ERSE is often the answer to the crossword clue
[Gaelic tongue]

ERSE crossword Irish Gaelic Scottish language crossword meaning clue answer
image via legacytree

ERSE is an old word for an [Old tongue] now known much more commonly as [Gaelic]. In fact, Erse, erst, was used to refer to both Irish Gaelic (also known as [Irish]) and [Scottish Gaelic].

Either way, ERSE is a [Cousin of Manx], making it a [Celtic language].

[Limerick words]

Brendan Emmett Quigley, August 29, 2016

[Skye writing]

Elizabeth C. Gorski, New York Times, March 3, 2002

Today, ERSE is a ranking member of the crosswordese club. It’s been in puzzles forever, dating at least dating back to the third-ever New York Times puzzle, and I’d be shocked it wasn’t used regularly in crosswords in the three decades before the Times deigned to start publishing a weekly crossword.

As immigration from Ireland brought Gaelic speakers around New York in the first half of the century, and so maybe ERSE didn’t seem so perverse.

But today, like the language, about the the only place most Americans encounter the [Highland tongue] is when it’s hung in a grid.

image via Mysid

It’s generally unpleasant to see a word in puzzles that’s fallen so out of use, but I mind less when there’s an interesting clue attached.

Fortunately, not only have constructors like Quigley and Gorki produced some appealing puns for ERSE, but others have noted that [“Plaid” and “spunk” derive from it].

ERSE is also the

  • [“Whiskey” source]
  • [Language that gave us “bard”]
  • [Language that gave us “galore”]
  • [Language from which “hubbub” comes]
  • [Language from which “clan” comes]
  • [Language that gave us “smithereens”]
  • [Language that gave us “slogan,” originally meaning “battle cry”]

Some of crosswords’ most common answers are Erse as well:

  • AER: [___ Lingus], [What the Irish breathe]
  • NAE: [Thumbs down], [Dundee denile]
  • TAM: [Scottish cap], [Pompom’s place]

As for “Erse” itself, its etymology is likely tied to “Irish” and the nation sometimes seen in puzzles as “IRE.” Erse is also likely connected to sobriquets for the [Emerald Isle], “EIRE” and “ERIN,” both of which fill in for [Dublin’s land], [Hibernia], [Cork’s place?] and [Green land?].

[Language in which “Hello, how are you?” is “Halò, ciamar a tha thu?”]

Joe Deeney, New York Times, April 3, 2020