Road sign in Cork

Originally uploaded by Pat and Amy’s pics

I love Irish place names. When we go places, I love to pull out the map of Ireland and just see what new names I can find. Here is a sampler: Meenybradden, Muckish Mountain, Aghagower, Shannawona, Keeraunnagark, Cloonboo, Gortnadeeve, Runnabacken, Crookedwood, Ballinaspittle, Ballylooby, Boobyglass, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ballylickey, Reanascreena, Derreennacarton, Gortnabinna, Coolnacaheragh, Dangansallagh, Bawnatanaknock, Coolnagoppoge, and Knockeennagearagh.

Most Irish names seem to describe the place, so certain words and syllables pop up all over the place, such as Kil (church), Carrig or Carrick (rock), Clon (meadow), Bally or Balli (town), Inis (island), and so on.

Irish cities and towns often have two names, the more Anglicized version, and an Irish version, such as Cork/Corcaigh, Galway/Gaillimh, Kilkenny/Cill Chainnigh, and Limerick/Luimneach. Dublin comes from dubh and linn and means “black pool,” but the Irish name for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath, which means “town of the hurdle ford.”

Confused yet? Well, you’re not alone. Some places in the west of Ireland are designated by the government as Gaeltacht, or areas where the Irish language is more commonly spoken. Road signs in the Gaeltacht have only the Irish version of names, which has proven to be a problem for some tourists. Would you recognize An Daingean as Dingle? We were told shortly after arriving here that the tourist industry in Dingle was hurting from so many visitors getting lost because they couldn’t find Dingle on the road signs. Business owners in Dingle were spraypainting Dingle over An Daingean on the signs in protest.