Irish Language Blog

Cé Mhéad Lá? Cé Mhéad Paorach? Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

A recent blog in this series on figurative speech in Irish mentioned  “na laethanta go léir a bhí ag na Paoraigh.”  Some of you probably recognized this as a reference to the well-known seanfhocal (proverb):  Beidh lá eile ag an bPaorach (Mr. Power will have another day).

So how does this seanfhocal break down as far as vocabulary and grammar go?  And if you’re new to Irish, you might be wondering where the verb “to have” is.

Let’s start with the “to have” question.  The short answer is that there isn’t really a verb “to have” as such in Irish, but instead things are generally “at you,” using the prepositionag(at).  Naturally this can be extended to all three “persons” (1st, 2nd, 3rd), so the paradigm starts out like this: Tá carr agam (There is a car at me), Tá carr agat, Tá carr aige, Tá carr aici, Tá carr ag Seán, Tá carr ag an Domhnallach, etc.   Literally, the proverb would be translated as “There will be another day at Mr. Power.”   There are some other ways to express possession, such as “Is liomsa é” (It is with me) but that, of course, will have to be ábhar blag eile.

beidh [bay]: will be

lá eile: another day, with the adjective (eile) in second place, the usual word order in Irish

ag an bPaorach: at Mr. Power (or the Power fellow, or as an another form of the surname “Power,” Mr. de Paor)

Paorach vs. bPaorach, and occasionally Phaorach:  Paorach is the basic form of the name [PWEER-ukh or PWAYR-ukh].  In the prepositional phraseag an bPaorach,” the letter “b” is used to show eclipsis and the word is pronounced [BWEER-ukh or BWAYR-ukh].   This form is used in standard Irish and in some dialects.  Curiously, even though in Donegal the form would normally beag an Phaorach,” there’s very little evidence of this usage online.  That, of course, doesn’t mean some Donegal speakers wouldn’t make the conversion, but in this case, it seems tradition may sometimes trump dialect andag an bPaorachmay show up sometimes, even in Irish in the North, where lenition would normally occur.  The few examples I did find online ofag an Phaorachwere mostly from Donegal, as one would expect.

How about the-achending?  It’s a way of saying the “Power” man, i.e. the man with the surname “Power.”  Similarly,an Domhnallachis “the O’Donnell man” (or in Scotland, the MacDonald man) andan Flaitheartachis “the O’Flaherty man.”  The proverb is usually translated as “Mr. Power,” but technically, of course, “Mr.” would bean tUasal” (an tUasal de Paor).  Wouldn’t have quite the same ring, though.

The proverb is believed to date to 1798, when Edmund Power was about to be hanged for his role in the Rebellion at Waterford (Dungarvan).  That would give us over 200 years of the namePaorach being invoked to encourage people to struggle on for future success.  So while we can’t actually answer the questions in the title of this blog,Cé Mhéad Lá?  Cé Mhéad Paorach?,” we can at least translate them: How many days?  How many Messrs. Power? (How many Power men?).  The nounsandPaorachstay singular in Irish, even in the questionCé mhéad?(How many?, lit. What amount?) which implies a plural answer.

Bhuel, sin é don lá inniu, cé nach lá an Phaoraigh é.  So that’d be the genitive case ofPaorachbut that’s ábhar blag eile.  SGF, Róislín

Nóta: the original blog in this series on figurative speech is:

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  1. Mise Áine:

    Is minic an seanfhocal seo ráite agam, a Róislín, ach ní raibh mé ar an eolas faoin scéal sin faoi Edmund Power, ná go raibh baint aige leis an seanfhocal – go raibh maith agat!

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Go deas cluinstin uait, a Áine. Is minic a chuala mise an seanfhocal freisin sula raibh fhios gur bhain sé le stair. Tarlaíonn sin le hainmneacha i nathanna, is dócha. Ní raibh a fhios go dtí le déanaí go raibh scéal taobh thiar de “as happy as Larry” (i. Larry Foley, dornálaí). Nach suimiúil an saol!

  2. déiseach:

    Is fiú a lua gur le Port Láirge (Dún Garbhán, go sonrach) seachas Loch Garman a bhaineann an nath seo. Deirtear gurb iad “beidh an lá ag an bPaorach fós” na focail a dúirt an Paorach an lá úd.

    • róislín:

      @déiseach GRMA, a Dhéisigh, as sin a shoiléiriú. Ceartaithe anois!

  3. Gerry Oates:

    A Róislín
    An bhfuil eolas ar bith agat faoin nathán ‘Paorach an tSeangharrai’ ?
    Tháinig mé air sa dírbheathaisnéis ‘An Sléibhteanach’ le Séamas Ó Caoimh, an cainteoir duchais deireanach as Co. Thiobraid Árann.
    Le meas
    Gerry Oates (Ard Mhacha)

    • róislín:

      @Gerry Oates Ar an drochuair, níl. Ach ba mhaith liom níos mó eolais a fháil air. Má fhaigheann tusa níos mó eolais air, ar mhiste leat scríobh ar ais? Agus go raibh maith agat as scríobh isteach. Tá sé ar intinn agam an leabhar sin a léamh. Tá mé ag déanamh go bhfuil sé an-suimiúil.

      An bhfuil eolas ag léitheoir ar bith eile faoin nathán sin?

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