Irish Language Blog

Aibhneacha: Glas nó Uaine? (Rivers: Green/Glas or Green/Uaine?) Posted by on Mar 29, 2013 in Irish Language

(le Róislín) And now for the final part of our “glas vs. uaine” (green/green) discussion, stemming from the St. Patrick’s Day discussions.  Somehow it has turned into a mionsraith ad hoc, so I suppose I could have labeled each section (Cuid a hAon, Cuid a Dó, and today, Cuid a Trí).  But I guess I’ll just leave it as trí bhlag ar leith.

What are the results/hits (torthaí/amais) for abhainn uaine vs. abhainn ghlas (with the plurals, “aibhneacha uaine” and “aibhneacha glasasan áireamh)

1) abhainn uaine [OW-in OO-in-yuh, with the “ow” either as in “bow-wow” OR “bow-tie,” since both vowel sounds exist for “abh-“], a green river (dyed):  20 amas/hits (with duplicates eliminated).  Most refer to the actual Scottish river, Abhainn Uaine and a few refer back to this blog (Hurá!), discussing the dyeing of rivers.  It actually looks like there are a couple of rivers called “Uaine” in Scotland, ach ainmneacha aibhneacha na hAlban, sin definitely ábhar blag eile!

2) abhainn ghlas [OW-in γlahss, for the “γ” (the Greek gamma sign), please see the pronunciation notes below, if it’s new to you — in a nutshell, it’s a throaty/voiced version of the “-ch” in German “Buch” or Welsh “bach” or  Scots “Loch“)], a green river (naturally colored): 389 amas, but the lion’s share are for “Abhainn Ghlas” in Scotland, not rivers dyed green for Lá Fhéile Pádraig.  Apparently there are several places called “Abhainn Ghlas” in Scotland, as well as at least one actual river, but they are beyond our scope here.  There are a few references to “An Abhainn Ghlas” in Ireland, as a town or a river, and a few link back to this blog, but I don’t see any discussion of green-dyed rivers in Irish in a natural context.  Maybe for next year we can popularize the topic! 

As I alluded to in the last blog, I also tried a grammatically incorrect search (sometimes a useful tool), and that brought up several hundred references to “Abhainn Glas,” a development in Meathas Troim (Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford).  As a sidenote, this search also brought up an interesting article about converting “ghost estates” in Ireland to become Gaeltachtaí nua — smaoineamh an-suimiúil (

And now for na foirmeacha iolra (the plural forms).  Slim pickins!  Am I the only one interested in using the Irish language to discuss the dyeing of rivers?

aibhneacha uaine [EV-nyukh-uh]: 9 n-amas a bhaineann le Transparent Language’s Irish Blogs, ach seachas sin, amas ar bith (9 hits referring back to Transparent, other than that, no hits).

aibhneacha glasa [GLAHSS-uh; the “γ” sound disappears in the plural!]: 1 amas (seachas blaganna sa tsraith seo, 1 hit besides entries in this blog series) and it turns out to be a government document about the salmon population in Irish rivers, with various rivers coded as different colors on a map.  Hmm, can we say “daonra bradán” (salmon population)?  The “daon-” part of “daonra” clearly refers to people (daoine or daonnaithe).  I guess it makes as much literal sense as “populus” part of “population” does if we’re talking about animal populations. At any rate, an interesting document, ach ní bhaineann sé mórán lenár n-ábhar.  Seo an nasc, for anyone who really wants to check out the salmon populations:

So it seems to me that this ábhar is still a bit unresolved.  For all the discussion of “dyeing rivers green” (13,900 hits before sorting, for the English search), there’s not much “i mbéal an phobail” that’s actually in Irish.   I know we’ll never get this topic to compete with éadaí Kim Kardashian or some other such “ábhar treochtaí” (trending topic), but it would be nice if by next year’s St. Patrick’s Day, we could see a little more activity.  At least enough to generate some discussion as to whether a dyed river is “uaine” or “glas.”  I root for “uaine” here, as with bagels, since we’re literally talking about dathúchán (dyeing [DAH-hoo-khawn].  Bhur mbarúlacha?

So, sin é, for now.  I bet you’ll think twice before you eat citseap “Blastin’ Green”  next time.  An bhfuil an citseap sin uaine nó glas?  “Uaine” because it’s manufactured?  Or “glas” because it comes from green tomatoes (at least I assume and hope that that’s why it’s green)?  Actually, it’s a moot point by now because green catsup stopped production about 7 years ago.  It was meant to promote the movie “Shrek,” and delightful as that movie was, some of its more extreme spin-off products have come and gone.  Not the die-hard stuff of course, but, well, the citseap uaine (glas) seems to have gone the way of all (tomato) flesh.

If the idea of multi-colored catsup really tickled your fancy, léigh leat ag   It also discusses “citseap corcra.”  I mBéarla, ar ndóigh.

Meanwhile, next blog we’ll look at some more practical applications of the “glas” and “uaine” terms.  And I’m still waiting to see if anyone can provide an Ghaeilge for “peatiness” — my suggestions were in the previous blog.  There must be some reason why the Irish and the Scots call some rivers “glas” and some “uaine.”  Does the color of the river water reflect anything about the local water supply that’s used sa phróiseas driogtha (distilling process).  And would that then affect the “blas“?  And does water even have color?  Or only reflect it?  Food for thought.  SGF, Róislín

Nascanna (for pronouncing the broad “gh” sound, aka, the “voiced velar fricative,” as found in “mo ghrá thú” / I love you, as well as in “abhainn ghlas” above): (subtitled “and minding your voiced velar fricatives”), 9 Deireadh Fómhair 2011, 27 Iúil, 2010

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