‘To my ears, Irish always sounds like someone is hurting a Norwegian’
Ross isn’t on board with Sorcha’s Irish resolution – and it’s about to blow up in his face
“Tá sé seo go deas,” Sorcha goes, “nach bhfuil sé?”
My wife’s New Year’s resolution was to make Irish the first language of the O’Carroll-Kelly home and I can honestly say I haven’t understood a single word she’s said since it was still 2017.
“Bhí,” I go, which was the word that got me through my oral Irish exam at school, 30 minutes in Room A12 that felt like 30 days in Abu Ghraib, as much for the examiner as for me. “Definitely, definitely bhí.”
Sorcha laughs. She goes, “Dúirt tú ‘bhí’ arís, Ross! Ba cheart duit ‘tá’ a rá! Tá! An dtuigeann tú?”
I’m like, “Bhí, Sorcha. Very much bhí.”
Who still takes their New Year’s resolutions seriously in the second week in January?
Me and Honor are trying to watch Stranger Things while horsing our way through the last of the Christmas leftovers. Sorcha keeps insisting on talking to us, though – she reminds me of Bean Uí McCool, a particularly chatty bean an tí I had once in Irish college, who suffered with her nerves and felt the need to fill every silence with Gaelic words strung together into sentences.
“Honor,” Sorcha goes, “ar ghlan tú do sheomra?”
Honor’s like, “Cad é?” because she’s basically fluent, not having the excuse that I have of having played rugby.
“Do sheomra,” Sorcha goes. “Tá do chuid éadaigh ar fud an urláir.”
Honor just shakes her head. “Sorry, Mom, I’m still struggling to understand your Connemara dialect. See, my teacher speaks Donegal Irish? It’s honestly like a different language.”
Sorcha has another crack at it, this time saying it louder and more slowly, like my old dear trying to communicate with the Ukranian woman who does her hoovering – Iryna the Cleaner, as she’s known.
“Do... sheomra!” Sorcha goes. “Tá do ... chuid éadaigh... ar fud... an urláir!”
Honor shakes her head again. She’s like, “Sorry, Mom – I’m still not getting it.”
I go, “Bhí Stranger Things on the TV here, Sorcha,” at least making the effort to say a word or two. “Bhí trying to watch it, if you don’t mind.”
Sorcha gives me an absolute filthy. She doesn’t say anything, though. It’s like she can’t find the words to express how angry she is right now – and even if she found them, I wouldn’t know what they meant anyway.
Honor’s there, “An bhfuil aon Quality Street fágtha?”
Sorcha just glowers at her. “Sráideanna den Scoth,” she goes.
Honor just shrugs her shoulders and she’s like, “An bhfuil aon Sráideanna den Scoth fágtha then?”
Sorcha goes, “Fan nóiméad,” and she storms out of the room.
I turn around to Honor and I go, “Not to come across as thick here but did you just ask her to go and get us more Quality Street?”
Listen to Ross
“She’s annoyed with us, though.”
“I don’t know why she’s annoyed with me. Bhí is the only Irish word I have and I wouldn’t be 100 per cent sure I’m even using it right.”
“There you are then. Not to run it down as a language but to my ears Irish always sounds like someone is hurting a Norwegian.”
“I think we’ve upset her, though. Did you see her face?”
“It’s the second week in January, Honor! Who still takes their New Year’s resolutions seriously in the second week in January?”
“I suppose it sort of serves her right for having expectations of us that are too high.”
“Way too high! Do you remember the time she decided we were going to be one of those families that didn’t own a TV?”
“Oh my God, she wanted us to sit around reading books and talking in the evenings.”
“Talking! Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? And how long did that last?”
“I think it was two nights.”
“Two nights! This will be the same – you mork my words. As long as I keep flicking the bhí’s at her and you keep telling her that you can’t understand – what was that word you used? – her Dalek?”
“Her dialect then.”
What does the phrase go raibh maith agat mean? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before
Honor turns back to the screen. “Oh my God,” she goes, “the kids in this show are such dorks. I hope they all die horribly at the end.”
I’m there, “I do, too. It’s the only reason I’ve watched seven episodes.”
Sorcha arrives back into the room with what’s left of the Quality Street. “Na Sráideanna den Scoth,” she goes, putting the tin down on the coffee table. “Níl fágtha ach caife agus oráiste.”
I look into the tin. I’m like, “Bhí bad news, Honor. Bhí only coffee and orange left.”
We’ll probably eat them anyway. If even just to mork the official end of Christmas.
“Ross,” Sorcha goes, “Bhí mé ag caint le m’athair díreach anois. Tá sé ag iarraidh ticéidí don chluiche. Éire agus an Iodáil. Ag an Aviva Stadium an mhí seo chugainn.”
I’m there, “Bhí do you think this could possibly wait, Sorcha? I think one of these annoying kids is about to be eaten here.”
“Ní maith leis an rugbaí ach ba mhaith leis cliant a thabhairt go dtí an cluiche. An dtabharfaidh tú do thicéidí dó?”
“Yeah, bhí, Sorcha – whatever.”
She’s like, “Go raibh maith agat!” then off she goes again.
The dorky kid manages to escape. Me and Honor both punch the sofa cushions out of frustration.
I’m like, “Will we watch another episode?” and as I say it I hear the front door slam.
She goes, “We might as well. She’s gone to see her dad.”
I’m there, “Is that what that was all about? Ach this and ba mhaith that.”
“Sort of, yeah.”
“Here, what does the phrase ‘go raibh maith agat’ mean? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before.”
“It means thank you.”
“That was it! Thank you! I’ll add that to the old vocabulary. It’s amazing how many things you think you didn’t learn at school but it turns out you actually did.”
“Put the next episode on, will you?”
“I’m doing it. Here, what was she thanking me for anyway?”
“I did what?”
“She said he doesn’t like rugby but he wants to bring a client and you told her he could have your tickets.”
“Honor, please tell me I didn’t agree to that.”
“As you might say yourself, Dad – bhí.”