Speaking of ‘Nite, Bruite, is Ite’ (and who can prepare and eat potatoes the fastest)

Posted on 09. Nov, 2013 by in Irish Language

le Róislín

First, let me say, that no, although three-part titles like “Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka” and “Snipp, Snapp, Snurr” are running wildly through my head as I write this, the three words “nite,” “bruite,” and “ite” are not three characters from children’s books.   They are, as I mentioned in my last blog, rangabhálacha caite (past participles), aka aidiachtaí briathartha (verbal adjectives).  How three past participles got such charming rhyming spellings is beyond the scope of this blog, but at least it gives Irish a catchy saying (fully quoted below) and gives us a catchy blog title to work with.  Which is a good thing, because sometimes when a teacher mentions a part of speech, like “past participle,” students’ eyes either glaze over or there’s a barely perceptible groan.  Gramadach!  But grammar is really like a big, movable, constantly changing puzzle, with various parts that usually fit into just one slot in a sentence.  An-spraoi agus spórt iad a chur le chéile agus ciall a bhaint astu!  Sometimes there’s a choice of word order, for emphasis or meter, ach sin ábhar blag eile.

Now that I’ve introduced “Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka,” and “Snipp, Snapp, Snurr,” let me briefly satisfy the curiosity of anyone who didn’t encounter these books as a kid and then, I promise, I’ll get back to Irish.  They were written by a Swedish author, Maj Lindman, between ca. 1920 and ca. 1960, and totally won me over as a kid (in the reprint editions, thank you very much).  Maybe it was the teideal trípháirteach or the concept of tríríní, or just the general prominence of the number “three” in western society, thanks also perhaps to Huey, Dewey, and Louie, or as Car Talk’s Magliozzi brothers would have it, “Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe.”   Anyway, I’ve never quite gotten Lindman’s books out of my head.   Maybe that’s what started my addiction to “lions, tigers, and bears” memes (yes, I collect them from online and print sources, and someday maybe I’ll analyze the collection — tied into general socio-cultural and psycho-demographic trends, no doubt.  But that’s probably enough on Flicka, Snipp and Co., and if you’re intrigued by Lindman, who lived from 1886 to 1972, I suggest starting here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipp_Snapp_and_Snurr or here http://www.mdarlings.com/2011/11/books-we-love-flicka-ricka-dicka-and.html, and beyond that, the Internet’s your “oisre.”  There’s not really much biographical info on Lindman online, ach sin ábhar blag eile!

Anyway, back to “nite,” “bruite,” is “ite,” as past participles.  Yes, grammar looms!

Last time I did mention the basic forms of the verbs from which they come, but here are a few more, just to tickle your participial palate.

nite [NITCH-uh], washed, from “nigh” [nee], wash (as a command) and just a sampler of its various forms:

Tá mé ag ní na bhfataí. I’m washing the potatoes.

Ním fataí gach lá.  I wash potatoes every day.

Nigh mé na fataí inné.  I washed the potatoes yesterday.

Nífidh mé fataí arís amárach.  I will wash potatoes again tomorrow.

Next we have “bruite” [BRITCH-uh], cooked, from “bruith” (cook , also boil, broil, grill, and bake — and what would Julia Child have to say to that?).  In real life, it’s not as ambiguous as it seems because, traditionally, the interpretation depended a lot on which food you meant: bainne – boiled, arán – baked, etc.

And various forms of this verb:

Tá mé ag bruith na bprátaí.  I’m cooking the potatoes (most likely by boiling).

Bruithim prátaí gach lá.

Bhruith mé na prátaí inné.

Bruithfidh [BRIH-hee] mé prátaí amárach.

And finally, last of three, we have “ite” [ITCH-uh], eaten, from the verb “ith” [a breathy "ih" sound, the "t" is silent], which means “eat” (the command form).

And you know the routine now:

Tá mé ag ithe na bpréataí.

Ithim préataí gach lá. (Muise!)

D’ith mé préataí inné.

Íosfaidh [EESS-hee] mé préataí amárach.

Oh, did I forget to mention (agus “ubh ar m’aghaidh”) that “ith” is an irregular verb so its future tense, “íosfaidh” leaps to a dramatically different root, “íos-” and then adds a typical future-tense suffix, “-faidh.”  Not quite as much of a leap as “faigh” (get) to “gheobhaidh” (will get), but definitely up there in the irregulars.

And here, for anyone who didn’t remember it from last time, is the saying itself: “Bheadh na fataí nite, bruite, agus ite ag an gConnachtach sula mbeidís ráite ag an Muimhneach” (The Connachtman would have the potatoes, here “fataí,” washed, cooked and eaten before the Munsterman would be finished saying the word).

As I said last time, there are at least five versions of the word for “potatoes” in Irish: prátaí (most standard, IMO), preátaí, préataí (think “praties”), fataí, and buntátaí.  Not too surprising, when we consider that the word “potato” is an import from the New World, probably the indigenous Haitian word, “batata,” as best we know it from 16th-century Caribbean culture, which was not exactly awash with dictionaries and transcripts.

So, céard (nó ‘cad’) a shíleann sibh, a Chonnachtacha agus a Mhuimhneacha?  Cé agaibh is gaiste (nó ‘tapúla’)?  Agus cá bhfuil na hUltaigh sa scéal seo?  Agus na Laighnigh?  Bhuel, tá an díospóireacht “suas” libhse.  SGF, Róislín

Nite, Bruite, is Ite — Na Prátaí (aka Fataí), That Is!

Posted on 05. Nov, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

While potatoes are a popular food year round and worldwide, they are especially popular at this time of year in the U.S. with Lá Altaithe approaching.   This is one of few times, at least i mo thaithí féin, when more than one kind of práta is typically served with a meal.

'S iomaí dath atá ar phrátaí! (Image: Scott Bauer, USDA)

‘S iomaí dath atá ar phrátaí! (Image: Scott Bauer, USDA)

In Ireland and with Irish-American friends I’ve had many meals where two or even three potato dishes were served as a matter of course.  But this is not typically true in general “American” cuisine, whatever exactly that is.

For Lá Altaithe many American families will have both prátaí (potatoes) and prátaí milse (sweet potatoes) or perhaps ionaim (yams).  After reading a lot recently about both sweet potatoes and yams, I remain confused about which is which.  I thought I had it sorted out, that what is often called “sweet potato” is a “yam” and orange in color, and that actual sweet potatoes are a pale yellow inside, and, in my experience, not as widely eaten.  But from what I’ve just read, not even what I know of as a yam is actually a yam, and I’m told they’re not sold much in the US, except in ethnic markets.  So I’m just going to rest with the Irish terms, as given above: prátaí milse (sweet potatoes) and ionaim (yams).  I’ll let the tomhaltóir decide which ainm to apply to which glasra.

Sweet potatoes (or yams) are often served “candied” or mashed with a marshmallow topping.  Checking the various Irish dictionaries for “candied,” all I find is “criostalaithe,” but, fad m’eolais, that wouldn’t describe “candied sweet potatoes.”  “Criostalaithe” also means “crystallized” and would describe various food which are a bit crunchy, like sinséar criostalaithe and sailchuacha criostalaithe, or at least solidly crystallized and chewy, like craiceann criostalaithe (candied peel, as used in cístí torthaí).   With “candied sweet potatoes,”  the candied aspect is more of an “anlann” (sauce), which is mostly made with the following ingredients: im nó margairín, siúcra rua (donn), cainéal, noitmig.  Sometimes the prátaí milse are mashed with the anlann blended in, the leamhacháin are sprinkled on top and the dish is baked until the marshmallows have a golden crust.  In my opinion, the dish is an-bhlasta but also an-mhilis.  It makes a very attractive addition to a Thanksgiving table since the orangey-brown color matches the autumn/harvest color scheme that is typical of maisiúcháin Lá Altaithe.

As for na gnáthphrátaí (prátaí bána), there are so many ways these can be prepared that it would take several blogs to cover them.  But we can at least mention the basics.  At a typical Thanksgiving dinner, the potatoes are either served as “brúitín” (mashed potatoes) or “rósta le lus mín” (roasted with dill).

And how about all the different forms of the word “práta,” including, for the sake of thoroughness, direct address, as if one were speaking to a potato (why not?)?  If we can have óideanna to  “síothla Gréagacha” and to “lúchair,” cén fáth nach mbeadh óid do phráta againn?

There are several dialect variations of the word for “potato,” namely “fata,” “préata” [PRAY-tuh], “preáta” [PRAW-tuh], and “buntáta.”  But for this blog, we’ll just concentrate on the standard, “práta.”  Here are its various forms:

an práta, the potato

(blas) an phráta [... un FRAW-tuh], the taste of the potato

na prátaí, the potatoes

(blas) na bprátaí [... nuh BRAW-tee], the taste of the potatoes

And for direct address, we have lenition again, after “a,” the particle for direct address:

A phráta! (O potato!, the “O!” is maybe a little extra poetic, but why not, since we’re talking potential ode here)

A phrátaí (O potatoes!)

Don’t forget the “flapped” Irish “r” in these words, similar to a mini-trill, so the initial consonants of the “fraw” and “braw” sounds here are not exactly like the English words “fraught” or “brawny,” although the vowel sounds are quite similar.

And finally, what’s the title of this blog all about?

nite, washed

bruite, cooked,

ite, eaten

Those words are all taken from the popular Irish saying, “Bheadh na fataí nite, bruite, agus ite ag an gConnachtach sula mbeidís ráite ag an Muimhneach” (The Connachtman would have the potatoes, here “fataí,” washed, cooked and eaten before the Munsterman would be finished saying the word).  It’s especially fun to say because “nite,” “bruite,” and “ite” all sound so similar.  Ní nach ionadh because they are all rangabhálacha caite (past participles, aka aidiachtaí briathartha, verbal adjectives), formed from relatively similar-sounding verbs, “nigh,” “bruith,” and “ith.”  Hmm, tá an blag seo ag cur ocrais orm!  SGF (slán go fataí?) – Róislín

Cén sórt prátaí iad seo?  Freagra faoin bpictiúr.
Cén sórt prátaí iad seo?   Is prátaí milse corcra iad.  (Image: 800px-Purple_Sweet_Potato-by-earth1000-wikipedia.jpg)










Arbhar (Indiach): Toradh, Glasra, nó Grán — or all three?

Posted on 31. Oct, 2013 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We’ve just been discussing whether pumpkins and other edible plants are fruits or vegetables.  Another seasonal item is “arbhar Indiach,” as it is referred to in Irish, or simply “corn” in American English.

arbhar Indiach (ildathach) Grianghraf: Keith Weller, USDA

arbhar Indiach (ildathach)
Grianghraf: Keith Weller, USDA

Let’s look first at the term “arbhar Indiach,” which literally means “Indian corn.”  But “Indian corn” means different things in American and Irish/British English.  As for Béarla Cheanada, hmm, so often it incorporates elements of English from both sides of the “lochán” that I’d have to ask na Ceanadaigh what the usage is in their country.

And curiously, corn is technically a fruit (toradh), treated and cooked as a vegetable (glasra), and when ground, it’s considered a grain (grán).

But getting back to the different meanings of “Indian corn” (arbhar Indiach).

In the US, the general consensus is that Indian corn is a) dried, b) varied in color (ildathach), c) inedible (at least, it’s very bitter), and it’s used for decoration, not for eating.  It’s often hung on doors as a harvest symbol, usually in an arrangement of 3 or 4 cobs, typically one yellow, one a dark brownish red, and one blue, or some variation on that theme.  So if you use the term “arbhar Indiach” in the U.S., be aware that many Meiriceánaigh may not realize that you are talking about a food.

In Irish, the term “arbhar Indiach,” means “maize” or ‘edible sweet corn.’  When ground, it is referred to as “min bhuí,” lit. “yellow meal” and known as “Indian meal.”

As far as I know there’s no tradition in Ireland of hanging multi-colored corn cobs on doors as Fall decorations.  I wouldn’t expect there to be, since maize is a New World plant.  True, there are harvest ornaments called “corn dollies,” in both Ireland and the UK, but these are made of rushes or straw.   In other words, don’t mistake a “corn dolly” for a “corn husk doll”!

In the US, ‘corn” is understood to refer to maize, and it may be eaten as “corn on the cob” or removed from  the cob and cooked in a variety of ways (boiled, creamed, popped, etc.).  It is used to make succotash and corn pudding and may be added to chowder and other soups.  When ground, it is referred to as ‘corn meal” or “corn meal flour,” and used in cornbread, corn fritters, and corn pones, etc.  “Corn meal flour” isn’t the same as “cornstarch,” which in UK English may be called “cornflour.”

If you’re speaking Irish in America, this does present a bit of a dilemma.  Do you say “arbhar Indiach” when you actually mean the edible stuff?  If you include “Indiach,” it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about a food item.  But if you don’t add “Indiach,” you simply have the word “arbhar,” which means “corn” in the UK/Irish sense (edible grain) and can refer to cruithneacht (wheat), coirce (oats), eorna (barley), and seagal (rye).

One suggestion would be to specify to how the ‘corn’ has been prepared.  If you say you’re having “arbhar sa dias” (corn on the cob), I don’t think anyone would think you’re eating wheat fresh after harvesting.  Note that “arbhar sa dias” literally means “corn in the ear,” not “corn on the cob.”  I’ve only occasionally seen another word for “corn cob” used (coba arbhair).  “Dias” can also be used for ears of wheat and barley, but that usage would typically be specified (dias chruithneachta, dias eorna, etc.).  And that’s “ear” strictly for agriculture, not the ear of a human or animal, which would be “cluas.”

Let’s wrap up with the various forms of the phrase “arbhar Indiach“:

arbhar Indiach, Indian corn, maize

an t-arbhar Indiach, the Indian corn, the maize

(blas, etc.) an arbhair Indiaigh, (the taste, etc.) of the Indian corn, of the maize

And, although I doubt it would be used much in the plural, except, perhaps, if discussing different varieties, here are the forms anyway:

arbhair Indiacha, na harbhair Indiacha, na n-arbhar Indiach

What ever you do, don’t mistake the native Irish word ‘corn” for “arbhar Indiach,” since a “corn” in Irish is a horn, metal drinking cup, or a trophy as in “corn Francach” (French horn), “corn comhóil” (a quaich or loving cup, lit. co-drinking horn), and “An Corn Domhanda Rugbaí.”  Well, that’s one more fruit/vegetable down.  Scores more to go! – Róislín