On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Brian Donnelly wrote:
> I want to thank you once again for educating me. I did, however, see that you
> spelled my name with an h in it. In an earlier post, I learned that Brian
> could be spelled Briain in Irish Gaelic (there was some disagreement, though,
> among other posters). My question to you is: Is the addition of an h meant to
> be the Scots Gaelic spelling?
No, it actually goes like this: "Brian" is the regular form in Irish.
If I want to say, "of Brian" (as in "the Life of Brian"), it's spelt with an
extra "i": Briain. This is why the surname O' Brien in Irish has the
extra "i" (O Briain) -- it shows possession at Brian (i.e. the
descendants "of Brian"). What "a Bhriain" means, on the other hand, is
somewhat inexpressible in English, but is a form of a person's name that
you use when you're talking to them directly -- if their name begins
with a consonant, you put "a" in front of it, and if the consonant their
name begins with is "b", "c", "d", "f", "g", "m", "p", "s" or "t" then
you put an "h" after the first letter as well. (This is called
"aspiration", and it's a common way of showing grammatical change in
Irish). And then as a final kicker, some but not all masculine names
put in the extra "i" at the end.
Aspiration changes the pronounciation of the first letter, so that
even though "b" in Irish is similar to "b" in English, "bh" in Irish
sounds like English "v". When you address someone called Seamus, for
example, you say "a Sheamais", which is pronounced roughly like (uh
hamish) -- which is where the anglicized name Hamish comes from.
slainte a Bhriain!
Neil A. McEwan