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Re: CHAT: figureheads etc [WAS: Re: For information only !]

From:Stephen Mulraney <ataltanie@...>
Date:Saturday, June 19, 2004, 13:00
Joe wrote:

> 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 >> Minister". >> > > 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 President. * 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 ;). s. 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. s, arís. -- Stephen Mulraney This post brought to you by the letter 3 and the number 0xF