I’m not sure I entirely bought the Irish parts of Clint Eastwood’s otherwise-compelling Million Dollar Baby. The grizzled trainer struggling through phrasebooks and grammars to recapture some unspecified Lost Thing From The Past seemed just a bit heavy-handed: everything he says and does to Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank shows us he’s gentle and sensitive and haunted; he doesn’t need to go off and read poetry as well. And the Irish fight-fans who obviously know what mo cuishle means seem a bit keen to adopt it as a battlecry to accompany these women just belting each other (on which props to Hilary Swank and her trainer—she really does look ferocious. Can you believe she was on 90210?).
Anyway, The New York Times has an interesting article on the use of the Gaelic phrase in the film, including its full version and meaning:
The name is a shortened form of the phrase “A chuisle mo chroí,” “O, pulse of my heart,” or as Frankie will put it more concisely, “My darling.” But Ms. Swank’s character doesn’t know that yet and neither do we. All we know is that the words emblazoned – and some argue misspelled – on the back of her robe are important to a lot of people.
Well, I don’t speak any Irish, but I suppose there’s a fair argument that if it’s really “mo chuisle” then “mo cuishle” is a misspelling. By far the most common version seems to be macushla, which seems much easier for everyone, but may be offensive or ignorant or something, I don’t know.
The other interesting part of the NYT article discusses the scene in which Clint Eastwood is translating WB Yeats’s The Lake Isle of Innisfree from Irish into English for Hilary. It’s certainly a beautiful poem:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
But alert readers will notice that it is written in English, and always was. Someone may have translated it back into Irish for Clint’s little book, but it wasn’t Yeats, and Clint could have saved himself a lot of trouble by reading the original cheap vardenafil.
It’s like the scene in Tom Stoppard’s wonderful Arcadia where Septimus has translated a bit of Antony and Cleopatra into Latin and torments Thomasina as she tries to translate it back into English—then shows off by pretending to puzzle over his own translation as he squeezes out the Shakespeare version. She catches on faster than Hilary Swank did, and is ropable. Tragically I seem to have lent my copy to someone and so can’t extract it.