I’ve started a reading project that requires me to cart around all the stuff in the picture on the right: blank notebook, pen, Irish1 dictionary, Teach Yourself Irish, and the main feature, a copy of the first Harry Potter book in Irish. It’s called Harry Potter agus an Órchloch, or Harry Potter and the Golden Stone, and I’m only on page three after about nine hours with the book. Maybe half an hour was spent actually wading through new material, and the rest of the time went to looking up words in the dictionary, noting them with context in the notebook and paging through Teach Yourself Irish as a grammatical reference.
For example, you can’t just look up “órchloch” in the dictionary. You can try, but all you’ll get is “ór,” adjective, “golden.” There’s no entry for “chloch,” so it’s off to Teach Yourself Irish to look up adjectives and compound words; it turns out that most adjectives come after the word they describe, except for a few monosyllables like “ór.” When the adjective does come before the word, it causes an initial mutation known as séimhiú,2 a type of lenition where an “h” gets inserted after the first letter of the word. This turns the word “cloch,” with a hard “c” and throaty “ch,” into “chloch,” which is the sound I made when I first tried Jameson’s. It means “stone,” which makes sense, and when I apply my meager vocabulary and powers of deduction to the middle two words, we get Harry Potter and the Golden Stone.
[Don’t worry—I won’t chronicle the whole slog here, but there’s a little more after the cut…]