The Irish Twelve Days of Christmas Redux Redux with a Blogliography of Other Blogs on the Song

Posted on 25. Dec, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Cé mhéad bronntanas? (Pictiúr le Xavier Romero-Frias,

Cé mhéad bronntanas? (Pictiúr le Xavier Romero-Frias,

First, you’re probably wondering why the “redux redux.”  That’s because we’ve looked at all the verses of this song quite thoroughly over the last few years.  Féach an blagliosta (blogliography) thíos.  And we’ve already had one recap (18 Mí na Nollag 2013), so this is now the second recap (reredux?).

In the first recap, we tried fitting the words for the gifts into the phrases describing them, like adding “cailíní” to “(an méad)  ____  bleánaí” (or “ag bleán“).  A fun exercise which could be easily used in an Irish language classroom, come December.

Here we’ll use a word bank to match the numbers to the gifts.   And to mix it up a bit more, I’ve used all the relevant bunuimhreacha and the uimhreacha pearsanta in the word bank, so there are twice as many choices as necessary.  And I added the maoluimhreacha (minus the “a” particle), when they are different from the bunuimhreacha!  No simple little single “freagra breise” to ratchet up the dúshlán a notch.  This one’s ratcheted up eangaí go leor.

Oh, and one number is used twice, but I won’t tell you which one (nyah-ah-ah!)

dhá trí beirt haon
aon … déag amháin dhá … dhéag ceathair seisear
ocht cúig naoi cúigear
ceithre hocht seacht dó dhéag seachtar
deich triúr ceathrar ochtar dháréag
naonúr aon … dhéag aon déag dáréag deichniúr

Agus anois, na frásaí.  Freagraí agus nótaí fuaimnithe (pronunciation) thíos:

1a. patraisc ______

1b. crann piorraí ______

  1. ______ fhearán (OR ______ fhéarán, and you could add “bhreaca” or “Eorpacha” to either version, since the song doesn’t specify.  If you ask me, “bhreaca” sings well here, metrically, but “Eorpacha” doesn’t really.  Same answer for both blanks, btw.
  2. ______ chearc fhrancacha
  3. ______ lon dhubha (Remember, “calling” is supposedly actually “colly” or “coaly,” i.e. “black”)
  4. ______ fháinne óir
  5. ______ ghé ag breith
  6. ______ n-eala ag snámh
  7. ______cailíní bleánaí(or “ag bleán“)
  8. ______ ban ag damhsa (Remember: “ban” means “of women,” so this phrase is close to saying “a nonet of women,” although the English word “nonet” is mostly limited to describing musical groups)
  9. ______ tiarnaí ag léimneach
  10. ______ phíobaire ______ ag píobaireacht
  11. ______ drumadóirí ag drumadóireacht

Bhuel, I hope you found that to be a fun but challenging work-out.  Tá na freagraí, le cúpla nóta, thíos. 

Nollaig Shona, agus is cuma cén lá a léann tú é seo. — Róislín

Freagraí agus nótaí:

1a. patraisc amháin [PAHT-rishk uh-WAW-in, the “m” is silent]

1b. crann piorraí amháin [krahn PyUR-ee uh-WAW-in]

  1. dhá fhearán[γaw AR-awn, that gamma sign (γ) is the voiced velar fricative, for which there is a description at the following link  and various other blogs in this series; loosely speaking it’s like a guttural “h,” similar to the “ch” of German “Buch,” Welsh “bach,” and Yiddish “chutzpah,” but deeper in the throat.  For starters on the “dh,” try “Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives (9 Meán Fómhair 2011) at]
  2. trí chearc fhrancacha[trzhee hyark RANK-ukh-uh]
  3. ceithre lon dhubha(remember, “calling” is supposedly actually “colly” or “coaly,” i.e. “black”).  And remember the “γ” sound in “dhubha” [say: γUV-uh)
  4. cúig fháinne óir[KOO-ig AWN-yuh oh-irzh]
  5. sé ghé ag breith[shay yay egg brzheh]
  6. seacht n-eala ag snámh[shakht NAL-uh egg snawv]
  7. ochtar cailíní bleánaí(or “ag bleán“) [OKH-tur KAI-leen-ee BLyAW-nee … or “egg blyawn”]
  8. naonúr ban ag damhsa[NEE-noor bahn egg DOW-suh
  9. deichniúr tiarnaí ag léimneach[DJEH-nyoor TCHEER-nee egg LAYM-nyukh]
  10. aon phíobaire dhéag ag píobaireacht[ayn FEEB-irzh-uh yayg egg PEEB-irzh-ukht]
  11. dháréag drumadóirí ag drumadóireacht[γawr-ayg DRUM-uh-doh-irzh-ee egg DRUM-uh-doh-irzh-ukht; remember that “drum-” in Irish isn’t quite like the English “drum.”  The vowel “u” in the Irish is more like the English “put” while in English, “drum” and “to putt” have the same vowel sound.

Sin iad!  364 bronntanas, or if you just count one set per day, you still get an impressive ocht mbronntanas is ochtó (88).

And where did the big change occur in the sequence of numbers?  With Véarsa a hOcht, where we start using the “uimhreacha pearsanta” (personal numbers) because we’re counting people, not things.   And where, if at all, would we use the maoluimhreacha?   Nowhere in this song, but maybe if we added an exercise like taking roll call of the gift people, identifying each member of the group by number:   “Drumadóir ag drumadóireacht a haon?” and the drummer would answer “Tá mé anseo.”   Then “Drumadóir ag drumadóireacht a dó?” and drummer number two would answer, “Tá mé anseo.”  Sounds kind of boring to me, but it would offer some practice with the maoluimhreacha.

Blaganna Eile faoin Amhrán Seo: (Cé Mhéad Patraisc? Cé Mhéad Drumadóir? (or ’12 Lá na Nollag’ Redux and an Irish Counting Lesson to boot) Posted on 18. Dec, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language  Bunuimhreacha, Orduimhreacha is Maoluimhreacha — A Thiarcais! (Oh my!) Posted on 25. Dec, 2012 Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag (The Twelve Days of Christmas), Posted on 25. Dec, 2010 Cearca Francacha agus Lonta Dubha (Cuid a Dó don tSraith: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 29. Dec, 2010 “Ór,” “Óir” or “Órga”? “Fáinne” or “Éan”? Éan?! (Cuid a Trí: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 31. Dec, 2010 JAN 4 2011: Géanna agus Ealaí (Cuid a Ceathair: Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 04. Jan, 2011 Na hUimhreacha Pearsanta i nGaeilge (Irish Personal Numbers and Cuid a Cúig or the Last Installment of Dhá Lá Dhéag na Nollag) Posted on 06. Jan, 2011

Irish Christmas Terms without the Word ‘Christmas’ — Quiz Yourself!

Posted on 23. Dec, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Fíoracha sinséir, gúna ar cheann acu agus léine agus bríste ar an gceann eile. Miongháirí orthu freisin! (photo by alcinoe, public domain,

Fíoracha sinséir, gúna ar cheann acu agus léine agus bríste ar an gceann eile. Miongháirí orthu freisin! (photo by alcinoe, public domain,

One of the first Christmas blogs I wrote in this series was about Christmas phrases that don’t have the word “Christmas” in them (nasc thíos).  Every time we use the word Christmas in Irish (Nollaig, Nollag), we have to be aware of the ending (“-aig” or “-ag”) and whether or not to include “na” for “of the” ( na Nollag vs. cárta Nollag).  So today’s phrases let us off the hook as far as the infamous “tuiseal ginideach” (for saying “of the”) goes.

This year let’s look at some of the same phrases as in the 2009 blog but more in a matching quiz format, not simply as a list.

Seo an banc focal.  Roghnaigh na focail as an mbanc seo.

candaí   sinséir   uibhe   sinséir (don dara huair)   reoáin

Agus seo na frásaí; tá na freagraí agus na haistriúcháin go Béarla thíos:

  1. an bhleathach _________
  2. an cána _________
  3. sciorta _________
  4. an t-arán _________
  5. an fhíor _________

And now that we’ve established those, let’s try some variations on those phrases.  For these, there’s no word bank; we’re just looking at different forms of the words in the phrases above.  Number 6 is a variation of number 1 above, number 7 is a variation of number 2 above, etc.   Tá na freagraí thíos.

  1. blas na _________ _________
  2. dathanna an _________ _________
  3. _________  _________  na mban sinséir  
  4. Tá plúr, sinséar, uibheacha, siúcra, molás, agus comhábhair eile san _________  _________
  5. cnaipí rísíní na _________ _________

Ar éirigh leat? Tá súil agam gur éirigh.  SGF – Róislín

PS: By the way, of course you could always add the word ‘Christmas’ to any of today’s phrases.  It’s just not required the way it is for “mí na Nollag” or “Daidí na Nollag.”  So we could have phrases like  “bleathach uibhe Nollag” (Christmas eggnog) or “cána candaí Nollag” (a Christmas candy cane — said in case there are any other sorts)


  1. an bhleathach uibhe [un VLA-hukh IV-uh], the eggnog or the egg-flip
  2. an cána candaí (cé nach ndeirtear “candaí” go hanmhinic i nGaeilge; de ghnáth deirtear “milseáin”); the candy cane. Well, I guess it’s not a “sweets-cane.”
  3. sciorta reoáin, a frosting skirt (for a gingerbread woman)
  4. an t-arán sinséir, the gingerbread
  5. an fhíor sinséir [un eer SHIN-shayrzh], the gingerbread man/woman, lit. the gingerbread figure

And now, an dúshlán dúbailte:

  1. blas na bleathaí uibhe, the taste of the eggnog/egg-flip. Do you remember the background on the use of the word “bleathach,” here in the genitive case: ”Bleathach” normally means “grist” or “oat-meal cake.”  Add “uibhe,” the possessive form of “ubh” (egg), and somehow, you get a beverage, lit. “egg-grist” (Say “Céard!”).  The word “an bhleathach” looks curiously similar to, but isn’t the same as, “an bhláthach” ([un VLAW-hukh], the buttermilk).” (ó bhlag 30 mí na Nollag, 2009).

Note the pattern of “bleathach” changing to “bleathaí” [BLA-hee], typical of the fifth declension.

  1. dathanna an chána candaí, the colors of the candy cane (iad dearg agus bán, de ghnáth). Note the lenition of “cána,” becoming “chána.” This “ch” sound is pronounced like the “ch” in “anocht” or “seacht” or “cóta Cháit,” i.e. as in “chutzpah” or “Chanukah.”
  2. sciortaí reoáin na mban sinséir, the frosting skirts of the gingerbread women (I decided to go with the non-gender-neutral term “na mban“, based on ‘bean’ (woman) here, instead of “fíor,” which could be used for a gingerbread man or woman.
  3. Tá plúr, sinséar, uibheacha, siúcra, molás, agus comhábhair eile san arán sinséir, There is flour, ginger, eggs, sugar, molasses, and other ingredients in the gingerbread. Note that the “t-” of “an t-arán” is dropped here, after the word “san.”
  4. cnaipí rísíní na bhfíoracha sinséir, the raisin buttons of the gingerbread men (lit. gingerbread figures). Here we have “fíoracha,” the plural of “fíor,” plus eclipsis (“f” becoming “bhf” to show we’re saying “of the”.  “Na bhfíoracha” is pronounced “nuh VEER-uh-khuh.”

Naisc: Téarmaí Nollag gan an Focal “Nollaig Posted on 30. Dec, 2009 by róislín in Irish Language (

Some Irish Food Vocabulary from Bridget Breathnach’s Article on Baking Gingerbread Men

Posted on 18. Dec, 2015 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

I’m always on the lookout for short online articles in Irish to recommend to students at an intermediate-ish level.  Here I’ll pass on a link to a fun article by Bridget Bhreathnach about baking Christmas cookies (nasc thíos) and provide a little vocabulary help for the learner.

Ní alt “conas” (a dhéanamh ) é agus níl oideas (recipe) ann.  It’s more a witty commentary on the experience of baking with children and also the ideal suitability of Legos as receptors for sticky bits of dough, especially if you make it “rófhliuch” by using “síoróip” instead of “siúcra.” I’m sure that readers who really want an oideas for brioscaí can find plenty of them online (1,290,000 hits for “Christmas cookie recipes” on Google)

The vocabulary will be useful even to complete beginners, at least if you’re interested in words and phrases like the following: Christmas, the smell of spices, cookie (biscuit in Irish/UK English), flour, egg, and Lego.  Úúps, bhuel, “Lego” is mentioned in the article, as I noted above, but the word is the same in Irish as in English, ní nach ionadh.  In fact, it’s my guess that it’s the same internationally (eolas agatsa?) although, come to think of it, I wonder how it’s handled in languages that aren’t written in the Roman alphabet, carachtair Shíneacha, mar shampla, nó siollaigh Ionúitise.  But that’s starting to look like a digression, so … back to our “príomhábhar.”  Beagáinín eile faoi chúlra Legos sa nóta “PS” thíos.  

So we’ll go over some of the vocabulary, and then wrap up with a glance back at the seanfhocal that is used in the introduction to the article.  That will extend our food vocabulary to include curds and whey, not quite on the beaten  linguistic path of typical food vocabulary (like uibheacha friochta and gloine bainne) but fun and traidisiúnta as well.  An bhfuil a fhios agat cén seanfhocal atá i gceist?  Muna bhfuil, léigh leat!

But first, an bunstór focal:

Christmas: As you all may remember from the recent blog in this series (nasc thíos), the basic word (frása, i ndáiríre) is “An Nollaig” (The Christmas).  The ending of the word changes according to the way the word is used in the sentence.  When used to describe something, like Christmas cookies or lights, we drop the “i” so the word really means “of Christmas.”  We see this word in two phrases in Bridget’s article: soilse na Nollag (the Christmas lights) and brioscaí Nollag (Christmas cookies).  There’s a slight difference in pronunciation, with Nollaig more like “NUL-ik” and “Nollag” more like “NUL-uk.”

the smell of spices: an boladh spíosraí [un BOL-uh SPEESS-ree].  The “-dh” of “boladh” (smell) is silent.

cookie / biscuit: briosca, plural: brioscaí.  Don’t forget the slender “r” pronunciation.  It’s not just “br” as in the English word “brisk” or “brisket,” but it’s like the “br” of the Irish word “breá” (fine) as in “Tá sé go breá inniu” (It’s fine today).

flour: plúr, and as Bridget comments astutely, “Cé go bhfuil Persil non-bio cosúil le plúr, ní plúr atá ann.” Hmmm, was she looking for some sort of lionach púdrach (powdery filler) to compensate for “taos rófhliuch“?  Tá súil agam nach raibh!

egg; the basic word is “ubh” (say “uv”), and in the text, we also see “leathubh” ([lya-huv]; why a “half-egg”  — léigh an t-alt le fáil amach céard atá i gceist ag Bridget).  She also used the plural with the definite article which means there is a prefixed “h,” giving us “na huibheachaí” ([nuh HIV-ukh-ee]; other speakers might just say “na huibheacha“).

baker:  the standard spelling is “báicéir,” but Bridget uses the variation I’ve heard in Conamara Irish: báicéara.

And to wrap up (no páipéar fillte pun intended), here’s the seanfhocal that introduces thearticle:

Ní féidir é a bheith ina ghruth agus ina mheadhg agat.  The literal translation is, “You can’t have it as curds and as whey.”  More loosely, “You can’t have it both ways,” or to use a baking analogy, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  And how to pronounce all those lovely lenited letters?

ghruth: here we’re back to our old friend, the voiced velar fricative for the “gh” sound, followed, of course, by a flapped “r”.  “Say what?” you might say.  Have you heard the phrase “Mo ghrá thú” (I love you)?  It has the same “ghr-” sound.  And if you say, “Mo ghrá thú, a Ghráinne,” you’ve got two voiced velar fricatives in one sweet phrase.  Never heard that?  Think of the guttural (throaty) “ch” sound of “chutzpah” or “Chanukah,” and then bring it lower down in your throat.  Sin é.

The “-th” of “ghruth” is silent but does give a slight puff of breath sound at the end of the word.

mheadhg: the basic word  is “meadhg” and in our text, it’s lenited, to become “mheadhg.”  The initial “mh-” is a “v” sound and the “-dh-” in the middle is basically silent, but does affect the vowel sound, which I’ve noticed as either rhyming with “Tadhg” (in English, a “long i” as in “bike”) or more like “uh-ih” pronounced really quickly.

By the way, the really literal translation of “Ní féidir é a bheith ina ghruth agus ina mheadhg agat” js “(It) isn’t possible it to be in its curds or in its whey at you.”  But translating it that way is just for demonstration purposes.  Obviously it’s not normal English word order.

Bhuel, that’s a little stór focal cócaireachta for you, and cúpla focal cáiseoireachta (gruth, meadhg) leo.  So we’ve covered our main goal for today’s blog.  And now, a fínéad beag from my own taithí cócaireachta.

It sounds like Bridget found her baking experiment a little more challenging than she expected.  Bhuel, it can happen to all of this.  Once, years ago, I followed a complicated recipe in an Irish cooking special in the New York Times magazine, around St. Patrick’s Day.  It sounded delicious.  The “seabhdar bia mara” called for three different types of seafood, cooked separately (aaarrgghh!) and then combined in one pot.  So I made a special trip to a siopa éisc, to get the freshest ingredients, diligently cooked them all separately for the exact amount of time, then mixed them together and cooked it some more as the recipe specified.

The result was a thick, grayish-looking  slurry, texture-less to boot (.i. gan chnapanna blasta gambacha bia mara).  I was horrified, especially with about deichniúr aíonna coming in a couple hours.  At my father’s suggestion, I poured in uachtar, im leáite, beagáinín siúcra (yes, sinking to that cheap taste-bud pleaser) and beagáinín salainn le blas a chur air.  The soup was salvaged, and I called it a bisque.  It tasted good enough, le harán donn Éireannach agus im agus sailéad, but still, it was a profound disappointment, which I remember to this day.  An ceacht atá le baint as an scéal sin — don’t trust any recipe that has you cook seafood twice.  “Biscuits” may be literally “bis cuit” (twice-cooked) and come out pleasantly crispy, but it doesn’t work with fish.  The second moral of the story, as I should have known, is never try a new recipe before a dinner party, no matter how tempting it appears when given the professional treatment by food writers and photographers.

Sin é mo scéal, hmmm, bia le mo bhéal?  SGF — Róislín

PS: Now that I really got to thinking about the international ramifications of the word “Lego”, I finally got around to checking its origin.  Apparently it’s from “leg godt” meaning “play well.”   Cén teanga í sin?  Danmhairgis, mar ba Dhanar an fear a bhunaigh an comhlacht “Lego,” Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Nasc d’alt Bridget:, le Bridget Bhreathnach, 18 Mí na Nollag, 2014

Nasc don mblag Nollag sa tsraith seo: