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For the first noun def. I'm fairly sure the term was first used in Alexender Barclay's translation of "Shyp of Folys" (1509) if anyone wants to go and find a quote. --Imran

Irish & Scottish Gaelic translations[edit]

I removed Gaedhlaing, Gaolainn & Gaedhilge because they are not standard words for Irish. The first two are dialect forms and the third is just an old spelling. Do we really need to list every spelling variant in the translation section??? Furthermore Gaolainn is often used to refer just to the Munster form of Irish.

In Scottish Gaelic, Irish is usually referred to as Gàidhlig na hÈireann (lit. Gaelic of Ireland) just as Scottish Gaelic is called Gaeilge na hAlban (lit. Gaelic of Scotland) in Irish. They use the native words, not each others words.

Moilleadóir 17:08, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

Irish (ugh) Gaelic[edit]

I think this expression is a particularly American one. Irish people in general don’t talk about Irish Gaelic, it’s just Irish. Furthermore, opponents of language revival in Ireland have been known to use the word Gaelic to imply that it’s something almost foreign (the usual meaning of Gaelic in Ireland & the UK is Scottish Gaelic) so it has become somewhat politically charged. In the same way people in Scotland have referred to Gaelic (in a derogatory sense) as Erse (i.e. Irish).

I think the phrase "also known as Irish Gaelic" should be removed as it doesn’t add anything to the meaning at all. But it is a fact (however sad) that people do call it that. Does that make it a usage note? ☸ Moilleadóir 14:34, 30 January 2008 (UTC)

Hello, again. It seems to be exactly what should be in a Usage note and it sounds like you would be the right one to do it. I'd be happy to read it and ask questions if I'm confused. Do "Irish Gaelic" and "Scottish Gaelic" merit their own WT entries (or already have them) with the appropriate usage note and cross-references so folks know what they might be reading or saying when they use the words? Is there a good Wikipedia article on the linguistic controversy? DCDuring TALK 16:24, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
Oh. five or six different WT entries on Gaelic languages. They don't look as full as they might be, especially with respect to usage notes. DCDuring TALK 16:28, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
In America, yes, we tend to call lit Gaelic, but that is because when when many of the Irish-Americans emigrated from Ireland, they still referred to it as Gaelic. When my grandparents learned Irish, they wrote in the old alphabet (an cló Gaelach), and in English they still called it "Gaelic." The younger Americans and non-Irish learned to call the language by the name of the people they knew who were familiar with it. When I say "Irish" to people, they have no idea what I'm talking about. They think I mean an Irish accent. I prefer to call the language Irish, as well, so I usually start off by calling it Irish, and then clarifying automatically that is Gaelic, and then refer to it as Irish more consistently. Sometimes I just stick to calling it Gaelic, as most Americans know what that means. --Daiv (talk) 07:29, 6 December 2015 (UTC)

collective sense of Nationalities[edit]

The following is copied from the discussion in the Tea Room.--Brett 12:33, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Should we treat "the whole people of a country" as a separate, proper noun sense that is distinct from the plural of the common noun nationality (cf "two Chinese" vs. "the Chinese")? We list this sense in a few places, but only for entries where it is common in English to include "the" beforehand. This is generally with nationalities whose plural is the same as the singular (see Chinese and Maltese) and where we refer to the people as a whole by a different word (we use "the Irish" not "the Irishmen"). Should we add this sense only to these types of entries (its lacking at Japanese, Kyrgyz and Swiss for example) or to all plurals (Canadians and Germans) and just note the lack of the definite article? I would be quesy adding the collective sense to Germans because you can generally always use the plural of a common noun to refer to the collective ("toys are for children"). --Bequw¢τ 19:02, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

I would only do that for the "singular" forms that function that way, because it is unexpected. We don't need to do that for "plural" forms (like the Russians), because any plural noun can refer to all members of a class, including common nouns. --EncycloPetey 19:05, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure they're proper nouns; to take your example, "many Irish" is well attested. And it's not the only such; the same is true of "blacks", where *"a black" (or *"a blacks") and *"two blacks" are awkward at best, but "the blacks" and "many blacks" are just fine (given the right context, anyway). I don't know what the right term is. It's almost as though "Irish" and "blacks" and so on were uncountable pluralia tantum, with singulatives like "Irishman" and "black person" being used for individuals and small numbers. BTW, am I the only one who finds ?"a Chinese" and ?"two Chinese" to be unacceptable? I've heard them a number of times, but it always jumps out at me.RuakhTALK 20:11, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Oddly, to me, "a black" sounds wrong but "two blacks" somewhat okay. Same for "Chinese".​—msh210 20:25, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Jumping back to normal size — I feel silly carrying on a whole conversation in small — I find that they get more and more acceptable as the number goes up and up: "a million blacks/Chinese/whatever" sounds almost perfectly normal. Similarly for other collectives: "two cattle" sounds ridiculous to me (it's "two head [of cattle]"), but "a million cattle" sounds almost fine. I still slightly prefer "a million black/Chinese/whatever people", "a million head [of cattle]", and so on, but I don't think I'd even notice the other ones in normal conversation. I don't know why that should be; my understanding is that in languages with true singulatives, like Arabic and Russian, it's more like English "snow"–"snowflake" or "sand"–"grain [of sand]", where no matter how many grains of sand you're talking about, you can't jump over to *"a billion sand". Maybe it has to do with the fact that "Irish" etc. are treated as plural, whereas "snow" etc. are treated as uncountable-singular? —RuakhTALK 20:56, 29 June 2009 (UTC)
Since you can say "many Irish", that indicates they're not uncountable nouns. Since you use plural verbs with "Irish" even in American English, I think that indicates they're not w:Collective nouns. So are they pluralia-tantum count nouns instead of proper nouns? (is that what you meant Ruakh?) Does anyone have the CGEL? --Bequw¢τ 01:01, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
Re: "Since you can say 'many Irish', that indicates they're not uncountable nouns.": I'm not sure. Usually "uncountable" implies "grammatically singular", at least in English; but I think all English pluralia tantum take "many" rather than "much" (even things like "suds", I think, where *"one sud" is not only ungrammatical, but also IMHO uninterpretable; though "much suds" does get some Google-hits, so apparently some speakers disagree with me). The distinction between countable and uncountable pluralia tantum, if it exists at all, doesn't seem nearly so rigid as with singulars, but personally I think I'd put "Irish" more on the "uncountable" side, as it goes.
Re: "they're not w:Collective nouns": Right, I agree. (To clarify, by "collectives" I was alluding not to "collective noun", but rather to "collective number". I don't think English has true collectives and singulatives, but I don't know the right terms, so I was grasping a bit. As you say, the CGEL would be helpful here.)
RuakhTALK 01:26, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

According to the CGEL, Irish is always an adjective, and never a noun. Nationalities are discussed from p. 1694 of the CGEL. On p. 1696, Irish is categorized as "class 2", and as such it has the name of the country (a noun) Ireland, the adjective Irish, and the inhabitant noun Irishman. The examples discussed above, the Irish and many Irish, would be analyzed under the CGEL system as follows: They are both noun phrases (NPs) the adjective Irish is functioning as a fused-head (fusion of internal modifier and head) in both NPs, which have no actual nouns in them. Fused heads are discussed from p. 410. A relevant example is given on p. 417: "[The French] do these differently from [the Dutch]".--Brett 01:47, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks! —RuakhTALK 15:30, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
I guess I'll change the entries and add usage notes. I'll have to work up some info on fused-heads though. --Bequw¢τ 01:20, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

Irish as a derogatory term[edit]

So what if Irish meaning nonsensical or complicated goes against rfv, surely what matters is if people use it and it can be sourced. Obviously I haven't got a source for it, but I'm sure it can be found. 'Bad' meanings cannot be just edited out of the dictionary! 16:51, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

If it can be sourced, why don't you find a source for it? We need sources or anyone could add any old nonsense they made up unchallenged. Equinox 19:49, 20 June 2011 (UTC)

The thing is, language doesn't exist in a vacuum. I can't be the only one who knows this meaning. 07:13, 21 June 2011 (UTC)

You're not. It's actually quite common, but, like most informal usage, it's almost impossible to find a cite for. There's too many other uses that clog up the searches. BTW, I don't consider it derogatory, it's more comical than nasty.--Dmol 09:58, 21 June 2011 (UTC)
Is it is widespread colloquial use in some context? Is there "mention" of such usage? Though I've haven't heard it personally, it would certainly not be surprising, fitting into mostly historical patterns of ethnic abuse. DCDuring TALK 14:16, 21 June 2011 (UTC)


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Rfv-sense (adjective): (informal, derogatory, dated) Nonsensical, illogical.

I am fairly sure that this is based on the fairly common collocation "Irish logic", which I take to be "a type of logic typical of or attributed to the Irish." It is not always derogatory and does not seem especially dated. I doubt that this is ever used as a true adjective or, indeed, used in the sense given except in the expression "Irish logic" or its synonyms.

  1. Is it a true adjective? See Wiktionary:English adjectives.
  2. Is it ever used in this sense except in "Irish logic" or synonyms thereof?
  3. Is there any usage that could not be included in a definition limited to "Typical of or attributed to the Irish"?

There are a large number of demonymic stereotypes that provide widely used pejorative senses of virtually every demonym. We seem quite arbitrary in how we treat these. As descriptivist adherents to "all senses of all words in all languages" we would seem compelled to have such senses, but we don't. Can we simply finesse the matter by having "Typical of or attributed to the X" for any demonym "X"? DCDuring TALK 17:21, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Oh I know this one. I may be difficult to cite because of the other meanings that will be used in texts a lot, but I've used it and heard it used. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:04, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
It is a question of presentation. I feel faced with a choice between the most natural way of presenting pejorative (and certain other) senses of demonyms and avoiding fanning flames of hostility and ethnic defensiveness. We need not make every pejorative sense explicit if we show a sense of "relating to the X people, their culture, and language(s)". If someone has a pejorative view of the "X people, their culture, and language(s)", then the non-evaluative sense arguably includes the pejorative associations they have. The shifts in the way the word "black" has been used by both blacks and non-blacks is interesting, but it seems more encyclopedic than lexicographic. Similarly, with the implicit racism in the (dated) expression "That's damned white of you, Thomas!". It seems to me that there is a long appendix on the sociolinguistics of demonyms and ethnic slurs. Any particular nuances for a given demonym seem more like usage notes material than definitional material. DCDuring TALK 15:43, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
Provided I (or anyone) can cite it, this seems very different from "from or pertaining to Ireland". It can refer to concepts as well as people, an "Irish idea", and "Irish suggestion". Now... I just note to prove it. Mglovesfun (talk) 16:06, 20 May 2010 (UTC)
The OED has this meaning as a separate meaning to the other ones. Mglovesfun (talk) 15:50, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
What would you expect from those stereotyping Edwardian logophilic Gaelophobes? I wonder whether they see fit to include "perfidious Albion". DCDuring TALK 19:53, 27 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm hoping this is a joke rather than a shot at Oxford. Anyway it's turning out to be a bastard to cite, as there are so many uses of Irish to mean 'relating to Ireland or the Irish people' that finding three citations is gonna be hard. Let's be honest here, RFV is about whether entries are cited, not citable. I'd like to see this kept as good faith, but we'll need more opinions than just mine. Mglovesfun (talk) 09:03, 30 May 2010 (UTC)
Re: the OED: I'm looking through their entry online — they're currently making it available for free, briefly, to advertise its new appearance — and I don't see such a separate sense. The closest I see is sense A. 3, “Irish in character or nature; having what are considered Irish characteristics. spec. Used of seemingly contradictory statements.” Most of the citations are of people saying something seemingly contradictory and themselves pointing it out, such as “followed by anticipation (to speak Irish)” and “Isaac and I went alone (that seems rather Irish)”. So the true sense is something like “(informal, dated, offensive) Seemingly contradictory” — not at all what our current definition sounds like.
Incidentally, the OED doesn't mention "Irish logic" at all in their entry.
RuakhTALK 23:23, 15 January 2011 (UTC)
RFV-failed. It's a colloquial sense, as Mglovesfun says, but I haven't been any more able to cite it than you have. - -sche (discuss) 16:47, 20 June 2011 (UTC)


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Sense: "(as plural) The Irish people." Couldn't this be a sense of any adjective? Feed the hungry, read to the blind, etc. This is just the (sense #5) plus an adjective. Plus, take away the the and you get something awkward like "Irish have faced many hardships." Ultimateria 04:40, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

It’s a plural noun. There are a lot of demonyms that have this pattern: the Irish, the English, the French, the Chinese, the Choctaw, the Cherokee, the Navajo...but, the Danes, the Russians, the Americans, the Germans, the Mexicans. I think the rule is that if the singular takes -man or -woman, as Irishman, Englishman, then the plural can take any of several forms: Irishmen, Irish people, or the Irish. The "regular" pattern does not take -man or -woman, and the plural doesn’t need people: a Dane, the Danes; a German, the Germans; an American, the Americans. Americans Indians seem to be a special case, and most tribal names are invariable and can refer to an individual or the whole nation: a Cherokee, the Cherokee; a Navajo, the Navajo. All of these are nouns, but adjectives can also be used: German people, Irish people, English children, Choctaw women, Danish men, American teenagers. —Stephen (Talk) 07:53, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't completely agree with Stephen, but I find "many Irish immigrated" much more acceptable than ?"feeds many hungry" or *"reads to many blind" (the latter seems out-and-out ungrammatical, actually, though it may be citeable per the CFI; here's one use), so I think it may be worth covering this sense as a plural-only noun even if it's still technically just an adjective. (That said, if we do keep it, we need to improve the def. "Many Irish immigrated" doesn't mean "many the Irish people immigrated".) —RuakhTALK 11:20, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Your three examples all sound very wrong to my ears. the nomination sounds about right. But if cites say Irish is used as in feeds many hungry, then I suppose we should keep. Or at least if it's widely used that way.​—msh210 (talk) 17:11, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
Like Stephen, I would analyse it as a noun, but that may be under the influence of German, where the division is clear (die studierende und die trinkende Menschen sind..., die Studierende sind...). It passes the lemming test, however;, Merriam-Webster and the American Heritage Dictionary all analyse it as a noun meaning roughly "inhabitants of Ireland". Notably, and Merriam-Webster include descendants: "the inhabitants of Ireland and their descendants elsewhere", "natives or inhabitants of Ireland or their descendants especially when of Celtic speech or culture". - -sche (discuss) 18:49, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
Kept. — Ungoliant (Falai) 15:27, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

Regarding words like this and deaf (see Talk:deaf), I just noticed that we do have the following definition at [[the]]: "Used before an adjective, indicating all things (especially persons) described by that adjective." - -sche (discuss) 00:18, 10 June 2014 (UTC)