Irish Language Blog

25 Chulaith Oíche Shamhna and how to say them in Irish Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 in Irish Language

Ag fáil amach an conriocht é nó an mac tíre é -- scéal Chlóicín Dearg níos nuanceáilte!

Ag fáil amach an conriocht é nó an mac tíre é — scéal Chlóicín Dearg níos nuanceáilte!

(le Róislín)

The variety of Halloween costumes seems to grow greater and greater every year.  Here are 25 possibilities and a handful of phrases for questions like:

1) Will you be a werewolf this year?  An mbeidh tú i do chonriocht  i mbliana?

2) Were you ever a werewolf? (for Halloween, or otherwise)? An raibh tú riamh i do chonriocht?

3) Are you a devil? (usually meant as a temporary condition, like wearing a costume for one evening)  An bhfuil tú i do dhiabhal?

Are you a werewolf? (could refer to wearing a costume or to the regular change into werewolf shape each month).  An bhfuil tú i do chonriocht?

In Northern Irish, this structure (“i do …, etc.”) could be used for a more permanent state of affairs.  In Northern Irish, “Tá mé i mo dhochtúir” doesn’t necessarily imply that you just recently transitioned into being a doctor.   The structure could also be used for a job you’ve held for a long time.

4) Did you ever wear a werewolf costume?  (two versions)

First version (4a): An raibh culaith chonreachta ort riamh? (lit.  Was a werewolf costume ever on you?)


Second version (4b) Ar chaith tú culaith chonreachta riamh?  (lit. Did you ever wear a werewolf costume?  In theory, this phrase, based on the verb “caith,” could also mean, “Did you ever throw / smoke / consume / wear out a werewolf costume?” but, presumably, those choices would be illogical.

5) If your costume refers to something that’s one of a kind in real life, even if numerous people may make cultacha of it, we use the “An tú an …?” structure:

Are you the Eiffel Tower? An tú an Túr Eiffel? (Is mé, is mé an Túr Eiffel. / Ní mé, ní mé an Túr Eiffel)  Dála an scéil, tuilleadh eolais ar an bhfrása “an Túr Eiffel” thíos). 

6) And finally, if your costume represents something that’s not one of a kind: An conriocht thú?  Are you a werewolf?  NB: Whether what the costume depicts actually exists at all, in real life, is a completely different issue.

Questions like this (An conriocht thú?) would seem to me most suitable for a face-to-face situation where you’re talking directly to the person in costume.  Otherwise it might seem as if you’re talking about their general condition.

Of course, it’s the general condition for a werewolf to change form (riocht) according to the moon.  So for werewolves, it might be a reasonable thing to ask.  And yet, thinking about it further, if you could see the werewolf (or the moon, even), you probably wouldn’t need to ask. But if you were talking to the werewolf on the phone and couldn’t see him or her, you might need to ask.  Especially if a full moon was just beginning to appear in the sky and you weren’t sure if the werewolf form had taken over yet.  But, of course, if your fón póca has a video feature or if you are using Skype or a similar platform, you wouldn’t need to ask, because you could see, even though you weren’t standing near the werewolf.

“Why (and how) would a werewolf talk on a cell phone?” you might ask.  Well, I wonder too.   But even if werewolves don’t have a cnámh hióideach, they might howl or whimper meaningfully into the phone to communicate.  Especially if they don’t really like being a werewolf and are kvetching about it.  Of course, even without a hyoid bone, they could always text the message, assuming that two of their “ionga” could at least approximate “ordóga is féidir a chur i gcoinne na méar” (Wow — that’s a long phrase for “opposable”!).  Or maybe they’d just use a “gléas aitheanta glaime” and just have the message automatically typed out on the other person’s “gléas.”

But all of that brings us back to the basic issue of when would you say “An conriocht thú?” and when would you say “An conriocht ag an bpointe seo i gciogal na gealaí thú?” or “An conriocht anois thú?”  or “An conriocht faoi láthair thú?“, or other variations like “An bhfuil tú i do chonriocht?” and “An bhfuil tú i do chonriocht anois / faoi láthair?”  And then there are also the choices “An bhfuil culaith chonreachta ort?” and “An bhfuil tú ag caitheamh culaith chonreachta?

And anyway, are werewolves only called “werewolves” when they’re in the werewolf form?  An é nach dtugtar “conriochtaí” ar “chonriochtaí” ach amháin nuair a bhíonn riocht conreachta  orthu?  Or do you also call a werewolf a werewolf even when he or she is in human form?   Hmm, I feel like I should know, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure.

Anyway, that’s probably enough philosophizing, and now maybe it’s time to actually look at some terms for cultacha Oíche Shamhna.  I’ve divided the list up into the various structures that can be used for the questions.  Any costume could be used in any structure, although, to me,  some of them feel more natural as “i do …” questions and some of them feel more natural using the word “culaith.”

1)) An mbeidh tú i do … i mbliana? (Beidh / Ní bheidh)

a)) i do chonriocht b) i do thaibhse      c) i do mhadra      d) i do ghúl      e) i do chreatlach

2)) An raibh tú riamh i do …? (Bhí / Ní raibh)

f)) i do bhean feasa            g) i d’fhiaghruagach       h) i do Ghliúdóg Dhochreidte

3)) An bhfuil tú i do …?  (Tá / Níl)

i)) i do vaimpír      j) i do phuimcín         k) i do bhláth            l) i do chailín bailé

4a)) An raibh culaith … ort riamh? (Bhí / Ní raibh)

m)) culaith Earcail      n) culaith Harry Potter      o) culaith Freddy Krueger      p) culaith ríomhaire

4b) Ar chaith tú culaith … riamh? (Chaith / Níor chaith)

q)) culaith fhrancaigh      r) culaith zombaí      s) culaith bhuachaill bó

5)) For costumes representing something one-of-a-kind:

An tú an …?  (Is mé, is mé an … / Ní mé, ní mé an …)

t)) an Sfioncs      u) an Féinics      v) an t-aonbheannach deireanach (NB: the last of its kind, so we have the structure for definite nouns; for asking if someone is “a unicorn,” see below)

6)) For costumes representing something that’s not one of a kind (like saying “Are you a doctor?”):

An … thú? (‘Sea, is … mé / Ní hea, ní … mé.)

w)) aonbheannach x) daoránach i ngeimhle

y)) héilics dúbailte d’aigéad dí-ocsairibeanúicléasach

Bhuel, sin roghanna go leor agaibh agus tá súil agam gur bhain tú sult as an bplé fúthu.  Mar a dúirt mé cheana, in iarbhlagmhír éigin, slán go gúl (the closest sort-of rhyme I could get for “fóill“) — Róislín

PS: I guess my costume for this year should be a page of prose, then I could sign off as “Próislín.”  But why would I ever want to do that?

Nóta (An Túr Eiffel): I’ve pondered the question as to whether “the Eiffel Tower” should have the word “the” in Irish, and finally concluded that, yes, it should.  While I find no official dictionary entry for it, I have seen the usage “an Túr Eiffel” in places such as,  “GCSE to AS – Bridging the gap Irish Reading Comprehension,”, and, which, combined provide a pretty convincing source base.  On the flip side, I’ve also seen just “Túr Eiffel,” various times, including the Vicipéid entry, which may or may not be a good guide to Irish usage.  I’ve also thought about what we really mean when we say “the Eiffel Tower.” It seems to me that Eiffel is more of any adjective than a possessive noun, so we include the word “the” (An Túr Eiffel) as we would for “an túr ard” (the tall tower).  If the monument were known as “Eiffel’s Tower,” then I would leave off the “the” (as we do for “the coat of Cáit,” which is “cóta Cháit”).  That pattern can be seen in phrases like “Baois Uí Chonghaile” (Conolly’s Folly [sic], lit. the Folly of Conolly, and yes, apparently that’s the spelling of “Conolly” for this site, with just one “n”), which is in Co. Kildare.  To say “Eiffel’s Tower,” it would be “Túr Eiffel.”  Since the name “Eiffel” isn’t an Irish surname, we don’t have a marker like “Uí” showing possession, but the word order and lack of “an” for “the” should suffice.  If you have other thoughts on the grammatical breakdown of this phrase, please let me know.

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