John Daly: Pondering About Our Poetic Place Names
Too unhealthy for the linguistic summits required of a novice postman who finds his ft within the baronies of Magunihy and Truhanacmy. In a nook of the Kingdom the place an deal with can flip vowels into an alphabetic foxtrot, think about the psychological dexterity required for correct mail supply on the roads and boreens of Tooreennahone, Tooreennascarty, Tooreennasliggaun and Tooreennastooka.
Just a few miles in any route by means of these Kerry hills and stated postie will want cautious eyes to differentiate Rossacroobeg from Rossacroonaloo, to not point out the differing geographic joys between Mweennalaa, Cappyantanvally and Lisheennashingane. One can solely guess what number of instances the slow-witted postal staff must endure the exasperation of the offended inhabitants: “For the umpteenth time, Seán, it is Cummeennabuddoge, after all it is Cummeenduvasig you need!”
In fact, it isn’t simply in Kerry that such superbly jaw-stretching mixtures happen. – every county has a mess of its breathtaking appellations. To say that Irish-origin place names have semantic magnificence is actually an understatement, and that is very true when metropolis dwellers go away their acquainted city highways for jaunts by means of the valleys and hills of the guts of the nation.
That previous Misplaced Dubliner joke asking for directions to be informed, “Effectively, I will not go away right here…” is just not a pointless fable. Native landmarks comparable to hills, rivers, and historical borders typically come into play when motorists are confronted with a country crossroads devoid of signposts. Certainly, with the current proliferation of AirBnBs showing over many distant hills, the acquainted instruction to “stroll proper previous the shed close to the mown meadow and take the second massive left after the wilted beech” is a geographic puzzle that all of us endured in mini weekend breaks looking for the true Eire
Unhappy to say, however the pleasure of scuffling with our poetic nomenclature has been a sport considerably in decline as a result of rampant anglicization of indigenous place names relationship again centuries. Though, for instance, it might be simpler verbally to observe an indication for Ballysodare, his former deal with as Beal Easa Dara – the mouth of the Oak Grove waterfall – evoke a way more enticing world? Likewise, whereas there may be a lot to admire about Donnybrook, who might deny the unbelievable imagery invoked by his former alter ego, Domhnach Broc – the badger church. The lamentable impact of those anglicizations appears significantly unhappy in the course of the present Seachtain na Gaeilge – Irish Language Week – one of many biggest celebrations of our native language and tradition.
But all is just not misplaced, partly because of the diligence of a scholar who noticed the glory of registering these uniquely Celtic names. The letters of John O’Donovan, the pinnacle of the Ordnance Survey’s epic topographic trawl of 1842 and 43, have left us with a treasure trove of folks tales, myths and legends associated to native place names.
A treasure map as we had been, O’Donovan’s archived memoir on the Royal Irish Academy exudes the soul of a person who cares about him. “Though my letters appear as wild because the mountains they had been written in, I nonetheless really feel extraordinarily in love with all of the rhymes and rags in historical past in order that they are often digested and put in the precise order.”
Amen to that, sir.
As for my selection for the perfect deal with in the entire nation? It have to be Muckanaghederdauhaulia, deep in Connemara Gaeltacht. Its Irish origin – Muiceanach idir dhá sháile – interprets to “a pigsty between two our bodies of brackish water”.
Solely magnificent Termonfeckin, so ’tis.