Gaeilgeoir (also spelt, but wrongly, with an acute accent over the o: Gaeilgeóir) is the Irish word meaning Irish language enthusiast - originally, just an Irish speaker, but these days, it seems to refer to non-native speakers only. The Gaeilgeoir phenomenon came about with the establishment of the Gaelic League in 1893: its founder Douglas Hyde was, in a sense, the first ever Gaeilgeoir.

The pioneer Gaeilgeoirs - such as the Englishman George Thompson or Seoirse Mac Thomáis, who helped Muiris Ó Súilleabháin to get his autobiography Fiche Bliain ag Fás/Twenty Years a-Growing edited and published - came to the Gaeltacht districts alone and could make friends with local people. However, as learning Irish became more fashionable, Irish-speaking country people could find their houses crowded and their privacy invaded by these snooping Dubliners who had no respect for the importance of farming tasks: impersonal tourism ousted personal contacts. (The real or perceived class distinction between these tourists and the Gaeltacht people might be reflected by the fact that the Kerry dialect of the Irish language still calls tourists na huaisle - "the noble people" - although other dialects might use less deferential terms, such as fámaire - originally, "idle loafer".) In fact, the Gaeilgeoirs depicted in Flann O'Brien's (aka Myles na gCopaleen) satirical novel An Béal Bocht came much nearer the truth than you might expect. In the course of time, native speakers, of course, learnt to make money from these intruders - consequently, tourist business is thriving in the Gaeltacht districts today.

There are Gaeilgeoirs and Gaeilgeoirs, of course. Some of these people actually acquire Gaeltacht attitudes and try to contribute to the well-being of the local people in a constructive way. Others might be really "idle loafers" or intrusive well-wishers of the worst kind.

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