Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ireland, Conclusion: The Belfast and the Belfurious

When Irish eyes are smiling, Irish mouths are speaking and, more often than not, incomprehensible. Yes, consonants in Irish English function mostly the same as in American/real English. (One notable exception: "th" is pronounced as a hard "t." Accordingly, if you need a drink at half past ten, you're considered tirsty at ten-tirty.) Irish vowels, however, are inconsistent, nondeterministic, and designed to drive Henry Higgins mad. They vary among regions and speakers. Additionally, one speaker may pronounce the same vowel in completely different ways depending on whether he's talking to a customer, his buddy from the Publick House, or four hapless tourists, three of whom did not cause their car to lose a hubcap.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ireland, Week 2: Gaolbait

It's impossible to get lost in Ireland. First, the country is on a small island, so if you drive in the same direction long enough you will either find what you're looking for or fall into the ocean. Second, the Irish won't allow you to get lost. Ever. As we referred to our map of Cork (a cartoon version of the city where the key sights were dwarfed by advertisements for Mexican food), an Irishman stopped, unprompted, to help us find what we were looking for. Egad, culture shock. In New York, people don't stop unless it's to relieve you of money via either weapon or sales pitch ("Do you have a minute for [Your Cause Here]?"). In Killarney, on the other hand, a driver pulled over unbidden, gave us detailed directions to the Muckross House, and sped away. Thirty seconds later, she leapt from her car and sprinted back through a torrential downpour (did I mention it rains in Ireland?) to clarify her directions even further. We had no choice but to find our destination.