Irish Language Blog

An tUile-Chuimhneoir sa Leabhar Harry Potter agus an Órchloch Posted by on Jun 9, 2010 in Irish Language

(le Róislín) 

Since we’ve talked so much about memory lately … An cuimhin leat an tUile-Chuimhneoir [un TIL-eh-KHIV-nyorzh] a sheol seanmháthair Neville Longbottom chuige? 

An féidir leat cur síos air?  (Cén chuma atá air?)  Dath?  Cruth?  Méid, srl.?

An bhfuil a fhios agat cén Béarla atá air?

An bhfuil a fhios agat cén sórt focail é i mBéarla? i nGaeilge?

Cén fáth a bhfuil an litir “t” i gcás íochtair agus an litir “U” i gcás uachtair sa bhfrása “an tUile-Chuimhneoir”?

That might be a mouthful!   What’s it all about?

1. Do you remember the “Uile-Chuimhneoir” that Neville Longbottom’s grandmother sent him?

2. Can you describe it? (What appearance was on it?)  Color?  Shape?  Size, etc.?

3. What’s the English name for it?

4. Do you know what kind of word it is, in English?  In Irish?

5. Why is the letter “t” in lower case and the letter “U” in upper case in the phrase “an tUile-Chuimhneoir”?

Here are some possible answers (there’s some room for variation):

1. This is a yes/no question so your choices are : Is cuimhin (yes) or Ní cuimhin (no).  Or you might want to get away from the strict yes/no pattern and answer, “Is cuimhin liom sa leagan Béarla é ach ní cuimhin liom sa leagan Gaeilge é.”  Or “Níor léigh mé an leagan Gaeilge fós.”

2. Tá sé cruinn, mar liathróid.  Tá sé chomh mór le mirlín mór.  Tá sé déanta as cineál gloine.  De ghnáth bíonn sé bán, mar gheall ar an deatach bán atá istigh.  Nuair a bhíonn sé in úsáid (mar rinne an t-úinéir dearmad ar rud éigin), tagann dath dearg air. 

It is round, like a ball.  It is as big as a large marble.  It is made of a kind of glass.  Usually it’s white, because of the white smoke that’s inside.  When it’s in use (because the owner forgot something), it becomes red.

3. the Remembrall

4. The English word, Remembreall, is a “focal portmanteau” (portmanteau word).  In Irish, it’s not really a portmanteau word, which requires the compound elements to be partly juxtaposed, like “Spanglish” or “smog.”  Or, as Lewis Carroll, the originator of the term, phrased it, the words are packed inside each other, as if in a suitcase (i.e. in a “portmanteau”).  The Irish word, Uile-Chuimhneoir, would be better described as a “comhfhocal” [KOH-UK-ul] (compound word).

5. This is the typical Irish pattern of capitalization with proper names and titles.  The word “Remembrall” is capitalized in Rowling’s original text, as if it were a trademarked product, so it is also capitalized in the Irish version.  The lower-case “t” is prefixed when saying “an tUile-Chuimhneoir” (the Remembrall), following the pattern for masculine singular nouns beginning with vowels (like an t-uisce, an t-arán).  With generic nouns, like “an t-am” or “an t-úll,” the lower-case “t” is followed by a hyphen.  With capitalized nouns (as in proper names or titles), there is no hyphen after the “t,” at least not in Irish as usually written these days.  So “an tUile-Chuimhneoir” is “the Remembrall” but “a Remembrall” is simply “Uile-Chuimhneoir” (with no prefixed “t”).

If you had one of the few other nouns in Irish that start with “uile,” but which are generic, there would be no hyphen: “uilethacar” [IL-eh-HAHK-ur, silent “t”] universal set (in math) and “an t-uilethacar,” the universal set.  There aren’t many other examples beginning with “uile,” especially since they have to be masculine for this rule to apply and any feminine nouns are automatically exempt from this process, but one other is “uileloscadh” (holocaust).  Since this could refer to a specific holocaust (in World War II), it could either be a proper noun (an tUileloscadh) or a generic noun (an t-uileloscadh).

You’ll see this same pattern (lower-case then upper-case) in many other phrases in Irish as well, like “i mBostún,” “i nGaillimh,” or “an tSiúr Bríd” (Sister Bridget).  This is supposed to be done even when something is printed entirely in caps (TÁ SÉ I mBOSTÚN) but this isn’t always observed, especially because many automated spellcheckers will try to change it to “MBOSTÚN,” as mine just tried to do!  Occasionally a smaller point size prefix will be used: TÁ SÉ I MBOSTÚN.  Hmmm, bhuel, you’ll have to imagine the “m” before “Bostún” as being capitalized but smaller, since my Word formatting didn’t carry over.  Trua!  I tried to suggest what’s happening by not putting the “m” in bold, but that’s not actually normal typographical procedure.

Now, the trick is remembering all this till next time!  Slán go fóill — Róislín

Gluais: “cuimhneoir,” not a word I’ve seen outside this phrase, but since it’s based on “cuimhin” and co., it would mean “Rememberer” (uses the suffix “–eoir” indicating agent); loscadh, burning, scorching; órchloch [OR-khlokh], philosopher’s stone, lit. “gold-stone;” uile, all, every

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