galore

Ah, ’twas a fine evening in the gallery with a gal or two… and a gallon or two! Sure, we had Guinness galore going down our gullets. Or, as we’d say in Gaelic, Do raibh Guinness go leor againn…

Ah, ’tis a good word, galore, for gulping and for glorious gluts. It moves a bit like a swallowing motion of the tongue, and leaves the mouth in that rounded position that is often seen in reaction to superabundance. And it even has a nice hint of the Irish in that sustained retroflex /r/ at the end – not that many languages have that sound: most kinds of English, most kinds of Irish, some kinds of Dutch, Mandarin Chinese… there are not sources galore for it!

Galore is indeed a Gaelic word, barely converted at all, at all. The original in Irish is go leor, literally “to sufficient” (in Scots Gaelic, it’s gu leòr). The pronunciation in the original is nearly identical to how we say it, even though the sense has magnified some. And, of course, since it’s a prepositional phrase, it goes where prepositional phrases go: just as in abundance goes after fish in we had fish in abundance, and out the wazoo goes after chips in and we had chips out the wazoo, so galore will follow the noun phrase it modifies, as in and of course we had Guinness galore… and as in the name of the novel and movie Whisky Galore, and as in its most common collocation in modern English, the name of one of the most famous Bond girls, Pussy Galore, played by Honor Blackman in Goldfinger.

Irish makes use of prepositional phrases even more than English does. You don’t say “I own it”; you say “it is with me,” tá sé liom (“is it with-me,” said like “ta shay lum”). You don’t say “we had Guinness,” you say “Guinness was at us,” do raibh Guinness againn (“[past] was Guinness at-us,” said like “doe rev Guinness uggíng”). And if someone did something to your detriment, he or she did it “on” you – do bhris sí an cathaoir orm, “she broke the chair on me” (“[past] broke she the chair on-me,” said like “doe vrish she an ca-heer orum”) just means she broke your chair, darn it, not that she broke it over your head. This usage is colloquial in English but standard in Irish.

This prepositional tendency gives us some Irish-English phrases like I’m after talking with him, meaning “I just talked to him,” and it also shows up in the well-known Éireann go bragh (often seen as Erin go bragh), “Ireland forever” – and in galore, in use in English since the 17th century.

Ironically, galore may first have been borrowed over from Scots Gaelic… but, of course, as everyone but the Scots knows, Scots Gaelic was originally a dialect of Irish Gaelic, so of course it comes back to Ireland, sure and it does.

Thanks to David Moody for suggesting galore. ‘Tis true, I’ve done it before, so now we have galore galore!

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