Irish Language Blog

Bhuf! Bhuf! An Chéad Mhadra – Bo Obama – The First Dog Posted by on May 16, 2009 in Irish Language

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Does it get any cuter?  Bo Obama agus lei (muince Haváíoch) air.


Stocaí bána ar a chosa tosaigh agus eireaball pom-pom!


Bibe bán aige.  Is Uisceadóir Portaingéalach é.


Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil aon rud níos gleoite!


Bo Obama


Photo: Pete Souza, U.S. Government (Public Domain)


So what’s that all about?  Muince” used rather loosely here for “necklace” since there’s no real Irish word for a Hawaiian “lei.”  After all, it’s a focal iasachta (loan word) even in English, so remains a focal iasachta in Irish. 


Here the function of the simple word “agus” (and) is amplificative, adding more detail without using a verb. This is a typical sentence structure in Irish and in Hiberno-English (“He came home and him tired”). 


stocaí bána: white socks; cosa tosaigh: forelegs; a chosa tosaigh: his forelegs


eireaball: tail; pom-pom = pom-pom (ní nach h-ionadh, not surprisingly, focal iasachta eile, ón bhFraincis pompon”). 


ní dóigh liom: I don’t suppose; go bhfuil: that there is; aon rud: anything


bibe bán: white bib; aige: at him, i.e. “he has” (another type of verbless Irish sentence, typical in extended descriptions)


uisceadóir: water dog, from “uisce” (water) and “-óir,” a suffix of agent.


gleoite (cute) and níos gleoite (cuter), but remember that this is the U.S. sense of the word “cute” (i.e. adorable).  In Hiberno-English, the word “cute,” from “acute,” generally means “tricky” or “clever,” the same sense in which Mark Twain used it here years ago. 


Care to add a further description?  If so, please send it to me and we’ll incorporate it into a future “dog blog.”   Does anyone know if that little white tip on his “smig” (chin) has a special name in dog grooming?  If not, I’d opt to call it a “smigscead” (chin-blaze), but I’m open to “moltaí” (suggestions).  


And yes, “Bhuf! Bhuf!” is how dogs bark in Irish.  The “bh” of “bhuf” is pronounced like a “w” so the phrase sounds just about like the English “woof.”  Very very few Irish words actually start with “w,” one of the rare exceptions being in the broadcasting phrase waighndeáil an téip (wind the tape), so “wuf” in Irish would be unlikely.  Yes, it’s quite probable that the Irish “bhuf” is probably directly influenced by the English, but given the paucity of early Irish children’s books with talking animals and onomatopoeia, we’ll probably never know how a native Irish speaker ca. 1800 would have interpreted the sound of a bark, with no English interference.  Bhuf! Bhuf!” has made recent inroads into the world of Irish children’s literature and looks like it is here to stay. 


Of course, we know that the way a dog’s bark is represented varies greatly in different languages, ranging from “au au” (Portaingéilis) to “vov vov” (Sualainnis, Swedish), so it’s all a bit random anyway. Ach sin Á.B.E. (which I hope you remember is ábhar blag eile).  Perhaps even ábhar do mo chomhghleacaithe, na blagálaithe eile ag Transparent Language.  In case you’re wondering, that’s the plural of “comhghleacaí” (colleague) and of a term you’re probably well aware of by now, “blagálaí” (blogger). 


Maybe some day we could synchronize the Transparent Language blogs to deal with animal sounds in our respective tongues.  Perhaps next Lá Naisiúnta na Madraí? In case you weren’t already aware that there was such a holiday, well, I wasn’t either, until I started writiing this blog and researched it.  Since “every dog has its day,“ I assumed that dogs at large must have their day, and iontas na n-iontas (basically but not literally “lo and behold”), there it was, August 26th ( Its founder, Colleen Paige, has also founded Lá Náisiúnta na gCoileán for puppies (3/23) and Lá Náisiúnta na gCat for cats (10/29), and several others.  Maith thú, a Chailín!  (Well done, Colleen)!  Bhur smaointe, a chomhghleacaithe (your thoughts, colleagues)?  – Bhur mblagálaí – Róislín

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