Tell it to Mary in a whisper, and Mary will tell it to the parish.

Note: The world is full of blabbers, or gabbers, like Máire in this week’s proverb.

She was worse than a blabber; she was a hinter. It gave her great pleasure to rouse curiosity and speculation about dangerous things.

Robertson Davies, What’s Bred in the Bone, 1985.

However, for most people in the English speaking world, when they hear the phrase “gift of gab,” they think of the Irish.

Suppose you wanted to say “that boy has the gift of the gab,” in Irish. According to Tomás de Bhaldraithe’s dictionary, one way would be to say “Tá an bhean dhearg go maith ag an mac sin.” Literally, this means “That son has the red woman well.” (English ~ Irish Dictionary, An Gúm, 1992, p. 286, under the word ‘gab.’)

From this, one might infer that our Máire is a ‘bean dhearg’, a red woman. Nonetheless, in the sense used here, ‘dearg’ would actually mean ‘real.’ For example,

Bhí an t-ádh dearg air. He was in real luck.
Tá an diabhal dearg air. He is a real devil.

This interpretation leads to the conclusion, in the Irish language at least, that a ‘real woman’ is a gabber.

On the other hand, one could argue the opposite conclusion. In Irish, real men are the gabbers. This is evident in the fact that virtually every other synonym in Irish for the word ‘gabber’ is in the masculine gender, i.e., ‘cabaire’, ‘plobaire’, ‘clabaire’, ‘duine bÈaloscailte’, ‘duine bÈalscaoilte’, and ‘duine rÛchainteach’. All of these are fourth declension, masculine. Therefore, a ‘real man’ is a gabber.

Some might counter that gender has almost no connection to the meaning of a word. In this case, all these words end in a vowel that just happens to be a hallmark of fourth declension, masculine words. These words are masculine only because of their spelling, or only because of their pronunciation. ‘Bean dhearg’, on the other hand is an idiom that embraces the Irish belief that a ‘real woman’ is a gabber.

In rebuttal, one could counter that there are fourth declension nouns, nouns ending in a vowel, that are feminine, e.g., ‘nóta’, ‘gloine’, ‘sláinte’, ‘taibhse’, … So the bulk of Irish words for ‘gabber’ could have been lumped in the fourth declension but have been viewed as feminine. They were not. Therefore, a ‘real man’ is a gabber.