Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a Not So Dead Language” as Want to Read:
Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a Not So Dead Language
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a Not So Dead Language

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  411 ratings  ·  63 reviews

'Motherfoclóir' [focloir means 'dictionary' and is pronounced like a rather more vulgar English epithet] is a book based on the popular Twitter account @theirishfor.

As the title suggests, 'Motherfoclóir' takes an irreverent, pun-friendly and contemporary approach to the Irish language. The translations are expanded on and arranged into broad categories that allow

Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published September 7th 2017 by Head of Zeus (first published 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Motherfoclóir, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Motherfoclóir

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  411 ratings  ·  63 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Motherfoclóir: Dispatches from a Not So Dead Language
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
reader, I bought it... Actually I bought two, on the basis of the library copy. One for me and one as a Christmas gift for my dad who loves Irish. That was after getting about half way through and realising that I had a load of pieces of paper to mark the interesting words.

When I was a kid I remember the green dictionary that was written in the older script(cló Gaelach) -which, by the way, I can read, that had regular blank pages for you to add in words and meanings and it was covered by notes
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads
YES. This is what the Irish language needs. I even cried a little at the end.
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beatha teanga í a labhairt.

This book, and the Motherfoclóir podcast, are singlehandedly responsible for reigniting my interest in gaeilge. Aside from the handful of words that I use in everyday life (like bainne for milk), my Irish skills have rapidly declined in the decade since I sat my Leaving Cert Irish paper. This book is a brilliant introduction (or reintroduction) into the language for anyone.

Motherfoclóir is not a dictionary or a language guide. You may pick up a few words here and
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a hard book to characterise. Part autobiography, part dictionary, the book explores the Irish language, its history and its quirks. The book is easy to read, and avoids bogging down on technicalities or becoming too academic. Instead, it dwells on interesting and amusing homophones and etymologies.
By dealing with words ranging from commonly used to archaic, it would appeal to audiences with only a "cúpla focal" of Irish through to native speakers.
I personally found the authors obvious
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Disappointingly uneven.

There is about 25% of a 5-star book here: the writing really shines when the author is discussing their personal relationship with Irish, their memories and experiences and the way Irish life and Irish language intersect.

Sadly, the rest of the book has less substance than that. It is mostly a long series of vaguely related words: that sound similar, or look similar but mean different, or a funny-sounding idiom. Sometimes there are interesting observations around these
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't expect to cry while reading this book, nor to find so many suitable and propitious words to describe people who annoy me. But that's what this is. I've followed the Twitter account for a while, but this book is a handy and well-organised compendium of some of the highlights (all I'd change would be to add an index).

Quick, funny, moving and a unique insight into Ireland and the Irish of the current moment (there's even a hipsters section!)
Robin Stevens
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A clever, funny and personal look at some of the strangest words of the Irish language. (14+)

*Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. If you use it in any marketing material, online or anywhere on a published book without asking permission from me first, I will ask you to remove that use immediately. Thank you!*
Alicia Winokur
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mé grá this book, so, so much. Like many Irish-Americans, I don't speak a lick of Irish but have at least one aunt with a cheeky póg mo thóin pillow somewhere in her house and at least one cousin named (of all things) Aisling. I started following @theirishfor a little over a year ago, right after I got back from a trip to Ireland, and fell in love with the linguistic puzzles of this not-so-dead language. So this book was the natural next step. It's true, it is part foclóir (dictionary), and some ...more
Richard Mullahy
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this for my gaelscoil-attending daughter but ended up reading it myself. The author provides a great service to the Irish language here. He evidently has a great love for the language and through this work the reader can see why. I certainly have more enthusiasm for it after reading this. And as someone who suffered the Irish education systems method of teaching the language that's something.

This is a very pleasurable read in general. The author displays a lightness of touch and humour
William Justus
May 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Don’t be fooled by the popularity of this book; it is still a dictionary. Like any dictionary it can be dull to the extreme, but Darach has succeeded in making it interesting in points. He chooses to define many words in Irish for which English is sorely lacking, and many of these are rather poetic. He also peppers in his personal experiences with the language, adding a sense of weight to the book. He has also addressed some of Ireland’s history with its language, which helps to inform the ...more
Grace Tierney
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A friend gave me this book knowing I had an interest in unusual words, word history and dictionaries (because I blog about such things at What she forgot was that I do so about English words, in part because Irish was a struggle for me in school. However she's my oldest friend and she was right to give me the book because I truly enjoyed it.

It's a gentle meander through Irish both ancient and modern with detours for Brehon Law (hilarious) and elegiac references to
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was unexpectedly beautiful, touching, funny & thought provoking. Its the kind of book you can dip into and come away with something wonderful each time. I wasn't too bad at Irish in school but unfortunately I've forgotten most of it over the last 20 years. This book, the constantly entertaining Motherfoclóir podcast and Darach's twitter account have given me a new appreciation of the unique beauty of the language. It helped the language come alive to me as more than just a school ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
On pg 211, Darach Ó Séaghdha promises the reader he will not deviate from his "brief" in discussing his personal views on the subject of abortion as he understands the purchase of the book has been motivated by an interest in the Irish language.

Unfortunately, he fails to take a similar position with regard to various subjects throughout the book. Interesting and amusing etymological insights are dispersed between a very particular narrative interpretation of modern Irish history - banal, but
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Motherfoclóir is a fun little book. Worth it if you're trying to revive your basic and forgotten Irish from school, or if you're more fluent, or even if you have none of the language and want an insight into it.

Not really a phrase book or a grammar book - it's just fun words and phrases. Say you want to know how many words in Irish there are for seaweed, this is the book for you.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, m
I really really enjoyed this. It’s an excellent companion for anyone learning Irish, providing insights and laughs that increase the joy of that particular education. I loved it.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Entertaining and educational
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and fascinating read. Borrowed from the library but I will be buying my own copy so that I can refer back to it again, and again, agus arís.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
An absolute delight.

Part memoir, part guide to the oddities of Irish, Motherfocloir is Darach Ó Séaghdha’s attempt to free the Irish language from the expectations of those who wanted it to be something other than what it was and is: a means of communication. Of a particular type of Irish teacher Ó Seaghdha says “The Irish language was never and end in itself for men like him; it was a talisman to protect us from modernity, technology, liberalism and change.”

Motherfocloir is about confidence.
I liked it well enough. The book provides a quick insight into the Irish language with some humor and insights tossed in about what it was like to grow up speaking (and loving) a language that many felt was archaic or somehow lowbrow in the UK.

It can be repetitive in place or read like a grocery list, probably due to it being derived from a blog. What makes for an interesting blog doesn't usually make for an interesting book. Those are two different types of reading. Also, about half the book
Often entertaining, and a pretty quick read. I don't think that I came away knowing any more Irish than I did before (a few scattered words that cannot be put into sentences), but I may have a little more appreciation for it overall and picked up a few fun facts along the way. It is definitely aimed at an Irish audience, not an American one, but I think it came across pretty well despite that (even if I still have absolutely no idea how some of the names that he includes to illustrate ...more
Wavey Cowpar
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not the usual type of book I would buy. But I loved it. My Irish is, sadly, abysmal, which is one of my big regrets in life. So I’m hoping to improve it a little. And this was a great way to start. What a fun, real, moving, and authentic book full of great vocabulary and phrases. The author is brilliant and I’ve been learning Irish without it being a chore. I’ll have to read this book again to get more words from it once I’ve learned the ones I picked out from this reading and I’d say it ...more
I loved this book. I loved this book in that special way that brings a tear to your eye and joy to your heart.

Má tá Gaeilge agat, is gá duit an leabhar seo a léamh, inniú, láithreach. (Inné, más féidir leat.)

If you are a person with or without Irish, who has, or has not, suffered through the education system’s version of what you’re meant to know this is a wonderful book no matter what background you approach it from.

If you are a poetic soul, who has always needed an Irish equivalent to
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is equal parts a mini-dictionary (the "foclóir" of the title), a collection of short pieces on the Irish language and its place in Irish history, a series of thoughts on the impact a language has on the developments of individuals and societies, and a short autobiography of the author. It is certainly not a deep, scholarly work, and it is all the better for that. Instead, all of this is delivered in a conversational style that is well-suited to the shifts between history, etymology, ...more
Patrick O'Hannigan
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: Eve O'Hannigan
This is whimsical, erudite, autobiographical, and wholly unlike other reference books I've read. Darach has written a brief in defense of the continuing relevance of the Irish language, and while some of the interstitial commentary marks him as almost distressingly progressive, he is a man with a joy to share rather than an axe to grind.

Reading this taught me a few things about the names of my favorite Irish pubs. I must applaud anyone with wit enough to write things like, "Every story has a
Addie Curley
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a fun book that takes you through the subtleties and quirks of the Irish language. Each section starts with a seemingly unrelated anecdote or historical event, but Darach brings it all together in a fun way. My only frustration is that there is no comprehensive pronunciation guide, as my Irish is very rudimentary.
Quite enjoyable. His obvious enjoyment of Irish shines through. It was a bit uneven in that unless the ebook formatting was just messed up, some parts are little more than lists of interesting words with little narrative tying them together. I still found it enjoyable, though, because the other parts more than made up for it. Also, I just love hearing about delightful etymologies and speakers having fun with their language(s).
Christina Reid
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating read! Both erudite and irreverent, made me laugh out loud more than once and really opened my eyes to some of the oddities of language, false friends and untranslatable concepts that make me love learning new languages. This is a book I will be revisiting and pressing into the hands of many others!
Cecelia Beyer
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really fun read for a fan of the workings of language generally, and for fans of Irish in particular. I can recommend it for those who don't have much Irish; I've been learning it for just two years now, and still knew enough to enjoy the book. Linguistics fans and fans of old dictionaries and how words fall in and out of use will enjoy it, too.
Hannah Loughnane
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A really enjoyable book. I bought it because of a long standing interest in Irish and I so enjoyed interesting words, phrases, comparisons. I didn't expect the emotional pang at the end. Would recommend to anyone, regardless of level or proficiency in Irish
Sarah Jean
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm surprised to find a little tear in my eye as I finish this. I love to read a book written by someone with a real and genuine passion for their subject, who still manages to keep it accessible and entertaining.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Coming Home: One man's return to the Irish Language
  • The Gospel According to Blindboy
  • The Importance of Being Aisling: Country Roads, Take Her Home
  • Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling
  • Constellations
  • Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling
  • Hóng
  • The Cow Book: A Story of Life on a Family Farm
  • 52 Times Britain was a Bellend: The History You Didn’t Get Taught At School
  • Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response
  • Dishonesty is the Second-Best Policy: And Other Rules to Live By
  • Toffee
  • Amongst Women
  • Notes to Self: Essays
  • Theatre of Cruelty (Discworld #14.5; City Watch #1.5)
  • Don't Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language
  • The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers
  • White Goats and Black Bees (Classics from the Southwest Ireland Series)
See similar books…
Darach O'Séaghdha is the author of popular twitter account @theirishfor whose followers include Dara O'Briain, Ed Byrne, Marian Keyes, Colm Toibin, and Gerry Adams.
“This may come as a surprise to generations of Irish pupils, but the Irish language wasn't invented just to infuriate people forced to learn it at school.” 3 likes
“The extremely useful word athghnó is work you do that wasn’t done properly the first time.” 1 likes
More quotes…