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Book and Fadas and Verbs…Oh My!

"The Abridged Irish Verb Book" by A.J. Hughes and "Our Fada" by Rossa Ó snodaigh and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill.
“The Abridged Irish Verb Book” by A.J. Hughes and “Our Fada” by Rossa Ó snodaigh and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill.

Books are my passion…have been since I was about six years old. So it should come as no surprise that bookstores are where I gravitate when I travel.

In fact, people who know me are not at all surprised to learn that I deliberately under pack when I travel, so as to leave room for books on the return trip.

It should come as a surprise to no one, then, that An Siopa Gaeilge at Oideas Gael is my all-time guilty pleasure.

An Irish-lover’s wonderland

If there’s anything written in or about the Irish language that they don’t stock, I’d be shocked. Just about anything your Irish-loving heart could desire can be found there.

Children’s books, novels for adult learners, books of poetry, classics of Irish literature, learning methods and reference books, religious texts, music books, music CDs — not to mention greeting cards, T-shirts, and the like. It’s a veritable feast of Irish goodies!

Browsing the shelves while trying to decide just how much self-indulgence my budget and backpack can stand is a little bit like shaking the packages under the Christmas tree!

A modicum of self-restraint (just a modicum!)

I really did have to behave myself this year, partially because I was on a fairly tight budget and partially because a foot injury late in my visit made me reluctant to overload the backpack.

Even so, it took all of my will power to restrict myself to a few novels and CDs. On my last day in Glencolmcille I splurged on two reference books that I think any learner of Irish would find difficult to resist.

Leabhar Laghdaithe Bhriathra na Gaeilge /The Abridged Irish Verb Book

If you’ve ever struggled with Irish verbs (and what Irish learner hasn’t?), this book, by A.J. Hughes, MA, MésL, PhD, belongs in your library.

I’ll admit I was sorely tempted by its big brother, Leabhar Mór Bhriathra na Gaeilge/The Great Irish Verb Book (by the same author). An oversized hard-bound at €45, however, just wasn’t going to fit in the pack or in the budget.

That said, the smaller book (which is available in both hard- and soft-bound) is extremely useful (and considerably more portable!), and is probably more practical for day-to-day use.

The main part of the book consists of full conjugation tables for 115 of the main types of Irish verbs (regular and irregular), including notes on principle dialect variants.

For the featured verbs, this includes the past tense, the present tense, the future tense, the conditional mood, the imperfect tense, the imperative mood and the present subjunctive.

The index lists and defines every verb that occurs in Ó Donaill’s English-Irish Dictionary with its present tense, past tense, future tense, verbal noun and verbal adjective, along with a reference to a verb that is conjugated similarly.

An appendix provides translations of some of the conjugations, to help the learner understand what is meant by, say “conditional mood” or “imperfect tense.”

This is definitely a book that belongs on every serious Irish learner’s bookshelf.

Our Fada – A Fada Homograph Dictionary

I wish I’d known of the existence of this book when I wrote my March 30, 2013, post Our Fada: The Importance of the Accent Mark in Irish Gaelic, as it would have saved me some work! (and I most certainly would have given it a plug at the time).

Our Fada — A Fada Homograph Dictionary, by Rossa Ó Snodaigh (of Kíla fame) and Mícheál Ó Domhnaill is an amusing, but also informative and useful, romp through the world of “fada homographs” (words that are spelled the same, with the exception of the existence and/or placement of the accent mark).

It definitely falls into the “great minds think alike” department, as I’ve often been irritated at how accent marks, in Irish and in other languages as well, are ignored by writers of English. They’re there for a reason, folks.

Even I didn’t realize, however, just how many fada homographs there are in Irish. This little book contains almost 3000!

Granted that some of them aren’t words you’re likely to encounter every day (some are variants; some others are literary or obscure words), the point is still made: Ignore the fada at your peril.

A fun and amusing feature of this good-humored little book is the use of some of these homographs in sentences (often accompanied by cartoons), which shows just how absurd things can get when the fada is ignored. For example:

Fine Finne na Fionnlainne: The Fine People of Finland.


Fíne Finné na Fíonlainne: The Winery’s Witness’s Vine.

It may be hard for speakers of a language that doesn’t use accent marks to realize just how quickly an intelligible sentence can disintegrate into nonsense when the appropriate accents are ignored or misused, but Our Fada will make sure you never fall into the same trap!

While Our Fada may be a bit more light-hearted than the scholarly Leabhar Laghdaithe Bhriathra na Gaeilge, it’s definitely another “must-have” for any proponent of the Irish language.

(And as for Leabhar Mór Bhriathra na Gaeilge? It’s on my Christmas list!)

What books do you find indispensable?

Are there any Irish reference books that you find absolutely indispensable? Please share them with us in the “comments” section below!

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