Art and aliens

It struck me today that the Irish word for artists, ealaíontóirí, sounds like ‘alien tory’. I hadn’t really noticed this before. When I hear or read the word, it usually brings to mind artists and art, though hearing it out of context triggered the thoughts of extraterrestrial members of the Conservative Party.

I try to think in the languages I’m studying as much as possible, and to picture in my mind the things and actions I hear or read about. Sometimes I only notice that a foreign word sounds funny to English speakers when someone who doesn’t speak the language points this out to me, or if my brain is in English mode.

This entry was posted in Irish, Language, Language learning, Words and phrases.

11 Responses to Art and aliens

  1. Chase boday says:

    I try and do the same thing, but I can’t seem to find one for Russian’s ‘artist’: khudozhnik, and the false cognate: artist, Russian for a musical professional, any ideas?

  2. Jared says:

    It bothers me when people find a foreign word funny, especially if I like the word. Sometimes it’s not the word so much as the meaning that amuses them, like the name Elros in Sindarin. Elros means star-foam or star-spray (as in spray from the ocean), and I think it quite poetic. It conjures up a beautiful image for me (and I’m sure it did for Tolkien) of an ocean roiling and splashing under the light of the stars. Yet when I explained once to a friend what the name meant, he laughed.

    I was mildly angry.

    The best thing to do in my view is to forget about what a word sounds like in English; it’s better to approach the language on its own terms than to bring along your native speech patterns and slap them onto it, like putting movie posters on the Parthenon. I think (though I don’t stress this point too much; it’s hard to get really worked up about language) that you shouldn’t laugh at a word from another language. How would you feel if someone told you your name sounded like the term for “barf-breath” in their language?

    Note: I’m not addressing anyone in particular with those “yous.” It’s just that I don’t like substituting “one.” It sounds cold.

  3. Janis says:

    Reminds me a titch of when I saw a little article in a local Welsh paper about a Mardi Gras celebration that was very successful: llwyddianus.

    I laughed at a soundalike that I’m certain was entirely unintentional: llwyddianus, Louisiana. If the article hadn’t been about Mardi Gras, it would have gone right over my head …

  4. Stuart says:


    Don’t know why you should get angry because people find words in other languages funny; when learning a language we grasp onto whatever is familiar and finding something that is familiar eases the process of learning, it makes it easier to conceptualise the new word or words; and a word that makes me titter or giggle is even more likely to stay in my memory than one that is not

  5. Janis: I’d like to know what llwyddianus means (yes, I can pronounce it, strange as that may seem).
    Jared: (maybe a bit off-topic) What mothers me more is when people who should know (e. g. Tolkien fans) mispronounce Elvish names. Prime example: SELeborn. [Aside to non-tolkiendili: The name of Galadriel’s husband is spelled “Celeborn” and pronounced KELeborn]

  6. Declan says:

    I can never do that for Irish, but one of the most unusual I’ve heard is the Gallimh sounds like Olive with a G.

  7. Janis says:

    Ronald: Llwyddiannus (two n’s, I misspelled it earlier) means “successful.”

  8. Jared says:

    Stuart- I do think anger is too strong a word, but there wasn’t anything else to use. If English had a term for a kind of disinterested irritation bordering on anger but without a strong enough emotional hold on me to really be important to me, I’d use that.

    Ronald- Oh, I understand! Seleborn, Minus Tirith, Minus Morgle, Minus AYnor…the list goes on and on. I shiver to think of it.

  9. kiki says:

    Here’s one that bothers me: When people in the US make up “Gaelic” words and try to pass them off to other Americans as authentic. There is a company called Tallan, that says their name means “talent” in Gaelic. Is that true? What is the word for “talent” in Gaelic?

  10. Simon says:

    Kiki – talent in Irish Gaelic is bua or tréith, in Scottish Gaelic it’s comas or tàlant, and in Manx Gaelic it’s schlei or talent. Tallan means partition in Scottish Gaelic, and tallann means an impulse in Irish.

  11. Diarmuid Hayes says:

    I am sure you know that the word tory is from Irish? toraiocht being the noun I think it means chase

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