If you spell your name with a fada like mine, chances are we’ve shared the same frustrations. If you’ve been asked a million variations of “why do you spell your name with a accent?”, have had your national pride mocked (because using an Irish spelling is hilarious right?) or been privy to the anglicisation favoured by most this ones for you.
To me, my fada is a part of my personal identity; a link to my heritage, a reminder of my native language and the origins of my name’s formation. The fada on my o doesn’t just sit there as a pretty reminder that sometimes I like to spout the Irish language at my unsuspecting friends; it actually serves a purpose! The fada as gaeilge can not only change pronunciations, it can change a word’s entire meaning. The Ór in my name means golden. Without my fada my name’s literally means nothing. Fadas are also important parts of the linguistic make-up of the Irish language If you’ve studied any amount of Irish at school, you’ll have heard the fear/féar comparison but the premise holds through for so many words as gaeilge:
The name on my birthcert reads Órla; the fada is included in my legal documents and college transcripts. The same spelling can be found on my passport but sadly, it rarely appears on my travel documents. I’ve had trouble with Ryan Air, Aer Lingus and ever Irish Rail, all of who cannot seem to support the simple addition of my fada (though comically, British Airways reportedly allow the use of our faithful friend the fada… the irony). According to both Ryanair and Air Lingus, their systesm and printers cannot read these “symbols” though in 2017 you’d think it were alot easier to update codes to accept these parts of everyday language. In France, the aigu, grave, cedilla and the tréma are considered as important as the letters they are used in conjunction with. In mainstream Ireland the fada sits as an accessory; used by teachers who use Irish language spellings of their names on Facebook to hide from prying kids or to be picked on by keyboard warriors who think the only possible reason for using an Irish spelling is an attempt to be different and quirky (yes, I have been asked that….). News flash, using my ainm as gaeilge is me standing as as being different; I’m a proud gaeilgeoir and an even prouder native of this wonderful little Island; I don’t use my fada to keep up appearances, it actually means something to me!
Oh here we go you may cry, another gaeilgeoir complaining about another pointless issue but misspelling someone’s name is rather rude and that’s just what you do every time you forget my fada. People cry “cultural appropriation” when the media mongrels don’t take the time to learn the correct pronunciation of more considered ethnic names like Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho (and come on, Ow-Lee-E isn’t that hard, my fada doesn’t even change the pronunciation!) It seems however, perfectly applicable to leave out an entirely viable and important part of my title.
As I edit this, a post appears on my Facebook timeline from Conrad na Gaeilge about the recent trend in people complaining about the pronunciation of Irish names like Oisín and Gráinne. For some there is an apparent illogical nature to the correct pronunciations of these names and many think they should be more follow more anglicised pronunciations. CnG counter-acts by providing the example of french names like Francois which is perfectly accepted by media standards and which no-one seems to have any complaints about pronouncing correctly. Is it because Irish is a less well know language or because so few actually consider Irish to be a working language? Perhaps it’s ignorance, disrespect or just sheer laziness or perhaps it’s just a lack of knowledge. Conrad na Gaeilge are running a great campaign at the moment to dispel some common myths about the Irish language which you can read more about here.
A lot of my friends with Irish names choose to anglicise the spellings because “it’s easier” but to me, that’s a cop out. I’m (mostly) Irish, I speak as gaeilge nuair a bíonn an seans atá agam and I’m down right proud of my heritage. By not accepting the spelling of my name in my own language, you’re practically disallowing me my right to express my name’s Irish roots and my pride in my gaelic beginnings. In hindsight it shouldn’t matter but to me it does; I try as hard as I can to spell names as correctly as possible where I can because I don’t want to cause offence or be rude. I don’t like people thinking I haven’t taken the time to use their correct titles because I don’t have the respect of time of day for them just like I do when ensuring I use correct pronouns or titles for my lecturers. It’s not about being an annoying Irish speak who insists on using fadas, it’s about have respect for the person and their given name.
My mother gives out when I turn on Tg4 and changes the channel the second Sharon Ní Bheoláin pipes up on the SixOne news. She doesn’t understand. A British born school leaver, she speaks only a cupla focail but gave me the title Órla when I was born. my birth cert reads with a fada, my email signature my full name trí gaeilge and when I get my fancy-schmancy college degree in November, my fada will take a shining place. My mother’s ignorance and ill understanding of the language of my ancestors didn’t mean she turned to an anglicisation of my name upon registering me as a citizen of this fair land; maybe it was a clerical error but perhaps she recognised the cultural significance of giving me a name steeped in history. Órla – “golden lady”, sister of Brian Boru and the 4th most common female name in 12th century Ireland. I’m proud of my heritage. I’m proud of my language and I’m proud of my fada.
Hey people, leave my fada out of this; it’s part of me!
I originally wrote this for seachtáin na nGaeilge but I got too busy with life to post it…