Fada Fail

Odd things about the world – Aer Lingus, just like Iarnród Éireann, can’t deal with the Irish-language fada. Where this gets ironic: British Airways (below) can. Lingus v BA

  • Mick Fealty


  • CW

    Óh déár. Thát’s júst tóó bád thén ísn’t it?

  • PaddyReilly

    Not every site can handle the apostrophe in Irish surnames, either. It depends who programmed it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Twitter cracked it! Willie Walsh is running BA!

  • sherdy

    The fada and mudda of a good row!

  • socaire

    How do they deal with French accents?

  • amateuranthropology

    I have a friend, from West Belfast no less, who is called Séan, but who is convinced that their name is pronounced “Shaun”…

  • Ní Dhuibhir

    It is odd. Much more annoying is the Guardian’s policy of writing proper nouns in languages other than English without any of their diacritical marks, thus rendering non-English names into a strange hodgepodge that makes no sense in either language.

  • David Crookes

    It isn’t trivial. It’s part of an overall dumbing-down which is being imposed on us from a wilfully illiterate above. The Nerdarchs of the British Computer World have ordained that if we want to type an email message in a foreign language, we must be unable to use diacritical marks.

    There is a good case for using a stress accent on certain proper nouns. If you first meet the names BILLERICAY and LISNEVENAGH in print, how are you supposed to know that the first name is stressed on its third syllable, and the second on its second?

    ‘But it saves bother to omit accents,’ say the Nerdarchs. These are the people who make us write email addresses in lower case (to save bother), and then require us to use the CAP key for @. The same people afflict us with the almost unimaginable silliness of dots and dashes and strokes and underlines and meaningless syllables.

    By the way, here’s the new email address of a well-known lady.


  • Reader

    David Crookes: The Nerdarchs of the British Computer World have ordained…
    You need to find a better trained nerdarch mole. Most of your complaints are largely unfounded. Email addresses have been mostly case insensitive forever; and now the rest of us are in the 21st century we don’t have to send emails in plain text.
    I have no idea where ordinary mortals conceived the idea of telling the recipient of their written communication how to pronounce the words in it, but if you must do so in plain text, then follow the usual practice and write BilleRICay.

  • JR


    There are many correct pronounciations of the name Séan in Ireland depending on the dialect. From one that would rhyme with John in the south, to one that almost would rhyme with man in the north west,also ian with a sh sound in front in the North East, which would become ian in Scotland. But that aside however the bearer of a name pronounces it, that is by definition correct.

  • JH

    My da’s Seán but no-one pronounces it like ‘shon’, it’s pronounced like ‘shan’. Weird.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi amateuranthropology, we in Ulster trying to speak our own version of Irish pronounce “Sean” with teh emphasis on a long “A”, So, “Shaun” is actually closer than the S[j]ohn pronunciation usual in other parts of Ireland.

    Hence: “Seaan Uí Néill” rather than “John O’Neill”, (wgich is useful as Slugger alraedy had a John O’Neill).

  • Dewi

    It’s Siôn anyway, rhymes with Dawn…

  • socaire

    A fair few of these names come from French and this would give a good idea how they are pronounced. Jean =Seán. But it is still impossible to complete an online form in proper Irish. What’s the position with a British birth cert.? I have several relatives with names containing long vowels but they appear on the cert without them. I would add them manually but I believe this to be ‘illegal’. Which Government Dept is responsible for these certs?

  • antamadan

    The Sunday Independent never bothers with fadas for Irish names, but is careful to respect other cultures so Beyoncé or Michael Bublé get theirs. Awful isn’t it (although An tAmadán should have one too).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello Dewi,

    YES! rhymes with Dawn, at least in Ulster-Irish usage. A much clearer way of describing what the sound of the name should be.

    Thank you.

    Socaire, yes too! That’s how it is pronunced in other Irish usages, but here in the north we rhyme it with Dawn. Note, it is “usage” I’m talking about, not the final solution to the Seán problem, as might have been proposed around the table at Wannsee. Usage is what we agree on together, not the pronunciation that was carried down from Mount Sinai on stone tablets. Difficult as it is for some to understand, we are constantly re-inventing language, sometimes for the worse! But I rhyme my first name with dawn, as do most of the people I speak to, certainly those speaking Irish in the West Belfast neo-Gaeltacht.

    But I suppose that leaving the fada out might be seen as simply Aer Lingus usage. Ho Hummm….

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Reader. You and I must inhabit different planets, but I don’t want to start an نتفاضة about it.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Seán – ‘Shaun’

    Séan – ‘Shane’

    Be careful where you put it, as my em, seanmháthair used to say.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks, Tochais Síoraí,

    A very clear version of what I was struggling to say above.

    But as the media favoured version that ehcos the English “John” becomes more and more the common version used, we are hearing this variant as a norm up north, even from Ulster Irish speakers.

    But then, I’ve always thought it a bizarre notion to tell someone else how to pronounce their name, when they have have been using one of the other variants all their lives. Which is why I answered amateuranthropology above.

    For the record, me: Seán – ‘Shaun’, but using the older spelling, “Seaan.”

  • Drumlins Rock

    Not wanting to interrupt the discussion on pronouncing ” יוֹחָנָן ” but back to the initial Aer Lingus V British Airways, just have a look at the web sites and you might get the answer, Basic Cheap V Slick Professional.

  • amateuranthropology

    Thanks Tochais – it was the fada over the e in Séan that I was questioning, not the different pronunciation of Seán in different regions of Ireland.

    This is of interest to me as I am English and my son’s name, as written on his birth certificate, is “Seán” (fada over the a). I am pleased that we pronounce it broadly correctly as “Shaun” (albeit in our Anglocentric way).


  • socaire

    amateur, did you actually manage to get an official certificate with the ‘fada’ printed on it in England? And Seaan, is the older version not ‘Seaghan’ where under standardisation the ‘gh’ was replaced by a ‘fada’ on the next vowel?

  • David Crookes


    People who leave out the fada.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hello socaire, indeed, Seaghan is an even older version than Seaan, but its a bit like the issue of the spelling of surnames. A lot of spelling usage dates from the early census returns made since 1821. The collection of names was undertaken by agents who often spelt the names phonetically, or any which way they could. These spellings were used in official correspondance and so we end up with the versions we use today, with members of the same family even having their surname spelt differently on the same years census returns!!!!

    Similarly, Séan, Seán, Seaan, Seaán, Seaghan, or Shane, or even Shan are all just forms someone, at some time or other, has used in attempting to represent all the different ways the same name may be pronounced by anyone, anywhere, who wants to use the name in any way.

    I’m trying to point out that no one version is “right”, in the way that accepted English usage may be thought of as “right”. There is no Final Solution to the Shane problem, alas.

    And hello again, amateuranthropology/Stuart, just trying to put in a wee plug for our own rather different Ulster pronounciation of Irish words and names, but of course all the other pronounciations are just as valid. And congratulations on having a son named after one of the most interesting figures this benighted province has produced, my namesake:


  • JH

    Ever seen that pub out Dunfanaghy direction. It’s called Seán Óg, which should be pronounced like “Shawn Owe-g” but the locals pronounce it “Shane Awe-g”. Surely doubly wrong?

  • antamadan

    Hi JH, There is a pub in Athlone, with the same name -which as in the south would definitely use the fadas and pronounce Seán Shaun.

    However the pub’s sign says
    Sean Óg, which of course translates as Old Young, but I don’t think that was what was meant.

    I guy on the radio from a well known gaelic trad-rock band, whose name I forget was giving some great examples of missing fadas e.g.

    ‘Bhí mé ag luí ar an fear’ , where the person meant
    ‘Bhí mé ag luí ar an féar’

  • socaire

    Look at Tulach Óg outside Cookstown where The Ó Neill was ‘crowned’. It is locally called tully hawg