Irish Language Blog

An Irish Vocabulary Guide for Gwyneth Wynn’s ‘Micí ar an bPortach’ Posted by on Apr 16, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

One of my favorite Irish children’s books is Micí ar an bPortach by Gwyneth Wynn (An Gúm, 1998, ISBN 1-85791-226-8).  Since some of you might also enjoy reading it, I thought I supply a little glossary to go with the story.  While most of the vocabulary is pretty basic, there are some words which are not so everyday, at least not in many of our lives in the year 2017.   Most of these have to do specifically with “an portach” and “an mhóin,” but some are more general.

The book is not “roinnte ina leathanaigh” (paginated), but I’m supplying uimhreacha leathanaigh, so it will be easier to find the words

leathanach 1: triomach maith, good dry weather, clearly related to “tirim,” “triomú,” etc.  “Triomach” also can mean “drought,” as in “frithsheasmhach in aghaidh triomaigh” (drought-resistant) or “An Lá Domhanda um Ghaineamhlú agus um Thriomach a Chomhrac” (World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought).  But I think “dry weather” is the better choice here, since drought itself is relatively rare in Ireland, September 2014 notwithstanding.  Mí Mheán Fómhair 2014Féach an t-alt “Ireland’s ‘absolute drought’ breaks records for September” san Irish Times (nasc thíos)

leathanach 3: sleán, turf-spade or slane; spád, spade; ag scrathadh, stripping the ground of sward (the grassy top surface)

leathanach 5: scraite, (having been) stripped of sward

leathanach 7: ag scaradh, separating or spreading, regarding turf or hay, or in general.  This page also has a beautiful example of a noun-adjective combination in direct address: “A Mhicí bhoicht!”  As you can see, the adjective “bocht” is lenited (b becoming bh) and the ending is slenderized (-ocht becomes -oicht).  So the “ch” is no longer guttural, but simply breathy.

leathanach 9: ag gróigeadh, “footing” in regard to turf; also, huddling, stacking.

leathanach 11: cruach bhreá mhóna, a fine stack of turf (with hundreds of sods)

leathanach 13: gróigeán, a small stack of turf, typically five or six sods, propped up against each other, almost vertically, so they dry.  This page also has “teachín,” which means “little house,” as does “tigín,” which we have discussed in other entries in this blog.

leathanach 15: another nice phrase in the vocative, “A ghaidhrín uasail!” The word “gaidhrín” is a diminutive of “gadhar,” so the phrase means “O noble little dog!”   Did I mention that Micí is a dog?  Bhuel, ‘sea, is madra é.  And both he and Teidí, an príomhcharachtar eile, are quite antrapamorfach, speaking perfect Irish, sitting up to eat ceapairí, and in the case of Teidí, resting his slippered feet on a cúisín glún, after a long day’s work.

leathanach 17: go mbainfeadh seisean an gróigeán aníos, that he would take the stack down.  “Bain,” as you may know, means many things in Irish including the following: extract, dig out, reap, harvest, and, in specific contexts, mine, strike, mow, win, get to/reach, take, shorten/reduce, concern, involve, appease and pacify.

leathanach 19: corr-néal, an occasional nap

leathanach 21: ag creathadh leis an bhfuacht, shaking with the cold

leathanach 23: gróigthe, (having been) stacked

Sin é!

I was always intrigued that a woman with such a Welsh name as Gwyneth Wynn wrote a book in Irish.  An bhfuil Breatnais aiciNíl a fhios agam.  But I do see in the “tiomnú” that she is the daughter-in-law of Cóilín Tom Ó Gaora, and she mentions Scoil Náisiúnta an Ghoirt Mhóir, presumably the school near Ros Muc.  Wynn has certainly captured the feel of the traditional work of digging, spreading, “footing,” and transporting turf.  Anyone here know anything more about her?

BTW, an interesting aspect of this book is that there is apparently no English version, which means there’s all the more incentive to keep working on one’s Irish!  Ar aghaidh leat!  SGF — Róislín

Nasc:  Ireland’s ‘absolute drought’ breaks records for September / Driest day since 1933 recorded in Donegal, Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 15:59 Updated: Thu, Oct 2, 2014, 16:22,

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