Irish: bí i do thost

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by Ihsiin, Apr 21, 2013.

  1. Ihsiin

    Ihsiin Senior Member

    In James Joyce's Ulysses, the citizen of the Cyclops episode tells his dog to be quite with the phrase: "Bi i dho husht". Declan Kiberd notes that the proper Irish is "bí i do thost", meaning "be quite".
    Could anyone tell me please how "bí i do thost" is pronounced (I'm happy with IPA) and the exact meaning word by word?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    The original spelling is incorrect, as already noted. Bí i do thost means "be quiet" (not be quite).

    The meaning of each word is as follows:
    bí = the imperative of the verb "to be"
    i = the preposition "in"
    do = the possessive pronoun "your"
    thost = the noun "tost" meaning "silence" (but in its lenited form)

    So, literally it means "be in your silence", although obviously nobody would say it like that in English. Translated into correct English, it is "be quiet".

    To hear how it is pronounced, copy and paste the correct spelling of the phrase into this website and then where it says "click to play", do just that :)

    I hope that helps.
  3. Ihsiin

    Ihsiin Senior Member

    Ah yes, you'll excuse my dyslexia; I'll correct the mistake.
    (EDIT: except it seems I can't edit the post; Oh well.)

    Thanks very much for your help.
    Just a quick question on "thost". The website you linked renders this as "host"; is the s->sh in "bi i dho husht" purely Joyce's invention, then?
  4. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    Basically, don't use Joyce's spelling as any sort of pronunciation guide in this instance :D The S in thost is pronounced like the S in horse, not like the SH in shop (you only get that SH sound in Irish when an S is followed by an E or an I).

    I also have no idea why he inserted a H in the word "do", rendering it "dho". I can't see how this would help the English reader pronounce it correctly since "do" is pronounced like the DO in the word "doll".

    Really, if you wanted to spell this sentence in a way that would make it easy for an English speaker (with no Irish) to pronounce, you'd be better off spelling it something like this: Bee eh duh hust (obviously, that won't work for all English accents though ;))
  5. L'irlandais

    L'irlandais Senior Member

    Dreyeckland/Alsace region
    Ireland: English-speaking ♂
    Hi Tegs,
    Perhaps (as suggested in Wikibooks below) Joyce is trying to underline the Character's poor command of Irish.
    Mind you since the character says it to his dog, the mispronouncation will not have made any difference to anybody, but the reader.
  6. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland)
    Ah, thanks for the added info l'Irlandais :) I'd no context to go on since I've not read Ulysses, so there may well be some good reasons why the phrase has been misspelled. Demonstrating a character's poor command of Irish would be one such reason ;)
  7. Ihsiin

    Ihsiin Senior Member

    Thanks a lot Tegs.
    As L'irlandais pointed out, the misspelling can be the source of much food for thought. My intenteion was, of course, to use knowledge of Irish to shed light on Joyce, not the other way round. To the end things have been most fruitfull.
    Thanks once again.

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