Rhododendron threat raised in Dáil” is a brief but piquant news story well summed up in the first sentence: “Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has claimed that the spread of rhododendron in Killarney National Park is so bad that the army may have to be called in to sort it out.” I bring it here solely for the accompanying video clip, less than half a minute long, which presents, as Trevor, who sent it to me (thanks, Trevor!), says, “a reminder of what a strong Kerry accent sounds like.” It’s truly a thing of wonder; as I said in response, I love the way he says the word rhododendrons.


  1. Favorite segment – when he talks about how much is needed to put Killarney Park in ardor.

    One can only imagine.

  2. Do I hear a retroflex d? [ɑːɖɞ˞]

  3. David Marjanović says:

    Nothing is retroflex in the whole clip, including r itself, which is an alveolar trill. The order at the very end is [äːrdə̆r].

  4. Yes, I hear it now. Bias from hearing too much Swedish, I guess.

  5. Jim (another one) says:

    I’m looking around for the Irish word for rhododendron and not finding one.

    Fuchsias have become invasive in southern Ireland too. At least there’s a word/expression for fuchsia. God help them if anyone lets a geranium loose.

  6. So is the MP’s choice of stressed vowel here idiosyncratic or dialectal?

  7. ə de vivre says:

    I first read the headline as Rhododendron threat raised in Dalí, and thought that this was from some kind of surrealist news agency.

  8. We desperately need a surrealist news agency in these parlous times.

  9. J.W. Brewer says:

    Many might consider the work of the official news agency of the North Korean regime to have surrealist elements. Here’s a non-NK website devoted to gathering its output for easy reference: https://kcnawatch.co/

  10. ə de vivre says:

    Don’t believe that surrealist fake news. The rhododendron level in Dalí has in fact been downgraded from ‘tintinnabulary’ to the historically low level of ‘lumpy’.

  11. The Healy-Raes are caricatures of the backwoods clientelist politician; Michael only recently had the nerve to start wearing his trademark flat cap in the Dáil chamber. The accent is part of the package.

    “is the MP’s choice of stressed vowel here idiosyncratic or dialectal?” — I don’t recall hearing “rhododundron”* before, so I would guess it’s idiosyncratic. The Kerry accent has the pin-pen merger (“whin it comes to a national park”) so it may be a hypercorrection of “rhododindron”.

    *I think the vowel is STRUT rather than FOOT, in which case “rhododoondron” is inaccurate.

  12. David Marjanović says:

    I hear a loud and clear [ʊ]. If that’s STRUT rather than FOOT, then what does FOOT sound like?

  13. I hear it as even closer to [u]; I’m amazed it could be considered STRUT.

  14. In the same clip are the following STRUT words for comparison: “comes” 0:02, “nothing” 0:19, “much” 0:26. Some Irish accents merge STRUT and FOOT; perhaps he does in some contexts? The full debate is available on video here, starting at 3h45m, with (frustratingly non-verbatim) transcript here. For GOOSE there are “beautiful” and “tourism” at 3:47:00-06. For FOOT there is “a good politician” at 3:47:26.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    This all sounds like in northern England, where the distribution is simply different: the FOOT-STRUT split is absent, and good (with [uː]) hasn’t participated in the irregular shift from GOOSE to FOOT(/STRUT).

  16. According to De Bhaldraithe the Irish word for rhododendron is ródaidéandran.

  17. @DM: I think it’s only -ook words that have non-standard /uː/ in the North.

  18. David Marjanović says:


  19. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says:

    There’s an interesting map on Wikipedia showing the various realizations of the STRUT vowel in British English dialects. What amazes me is the realization as [ɪ] in Devon/Cornwall. Is it real? Do these varieties merge ‘sun’ and ‘sin’ or has the vowel in the latter shifted to something else?

  20. The New English-Irish Dictionary provides two Irish words for rhododendron: róslabhras (= ‘rose laurel’) and ródaideandrón; there are audio files for the latter from each of the three main dialect regions.

  21. FWIW Twitter’s reaction to Healy-Rae broke rhododundron 3 to rhododoondron 0

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