Irish Language Blog

Bia le Beoir (Aguisín): One More Irish Phrase for a Beer-friendly Snack Food, Cuid / Part 1 Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Well, it may not have quite the linguistic sizzle as the phrase “pork scratchings” (US equivalent “cracklins” or “cracklings”), aka “fried pork rinds,” but here’s the Irish for the bia sneaice in the picture above, quite straightforwardly: craiceann muiceola friochta (skin + of pork + fried). [Agus seo aguisín don aguisín seo: no sooner had I thought I had put this topic to rest, than I noticed one more way to say “crackling” in Irish: craiceann briosc, but I really do prefer the first phrase.  “Craiceann briosc” sounds like “crunchy skin” to me, and that sounds a bit fee-fi-fo-fummish!]

My husband mentioned “pork rinds” as a beer snack food that I had left out of the previous blogpost (nasc thíos), so I figured I should check out the Irish for that.  To tell you the truth, I’d never really thought about the Irish for pork scratchings or cracklings before this, but there’s always a first time.  If nothing else, we’ll come away from today’s post with a bit more practice with muiceoil/muiceola under our ever-loosening belts, and in part two of this blogpost, we’ll also get some practice with caoireoilcirceoil, mairteoil, laofheoil, uaineoil, and fiafheoil/oiseoil.  All of which is as much as to say, we’ll be practicing the <hush-hush tone> genitive case of some third-declension nouns.

So let’s go back to our original phrase (craiceann muiceola friochta) and look at how the genitive case of muiceoil is formed.  First, though, let’s look briefly at “rind” vs. “skin.”  Then we’ll work our way through the “feolta,” with “muiceoil” in this post and the others to follow.

I double-checked “rind” in all the contexts I could think of and kept coming up with “craiceann,” usually translated as “skin.”  So I think the bottom line for Irish is that “craiceann” is the best translation for “rind,” even though “rind” to me has a more specific feel than the word “skin.”  Oh, I can feel my epidermis quivering at the thought of being called “rind”!  Be that as it may, we have orange and lemon rind or peel (craiceann oráiste, craiceann líomóide – note that genitive case for “lemon”). Lemon and orange zest also use “craiceann,” although to me that’s a little ambiguous because, in my experience, “zest” is specifically the inner layer of the skin of the orange or lemon.

Where else do we use the word “rind” in English?  Which leads us to the question of what the Irish would be for whatever we discover.

Well, the one other thing that comes to mind is pickled watermelon rind.  Creid nó ná creid é, I don’t find an entry for “pickled watermelon rind” in any of my Irish dictionaries, but I’ll give it a whirl: craiceann mealbhacán uisce picilte (skin + of melon + of water + pickled), with no spelling change for “mealbhacán“.  If it were just “pickled melon rind” we would see the genitive case in action (craiceann mealbhacáin picilte), with the “-i-” added.  But the general trend in Modern Irish is to not shift to the genitive with indefinite noun phrases that include an adjective (e.g. dorn fear mór, a big man’s fist, as opposed to the “definite” phrase: dorn an fhir mhóir, the fist of the big man) and “uisce” is being used as an adjective here.  There are plenty of exceptions to this, if we go back through 20th- and 19th-century Irish, but this appears to be the general trend.

As for the “pickled” aspect of the watermelon rinds, apparently one can also say “seal-leasaithe faoi sháile” (provisionally preserved in brine), but given my druthers, I’d go for “picilte,” which seems more direct.

There is a related word, “crotal” (husk, hull, case, or sometimes rind), and I’m mulling over what the official distinction is between “craiceann” as “rind” and “crotal” as “rind.”  I suppose a rind (craiceann) is to some extent chewable, even if we don’t usually eat it, such as orange rinds or watermelon rinds (inedible unless pickled, or “provisionally preserved in brine”).  Husks and hulls on the other hand, would be completely inedible, I would think, like corn husks.  Well, I suppose we could chew them, but the thought is completely unappealing.  “Crotal” is also used for “nutshell” and in that sense would also be completely inedible (crotal cnó, a nutshell).  This could also lead us down another garden path (or nut-grove path!), to also discuss “blaosc cnó” and “cnóshliogán” as “nutshell,” but that’ll have to wait for another day.

By the way, just a gentle reminder that “crotal” is pronounced with the Irish short “o” sound, as in “pota” or “mogall” (another word for “husk” or “shell,” btw), not a long “o.”  Some online word searching reminded me of maybe why I should make that reasonably obvious point.

And one last point about rinds before we move on to muiceoil itself.  To my amazement,  Irish also has a word for “pork rind powder”!  Actually, to be fair, before working on this post, I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as pork rind powder.  Cén dóigh a n-úsáideann tú é — an bhfuil a fhios ag éinne anseo?  As a vocabulary term, it’s straightforward enough (púdar craicinn muiceola).  That’s a lovely example of two genitive cases in a row (!) — powder of skin of pork.  How have I lived my life to this point without needing the phrase in English or Irish, let alone the púdar é féin.? Diabhal a fhios agam!

Anyway, that’s at least a dent in the skin/rind/peel/husk vocabulary.  Now on to “muiceoil“.

If you hadn’t previously realized it, you’ve probably noticed by now that the “-eoil” ending of “muiceoil” is actually from “feoil” (meat).  In Modern Irish, the spelling has been streamlined (for better or for worse) so we no longer see the silent “fh.”  Remember, the second part of a compound word is usually lenited in Irish, so the “f” has changed to “fh.”   So “muicfheoil” has become “muiceoil,” literally, and perhaps a little distressingly, “pig meat.”  Oh, how the words of the late Judy B. Goodenough’s song “Tails and Trotters” echo in my mind, as the mother pig laments “All my sons and all my daughters, are hocks and hams, and tails and trotters.”  Enough to turn me into a veigeatórach (aka feoilséantóir).  By the way, what a great surname she had, “Goodenough,” so she’d be “Maithgoleor” in Irish!

Anyway, here are the forms of the word “muiceoil“; this word is generally considered not to have a plural, although “feoil” itself does:

an mhuiceoil, the pork

muiceola, of pork

na muiceola, of the pork

That’ll be a wrap for today, and soon we’ll be back with more feolta.  I hope this post has been both fun and informative.  SGF — Róislín

NascBia le Beoir: Some Irish Words for Good Snack Foods to Eat with Beer Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Irish Language

PS: If anyone wants to read more about Judy B(each) Goodenough (1942-1990), you might want to start with this brief obituary, referring to her songs (recorded by Irish musicians such as Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy) and to her over 700 poems:  The full text of “Tails and Trotters” is at

PPS: And if you’re trying to decide whether eating fried pork rinds will totally undermine your diet, you might try reading this:

And if you want a non-pork alternative, but with the same brisce (crispness) and cnagarnach (cracking sound), you might like to read this article, for whose title I can only say, I had nothing to do with it,

Of course, if we’re really going to start talking about fried chicken skins, we should go back to the traditional Yiddish recipe for “gribenes,” but that’s ábhar blag eile.

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