Irish Language Blog

Aoine Dhubh, Aoine an Bhreacáin, agus Cibearluan! (ar leanúint / continued) Posted by on Dec 1, 2009 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

This is the continuation of the post-Thanksgiving shopping terms begun earlier today. 


An fhorbairt is nuaí (the latest development), new this year, I believe, is Plaid Friday, an alternative marketing approach, which has its own website (  The term and the concept were devised in the East Bay area of San Francisco/Oakland, and its purpose is to encourage people to shop at independent retailers, ní sna “boscaí móra” (not in the “big boxes)..  Aside from intrinsic interest, it also piqued my curiosity, instantly, as to how one would say this in Irish, especially given that “plaid” itself is a Celtic term. 


So the rothaí fiaclacha (cog wheels) of vocabulary started turning, and I’ve considered two possibilities, Aoine an Bhreacáin and Aoine na Pluide.  Ní gá a rá nach bhfuil frása  réamhbheitheach ar bith ann, fad m’eolais (Needless to say, there’s no pre-existing phrase, as far as I can tell).   


Aoine na Pluide would be the closest connection linguistically, but might more likely be translated as “the Friday of the Blanket” or “Blanket Friday.”  “Pluid” is the origin of the English word “plaid,” but is more commonly used in Irish today to mean “blanket.”  That is, when it isn’t being upstaged by a more recent word, “blaincéad.” 


A “plaid,” at one time, could refer to the long rectangular piece of fabric that was worn loosely pleated around the waist, with the remaining part over the shoulder.  Presumably, many of these had a plaid pattern but the original idea seems to be more of a practical use of fabric that could be wrapped around one as a blanket, if caught out in the hills or moors at night.


The second, and I think, more favorable choice, would be “Aoine an Bhreacáin.”  “Breacán” is a noun meaning “tartan” or “plaid.”  You might recognize it from the numerous compound words or phrases using “breac,” such as “Breac-Ghaeltacht” (partial Gaeltacht), bairín breac (barmbrack, lit. speckled loaf), and “breac-luirgneach” (having shins speckled from sitting close to a fire).  The word seems to cover a range of variegated patterns, including speckled and tartan.  Although the English word “plaid” can be a noun or an adjective, in Irish, the related adjective would be “breacánach” (dressed in plaid), which would be too specific for our new shopping catchphrase.


Foláireamh comhainmneacha! (Homonym alert!).  There are two other words in Irish spelled the same as “breacán.”  One is the brambling, a bird (Fringilla montifringilla), similar to the “bricín beatha” (chaffinch), whose name also contains our root word “breac.”  How?  Adding the diminutive ending, “-ín” to “breac” requires the “ea” vowel to change to “i,” giving us “bricín.”  Why?  For vowel harmony, an important principle in Irish spelling. The other “breacán” is a griddle cake made with curds, presumably with a somewhat speckled appearance.  It is unlikely that either of these would be confused with “plaid” or the idea of Plaid Friday.    


Aoine an Bhreacáin or “Lá an Bhreacáin”?  Not exactly a comhainm (homonym), but a sort of “foláireamh coincheapa” (concept alert)!  The phrase “Aoine an Bhreacáin” isn’t related to another relatively new development, “Latha a’ Bhreacain,” whose Irish equivalent would be “Lá an Bhreacáin” (Tartan Day).  Further discussion of that can wait till next April 6, but for now, suffice it to say “Aoine an Bhreacáin” is a 2009 phenomenon, strictly American, and likely to remain that way, since it promotes shopping on the day after an American holiday.  Tartan Day, in general, is international.  As for fine-tuning the difference between “tartan” and “plaid” (as a pattern) I think I’ll leave that to na hAlbanaigh (the Scots). 


Implicit in the two terms “Aoine Dhubh” and “Aoine an Bhreacáin” is the word “Aoine” itself.  A full discussion of the days of the week will have to wait for another blog, but for now, suffice it to say that “Aoine” is “Friday.”  The original meaning of the word is “fasting,” particularly in the sense of abstaining from meat.  Since “Aoine” is a feminine noun, the adjective describing it, “dubh,” becomes “dhubh,” with the voiced velar fricative pronunciation of the initial “dh.”  That sound doesn’t exist in English, or indeed in most European languages, at least as taught in America, but if you’ve ever learned a guttural (throaty) pronunciation of Spanish agua or German sagen, you’ve got the sound. 


Our final term of this Séasúr Lá an Altaithe is *Cibearluan, or at least, that’s what I’ll propose for it, since I’ve yet to see an Irish precedent for it, ní nach ionadh.  Reading up on it tells me that the term was actually first used in 2005 but I have to confess that this was the first year I really noticed it.  Yet another cleasaíocht margaíochta (marketing ploy), its aidhm (purpose) is to encourage people to shop ar líne, to “wrap up”** the post-Thanksgiving shopping season.  At any rate, this now joins the continually growing list of words that can use “cyber” as a prefix, including cibearspás and cibearchoireacht (cyber crime).


**osna arís, ní raibh sé ar intinn (intended) agam an t-imeartas focal sin (that pun) a dhéanamh ach tá sé beagnach dosheachanta (inevitable) ag an am seo den bhliain.

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