Today we had lunch at a restaurant in Guangzhou that makes darn good curry. If I wanted to say I ate curry in Gaelic, what would I say? Until recently, I would have had to say Dh’ith mi curry, using the English word for a dish that won’t exactly be found in the tales of my ancestors. But that’s the thing: times are changing, and Gaelic speakers in Scotland and the Gaelic diaspora (such as it is) can’t always rely on the same old vocabulary when the things they want to talk about are more and more likely to include things not touched on in the old dictionaries.
With that in mind, here’s something interesting I read this morning via the Save Gaelic site:
Ever taken a lesbian out for a curry in Stornoway and been behind a giraffe in the queue for a table?
Not the most likely of situations, but if it ever arises Gaelic speakers will no longer be stuck for words.
Gaelic, often characterised as a language frozen in time and embedded in the past, has proved it can keep pace with the modern world by adding to its vocabulary.
For the first time in almost 25 years, the official set of rules governing aspects of the language such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, has been revised and updated.
From ochone to Ã²son, the language has proved it is striding confidently into the 21st century.
Included in the list of about 2000 words for which clear guidance is given on correct spelling are a few new ones which reflect Gaelic’s ability to absorb modern concepts and adapt accordingly.
Definitive spellings of lesbian, giro, pizza, yoga, ozone, giraffe, Sikh and curry, among others, are listed in the new guide.
Prepared by a committee of Gaelic experts set up by the Scottish Qualification Authority, the new Gaelic Orthographic Conventions represents the first revision of the rules since 1981.
In order for Gaelic to thrive, it needs to remain a language of daily discourse, and this most recent effort to keep the language modern and relevant should help. The new Gaelic Orhtographic Conventions may not be a magic solution to the decay of the language, but this latest revision can definitely help both learners and native speakers make Gaelic more a part of their daily lives. As I’ve pointed out in the past, I think the Malay language is a good example of how acceptance of new words from outside can strengthen a language rather than dilute it.
Now I know how to say I ate curry in Gaelic: Dh’ith mi coiridh. I haven’t yet had any opportunities (nor reasons) to write about lesbians or giraffes in Gaelic, but surely there’s a first time for everything. You just never know.