Irish Language Blog

An Dara Díochlaonadh: Eggs and Legs, Clutches and Hutches Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

cúbóg nó clúideog (uibheacha Cásca)

Continuing along with our “declension” series, here are roinnt samplaí of the second declension.  That’s the second out of four or five declensions (opinions vary).  Almost all 2nd-declension nouns are feminine, the two main exceptions being  “im” and “sliabh,” which will be dealt with in a later blog.

Go comhthitimeach (coincidentally) agus go tráthúil (seasonably), three good examples of 2nd-declension nouns also pertain to An Cháisc (cúbóg, clúdóg/clúideog, ubh) and one is at least indirectly related (losaid).  Well, very indirectly, ach cén dochar?

A very typical 2nd-declension ending is “-óg” and there are hundreds of nouns in Irish that have this ending (bróg, cleathóg, cúróg, gáilleog, spúnóg, ulscréachóg, srl., beagnach go dochuimsithe).

One caveat here, before we proceed, is that phrases ending with the wordóg” (young) are completely different from words ending in the suffix “-óg” declension-wise.  Examples of the former (óg as a word) would include “an t-aos óg” (the young folk) and “Tír na nÓg” (the Land of Youth).  Not that there’s any reason, even, to link these “óg”-phrases with the “-óg”-endings of 2nd-declension nouns.  But my experience as a teacher shows me that people will try to make connections that seem logical to them, so I simply note the caveat.

Back to our “-óg”-suffix words, here are two nice ones for Easter.  They mean almost the same thing:

cúbóg, a batch of Easter eggs.  Note that this word refers to Easter eggs without overtly using the word for Easter (Cáisc) or the word for eggs (uibheacha).  Seo iad na foirmeacha:

an chúbóg, the batch of  Easter eggs

na cúbóige, of the batch of Easter eggs; sampla: dath (color) na cúbóige

na cúbóga, the batches of Easter eggs

na gcúbóg, of the batches of Easter eggs; sampla: dathanna (colors) na gcúbóg (different colors for different batches of eggs, is dócha – it’s not that easy to think of things to say about batches of Easter eggs that would require the word to be sa tuiseal ginideach).

clúdóg, also means a batch of Easter eggs (an chlúdóg, na clúdóige, na clúdóga, na gclúdóg).  A variant of this is “clúideog,” hinting that the word probably derives from “clúid” (a covering). 

Apparently, these terms for Easter eggs originally referred to children taking eggs out into fields and cooking them there, sometimes using specially built small structures.  I don’t think the original idea would have been eggs dyed and decorated with pre-fab cut-out kits like we see today, giving us eggs themed with everything from SpongeBob Squarepants to Star Wars (!),  but it seems reasonable to extend the words “cúbóg” and “clúideog” to today’s practices.   These would distinguish the special Easter eggs from a normal, everyday “clutch” of eggs, which would usually be an “ál.”  “Ál” is also used for a clutch of the actual chicks, and for other animals, so, as always, context is key (cf. ál banbh, a litter of pigs, and even ál páistí, a swarm of children).                       

Not all 2nd-declension nouns end with “-óg,” of course.  Two other typical samples are “ubh” (egg) and “cos” (foot or leg – differentiating foot vs. leg will have to be ábhar blag eile),

ubh, egg

an ubh, the egg

na huibhe, of the egg; sampla: dath na huibhe, the color of the egg

uibheacha, eggs; sampla: uibheacha Cásca, Easter eggs

na huibheacha, the eggs: sampla: Cá bhfuil na huibheacha?  Where are the eggs?

na n-uibheacha, of the eggs; sampla: An maith leat dathanna na n-uibheacha? Do you like the colors of the eggs? 

Likewise: cos, an chos, na coise (sampla: cead na coise, the permission of his leg/foot, i.e. the ability to go where one wants), na cosa, na gcos (sampla: tine na gcos fuar, a very idiomatic expression meaning “poor fire,” lit. fire of the cold feet)

So we’ve done eggs, legs, and clutches.  What about hutches, as the title of this blog suggested?  Some of you may already know that the ordinary word for a rabbit hutch is not second declension.  It’s a púirín coinín, 4th-declension, like most words with the “-ín” ending.  And that’s masculine, to boot, a further differentiation from most 2nd-declension nouns.  So, Easterish as it might be to talk about rabbit hutches, why on earth is “hutch” in this blog?   A little bait and switch here.  I wonder how many of you immediately thought “baker’s hutch”?  Why a baker’s hutch?  In Irish, it’s the same as the word for “kneading-trough,” and it’s a 2nd-declension noun.  An cuimhin leat é?  It has a surprisingly large number of cultural associations.  The Irish is <tormáil druma> … losaid.  Hmmm, from kneading-trough to baker’s hutch, say what?  Well, like many words, “losaid” has a variety of meanings, including “wooden food-tray,” ”shallow food-basket,” and “small table that can collapse.”  Some combination of the latter ideas leads us to “baker’s hutch,” is dócha.

The forms of losaid, typical of 2nd-declension nouns, are:

an losaid, the baker’s hutch, the kneading-trough

na losaide; sampla: méid na losaide, the size of the baker’s hutch/kneading trough, or to slightly Irishize a reference from Welsh literature: compánach na losaide, i.e. druideog/drudwy Branwen, which is a scéal/chwedl unto itself (ábhar blag eile, i bhfad sa todhchaí)

na losaidí, the bakers’ hutches (or the baker’s hutches, if a baker has more than one – rialaíonn uaschamóga — chun rudaí mar sin a idirdhealú!)

na losaidí, of the hutches of the baker(-s), of the kneading-troughs; sampla (with the kneading-trough definition): úsáid na losaidí mar umair bhaiste (the use of the kneading-troughs as baptismal fonts – if that seems aisteach, just keep reading)

The word “losaid” may seem a bit obscure today, but actually, it still resonates fairly (?) widely, as the following examples show:

a) Losaid na Gaoithe a Tuath (The Trough of the North Wind), a stone at Iona Cathedral in Scotland that could help ships get favorable wind

b) Losaid Mael Ruain, now used as a font, at St. Maelruain’s (Church of Ireland) in Tallaght, South Dublin, which was built in the 19th-century on a former Celtic monastic site

c) “Losaid” used in an extended meaning for a table full of food

d) “An Losaid” or Losset (anglicized) as a place name element, sometimes referring to a fertile field.  Found in the following counties: Aontroim, An Cabhán, Dún na nGall, An Mhí, Muineachán, Tiobraid Árann, Tír Eoghain.  Most of these places are “bailte fearainn” (townlands), not “bailte” (towns), and therefore quite small in population, so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of them.

True, all of these examples are in the more traditional sense (kneading-trough), not “baker’s hutch,” but I’ll take the rhyme any time.  “Hutch!” “Clutch!” Yeah, it’s a stretch, but anything for a catchy title!

The small group of 2nd-declension masculine nouns is coming up sa chéad bhlag eile.  And then the third declension.  SGF, ó Róislín

Gluais: breactha le réinchlocha, rhinestone-studded; cearnóg, square; cleathóg, cue-stick; cruabhróg, hardshoe (re: dancing); cúróg, soufflé; gáilleog, mouthful; ulscréachóg, screech owl

Nóta cultúrtha: By the way, this year’s egg decorating kits also include one that comes with réinchlocha (aka bréagdhiamaint).  I bet you’ve just been champing at the bit to say, “Ó, nach deas í do chlúideog agus í breactha le réinchlocha!”  De réir an fhógra dóibh, úsáidtear na réinchlocha le haghaidh drithlí ar an toirt (instant sparkle).  Furasta a úsáid – “scamh agus greamaigh,” sin an méid.   Dála an scéil (a dó), is dócha gurbh fhearr liom “réinchlocha” a rá sa chás seo, ná bréagdhiamaint.  The latter would sound a little too literal.  Likewise, “Buachaill Bó na mBréagdhiamant” (Cowboy of the Fake Diamonds) doesn’t quite cut it.  Nach deise i bhfad, “Buachaill Bó na Réinchloch” (Cowboy of the Rhinestones)?  The word “rhinestone” at least conveys a little bit of a sense of draíocht (magic) or mealltacht (glamour), whereas “fake diamond” just conveys cníopaireacht (miserliness, or a little more intrinsically, skinflintedness, if that can be construed as an English word).

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