Irish Language Blog

Agus Riabha (Cuid a Dó de “Réaltaí agus Riabha”) Posted by on Jun 23, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

To continue with our theme of “Réaltaí agus Riabha,” let’s now look at the possible words for “stripes.”  There are a number of possibilities, and none of them is really etched in stone for our use here, since they’re all given as an attempt, somewhat speculative, to translate the phrase “Stars and Stripes.

Here are the three main  possible words for “stripe;” the first two will be our main concern here:

riabh, npl. riabha

stríoc, npl. stríoca

straidhp, pl. straidhpeanna, used, among other things, for military stripes

And yes, I checked online to see if there was much precedent for the phrase “Stars and Stripes” in Irish,  and, no, there isn’t much.  There’s a handful of hits for “Réaltaí agus Stríoca.”  I find some older examples using “riabha” instead of “stríoca” to refer to the stripes in the American flag, but not in a searchable online format.  “Réaltaí is Riabha” preserves some of the “uaim” of the original letters in the English phrase (the “st” of “stars” and “stripes”), and that gives it a little extra poetic punch, at least i mo bharúil féin.

Riabh, can mean several different things in addition to “stripe:” a streak (which will take us back to “stríoc”), a welt, a groove.

Here are some more forms of this word:

dath na réibhe, the color of the stripe (2nd-declension feminine noun, “-ia-“
changing to “-éi-“ for the possessive form, not too unusual really)

Tá na riabha cothrománach.  The stripes are horizontal.

dathanna na riabh, the colors of the stripes (ginideach iolra, goes back to the basic “riabh” form)

There’s also the adjective form, riabhach, which takes the various possibilities even further (tabby, fallow, brindled, roan, grizzled, speckled-gray, drab, dull, gloomy, etc.).  How all those came to be express in one Irish word is a bit baffling but sin mar atá.  Here are some of the applications:

1. cat riabhach, 2. bó riabhach, 3. éide riabhach, 4. lá riabhach, 5. bán riabhach,

Can you match them to their English equivalents (freagraí thíos):

a) gray (grey) day, b) tabby-cat, c) fallow land, d) drab clothing/uniform, e) brindled cow

The second word, “stríoc” also has several meanings: streak, strickle (which you might know by its other Irish name, slat mhaoile), stroke, parting (in hair), lash, scratch, welt, district or zone (!), and in the abstract, perhaps because of a punishment that causes the welt, streak or stripe, it also means repentance (normally, and less ambiguously expressed as aithreachas, as in, “Tá aithreachas orm”).  Here are some more forms of this word:

dath na stríce, the color of the stripe (another 2nd-declension noun, with the typical “slenderized” ending to say “of the stripe”)

na stríoca,  the stripes

dathanna na stríoc, the colors of the stripes (ginideach iolra, goes back to the basic “stríoc” form)

And related:

stríocáil, to score (mark lines on), to streak (make streaky), make tracks, and by association, walk

What other words could we use for “stripe?”  There’s “straidhp,” the word usually used for military stripes.  “Straidhp” can also refer to a strip of land, as in the four townlands named “An Straidhp” (3 in Co. Galway, 1 in Co. Mayo; there may be others).  In pronouncing this word, the “-dh-“ is basically silent, although it does turn the vowel sound into something like the vowel in English “my,” “eye,” or “pie,” or for that matter, “stripe.”  Even though the “-dh-“ is silent, it’s important in distinguishing this word from “straip” (a strap, or, by association, a “termagant,” etc.”)

And, additionally, but overall, I’d say, not all that widespread in application:

síog, stripe, streak, seam, lode, or vein (as opposed to sióg, a fairy; note the different placement of the long marks)

stiall, stripe, more like a long strip of something, especially cloth or paper; a “stiall den teanga” is a “dressing down,” and possible a good ábhar for blag éigin eile.  No, not today’s corporate “dress-down Friday.”  That’s a completely different type of “dressing down.”

straiméad, a strip of one material attached to something else of a different color.  This word can also mean a large strip, a streamer, or a tattered thing.

riast, m, stripe, streak, and predominantly, a welt on the skin or a welt in bootmaking, the last probably a long-lost feature of shoes today, since so few of our shoes are actually cobbled.

And which one forms the basis of the word “ streaker”?  À la Mark Roberts (2006, at an Olympic curling match, no less!) or, more historically, George William Crump (1804!, through the streets of Lexington, Virginia).

There are two official choices:

lomnochtán, but this can also mean a stark naked person in general (lom, bare + nocht, naked + -án suffix), without necessarily the element of surprise.

stríocálaí, more specifically, a streaker as we have used the term since the 1970s

Actually if we believe the Roman authors, the ancient Celtic warriors (or maybe just the Cruithnigh) were the original stríocálaithe anyway, dashing into battle clad in not much more than light armor and goirmín.  And on that nóta beomhar (lively note), and with perhaps some future discussion of more on stripes, earned and otherwise, sgf ó Róislín

Freagraí: 1b, 2e, 3d, 4a, 5c, with bán here referring to a “bawn,” not to the color “white”

Gluais: aithreachas, repentance; Cruithneach, Pict; goirmín, woad; slat mhaoile, a leveling stick; uaim, alliteration

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