Martin McDonagh's play, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, is obviously set in Leenane/Leenaun, Connemara, County Galway in the west of Ireland.

In the script, the two words "scald" and "ol'" (short for "old") are spelled by the playwright, "scould" and "oul." Despite the identical "oul" spelling of both, I can't imagine that these two words, which 'ought to be' from two different lexical sets (THOUGHT+/l/ and GOAT+/l/, respectively) are pronounced exactly the same.

Would anyone familiar with the area have any insight into this? My guess would be roughly /skaːʊ̆ld/ and /ʌʊ̆l/. If you have any well-informed adjustments to those, please help!

  • 2
    I'm not sure about 'scold' but there are definitely parts of ireland where 'old' is pronounced like the bird, 'owl'. My grandad was from Connemara and I think it would fit his pronunciation. The dialect where I grew up in Wicklow -- close to Dublin -- definitely used 'owl'.
    – S Conroy
    May 13, 2019 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


Pronouncing '-old' as '-oul' or '-ould' (or if you like '-owl' and '-owled') is common in many parts of Ireland and in fact also some areas of the UK such as Liverpool which have a long tradition of Irish immigration. It's akin to what the Scots do with '-auld', as in 'Auld Lang Syne'.

For example the term "bleedin' oul wans", from "bleedin' old ones" was once very common in Dublin to describe older women who the speaker regarded as interfering and old-fashioned. Some people still refer to their father, mother and parents as "the ould fella", "the ould doll" and "the ould pair".

Personally I still say things like "she's could (cowled) enough today" on a cold day, which anyone from where I grew up in Donegal would recognise.

I suspect this comes from Old English originally, for example this discussion of the poet Milton indicates that this pronunciation was common in his time, and possibly came to Ireland with the English and Scots.

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