Irish Language Blog

Cúig Fhrása (Béarla) Gan Mhaith (De Réir Fhionntán Uí Thuathail aka Fintan O’Toole) (Cuid 1/4) Posted by on Jan 4, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Noted journalist Fintan O’Toole recently published his list of five phrases that he thinks should be outlawed in 2012 (  Not that words are typically actually outlawed as such, but he feels these five phrases “distort or conceal” reality and are misleading.  For example, we constantly discuss “austerity,” but meanwhile certain individuals are earning unfathomable salaries or bonuses, and vast sums of money are being allocated for questionable purposes.

Whether you agree with O’Toole’s argument and/or with his specific choice of words or not, it’s interesting to consider what the five would be in Irish.  Or whether it would be as straightforward to pinpoint the exact concept he means amongst the multiple Irish synonyms connected to some of his choices.  Do bharúilse?

Note: while most of O’Toole’s choices are literally “focail, ” one is actually a “seanfhocal” (proverb) as you’ll see when we get to uimhir a cúig.

1.. Géire? Gairge? Déine? Gátar?

What English definition do these all have in common?  Stuck?  Think of an English word we’ve heard ad nauseam recently, presumably to encourage us to think that we’re all san fhaopach together.

Let me give you the range of meanings first, minus the one common thread (le haghaidh an dúshláin, ar ndóigh)

Gátar: need, want, distress, difficulty, as in “beart gátair

Déine: intensity, hardness, severity, as in “cáinaisnéis déine;” cf. “dian

Gairge: harshness, gruffness, bitterness; cf. “garg

Géire: sharpness, steepness, sourness; cf. “géar

All of these can be translated as “austerity.”  “Beart gátair” means “austerity measure” and “cáinaisnéis déine” means “austerity budget.”  The idea of austerity can also be conveyed by an adjective, “dibhoilscitheach,” as in “beartas díbhoilscitheach,” a deflationary (austerity) policy.  “Díbhoilscitheach” may look like a mouthful, but it’s not so bad if you think of it as the negating prefix “-“ plus “boilscitheach” from “boilscigh” (inflate). “Boilscitheach” [BIL-shkih-hukh] gets lenited after the prefix, becoming “-bhoilscitheach” [WIL-shkih-hukh].

So, maybe you didn’t expect that the first word would be the one discussed in the introductory paragraph.  I could have scrambled things up more, but, bhuel, feeling sochma (easy-going) today.

2. Tarrtháil?  Bannaí? Or (but not really) “taoscadh”?

Tarrtháil: saving, rescue, help, deliverance, intervention, mediation

Banna, pl. bannaibond, binding, banns (in marriage)

Taoscadh: pumping out, draining, emptying, drawing off, earthing (as in “to earth up potatoes”)

What’s the common thread here?  “Bailout,” either in the sense of “saving,” or “going bail for him” (ag dul i mbannaí air).  “Tarrtháil” would be the best translation of for “bailout” in the economic sense.

What on earth do I mean by “Or (but not really)”?  Well, the Irish words for bailing financially (tarrtháil) and bailing regarding water (taoscadh) are completely unrelated etymologically.  But, as I just discovered, in English, “bail” in the financial sense and “bailing” out a boat have a common thread of history in the Latin words “bajula” (vessel) and “bajulare.”  But, yeah, that really belongs in a blog for Latin and/or English!

Phew!  Numbers 3, 4, and 5 will have to wait for upcoming blogs.  I’m estimating three altogether, though it’s diabhalta deacair to tell in advance.  And that’s a somewhat meandering clue as to the other three.  Of course, you can always find them by following the link above.

And by the way, regarding Fintan O’Toole’s name, I took the liberty of writing it in Irish (Fionntán Ó Tuathail) since I see at least a handful of references online to it that way, in Irish-medium publications.  Just as a disclaimer though, I haven’t myself seen him use the Irish form of his name.  In Irish, the surname Ó Tuathail has one more syllable than in English [oh TOO-uh-hil, as opposed to English “oh tool”].  Pé scéal é, SGCa2 (slán go cuid a dó) ó Róislín


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