The GuardianThe Guardian

The Gaelic language is stunningly beautiful, but I just can’t get my tongue around it

By Jenny Colgan

25 Jul 2022 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

Sometimes we have to know when is best to throw in the towel. In this personal piece, the author explains how Gaelic - the native language of her forefathers - was the one thing she had to quit.

In common with my two terriers, I never give up anything, however much my harp teacher, publishers (40 books and counting) or husband (way out of my league) might think I ought to. Doctor Who readers once got a petition up to stop me writing Doctor Who (I have not stopped writing Doctor Who). But everyone meets their Waterloo sooner or later, and this is mine.

Gaelic is the language of my forefathers, and my husband’s: his grandfather was born on Mull in 1849. It is the original language of the country I live in and deeply love. Not only that, but it is in itself beautiful: musical to listen to, descriptive and exquisite. The very colour spectrum is different. Liath means blue or grey, because it is the word for the colour of the sky or the sea. Likewise gorm is blue, but also the colour of the grass. And dearg is reddy brown, like the earth, but ruadh is the red of your hair.

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