Focal Nua

Words are interesting.

New words in particular have always fascinated me.

Not just new words for new things (someone had to come up with the word telephone) but the way words themselves acquire new meanings.

I can remember when spam was pink meat, and a virus was something you took ill with. Both words have new meanings in the computer age.

The same happens in every language, as when rothar was invented to describe what in English is called a bicycle.

It didn’t catch on everywhere though. In Connemara you’re as likely to hear someone refer to ‘mo bhicycle’ or, as the word integrates fully into the language, ‘mo bhislic’.

For the most part, this kind of organic growth goes unnoticed, but occasionally, someone writes a brief footnote in a dictionary.

As a result, some words – like googol, quark and meme – have definite beginnings.

The internet makes some of those new words easy to track, like the moment when everyone agreed that an email is a ‘ríomhphost‘ in Irish.

I even tried to get in on the act myself, suggesting ‘daingean’ as an appropriate translation for firewall.

Unfortunately, ‘balla dóiteáin‘ won out, and I was denied immortality in a footnote.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. ‘mo bhicycle’ or, as the word integrates fully into the language, ‘mo bhislic’

    Now that is pretty cool.

  2. Now that is pretty cool.

    Thanks. It’s been a while since I reported from the margins, but I always enjoyed the kinds of oddities that things like Gaelglish highlighted. Maybe I should check what recent happenings I’ve missed.

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