Beirt Naomh Mhí na Feabhra: Naomh Bríd agus San Vailintín

Posted on 03. Feb, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Irish has two words for “saint.”  I wonder if any other language is similar in this regard, but for now, we’ll just look at the two Irish words, “naomh” and “san.”  For most purposes, they are not interchangeable.  February celebrates both “Naomh Bríd” and “San Vailintín,” so let’s look at why they have two different words for titles.

Let’s start with “san” [sahn] since, ultimately there are fewer forms and specifications connected to this word.  The key thing is that, in Irish, “San” is only used as a title.  In Modern Irish, at least, it’s not a generic word for “saint.”  The word “naomh” serves that purpose.

At least according to all the recent Modern Irish sources I’ve been able to double-check, the word “san” has no plural, no gender, and no possessive form.  It’s only used as a title, primarily for non-Irish saints.  Note that the pronunciation (“sahn”) is not like another Irish word spelled “san” and pronounced like English “sun.”  That “san” (short for “ins” + “an“) means “in the,” as in “san uisce,” in the water.  Here are some examples of “San” for saints:

San Vailintín (hmm, I wonder why that example sprung to mind at this time of year?)

San Doiminic

San Caitríona

San Seoirse (“San” used to change to “Sain” before slender consonants, like “se…” but I haven’t seen any signs of this in recent years)

San Tomás a Beicit and San Tomás

San Seán (as in Oíche Fhéile San Seáin, St. John’s Eve; a related term in early 20th-century Irish, Féile Shain Seain [sic], shows us that at one time, “san” did change form slightly according to the grammatical context.)

San Nioclás (aka Daidí na Nollag and Athair na Nollag, except, I suppose, when one is specifically referring to the 4th-centuary St. Nicholas of Smyrna, separate from all the Christmas trappings.

Geographically speaking, we have:

San Héilin

San Críostóir-Nimheas

But some other locations retain the actual word “saint,” as in “Comhroinn Thar Lear Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.”

As for the St. Bernard dog, there are at least three ways to refer to that breed in Irish:

an tAilpíneach, pl: na hAilpínigh, lit. the “Alpine”

Madra Bearnáin, pl: Madraí Bearnáin, lit. dog of Bearnán (Bernard)

Madra San Bearnard, pl: Madraí San Bearnard

Irish or non-Irish, when we want to refer to saints in general, the word is “naomh” [neev OR nayv].  This word has the usual complement of forms, and is grammatically masculine.  It’s used even if the saint being referred to is female (Naomh Bríd, whose feast day has just passed).

an naomh, the saint

an naoimh, of the saint; ainm an naoimh, the name of the saint

na naoimh, the saints

na naomh, of the saints, as in “Féile na Naomh Uile” (lit. the feast of all the saints)

In addition to “Naomh Pádraig” (aka Pádraig Naofa), we have “Naomh Ciarán,” “Naomh Colm Cille,” srl. 

Some related words are “naomhluan,” a “halo” and “naomhsheanchas” [NEEV-HAN-uh-khuss OR NAYV-HAN-uh-khuss], which means “hagiography.”

As for expressions like “Saint’s alive!,” I think the closest Irish equivalents would be “A Thiarcais!” (Oh my!, etc.) or “!” (Indeed!), with no reference to saints at all.  But perhaps some readers know some other saint-related exclamations in Irish? SGF – Róislín

Apostles, Mill-Clappers, and Zodiac Signs (And The Common Thread Is … the Number 12)

Posted on 29. Jan, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

12 on green backgroundYou may have noticed that both “dhéag” and “déag” were used in the last blog title (nasc thíos).  For “twelve animals,” we said “dhá ainmhí dhéag” with the lenited form “dhéag” [yayg].  For “twelve years,” we said “dhá bhliain déag,” with the basic form of “déag” ([djayg] not lenited).  So what’s going on here?

There is a pattern to when to use “dhéag” and when to use “déag.”  First, though, let’s look at the basic word order for these phrases, since we’ll need that for the explanation.   In Irish, if you’re counting twelve things or animals, what you’re counting comes in between the words for “two” (dhá) and for “ten” (déag / dhéag).   It’s almost as if you’re saying “two animal ten” or “two year ten” to say “twelve animals” or “twelve years.”

Now for “déag” vs. “dhéag.”  Whether to use “déag” or “dhéag” depends on how the thing you’re counting is spelled.  If the word ends in a vowel, “dhéag” is used.  A few examples include:

dhá ainmhí dhéag, twelve animals (remember: “dhéag” sounds like “yayg”)

dhá oráiste dhéag, twelve oranges

If the thing you’re counting ends in a consonant, we use “déag,” as in:

dhá bhliain déag, twelve years

dhá úll déag, twelve apples

So what do apostles, mill-clappers, and zodiac signs have to so with all of this?  Bhuel, directly or indirectly, they have to do with the number twelve.  So let’s continue practicing the number “twelve,” and for good measure, we’ll look at “dozen” as well.

First, how do we say “twelve signs,” as in “Comharthaí an Stoidiaca“?  It’s a good way to practice “dhá … dhéag” since there are 12 signs, ceann do gach mí.  Dála an scéil, “comharthaí” sounds like “KOR-hee” or “KOH-ur-hee”:

dhá chomhartha dhéag, twelve signs [for “chomhartha,” say “KHOR-huh”  or “KHOH-ur-huh,” with the “mh” nearly silent, the “t” silent, and in the initial “kh” sound like the “ch” of “challah,” “Chanukah,” or German Buch]

So we have three points to keep in mind: a) “chomhartha” lenited after “dhá,” b) “dhéag” lenited after “chomhartha,” and c) “c(h)omhartha” is singular in this phrase, not plural, which would be “comharthaí” [KOH-ur-hee].

Next, counting people, and apostles happens to be a convenient example.  In Irish, saying the number of apostles uses a different system from counting animals or years, etc., one specifically for counting people (na huimhreacha pearsanta).  You might recognize this concept from phrases like “beirt bhan,” “triúr buachaillí,” and “Ceathrar Marcach an Apacailipsis.”   This is a bit like using “duo,” “trio,” and “quartet” in English, but in English, these terms are mostly limited to musicians or deliberately artsy phrases (Dynamic Duo, etc.).  In Irish, words like “beirt,” “triúr,” and “ceathrar,” up through “deichniúr” and “dháréag” are routinely used for counting people.

So how do we say twelve people?  There are two choices:

dháréag (twelve people), this is as far as the “uimhreacha pearsanta” system goes.  Starting with thirteen, we use the regular cardinal numbers (trí dhuine dhéag, etc.)

dháréag fear, twelve men, and note that “dh” changes to “d” after “an” here: an dáréag fear, the twelve men

dháréag aspal, twelve apostles, and “an Dáréag Aspal,” the Twelve Apostles, sometimes just referred to as “An Dáréag.”

So far we have the cardinal numbers (dhá ainmhí dhéag) and the personal numbers (an Dáréag Aspal).  How about “dozen.”  And what was that about mill-clappers?   Bhuel, just a bit of fun, actually.  The Irish word for “dozen” is “dosaen,” not surprisingly.  But if we want to describe someone as talking “nineteen to the dozen” in Irish we don’t actually refer to numbers at all in the closest equivalent.  Instead, the phrase is “to be (like) a mill-clapper” (claibín muilinn).  So we could say:

Tá Stella Mudd (bean Harry Mudd) ina claibín muilinn (RéaltAistear, Séasúr 2, Eipeasóid 8, “I, Mudd,” 1967).  Ní deir sí ach rudaí mar “Harcourt Fenton Mudd, what have you been up to? Have you been drinking again? You answer me!” agus “Harcourt Fenton Mudd, what have you been up to? Nothing good, I’m sure. Well, let me tell you, you lazy, good-for-nothing .”  Arís agus aríst eile, go tapaidh agus gan stad.

Cé mhéad ubh shona atá sa phictiúr seo?  Dosaen!

Cé mhéad ubh shona atá sa phictiúr seo? Dosaen!

So the Irish equivalent to “nineteen to the dozen” doesn’t involve numbers but it did give us an interesting way to introduce the word “dosaen” into our discussion of the number “twelve.”   Some other phrases with “dosaen” include “dosaen uibheacha” and “dosaen rósanna.” Those two examples demonstrate that “dosaen” is followed by the genitive plural, unlike the cardinal numbers, which are followed by the nominative singular form of the noun (“dosaen rósanna”  but “dhá rós déag”).  A “dosaen fada” is a “baker’s dozen” i.e. thirteen of something.  Again, the Irish isn’t literally the same as the English, since “dosaen fada” actually means “a long dozen.”

Cé mhéad rós atá ag an bhfear?  Tá dosaen rósanna aige.

Cé mhéad rós atá ag an bhfear? Tá dosaen rósanna aige.

To recap, there are various ways to say “twelve” in Irish and various ways numbers affect the following word:

dhá bhliain déag, dhá ainmhí dhéag

dháréag fear, dháréag ban, An Dáréag Aspal (the pattern “dhá dhuine dhéag” can also be used)

dosaen, dosaen uibheacha, dosaen rósanna, dosaen fada

And if you’re still hankering for more expressions with twelve, there’s always “dhá dhosaen déag” (lit. twelve dozens, or “a gross,” typically for counting items like “pinn luaidhe,” “cannaí bia,” and “liathróidí leadóg bhoird“; 144 units of something).   Or we could simply call that a “grósa.”  There are lots more terms for measuring, weighing, and counting things, both contemporary (puint, cileagraim) and archaic (like bannlámha, léigeanna, eileanna, and feircíní) but the rest will have to wait for am éigin eileSGF — Róislín


Dhá Ainmhí Dhéag, Dhá Bhliain Déag, agus Cén Fhoirm den Alt?

Posted on 27. Jan, 2014 by in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Bliain an Chapaill

Bliain an Chapaill

Seo Bliain an Chapaill de réir fhéilire na Síneach.  Agus cad faoi na blianta eile?  Agus na hainmhithe a bhaineanns leo? 

So we’ve all heard that this is the Year of the Horse (Bliain an Chapaill) in the Chinese calendar.  But how would we say the other eleven Chinese years in Irish?  And what happens to the phrase “of the” as we go from masculine to feminine?  Grammatically, that is!  The biological gender of a specific animal isn’t really relevant for this exercise.   While it’s good to know that Irish has the usual differentiations for male and female animals (stail / láir; tarbh / bó; reithe / fóisc; poc or pocaide / minseach, srl.), grammatical gender is, well, a “capall” of a different color.

Here are the other eleven animals and below that, a fill-in-the-blank exercise.   An interesting aspect of all of this that didn’t occur to me until just now is whether the Chinese word for horse ( ) used for Year of the Horse is specifically male or female (a mare) or whether it’s for “horse” as a species in general, neither male or female.  But the words below are the most basic Irish words for each animal even if there are other subcategories like láir, minseach or cráin.  When we get to “rooster,” we know its the male of the species.  And for a lot of animals, especially wild ones or those not native to Ireland, we often simply use “fireann” (male) and “baineann” (female), as in “cangarú baineann.” At any rate, here are the other eleven animals:

francach, rat

damh [dahv], ox

tíogar [TEE-gur], tiger

coinín, rabbit

dragan, dragon

nathair [NAH-hirzh], snake

gabhar [GOW-ur, with the “ow” as in “cow” or “now,” not as in “bow-tie”) , goat

moncaí , monkey

coileach [KWIL-yukh] rooster

madra (or “madadh” [MAH-duh] or “gadhar” [GYE-ur, rhyming with “tire” or “wire”]) dog

muc [muk, the “u” is close to English “book” but not like English “muck” or “moon”], pig

And what happens to all these words when they come after “Year of the”?  And what happens to the word “the,” which can appear as either “an” or “na“?  Remember: “an” if the noun is masculine, “na” if the noun is feminine, and leid mhór, only two from this group are grammatically feminine:

Bliain ___ Fhrancaigh

Bliain ___ Daimh

Bliain ___  Tíogair

Bliain ___ Choinín

Bliain ___ Dragain

Bliain ___ Nathrach

Bliain ___  Ghabhair

Bliain ___  Mhoncaí

Bliain ___ Choiligh

Bliain ___  Mhadra (or “Bliain __  Mhadaidh” or “Bliain  __  Ghadhair”)

Bliain ___ Muice

Bhuel, “Athbhliain faoi mhaise” faoi dhó (since we just wished everyone that about a month ago) and, fingers crossed that this spelling is an adequate romanization, “Kung Hei Fat Choy!”  Maybe by next year, I’ll have learned what each of the four words means separately and made a stab at learning “ceithre thon na Sínise.”  Idir an dá linn, SGF – Róislín

Agus na freagraí:

Bliain an Fhrancaigh, an Daimh, an Tíogair, an Choinín, an Dragain, na Nathrach (focal baininscneach a haon sa tsraith), an  Ghabhair, an Mhoncaí, an Choiligh, an Mhadra (or “Bliain an Mhadaidh” or “Bliain an Ghadhair”), na Muice (focal baininscneach a dó sa tsraith)

Nasc don phictiúr: