Cé mhéad zombaí? – A ‘quiz’ for ‘Oíche Shamhna’ (Halloween)

Posted on 31. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

You might remember a previous blog (Ag Comhaireamh Daoine i gCultacha Oíche Shamhna (Vaimpírí, Gúil, srl.) that gave the Irish for many typical Halloween costumes. In that blog, we also used the “uimhreacha pearsanta” to count how many ghouls and zombies we were talking about. In this blog, we’ll recap those costume terms, this time as a mioncheistiúchán (mini-quiz). So we have deich gculaith and fiche focal to complete, filling in the missing letters.

You might want to reread the “Comhaireamh Daoine” blog, cited above, before doing this. Freagraí thíos:

1) g__l  a__háin

2) be__rt  t__aibhs__

3) tri__r   __omba__th__

4) ceathr__r  __ruaga__h

5) c__igear  b__n sí. As I noted last time, 12 Deireadh Fómhair 2012, it’s not that I’ve ever heard of more than one of these supernatural creatures existing in one time and place, but it makes for good counting practice.

6) seis__ar  d__abh__l

7) seacht__r  __aimpírí OR seacht__r deamhan f__la (lit. demons of blood) or seacht__r *s__-vaimp__” (the last being my Irish coinage for the trendy new English word, “psy-vamp, as you might recall from the blog of October 12th, 2012, cited above).

8) __chtar  cn__mharla__h. As discussed last time, this assumes the “cn __ mharlai __h” to be human-type beings, and thus counted with the “uimhreacha pearsanta” (personal numbers, used for counting “people”). If we consider the cn __ mharlai __ h to simply be inanimate objects, we’d say “ocht gcn __ mharla __ h,” using eclipsis and keeping the noun singular.

9) naon__r  m__mait__e, or if you prefer the more specific implication of desiccation, naon__r searg__n

10) deichn__úr ne_ch   ___othaitheach (It might be a little tricky to design costumes for these, but surely, with imagination, it could be done. Hmm, so how does one dress up as a crystalline entity (beith chriostalach; “Silicon Avatar,” Star Trek TNG) or as a shimmering mass of energy (meall crithlonrach fuinnimh; “Metamorphosis” Star Trek TOS). Smaointe ar bith agaibh?

Tá súil agam go mbaineann tú sult as a bheith ag líonadh isteach na mbearnaí. BTW, that’s “beith” in its more typical usage, the infinitive “a bheith” (to be). In reality, I can’t say I’ve heard “beith” used all that often as a noun meaning “entity” or “being.” But then, that’s getting into pretty philosophical topics, which are not necessarily the subject of everyday conversations in English, either. Ar aon chaoi, bain sult as Oíche Shamhna freisin. B’fhéidir go mbeidh muid ag caint go luath faoi na cultacha a bhí ar léitheoirí an bhlag seo. Slán go gúl (closest I could get to something Halloweenish that sort of rhymes with “fóill“) — Róislín

Freagraí: Please remember, as I stated in the 10/12/12 blog (12/10/12 sa R.A. agus in Éirinn), that I’m using the “genitive plural” rule for these. Several patterns are used following the personal numbers, but it seems to me that “ginideach iolra” gives the most consistency, since “beirt bhan” and “beirt mhac,” both widely used phrases, fit the pattern and are not construed as exceptions.

BTW, the number “one,” here used for our “ghoul,” isn’t so specifically part of the “uimhreacha pearsanta” system. As you can see, it follows the noun; most Irish numbers, in contrast, come before the noun. And “amháin” isn’t limited to people; it’s also used to count things or abstract nouns (bosca amháin; smaoineamh amháin). But “beirt,” “triúr,” etc., are mostly limited to counting people, although there is some leeway when we’re just using numbers as an answer, not as part of a full sentence, but that somewhat exceptional situation will have to be ábhar blag eile.

1) gúl amháin, one ghoul

2) beirt thaibhsí, two ghosts

3) triúr zombaithe, three zombies

4) ceathrar gruagach, four hairy goblins. Hmm, so “gruagach” is specifically a hairy goblin — does that mean “na bocánaigh” are non-hairy goblins? And how about the “ginidí“? Bhuel, the “giobachas” (hirsuteness) of goblins will have to be ábhar eile blag eile. Vs. “mosachas“? Vs. “fionnaitheachas“? Hmm, I’m looking forward to writing that one, some day. And making sure that “fionnaitheachas” (hairiness, furriness, shagginess) remains distinct from “fionnaitheacht” (a creeping sensation).

5) cúigear ban sí, five banshees. And I wonder how well five of these would get along if they found they had to share the back seat of a car or a railway compartment.

6) seisear diabhal, six devils

7) seachtar vaimpírí OR seachtar deamhan fola OR seachtar *sí-vaimpí, seven vampires OR demons of blood OR “psy-vamps”

8) ochtar cnámharlach, eight skeletons. As noted above, this considers the “cnámharlaigh” to be human-ish, if not fully human. As “objects,” they would be “ocht gcnámharlach,” using eclipsis and the singular form of the noun. If the “-ach” ending being repeated seems odd, it’s just because this is an “m1″ noun, with cnámharlach being both nominative (common case) singular and genitive plural. “Cnámharlaigh” is genitive singular and nominative (common case) plural, the exact opposite. Lots of possible future blog topics there. How to say, skeleton, of a skeleton, skeletons, of skeletons, etc.

9) naonúr mumaithe, nine mummies, or, to emphasize triomú as opposed to balsamú, naonúr seargán, nine desiccated mummies or nine shrivelled or withered persons

10) deichniúr neach mothaitheach, ten sentient beings, and for good measure, deichniúr beitheanna criostalacha, ten crystalline entities, and deichniúr meallta crithlonracha fuinnimh, ten shimmering balls of energy

What’s Wrong? Discussing Illnesses in Irish: Cad atá ort? Galar? Tinneas? Rud Eile?

Posted on 22. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

While working on the last few blogs about “galar víris Ebola” and illnesses in general, I got to thinking — why do we have so many terms for describing health — even on the “lay” level?  In English, we have “disease,” “illness,” “sickness,” “ache,” “disorder,” and, more generally, “malady” and “affliction.” Irish has “galar,” “tinneas,” “aicíd,” and, less typically and “less medically,” i mo thaithí féin, “éagruas,” and perhaps more related terms, with words for “affliction” packing a “wallop,” as we’ll see below. And then, of course, there are the euphemisms, like being “under the weather,” a few of which were mentioned last time (Níl Úna aici féin, etc.).

For English, it seems we’ve got some general patterns in how we use the words. So, next, we’ll look at some typical English terms, and see what the Irish equivalents are. If there’s room, at the end of this blog, we’ll look at some more specific examples; if there’s not, that will be “ábhar blag eile,” but probably not until after “Oíche Shamhna” (31 Deireadh Fómhair) and “an tSamhain” (1 Mí na Samhna), since they are fast approaching. Seo an liosta de théarmaí leighis:

1) “disease” is probably the most scientific of these terms, and “diseases” tend to have a fairly specific description and/or be named after a person or place (Crohn’s Disease, Ebola Virus Disease, et al.)

i nGaeilge: galar, most typically (i mo thaithí féin), but “disease” can also be “tinneas” (also means “sickness” or “illness”) or “aicíd” (also means “pestilence,” and sometimes “blight”)

2) “sickness” is widely used in general, but when you think about it, in English, we don’t often match it up with specific names or symptoms. Instead, we have some general conditions, most of which have more technical names used by medical practitioners: morning sickness, sleeping sickness, altitude (mountain) sickness, motion sickness, carsickness, airsickness, seasickness, and most abstractly, homesickness. The technical terms, like “Hyperemesis Gravidarium” and “hypobaropathy” tend to be either Latin or Latin-based, and pretty easily internationally understood, so we won’t dwell on them here. Even with this variety of “sickness” terms, we’ve got some differentiation in usage in English. For “car-” and “sea-,” for example, I’d tend to simply say, “I’m carsick” or “I’m seasick;” in other words, I’d probably use an adjective to describe the situation. But I don’t think anyone says, in English, “I’m morning-sick.” Hmm. Suimiúil! In English, for “sickness” with “morning,” “sleeping,” “motion” and “home,” I’d probably just use verbs like “has” or “gets” (She has morning sickness; He gets motion sickness if he rides in the back of the car.)

i nGaeilge: tinneas OR breoiteacht. In my experience, “tinneas” is the word that is generally used in compounds, like “tinneas aeir.” But then there’s “saoire bhreoiteachta” (sick-leave) and “leaba bhreoiteachta” (sick-bed). And “galar” can sometimes be translated as “sickness” as well.  “Tinneas,” “breoiteacht,” or “galar” — they’re all generally “on you” (ort) in Irish, as in “Tá tinneas fiacaile ort” or “Tá  galar Crohn ort.”  And, of course, we can also use the other forms of “ar” (orm, air, uirthi, orainn, oraibh, orthu), as needed.

3) “illness” is certainly a widely used word, but are there instances where a specific symptoms are referred to as “illness”? It seems to me that, once again, illness is a more general term.

i nGaeilge: tinneas OR breoiteacht, OR, and less commonly in my experience, “donacht” (lit. “badness” re: health, but can also be translated as “wretchedness” for luck or weather)

4) “ache” is usually associated with a part of the body: head, ear, tooth, stomach, back, but not eye, foot, elbow, etc. For those latter situations, we’d probably just say “pain” or “(it) hurts,” which would make an interesting, if somewhat bleak, blog, am éigin eile, sa todhchaí.

i nGaeilge: “ache” in an English compound word, like “earache,” tends to be “tinneas,” as in “tinneas cluaise,” but it can be “pian” (pain), if speaking more generally. As for “heartache,” which is not, fad m’eolais, really a medical term, it’s typically “crá” (lit. torment) or “scalladh” (lit. scalding), as in “crá croí” or “scalladh croí“.

5) “disorder” seems to mostly be for cognitive or mental situations, where the rest of the physical body is more or less healthy

i nGaeilge: for medical contexts, “neamhord.” However, as in English, there are other contexts for “disorder” besides medicine, which Irish typically differentiates (mí-ord in a business context, for lack of organization, etc., and aimhriar, in philosophy).

6) “malady” — well, I don’t think there are specific, named “maladies” in English. At least none come to mind. I suppose this term is more liteartha (literary) in usage, maybe beagán seanaimseartha.

i nGaeilge: for “malady,” we have “galar” (once again!) and “éagruas.” Éagruas, the opposite of “cruas” (hardness — physical or in temperament), also means “weakness” and “infirmity,” and it used to mean “distemper,” although “conslaod,” is the more recent (and more specific!) term

7) “affliction” — well, as we pause to consider this issue, most of the “translations” for “affliction” have more to do with suffering in general, not necessarily medically, but they do run the gamut. And I do mean “they” and I do mean “gamut,” because there are at least 20 words for “affliction” in Irish, including angar, ceasna, cránas, cros, diachair, dobrón, doghrainn, doilíos, dólás, donas, galar (which can also mean “misery” as well as “disease”), géarghoin, iomard, leannán, léan, leatrom, lobhra, sciúrsáil, teidhm, trioblóid, and tubaiste. Of these, the more widely used ones, i mo thaithí féin, are: doilíos (also means “difficulty”), dólás (the opposite of “sólás,” which is “comfort” or “solace”), donas (in general, the opposite of “sonas“), trioblóid (which can be major or minor), and “tubaiste” (which also has more meanings, like “calamity” or “tragedy”)

So what’s the take-away? To recap the most basic terms:

galar – usually a specific or named disease (galar Crohn, galar Creutzfeldt-Jakob, srl.)

tinneas – often refers to a part of the body (tinneas cinn) or a situation or environment causing illness or discomfort, such as pregnancy (tinneas maidine, morning sickness) or high altitude (tinneas sléibhe, altitude sickness, although this can also be “míbhail airde,” very literally “bad condition of altitude/height;” a third possible term is, straightforwardly, “galar airde“)

breoiteacht – reasonably widely used but doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same type of compound word formation as tinneas does. Also means “ill-health,” as does “easláinte.”

neamhord – used for situations like affective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorder, etc.

The others are mostly more general terms, ones that can indication ill-health in general, or terms that are widely used outside of “leigheas” as such.

In this blog, I haven’t even tried to touch on the “-osises,” the “-omas,” the “-itises,” and the “-pathies,” partly because they’re quite technical and partly because they tend to be almost the same in Irish, with “-óis,” “-óma,” “-íteas,” or “-paite,” as the suffix (e.g. zónóis, meileanóma, einceifealaimiailíteas eachaí iartharach, einceifealapaite spúinseach bhólachta, the latter aka “galar na bó buile“).

I also haven’t tried (yet) to deal with words like “sickly,” “invalid,” “bedbound,” and simply being “a little green around the gills,” but there’s always a chance that these will be i mblaganna eile, sa todhchaí. Moltaí ar bith agaibhse? Má tá, seolaigí isteach iad, mura mhiste libh!

Finally, to top it all off, we could simply cite the traditional Irish expression: Tá seacht ngalair an tsléibhe air (He has every disease under the sun, lit. “The seven diseases of the mountain are on him.”). An créatúr! But beyond the ” *créatúrachas” (“poor-creature-ishness,” to coin, once again, focal nua, fad m’eolais), notice anything unusual grammatically there? It’s a traditional expression and “ngalair” seems to be spelled “-air” in the older citations I’ve found for it. Somewhat unusually, that would appear to lump “galar” in with the “unit of measurement” words that don’t follow the general rules after numbers (as in: seacht mbliana, seacht n-uibhe, seacht n-uaire, srl.). Some more recent citations, like Urban Dictionary (!), give the phrase the standard spelling (seacht ngalar), with “mountains” in the plural (seacht ngalar na sléibhte), at http://sv.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=t%C3%A1%20seacht%20ngalar%20na%20sl%C3%A9ibhte%20orm. So was the original intent of the “mountain” (sléibhe) or of the “mountains” (sléibhte)? Can’t say, offhand, but maybe time, or some more searching, will tell.

Anyway, with best wishes “don angarúinneach a bhfuil seacht ngalair an tsléibhe air,” and slán go fóill, in all senses of the word “slán“! – Róislín

‘Tá mé tinn’ and other ways to say “I’m ill” in Irish

Posted on 18. Oct, 2014 by in Irish Language

Cad atá ar Tommy Beag?  Tinneas fiacaile nó tinneas cluaise?  (fearann poiblí: Little Tommy Grace, sa leabhar _The crooked man and other rhymes_ [ca. 1851 - 1870], ag an suíomh seo: http://www.clipartlogo.com/image/little-tommy-grace_151509.html)

Cad atá ar Tommy Beag? Tinneas fiacaile nó tinneas cluaise? (fearann poiblí: Little Tommy Grace, sa leabhar _The crooked man and other rhymes_ [ca. 1851 - 1870], ag an suíomh seo: http://www.clipartlogo.com/image/little-tommy-grace_151509.html)

(le Róislín)

Well, it’s not surprising that the English expression “to be under the weather” doesn’t translate literally into Irish. Most idioms don’t translate well from language to language.  The closest equivalents can be found at the end of this blog. But what are the typical ways to say “I’m ill” in Irish or to mention some of the illnesses that people suffer from?

We’ll start with some of the most typical situations and then suggest a few others that are less common. With all the recent talk about “galar víris Ebola,” it’s especially timely (tráthúil), but of course, health (an tsláinte) is a typical topic of conversation all the time anyway.

I’m ill: Tá mé tinn. OR: Tá mé breoite.

Next, what’s a common illness that we all suffer from soemtimes? Probably the “common cold,” which is “slaghdán” [remember, the "gh" is silent here].

And how do we say we have a disease or illness? It’s “on” us, so we use the preposition “ar” (on), the same one we discussed in the last blog (http://blogs.transparent.com/irish/in-quarantine-or-on-quarantine-how-to-say-it-in-irish/)

I have a cold: Tá slaghdán orm, lit. A cold is on me. Pronunciation tip: remember that “orm” has two syllables, pronounced “orr-um,” with the flapped/broad “r.” It rhymes with “gorm” [GORR-um], which you might remember from the passing reference to “duine gorm” in the 2002 movie, In America, which starred Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger, and
Djimon Hounsou.

To be a bit more technical, one could say, “Tá géarfharaingíteas sróine orm.” And what’s that when it’s at home? Acute nasopharyngitis, lit. acute pharyngitis of nose, that is to say, “a cold.”

By the way, I see no substantial or consistent evidence of actually using the Irish words “coitianta,” “coiteann,” “comónta,” “gnáth-,” or “leitheadach” (all meaning “common,” in various contexts) with “slaghdán” (a cold). In fact, what did I find, from searchable online texts? A few stray uses of “coitianta” (one from an Vicipéid, and one dating back to 1920), two more for “coiteann” (both from an Vicipéid), one for “leitheadach” (ón Vicipéid, freisin) a handful for the prefix “gnáth-“, and no use of “comónta.” So, what’s so coitianta / coiteann /comónta / gnáth- / leitheadach about the “common cold”? Bhuel, it may be widespread, but it’s not so common to actually use the word “common” in referring to colds (slaghdáin) in Irish.

Here are some other typical ailments:

I have a headache: Tá tinneas cinn orm, lit. A sickness of head is on me.

I have an earache: Tá tinneas cluaise orm, lit. A sickness of ear is on me.

I have a toothache: Tá tinneas fiacaile orm, lit. A sickness of tooth is on me.

I have a fever: Tá fiabhras orm, lit. A fever is on me. [fiabhras: FyOW-russ, with the "Fy" like the "f" of "few" and the "-ow" like "cow or "now," not like "row" or "show"]

He has a high fever: Tá fiabhras ard air, lit. A high fever is on him.

She has a low fever: Tá lagfhiabhras uirthi, lit. A low fever is on her. [lagfhiabhras: LAHG-YOW-russ, note that the "fh" is completely silent]

I am nauseous: Tá samhnas orm, lit. Nausea is on me.

And now for some less typical illnesses, some of which are probably recognizable from English (freagraí thíos):

1) diftéire

2) an bholgach [un WOL-ug-ukh]

3) plucamas

4) leicneach (leid: it means the same thing as “plucamas)

5) an deilgneach (leid: baint ag an fhocal seo le “dealg,” a thorn)

6) an galar corcra (leid: “corcra” means “purple”)

7) porfaire (leid: An Rí Seoirse III)

8) polaimiailíteas

9) gúta

10) impitíogó

And speaking of being under the weather, here are some typical phrases to suggest being somewhat, but not severely, ill:

Tá sí meath-thinn [/m'æ-hin'/ in IPA or "mya-hin," in my rough guide, with the "my" like the "m" of "mew" and the "a" as in "bat" or "cat"; the prefix "meath-," means "middling," "fairly," etc.], she is fairly ill.

Níl Seán ar fónamh, Seán is not well (ar fónamh: fit, well; the basic meanings of “fónamh” are “service,” “benefit,” or “usefulness”)

Níl Síle aici féin, lit. Sheila is not “at” herself (i.e. she’s not feeling like normal)

and on a more general level,

Níl siad rómhaith [roh-wah], They’re not very well.

Bhuel, this blog certainly lets me say “slán agaibh,” in its most literal sense (“health at you”), agus “go raibh sibh chomh folláin le breac,” a saying that really deserves a blog entry of its own. Slán go fóill — Róislín

Gluais: breac, trout; folláin, healthy (another, more predictable word for “healthy” is “sláintiúil“); go raibh sibh … , may you be …


1) diftéire, diphtheria

2) an bholgach, smallpox

3) plucamas, mumps

4) leicneach, mumps

5) an deilgneach, chickenpox

6) an galar corcra, purpura

7) porfaire, porphyria

8) polaimiailíteas, poliomyelitis

9) gúta, gout

10) impitíogó, impetigo