “a language is a dialect promoted by elites”.

  • maca

    Now though the issue can be even more confused. What is the English speaking nation with the biggest Army or Navy? The USAmericans. Is EN-GB a dialect of EN-US because the US has the bigger army? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • George

    Many Americans would think so Maca ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Vera

    I don’t think most Americans would put it that way. However, I don’t think many Americans would agree that US-English is a dialect of GB-English either. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think we all speak dialects of English and would reject the idea of one standard being more correct than the other.

    It could be argued, however, that US-English meets your other criteria of being a language in that is has been written and standardized for quite some time. We have our own dictionaries and spellings, as well as a few gramatical differences. But I still wouldn’t consider US-English a seperate language. I think the most important standard is that dialects are mutually inteligible and languages aren’t. Despite some differences we can all understand eachother very easiy in written English, and usually with only minor difficulties in spoken English. Though some accents are more difficult than others. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll admit that I had to turn on the subtitles when I watched Bloody Sunday because I only understood about a quarter of what was said in parts. Similarly, I’ve had to order for English friends in restaurants in Alabama because they couldn’t understand the waiters.

  • D’Oracle

    Leaving arise the otherwise key fact that its plainly just a dialect and not a language, George’s point that its not a political(football) language may be an even more pertinent feature in this part of the world which now appears to have several pseudo languages.

    God help us!

  • maca

    “I think the most important standard is that dialects are mutually inteligible and languages aren’t”

    That’s actually incorrect though as some “languages” are mutually intelligible.