Irish Language Blog

Cluiche Meaitseála faoi na Cluichí Oilimpeacha (An Olympics Matching Game) Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Fáinní Oilimpeacha

Bhuel, the season is upon us, Cluichí Oilimpeacha 2012.  So this is a good time to practice various words related to “Olympic” itself.

First, let’s consider what the word “Olympic” itself means, going back the original Gréigis.  Yes, we have “Sliabh Oilimpeas” and “Oilimpia,” an mhachaire sa Ghréig where the games used to be held.   But why was Mount Olympus called “Olympus” and why was Olympia named after it?  We can’t always answer these questions, especially about ancient place names, and some sources simply say, “of unknown origin,” but there are some theories.  “Olympus” may mean “the sky ablaze” or it may mean “high, divine, and/or sublime power,” or it might not mean either of those.  My desktop dictionary, usually good for sanasaíochtaí, doesn’t venture any explanation — it just gives a variety of related words.  So we’ll leave it at that for etymology.  The word “Olympus” (Ὄλυμπος) does go back to at least the 13th century B.C. and it’s also mentioned by Homer.  Sean go leor!

Next, let’s look at úsáid.  In English, one can readily say, “The Olympics,” but the more complete term is “The Olympic Games.”  In Irish, almost all references I see include the word “cluichí” (games).  That means the “Olympic” element is an adjective, and plural (with the “-a” ending): Cluichí Oilimpeacha. I find a scant 6 hits for “Oilimpicí” as such (without “cluichí), one (!) for hOilimpicí (as in “sna hOilimpicí), two for “nOilimpicí” (genitive plural as in “ar son na nOilimpicí Speisialta,” “for the Special Olympics,” “for the sake of the Special Olympics,” etc.) and no hits for “n-Oilimpicí” (a slight variation of the genitive plural — this punctuation, with the hyphen, is no longer standard).

In contrast, there’s ample discussion in Irish online of “Cluichí Oilimpeacha,” as shown by my search for amais (hits):

Cluichí Oilimpeacha: 4360 amas (before any sorting or analysis, but a good sizable figure)

Chluichí Oilimpeacha: a further 75 amas, as in the phrase “ar Chluichí Oilimpeacha” (on or about the Olympic Games)

gCluichí Oilimpeacha: a further 111 amas, as in the book title Ná Glac Páirt i gCluichí Oilimpeacha na Sean-Ghréige! (lit. Don’t Take Part in the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece) by Michael Ford, translated into Irish by Eilís Uí Mhuirneán [sic].  The original English version of this book is You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Greek Athlete: Races You’d Rather Not Run.  It’s a fun children’s book with lively illustrations by David Antram, and probably a good read for Irish language learners as well.

The variations in pronunciation of “cluiche” [KLIH-huh, the singular form] are:

cluichí [KLIH-hee, or i gConamara, “KLIF-ee”]

chluichí [KHLIH-hee, with our seanchara, the voiceless velar fricative, much discussed in previous blogs in this series, such as Saying “I love you” in Irish and Minding Your Velar Fricatives” from October 9, 2011,]

gcluichí [GLIH-hee, showing eclipsis]

So much for gramadach and fuaimniú, now for the spraoi (“fun” or “spree,” I hope).  Here are five Irish phrases connected to the Olympics.  Can you match them to the English?

1. lasair Oilimpeach                             a. Olympic village

2. Staidiam Oilimpeach Bhéising        b. Olympic torch

3. tóirse Oilimpeach                            c. Olympic flame

4. foireann Oilimpeach                        d. Olympic team

5. bailtín Oilimpeach                           e. Beijing Olympic Stadium

I know, no. 2. is a bit of a giveaway, but I thought the Irish form for “of Beijing” was interesting.  Without the “of” (possessive) element, the word is simply “Béising” [BAY-shing].  To show possession, we “lenite” it (adding the “h” and changing the sound), so it becomes “Bhéising” [VAY-shing].

And the “for-good-measure” bonus: Oilimpiad Matamataice na hÉireann.

Obviously, the challenge, by this point, isn’t the word “Oilimpeach” itself, but the other vocabulary.  Freagraí thíos.

Hope you enjoyed this, and Foirne na hÉireann Abú!  The plural form of “foireann,” btw, is “foirne.

Ó, one last ceist, before we wrap up.  Cá bhfuil an Sliabh Oilimpeas Meiriceánach?  Eolas ag duine ar bith?  Scríobh d’fhreagra ar an leathanach Facebook, más mian leat.  Leid: smaoinigh ar “oisrí Oilimpia.”  Cá as iadsan?

SGF, Róislín

Freagraí: 1c. lasair [LAHSS-irzh] Oilimpeach, Olympic flame; 2e. Staidiam Oilimpeach Bhéising, Beijing Olympic Stadium, 3b. tóirse [TOHRzh-shuh] Oilimpeach, Olympic torch; 4d. foireann [FIRzh-un] Oilimpeach, Olympic team; 5a. bailtín Oilimpeach, Olympic village (bailtín being a diminutive of “baile“).  And the good-measure question: Oilimpiad Matamataice na hÉireann, Irish Mathematical Olympiad.

Gluais: d’fhreagra [DJRAG-ruh, the “fh” is silent], your answer; leathanach [LA-hun-ukh], page; machaire, a plain; oisre [ISH-ruh], oyster; smaoinigh [SMWEEN-ee], think

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