Recently we’ve gone from discussing bridges, like Droichead na Leathphingine (Baile Átha Cliath) and Droichead na Cónaidhme (Ceanada) to discussing windows (fuinneoga). Well, one window (fuinneog amháin) anyway, the well-known “Carpenter Gothic” one in Grant Wood’s American Gothic. So let’s look a little closer at the word “window” itself in its various forms in Irish.
First, we’ll look at the basics of the word, then a few types of windows, and then a couple of phrases about windows, including the somewhat cryptic one in the title of this blog.
Here are the basics. Since “fuinneog” is a feminine noun, there is lenition (séimhiú) when we say “the window.”
fuinneog [FWIN-yohg], a window
an fhuinneog [un IN-yohg], the window
fuinneoige, of a window
na fuinneoige, of the window
na fuinneoga, the windows
fuinneog, of windows
na bhfuinneog, of the windows
And a few sample sentences. Many sample sentences about windows in textbooks seem to be about broken windows so I’ll not break from tradition here:
Tá an fhuinneog briste. The window is broken.
Tá an fhuinneog bhriste daor. The broken window is expensive.
Bhris an fear an fhuinneog. The man broke the window.
Bristear fuinneoga amanna má bhíonn páistí ag imirt stickball sa tsráid.
Briseadh an fhuinneog. The window was broken. (that is, an unnamed or unknown person broke the window)
And a few types of windows:
boghfhuinneog [BOH-IN-yohg] or cuasfhuinneog [KOO-uss-IN-yohg], bow-window
fuinneog comhla [... KOH-luh] or cáisimint, casement-window
fuinneog fhrancach [... RAHN-kukh], french-window
And parts of windows:
sais fuinneoige, window-sash
pána fuinneoige, window-pane
leac fuinneoige, window-sill
A couple of occupational terms:
niteoir fuinneog, window-washer
feistitheoir fuinneog or cóiritheoir fuinneog or maisitheoir fuinneog: window-dresser (lit. dresser of windows, note the genitive plural form, “fuinneog,” same as the basic form). I’ve found four phrases for the activity itself: feistiú fuinneog, gléasadh fuinneog, maisiú fuinneog, and cóiriú fuinneog. For some reason, “gléastóir fuinneog” (based on “gléasadh”) doesn’t seem to show up online or in my dictionaries as the occupation itself, perhaps because it would mean more like a “window-fitter” or a “window-mounter.”
And interestingly, in Irish, neither of the two main terms for “window-dressing” as a disparaging term has the word “window” in it:
Ní ach cur i gcéill a bhí ann. It wasn’t but make-believe (lit. It isn’t but make-believe that was in it)
A little less severe, but still in the abstract, is “dea-chosúlacht” (lit. “good appearance” for “window-dressing” as a cover-up) as in “oibríochtaí dea-chosúlachta” (window-dressing operations).
So what about the phrase “putting cats on windows” (ag cur cat ar fhuinneoga) as in the title of this blog? Well, it strikes me as an unusual phrase and I actually find no cybertrail for it, even having tried the infinitive form, past tense, etc. But it is a traditional expression and probably shows up more in some print resources that haven’t been searchably digitized yet.
There are actually two versions of the phrase:
ag cur cat ar fhuinneoga
ag cur madraí ar fhuinneoga
They both mean “bluffing.”
Now there are some other ways to say “to bluff,” like “(a bheith) ag cluanaíocht” or “dallach dubh a chur air/uirthi, srl.” (to bluff him, her, etc.). But the “cat” and “dog” phrases are certainly catchy and also intriguing. Let’s look at them a little more literally:
ag cur [putting] cats [cats, literally "of cats" but we don't need the "of" in English] ar fhuinneoga [on/at windows]. Note that while “cat” looks like it might be singular (“cat,” a cat), it also means “of cats”. To say “putting a cat on windows” would be:
ag cur cait ar fhuinneoga, which would probably also mean we were stretching that one cat mightily
So presumably we could just say “ag cur cait ar fhuinneog,” but I can’t say I’ve found any useful examples of that, either. As far as I can tell, the phrase doesn’t exist with just one cat! Maybe I should ask the legendary “cat ar an díon stáin te,” probably the closest neighbor to the cat on/at the window(s)!
The phrase becomes all the more interesting when we note that dogs can be used instead of cats:
ag cur madraí ar fhuinneoga, putting dogs on windows
Here it’s clearer that there’s more than one dog, since “madraí” has an obvious plural ending (the “-í“), unlike “cat,” which can be translated as either “a cat” or “of cats.”
Does it matter if the phrase refers to a dog or a cat? Apparently not!
As for why the phrase says “ar fhuinneoga” (literally “on” windows, could be translated as “at” windows), that remains a bit curious to me. Are we holding dogs or cats up to windows, like mirrors, so they see their reflection and get confused? Or do they see the room beyond and get confused because they can’t get behind the glass? Those seem like reasonable interpretations. Barúil ar bith eile ag duine ar bith eile?
One final point about windows is that we don’t usually focus on our feline and canine pets’ reactions to them. Mostly, especially in elementary lessons for any language, we talk about opening and closing them, as was alluded to in this blog’s title. Here are some examples:
ag oscailt na fuinneoige, opening the window
ag oscailt na bhfuinneog, opening the windows
á hoscailt, opening it (referring to a feminine noun, like “window”)
á n-oscailt, opening them
ag dúnadh na fuinneoige, closing the window
ag dúnadh na bhfuinneog, closing the windows
á dúnadh, closing it (referring to a feminine noun, like “window”)
á ndúnadh, closing them
Well, kits, cats, dogs, windows. Plenty of food for thought, with both grammar basics and fun, if off-beat, phrases.
Maybe the next Irish text I read will include these cat and dog phrases for “bluffing” and give them more of a context. Meanwhile, while we’re still on this architecture/engineering kick (droichid agus fuinneoga), what’s up next? “Tacaí crochta” do dhuine ar bith? Nó “há-hánna”?
Maybe, or maybe not, since I’ve been hankering to get started on “Naomh Pádraig” (aka “Pádraig Naofa” or “St. Patrick”). By the way, I see that a flurry of recent articles and comments have finally gotten around to emphasizing that the saint’s nickname isn’t “Patty” though that version is often seen in America, especially at this time of year. Even “Paddy” is a bit casual for the saint, but “Patty” is beyond beyond. A “patty,” in Irish, is a “pióigín bheag” (a little pie), a cooking term (as it is in English). So next up, shamrocks or soffits? We’ll see. SGF — Róislín
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