Irish Language Blog

Ag seinm uirlisí ceoil, ó alpchorn go xileafón (Alpenhorn to Xylophone in Irish): Pt. 4: Triantán go xileafón Posted by on Mar 29, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Time for an chuid dheireanach of our musical instrument series.  And this time, it does end.  The last specific entry is with “x,” not “z.” Remember why — from the previous blogs sa tsraith seo?  But, nevertheless, there are a few comments here about some instruments whose names start with letters, like “y” and “z,” which are not widely used in the Irish alphabet.

As in the previous blogs, I’ll do some of the formatting for the genitive case and leave a few up to you.  Réidh — do sheal ar dtús.

17) triantán: So, let’s go Cajun here, natch.  Bhí Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin (1915-2007) ag seinm an ___________.  Agus ar an ábhar sin, bíonn John Deacon (sa ghrúpa Queen) ag seinm an __________ (an freagra céanna) ó am go ham freisin.

18) uathchláirseach: Tá Joni Mitchell, Maybelle Carter, Carlene Carter, Sylvia Tyson, Robbie Robertson, agus John Sebastian i measc na ndaoine a bhíonn nó a bhíodh ag seinm na huathchláirsí.  Cúpla athrú deas ansin: a) adding the initial “h” because this feminine noun happens to start a vowel and is used here to say “playing of an autoharp” and b) changing the ending, again, because this is really “of an autoharp.”

Don’t tell me you wanted an easier one!  Well, there’s not much to choose from, musically, for initial “u,” but you could also do “ucailéile.”  Can’t escape that h-prefixing though — it comes with the territory.  No change at the end (it’s 4th declension), so it becomes “ag seinm na hucailéile.”

19) víol: Tá sé ag seinm an _______.  Which is going to mean, “he is playing the viol.”  Not the “viola,” which in Irish would be “ag seinm na vióla.”

For “w,” it’s pretty slim pickins.  I haven’t found any typical Irish musical instrument name that starts with a “w.”  Very few Irish words do, anyway.

Mostly, if you see words in an Irish text starting with “w,” they’re borrowed and left like their native or English spelling (wadi, wigwam, williwaw, winceyette, srl.) .  There are a few that could be considered full-fledged Irish words, like “W-réalta” and “waighndeáil” (as in “waighndeáil an téip,” wind the tape).  For music, there is the “waiata” (canadh Maorach), but that’s vocal, not instrumental and “uirlisí ceoil” are the focus of this mini-series, not “an guth.”  There’s also the “wah-wah,” but normally that is preceded by the word “troitheán,” which as you probably guessed means … (freagra thíos, 20)

And then there’s the “whamola,” for which I’ve yet to discover an Irish name, not too surprisingly.  Cad é an “whamola,” a deir tú?  Is “whammy bar” agus “vióla” le chéile é.

And does the extra large version of it become a “double whamola”?  Could we make an Irish word out of that, “an dordwhamola“?  Or “an t-ollwhamola“?

So that was supposed to be slim pickins, but turned into a sort of fun couple of paragraphs.  Bhuel, back to a more well-documented word,

21) xileafón: Tá mé ag seinm an _________ .  No change to the initial “x” but the “-ón” ending changes to ___?

Hmm, I can’t say that the names of any xileafónaithe cáiliúla are leaping to mind, but the following website shows an entertaining look at some players from the past, starting at the tender age of ceithre bliana d’aois: (The ‘X’ Files: Top 10  Xylophonists of the Past  Posted by British Pathé 8 September 2010)

For “y” and “z,” again there’s virtually no choice for instruments with actual Irish names, although looking globally we do see such intriguing ones as the yaylı tambur, the yu, the zhalaika, and the zugtrompette.  Once again, as a reminder, there are very few words in Irish that start with “y” or “z,” with “yóyó,” “y-chrómasóm,” “zéite-chúngú,” “zónóis,” “,” “zúmáil,” and “Zúinis” among the rare exceptions.  As you can see, all of these are borrowed from words that start with “z” in English or other languages and which have retained the “z,” unlike earlier times, when “z-words” typically picked up an “s” when they were borrowed into Irish, “zebra” becoming “séabra” and “zinc” becoming “sinc,” mar shampla.

Well, that’s an interesting “turas mar a bheadh gaoth Mhárta ann,” to recast an idiom, through the world of uirlisí ceoil, and some cleachtadh gramadaí to boot.  “To boot,” now that would be a fun expression to look into sometime, “buta” vs. “buataisí” and all that.  Ach ábhar blag eile, ar ndóigh.  Slán go fóill, agus beidh mé ag tnúth le cluinstin uait faoi na huirlisí ceoil is fearr leat nó na cinn a sheinneann tusa!  – Róislín


17) ag seinm an triantáin, playing the triangle

18) déanta thuas

19) ag seinm an víola.  Not the “vióla,” which is a different instrument!  “Ag seinm an víola” means “he is playing the viol.”  To say, “playing the viola” in Irish would be “ag seinm na vióla.”  Talk about attention to detail!  “Víol” [VEE-ul] is masculine and has a long mark above the “i.”  “Vióla” [vee-OH-luh] is feminine and has the long mark above the “o,” reflecting the pronunciation in English, and, presumably, Italian.  “Vióla” always includes the letter “a;” it’s an intrinsic part of the word’s spelling.  “Víola” only adds the “a” to mean “of a viol,” a typical genitive-case use.  “Ag seinm an víola” literally means “at playing of a viol.”

It’s a bit like the difference between “Fióna” (a girl’s name) and “fíona” (“of wine”), as in “gloine fíona.”  “Fíona” is based on the word “fíon” (wine).  Tuiseal ginideach: fíona.

20) An freagra don cheist faoin “wah-wah”: troitheán, pedal (based on “troigh,” foot, usually for measurement, these days, although originally it meant the foot on the body.  That’s usually “cos” these days.  “Troitheán wah-wah” — wah-wah pedal.

21) ag seinm an xileafóin, playing the xylophone

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