Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Summit Rotten in the State of Andytown

The Blether Region was in the commercial wonderland of West Belfast at the weekend, where, having performed an important errand likely to guarantee harmony in the Blether household for literally years to come, it duly found itself waiting on the bus home. Like many of the Metro vehicles plying their way through the area, the information on the bus shelter (on the Andersonstown Road) was bilingual — only in this case the two languages were English and gibberish. Yes, the Blether Region was invited to "barr suas" its bus pass.

The author of this blog, a linguistic pedant of many years' standing, has often been heard to express disapproval at mobile phone companies hyphenating the phrasal verb "top up" (a practice that should properly be applied only to the equivalent noun). This time, however, the reflexive reaction was to glance over at the English, without which the "Irish" would have been simply unintelligible. Barr is most commonly used as a noun but when used as a verb means "to surpass". The correct term for "top up", according to focal.ie, is breisiú. The remainder of the Irish suggested neither Galway butter nor Dublin margarine but injudicious use of Google Translate. As those working for Foras na Gaeilge are likely to remain ignorant of this scandal as they glide by the bus stops in their 2-litre cars, the Blether Region felt duty-bound to make it known to them.

To point out that native users of Ulster Scots invariably understand the English originals of documents better than the translations (which, depending on the translator, they may not understand at all) is a rather obvious criticism to make. However, when Irish translations are as bad as this, such criticism can become something of a double-edged sword.

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