Word of the day – macaronic

At the end-of-course ceilidh at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, one of the Irish guys read a story which was half in English and half in Irish. It was very funny, if you understood both languages; those who didn’t missed quite a lot. Even speakers of Scottish Gaelic found it quite difficult to understand all the Irish bits, which suggests to me that Irish and Scottish Gaelic aren’t as mutually comprehensible as some claim.

This type of story is called macaronic, a word coined in the 16th century by Teofilo Folengo, an Italian poet, to refer to a type of verse he invented in which he mixed Italian and Latin for comic effect. He based the name on macaroni, which he described in Latin as pulmentum farina, caseo, botiro compaginatum, grossum, rude, et rusticanum (a savoury dish bound together with flour, cheese [and] butter, [a dish] which is fat, coarse, and rustic).

The word was first used in English the following century and was used to refer to any type of verse which mixes two or more languages together.

Source: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-wei1.htm.

Here are links to a few examples of Macaronic songs in English and Irish:

This entry was posted in English, Italian, Language, Latin, Words and phrases.

3 Responses to Word of the day – macaronic

  1. Jason Fisher says:

    Great WOTD. I used to write macaronic verse myself, at the tail end of junior high and into high school (in the 1980’s). Mainly a mixture of English and Latin, but sometimes French, or other languages. None of it very good, I’m afraid. The word has never been common, though I know it well myself, and as you pointed out, its coinage is very amusing (like the results of the best examples of it).

  2. Seumas says:

    Regarding the mutual intelligibility of Scottish and Irish Gaelic…

    I can’t speak from an Irish perspective, but from the Scottish side, it is generally quite easy to read and understand written Irish.

    However, to understand the spoken language really depends on the dialect being spoken and how quickly the person is speaking. I find the Dublin dialect impossible to understand. The Ulster dialect is very similar to Scottish Gaelic. With the others, you can communicate together (because there’s so much shared vocabulary) as long as you speak slowly so the words are clear.

    I once met a guy from Donegal, and we had a pretty good conversation between Scottish and Irish Gaelic. I made minor modifications to my Gaelic (for example, replacing the modern thu and tha with the archaic tu and ta, which Irish has retained) and he didn’t speak too quickly. We were able to communicate without great difficulty.

    Manx is more confusing because the orthography is so different to Scottish/Irish Gaelic.

    Did you find that you learned a lot in your time at Sabhal Mor Ostaig?

    tioraidh matha


  3. Simon says:

    A Sheumais – dh’ionnsaich mi mòran aig Sabhal Mòr Ostaig – òrain, sgeòil agus tuilleadh Gàidhlig.

    Have you heard spoken Manx? There are a few Manx language programmes and bilingual programmes on Manx radio, e.g. Claare ny Gael. I can understand quite a lot of them.

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