This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at

What’s in a Name?

Listowel Pitch and Putt Course

An Oldie and a Goodie

Carol Broderick shared this newspaper photo of some Listowel greats.


I remember when I encountered names in book which I had never met in reality, I just made up my own pronunciation of them. We dont have to do that now as there are so many aids to help us pronounce unfamiliar names correctly.

You don’t want to hear how I used to mangle Yvonne and Penelope.

Here is the first half of Sean Carlson’s essay on the subject of Irish names in The Boston Globe

“What word has the biggest disconnect between spelling and pronunciation?”

The Merriam-Webster account on X, known for snappier and snarkier posts than are usually associated with dictionary publishers, recently managed to provoke some ire from the Irish by answering its own question with “Asking for our friend, Siobhan.”

Ah, Siobhán, a feminine equivalent of my own name, Seán. In the case of Siobhán (pronounced shiv-AWN), the obvious failure with the attempted zinger is that the name is conspicuously absent from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, since it is a proper name in the Irish language, not English.

Evan O’Connell, communications director for the French nonprofit Paris Peace Forum, countered Merriam-Webster with a volley of English surnames: “You had Featherstonehaugh, Cholmondeley and Gloucestershire right there.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a lawyer with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, posted, “Once more for the people at the back: Irish names *are* pronounced the way that they are spelled. In *Irish.*”

Siobhán O’Grady, the chief Ukraine correspondent for The Washington Post, agreed, pointing out that the accent mark known as a “fada” is used to elongate the “a,” in Siobhán (and in Seán, for that matter).

To be fair, most Americans are unfamiliar with the nuances of the Irish language. “Cillian Murphy pronunciation” is a top search request, and “Cillian Murphy speaking Irish” isn’t too far behind. In 2016, Stephen Colbert welcomed Saorise Ronan to the “Late Show” and held up flash cards of Irish first names — Tadhg, Niamh, Oisin, and Caoimhe — for her to read aloud. When they came to Siobhán, Colbert laughinglycalled it “ridiculous.”….

Greenway Milestones

These signs have appeared to help those going or coming on The Greenway.

Proof Reading

Reggie helping Bobby to check if I got his good side.

A Definition

from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce

Appeal; In law, to put the dice back into the box for another throw.

A Fact

The world’s oldest creature, a mollusc, was 507 years old when scientists killed it by accident.



Visitors and a Concert


Micheál ÓMuircheartaigh Remembered

1 Comment

  1. Tim McCrohan

    I enjoyed your article about “What’s in a name”. I wish I could pronounce Irish names correctly, but Caoilfhionn Gallagher was exactly correct when she said, it pronounced, just like it’s spelled (in Irish). I blame it on our American ignorance and the fact that we try to anglicize everything and not interpret or learn the alphabet sounds in that native language. Although, I can attest to the fact that Americans are even horrible at interpreting our own English alphabet sounds. If I had a nickel for every person that pronounced my last name incorrectly I’d be very wealthy (McCrohan) (“mick-CROW-en” or “mick-CROW-han”, depending on how you’d like to pronounce it, sometimes the “h” is silent, sometimes not.) It’s not that difficult. (Although, in Gaelic, it might be pronounce differently I suppose.) The vast majority of people who pronounce this name, pronounce it incorrectly. There’s usually a long pause and then comes the dreaded killing of the name. We get pronounciations such as Mc-Crack-en, Mc-Crotch-an, Mc-Cro-NAN, sometimes they just stop after the first Mc and expect us to finish it, other times the Mc is left off entirely. Even writing it, sometimes they’ll put a space between the two “C’s”, which changes the last name entirely on official documents. We were almost denied entry onto an airline a few months ago because someone decided our passport (for whatever reason) needed a space between the two “C’s” and it didn’t match our plane ticket spelling (with no space). It’s fairly annoying. I’ve gotten to the point that if they mispronounce it on the telephone, I tell them they have the wrong number as there’s nobody here by that name. As an American myself, I feel that Americans are basically lazy and don’t want to take the time to read the letters and often substitute letters into a name that aren’t even there, just to get something out. Tim McCrohan (pronounced just like you see it, in English.) 🙂

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