Thirty-Two Words for Field
Published on 7th May 2021
Thirty-two Words for Field by Manchan Magan has gone straight in at number nine in the Irish Times Bestsellers nonfiction hardback charts.
Manchán Magan’s latest book is a roller-coaster ride through all the many words which the Irish language has to describe Ireland. The many features of the landscape and the many expressions used to record its particularities are captured here. Magan believes that these words are in danger of dying out as even native Irish speakers use them less and less. His example is using the word gort to describe a field, for instance, instead of using the myriad words which describe what kind of field it is.
The Irish language has thirty-two words for field. Among them are:
Geamhar – a field of corn-grass.
Tuar – a field for cattle at night.
Réidhleán – a field for games or dancing.
Cathairín – a field with a fairy-dwelling in it.
The richness of a language closely tied to the natural landscape offered our ancestors a more magical way of seeing the world. Before we cast old words aside, let us consider the sublime beauty and profound oddness of the ancient tongue that has been spoken on this island for almost 3,000 years.
Irish is well known for its descriptive nouns: people are summed up in one word by descriptions such as lúdramán and óinseach. Most of them negative. What does that say about us as a people? But I digress.
In this book Magan delves into the archaeological record, the mythological cycles and the oral tradition to show the wealth and diversity of Irish words and their connections to other languages such as Sanskrit, and Welsh.
The result is a fantastic flight through the history of the island and especially, the prehistory where he goes back to the dinnseanchas and the béaloideas to discover what truths the language holds for us still. The clues as to what ancient Ireland are all around us if we open our ears and listen.
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Submitted by Fintan in Ballymun library.