NOTH­ING LOST IN TRANS­LA­TION

Here’s proof that the Ir­ish lan­guage is in rude health

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - AUDIO REVIEWS - Mother­fo­clóir Episode38:Hap­pi­lyEmherAft­er– Women of the Táin SARAHMARIA­GRIFFIN

This pod­cast is just one of the Ir­ish lan­guage and cul­ture projects that Darach Ó Séaghdha has de­vel­oped from his pop­u­lar Twit­ter ac­count @theirish­for, which trans­lates words from English into Ir­ish, of­ten with ex­pla­na­tions, cul­tural notes, and an ex­cel­lent sense of hu­mour. The suc­cess and raw good­will sur­round­ing the Twit­ter ac­count led to Ó Séaghdha’s award-win­ning book, Mother­fo­clóir, Dis­patches from a Not So Dead Lan­guage, and this pod­cast not only shares the name of the book, but also the spirit. In an al­most en­tirely English-speak­ing coun­try, the work that is done to not only pre­serve but cel­e­brate the Ir­ish lan­guage is vi­tal – and Ó Séaghdha man­ages this in an in­clu­sive, warm way – this pod­cast is a call-in to Ir­ish cul­ture and his­tory and lan­guage, not a sec­ondary-school class.

The con­ver­sa­tion in this episode cen­tres on the women of Ir­ish mythol­ogy. Their sto­ries are told in ca­sual, easy con­ver­sa­tion that in no way pun­ishes the lis­tener for not be­ing hon­ours stu­dents in an­cient Ir­ish his­tory. The sto­ries are told of Cú Chu­lainn’s no­to­ri­ously bad treat­ment of women and how, be­cause of male trans­la­tions, women’s agency, their iden­ti­ties, and some­times even their senses of hu­mour and wit get stripped from these leg­ends and tales.

Ó Séaghdha’s host­ing is gen­tle, giv­ing space to his two co-hosts to lead the dis­cus­sion. Ó Séaghdha de­fers to Éimear Duffy and Caitlín Nic Íomhair, both of whom are warm, funny and ab­so­lutely ex­pert on the sub­ject. It is a pure de­light to lis­ten to peo­ple talk about things that they are gen­uinely fas­ci­nated by – there’s an en­thu­si­asm and ex­cite­ment to the tone of this episode that is hard to pin down to a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, but is also im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore.

This pod­cast is an ef­fort­less lis­ten that is still some­how ed­u­ca­tional as well as re­sound­ingly good craic. It poses in­ter­est­ing ques­tions about how we tell our pre-Chris­tian his­tory, and who de­cides how the sto­ries are told. Any wor­ries I had about not be­ing well-versed enough in the Ir­ish lan­guage or in Ir­ish his­tory to un­der­stand were im­me­di­ately eased. Mother­fo­clóir is mak­ing an ac­tive dif­fer­ence in how our cul­ture is talked about, and part of that dif­fer­ence is in how easy it is to lis­ten to. This is a great lis­ten that cer­tainly in­vites a deep dive into pre­vi­ous episodes. Lis­ten­ers will come away from this episode know­ing more about our folk­lore and with some cu­rios­ity about how sto­ries of an­cient Ire­land are usu­ally told – and who by.

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