Mistéir an Fhrása ‘ó chorchtacht’ [sic] in ‘An Béal Bocht’ — Réitithe (An Irish typo — solved)

Posted on 20. Apr, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

An Béal Bocht, an chéad eagrán foilsithe i 1941 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AnBealBocht.jpg)

An Béal Bocht, an chéad eagrán, foilsithe i 1941 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AnBealBocht.jpg)

When I first read the delightful Irish satirical classic, An Béal Bocht, (The Poor Mouth),one phrase that puzzled me was “… i bpriacal do mharfa ó chorchtacht na tíre” (p. 14).  Literally, it would mean, “… in danger of being killed from the “corchtacht” [sic] of the land.”  The official translation gives “from the steep gradient” for “ó chorchtacht.”  But I was never able to find the basic word “corchtacht,” as such, in any dictionary.

The closest word was “crochtacht” (steepness), which would certainly make sense.  But I always wondered why we had “ó chorchtacht” in both recent editions of the Irish language text (Mercier, 1986 and Mercier 1999).  I pondered the possibilities.  Was this a dialect spelling?  Or a different word?  Or some kind of word play on “Corca Dorcha,” the fictitious Gaeltacht setting of An Béal Bocht?  But “Corca Dorcha” has the “ch” in “Dorcha,” not in “Corca,” so why would there be a word like “*corch” as the root of “corchtacht, even for imeartas focal (word play)”?

Or was it just a typo (botún cló)?

So I finally got to see one of the earliest editions of the work, the version printed by “An Press Náisiúnta” in 1942, printed in the seanchló (old print).  DAS, yes, it’s “press” not “preas.”  And, lo and behold (or could I say, “cló and behold”), there was my long-awaited word in its original spelling.  As I had suspected, it was “crochtacht,” so the phrase read, in the original spelling, as “i bpeiriceal do mharbhtha ó chrochtacht na tíre” (lch. 14).  It appears that the author had the usual spelling, but that the letters got reversed in the more recent editions.

Well, maybe that was all much ado about nothing much, just a typo.  I hope you don’t think I’ve made a mountain (however steep the gradient) out of a molehill (hmm, the steepness gradient of a molehill?).  But the question did plague me for over 20 years, and I was glad to finally be able to check the earlier printing.

Of course, there is much more to absorb about An Béal Bocht than the issue of a single typo.  Who wrote this wit-laden and wonderfully cliché-cluttered faux autobiography?   The author was Brian Ó Nualláin (Brian O’Nolan, 1911-1966), who had two pen names, no less!  The first was “Myles na gCopaleen”(an Irish name in anglicized spelling).  The second was “Flann O’Brien,” the name under which he wrote some of his other classic works, such as At Swim Two-Birds and The Hard Life.   At Swim Two-Birds, was recently rumored to have been optioned for a movie, but last I looked online, there was nothing very definitive about it.  Tá mé ag fanacht fós!

And by the way, where else do we know this author from, a bit more on the side of popchultúr?  ABC’s TV program Lost included some references to another Flann O’Brien novel, The Third Policeman, and apparently sales of the book spiked around that time.  Lost‘s use of The Third Policeman  is doubly interesting because O’Brien couldn’t find a publisher for the original manuscript, more or less gave up on it, and when the topic came up, he claimed he had, errmm, lost it.  It wasn’t lost, just sitting, waiting for another attempt.  It was published posthumously.  GRMMA, a Lost, as an tagairt agus as MacGibbon & Kee as é a fhoilsiú i 1967!  One wonders, how much research did the Abrams-Lieber-Lindelof team do in planning to use The Third Policeman in their Lost. Food for thought!

Before finishing up this post, let’s look at a few of the Irish or anglicized Irish words used above:

Copaleen, in the ainm cleite, Myles na gCopaleen: little horse, from “capaillín” (pony), which in turn is from “capall” (horse), a nice cognate of “cheval” (Fraincis), “caballo” (Spáinnis), and “caballus” (Laidin), among others.

In the pen name, instead of “Copaleen,” we see “na gCopaleen,” which makes the word plural and genitive, meaning “of the ponies” or “of the little horses.”  I’ve always wondered why it’s not closer to “na gCapaillíní,” since we’d normally have the “-í” ending in Irish.  But maybe ending the word at “-een” just sounded better.  Eolas ag duine ar bith?

priacal, peril; i bpriacal [ib-REE-uh-kul, the “p” becomes silent], in peril

do mharfa [duh WAHR-uh-fuh], your killing, i.e. the killing of you, from “marú” (to kill, killing)

na tíre [nuh TEERzh-uh], of the land, from “tír” [teerzh], land

And regarding the pronunciation of the author’s original name, just remember that, in Irish, “Brian” sounds like “BRzhEE-un”, not like “BRY-un” (with the “bry” like English “my” or “cry”).  The “zh” in my transcription stands for the buzzy “slender” Irish “r” sound that we also hear in “Máire” [MOYRzh-uh] and “tirim” [TIRzh-im].

Ó Nualláin” is the Irish original of the surname “Nolan” and is pronounced “OH NOO-uh-law-in.”

Well, there’s much much more one could say about O’Brien / na gCopaleen / Ó Nualláin, but I hope that this little linguistic detail will prove helpful to other readers of An Béal Bocht, since I imagine others have been puzzled by the corchtacht/crochtacht dilemma as well.  SGF — Róislín

TBO and other Irish phrases with ‘orm’

Posted on 16. Apr, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Hmm, first, where’s the “orm,” you might ask.  If we spell out “TBO,” in an Irish context, we get “Tá brón orm,” which means ________ (freagra thíos).

Before we go any further with the “orm” phrases, imdhealaímis.   What else can “TBO” stand for, i mBéarla.

Bhuel, seo ceann do lucht Tampa, Florida — tá a fhios agaibh cé sibhse!  Cén fáth a bhfuil “TBO” ar ainm shuíomh Idirlín The Tampa Tribune (www.tbo.com).  Cén fáth nach “ttt.com” atá ann?  Cá as an “b” agus and “o” sin?

Seachas sin, seo cúpla TBÓnna eile (i mBéarla), agus más féidir liom, an Ghaeilge atá orthu:

TBO – to be honest (mar ní chloistear an “h” san fhocal “honest”).  Gaeilge (Uladh): leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh.  Hmmm, “LAFAD” — an ndeirtear sin?  I mBéarla, deirtear “TBH” freisin (“to be honest”), ach an fhadhb leis an bhfrása sin — ciallaíonn sé a lán rudaí eile i mBéarla chomh maith, “Teddy Bear Hospital,” “Total Body Hug,” “Tyramine Beta Hydroxylase” agus “Tight Binding Hamiltonian” freisin.  Mh’anam!

TBO – to be ordered.  Gaeilge: le hordú

TBO – Tamil Box Office (cainéal teilifíse i Singeapór).  I nGaeilge: Díoloifig Tamailise, más leis an teanga is mó a bhaineann an téarma “díoloifig,” nó “Díoloifig Thamalach,” más aidiacht atá i gceist.

TBO – trajectory based operations.  An Ghaeilge air sin?  Oibríochtaí bunaithe ar ruthag, is dócha.  Eolas níos cruinne ag aon rialtóir aerthráchta atá ar an liosta?

Bhuel, sin cúpla sampla den ghiorrúchán “TBO” i mBéarla.  For the rest of this blog, we’ll look at some other phrases typically expressed in Irish with the structure “Tá __ orm.”  Of course, all of these could also show up with other forms of the preposition as well (ort, air, uirthi, orainn, oraibh, orthu, and the basic “ar” as in “ar an mbuachaill” or “ar an gcailín”), but these would probably be less likely in short emails and “teachtaireachtaí téacsaise.

The sentence “Tá brón orm” uses a structure typical in Irish for expressing emotions and feelings or indicating illness.  Here are some more examples.  An dtuigeann tú iad go léir?

2) Tá áthas orm.

3) Tá náire orm.

4) Tá ocras orm.

5) Tá tart orm.

6) Tá slaghdán orm.

Hmm, an ndeirtear iad seo: TAO, TNO, TOO, TTO, TSO.  Ceist do bhlag eile!

I can’t help but notice the similarity in sound between “TBO” (ráite mar litreacha) and “Tebow.”  Ach níl baint ar bith (BAB?) eatarthu, seachas an fhuaim (the sound).   If we really wanted to say Tebow was sad or sorry about something, bypassing his first name, we’d switch to “ar” for the “on” part (Tá brón ar Tebow).  The word “orm” specifically means “on me.”  BTW, everyone remembers the helping vowel sound in “orm,” right?  So it sounds like “OR-um.”

And finally, céard faoi seo:

Tá brón ar an mBrony.   Tá brón ar na Bronies.

And I suppose if we wanted to get very non-sequiturish, we could say:

Níl bró ag an mBrony agus mar sin tá sé brónach.

Not that there’s any special reason why a Brony should have a quern, but it just sounds cool to say it.

Or we could try, “Ní fiú brobh bró an Bhrony,” although that would be a pretty far-fetched statement also.

None of which has anything to do with colloquial American English term, “bro.”  But I hope you found the expressions and abbreviations useful.   SGF — Róislín


1) Tá brón orm. I’m sad, I’m sorry, lit. Sadness/sorrow is on me.

2) Tá áthas orm. I’m happy

3) Tá náire orm.  I’m ashamed/embarrassed.

4) Tá ocras orm.  I’m hungry.

5) Tá tart orm.  I’m thirsty.

6) Tá slaghdán orm.  I have a cold, lit. a cold is on me.

Gnáthghiorrúcháin i nGaeilge: Everyday Abbreviations in Irish (not “textese”)

Posted on 11. Apr, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Uacht. nó Íocht. i mBÁC?  Is this "Sráid Uí Chonaill Uachtarach" or "Sráid Uí Chonaill Íochtarach" i mBaile Átha Cliath?  Leid: an bhliain 1964.  Má tá a fhios agat an "uachtarach" nó "íochtarach" é, scríobh isteach!  (grianghraf: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:O%27Connell_St.,_Dublin_from_Nelson%27s_Pillar,_1964.jpg).  Ar ndóigh, tá an freagra le fáil sa Vicípéid agus beidh sé ar fáil anseo sa todhchaí.

Uacht. nó Íocht. i mBÁC? Is this “Sráid Uí Chonaill Uachtarach” or “Sráid Uí Chonaill Íochtarach” i mBaile Átha Cliath? Leid: an bhliain 1964. Má tá a fhios agat an “uachtarach” nó “íochtarach” é, scríobh isteach! (grianghraf: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:O%27Connell_St.,_Dublin_from_Nelson%27s_Pillar,_1964.jpg). Ar ndóigh, tá an freagra le fáil sa Vicípéid agus beidh sé ar fáil anseo sa todhchaí.

Long before we started playing with symbols and phrases like “a#” (for “a thaiscidh,” pronounced “HASH-kee, which means “darling” in Irish), we were using giorrúcháin for their most basic purpose, to save space on paper and time in writing or typing.  Here are a few quite straightforward ones, which you will likely encounter fairly often in written Irish.  Some pronunciation tips are included.  There is also a glossary below, with some further pronunciation tips.

B.Á.C. (or often BÁC), Dublin. Baile Átha Cliath, which obviously bears no resemblance to “Dubh-linn” from which we actually get the word “Dublin”.

m.sh., for example (mar shampla) [mahr HAHM-pluh; the “s” is silent]

lch., page (leathanach) [LyA-huh-nukh]

lgh., pages (leathanaigh) [LyA-huh-nee]

Uacht., Upper, as in street addresses.  Short for “uachtarach.”

So “Upper O’Connell Street,” in Irish, is: ___________________________ (freagra thíos)

Íocht., Lower, as in street addresses.  Short for “íochtarach.”

So “Lower O’Connell Street,” in Irish, is: ___________________________ (freagra thíos)

A few that are less traditional, for reasons which will become clear, are “SEIF” and “VEID.”

If I give you a jumbled word bank of the individual words behind an dá acrainm seo, can you sort them out into the actual phrases?  Freagraí thíos arís.

Banc Focal: Víreas Easpa Easpa Imdhíonachta Imdhíonachta Faighte Siondróm Daonna

Leid: in Irish, unlike English, both of these acrainmneacha [AK-ran-im-nyuh-khuh] have ceithre litir.  In English, one has trí litir, the other has ceithre cinn.

Are there any giorrúcháin that you’ve been wondering about, or any favorite texting abbreviations that you like to use in Irish?  If so, please send them in in the comments section.  SGF — Róislín


Sráid Uí Chonaill Uachtarach, or as it’s often abbreviated, “Sráid Uí Chonaill Uacht.”

Sráid Uí Chonaill Íochtarach, again, typically abbreviated as “Sráid Uí Chonaill Íocht.”

SEIF, Siondróm Easpa Imdhíonachta Faighte (AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

VEID, Víreas Easpa Imdhíonachta Daonna (HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Gluais agus Fuaimniú:

Baile Átha Cliath, Dublin, lit. the town of the ford of the hurdle.  There are at least three pronunciations:  BAHL-yuh AW-huh KLEE-uh (very fully articulated), BAHL-yuh KLEE-uh (medium articulated, with the “Átha” part basically swallowed up), and BLAW-KLEE (very colloquial, kind of like “Fluffya” for, hmm, wanna guess?  The freagra is below, underneath the entry for “daonna“).  “Dubh-linn” means “black pool.”

Ó Conaill, O’Connell.  Becomes “Uí Chonaill” [ee KHUH-nil] to show possession, as in “Street of O’Connell.”  Not that O’Connell, or any individual, actually owns/owned the street, but the same form is used when streets, squares, etc., are named for someone.

uachtarach [OO-ukh-tur-ukh]

íochtarach [EE-ukh-tur-ukh]

siondróm [SHIN-drohm]

easpa [ASS-puh], lack, deficiency

imdhíonacht [IM-YEE-uh-nukht], usually translated as “immunity,” but sometimes as “immune.”  The adjective “immune” is “imdhíonach,” with a typical “-ach” adjective ending.

imdhíonachta [IM-YEE-uh-nukh-tuh], of immunity

easpa imdhíonachta, immunodeficiency (NB: a single compound word in English but two separate words in Irish)

faighte [FAI-chuh; that’s “ai” as in the IPA phonetics symbol /ai/, pronounced like the vowel in the following English words: aye, eye, I, my, pie], “acquired,” also “gotten.”  Because the English spellings for this sound are is so inconsistent, none of them work well  for representing the Irish sound, even in a rough pronunciation guide.  This word is based on the verb “faigh” (get, acquire), which sounds more or less like English “fie,” but with a broader “f.”

víreas [VEERzh-us], virus

daonna [DEE-nuh], human.  This is the adjective, related to words like “duine” (person), “daoine” (people), “daonnaí” (human being), and “daonra” (population)

Fluffya – some locals’ pronunciation of “Philadelphia.”  The same phenomenon happens, it seems, with “Tronno” [i.e. Toronto], right, a Cheanadacha?