Ancient Language : Forbidden Tongue
“Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam”
A country without a language is a land without a soul
There is a certain little trodden path that must be taken if one wishes to look squarely at the issues of language loss, and cultural change. To reclaim something, anything, that has been lost, involves first a time of mourning – as we come to recognise what is missing. Then begins the task of gathering, returning and relearning. Choosing what we take with us as we go forward.
“We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.”
– Winston Churchill
But “Irishness” is not something that exists as a mere image or sound-byte, everybody wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Why do the Irish drink so much ? The day may come when we forego the image of a pint of Guinness as a measure of Irishness. We are also a country that has suffered generations of alcoholism. One may observe that with such a history as ours, it is common for one to wish to forget the past – but if, by a seeming cultural duty of inebriation one fails to envision a better future, it is clear a country is losing its way. To see clearly and to act effectively, requires sobriety and a willingness to break from the habits of one’s peers. Too long has Ireland trodden a path of imitation, unwilling or unable to foist the bonds of self-determination on her own terms. By butchery, by necessity and by default; the language of Ireland became the English language. But was has been lost?
To be Irish then is more than surface qualities. Less than two hundred years ago, to have one’s surname in Irish displayed in public on one’s cart for example was an offense for which one could be fined or even imprisoned. Today, many are turning to the Irish versions of their names, and starting to learn again, and speak in Ireland’s own forbidden tongue.