Re: CHAT: figureheads etc [WAS: Re: For information only !]
|From:||Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, June 19, 2004, 13:00|
> Stephen Mulraney wrote:
>> ObUsage (ObRant?): "Prime Minister" for "Taoiseach" is more or less
>> wrong. It's never used in Ireland, and sounds like nothing but a typical
>> mistake by a foreigner (well, a British person, really ). Only after
>> living in England for three years, have I come to condone it, and only
>> because the misuse is so widespread here. If you really must use a
>> generic title in place of "Taoiseach", then say "Premier", not "Prime
> Well, the Taoiseach is a prime minister, but not a Prime Minister, if
> you see what I mean.
Well, I wavered over the capitalisation before ignoring my
capitalisation rule of thumb ("Incorrect use of upper case looks
stupider than incorrect use of lower case"). But I don't think any
choice of capitalisation can convince me to accept "[Pp]rime
[Mm]inister" for "Taoiseach".
> Actually, looking it up, Article 28 of the
> Constitution(or should that be 'An Bunreacht'?)
Well, it depends on what language you're speaking :). Oh, and by all
means feel free to refer to a "Taoiseach" in English, too, but this
native English speaker and Irish person advises you not to use "prime
minister" as the translation :).
> - (Paragraph 5) says
> 'The Head of Government, or Prime Minister shall be called, and is in
> this Constitution referred to as, the Taoiseach." The Irish version,
> which I believe has primacy, says 'An Taoiseach is teideal do cheann an
> Rialtais, .i. an Príomh-Aire, agus sin é a bheirtear air sa Bhunreacht
> seo.' at a guess, not knowing any Irish - "The Taoiseach is the Head of
> Government, or the Premier/Prime Minister, and will be referred to as
> such in this Constitution"
It says: "'An Taoiseach' is the title of the head of Government, .i.
the Prime-Minister, and that's how he is referred to in this
Constitution[*]". Assuming ".i." means "id est" [?], then I think that
"Príomh-Aire" is an explication of "cheann an Rialtas", so that it's
clear that we're talking about the chief executive, not about the
* Well, the second part reads more like "and it's that what will be laid
on him in the Constitution here" :)
In both versions of the Constitution, the reference to the
"Prime-Minister" (complete with old-fashioned hyphen in the Irish
version) is also undoubtedly a nod to what was was the expected usage.
However, I've only made claims about actual usage [the linguist's rally
cry!], and the expected usage was not realised, "Taoiseach" being used
universally within the country - to the extent that, constitution or no,
"prime minister" sounds wrong in all contexts and all registers when
intended to refer to the Taoiseach. Indeed, I think most people in
Ireland would answer "Tony Blair" to the unqualified question "who's the
prime minister?", or at least be slightly confused and ask "What, of the
UK?" [or "Britain", more likely, or even "England"]. In general, it's
only British people who say "Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern..." and
the like, and it sounds as parochial as if I were to refer to the "UK
Taoiseach Tony Blair".
So there ;).
Incidently, there are a few other things in the constitution that are
rather old-fashioned [not surprising]: in Art. 28 para. 6 of the Irish
version there's a sentence that would be rendered ungrammatical were the
Tainiste (deputy Taoiseach) a woman, as she is now, which is probably
not that strange. More interestingly, it might be noted that the English
version refers to "the Irish language", not "Gaelic" or any other names.
What's *very* odd is the name the Irish version used for "the English
language". The normal word for this is "an Béarla" (which I believe once
meant "slang" or something), while the word for "England" is "Sasna"
[<Saxon]. But the Irish version of the constitution refers only to the
language as "Sacs-Béarla", which makes little sense. Is "Sacs" meant to
be "Sax[on]"? Presumably, but why not use the normal Irish root "Sasan-"
instead to inventing a new phrase? And why qualify "Béarla" at all?
Since English was the main language of Ireland at the time the
constitution was written, it doesn't make much sense to describe it as
"the language the speak in England" or "the English they speak in
England". Possibly the authors were just trying to distance themselves
from this "foreign" language. On the other hand, maybe they were
clarifying the ambiguity in "Béarla" which originally meant "slang". On
the other hand, this meaning of the word was been taken over by
"bearlagair", and in modern Irish there can be no misunderstanding of
"Béarla", as far as I know.
Stephen Mulraney firstname.lastname@example.org http://ataltane.net
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