Irish Language Blog

Dá mBeadh Dalí ina Ghaeilgeoir – an tSeasmhacht Cuimhne, srl. Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

Well, not really.  Tá brón orm má ghéaraigh an teideal sin ar do ghoile.   I’m afraid I indulged in a bit of “meall agus malartaigh” in the title.  This blog is just an examination of words like “memory,”  “remembrance,” and “memorial,” “remember,” and perhaps the most basic of all, “I remember.”  So we’ll be looking at “cuimhne,” “cuimhneamh,” “cuimhneachán,” “cuimhnigh,” and, probably the most useful of all, “Is cuimhin liom / leat / leis / léi, etc..  All more or less picked for inclusion here at this time because of the American holiday on May 31st, Lá Cuimhneacháin.  But we’ll also actually ponder the Dalí idea, as well as a little Proust, simply because I like the idea. 

Anyone who really wants to translate the titles of Dalí’s works is welcome to give it a whirl.  Please let us know if you pursue the challenge!  His titles do offer intriguing possiblities, not just for using an tuiseal ginideach and other choice grammatical features, but also for figuring out how to balance the odd juxtapositions he used and still have them come out making reasonable sense (Déantús Bog le Pónairí Beirithe: Mana den Chogadh Sibhialta, mar shampla?).  As much sense, ar a laghad, as we can expect from osréalachas. 

Anyway, here are some basics:

1. cuimhne [KWIV-neh, sllent “m”], memory.  Examples:

“Lá a mbeidh cuimhne air” (a day that will be remembered, and, by the way, a nice example of an indirect relative clause using eclipsis).  Literally?  “A day that there will be memory on it.”   

De réir mo chuimhne, as far I remember, lit. “according to my memory”

2. cuimhneamh [KWIV-nyav or KWIV-nyoo or KWIV-neh, depending on dialect, both “m’s” are silent], remembering, to remember, remembrance, recollection, thought.  Examples:

Ní féidir liom cuimhneamh air.  I can’t remember on it / him (I’m not able to remember it / him).

Is ag cuimhneamh ar a leas féin atá siad.  They are thinking of their own interest, lit. It is remembering on their own benefit that they are.

3. cuimhneachán [KWIV-nyakh-awn] commemoration, memorial, memento


Beidh sé mar chuimhneachán ar na himeachtaí sin.  It will be a reminder of those events. 

Various phrases like “plaic chuimhneacháin” or “searmanas cuimhneacháin” as we discussed in the last blog.  Note the lenition (initial c -> initial ch) for feminine.

Also, cuimhneacháin bheaga [KWIV-nyakh-aw-in VEG-uh] little souvenirs

4. cuimhnigh! [KWIV-nee], remember (command form, singular).  cuimhnígí (plural command form)

Example: Cuimhnigh ar an Alamó!  Or maybe that should be “Cuimhnígí ar an Alamó” (plural).

5. cuimhin [KWIV-in], used with the Irish verb “is / ba” and the preposition “le

Is cuimhin liom é.  I remember it / him.

Is cuimhin liom í.  I remember it / her.

Ba chuimhin liom é.  I remembered it / him (past tense)

“Is cuimhin” and “Ba chuimhin” are followed first by the subject in Irish (like “it”), then by the preposition “le” and a noun or pronoun, which would be the actual subject of the sentence in English. 

More examples:

Is cuimhin leo é.  They remember it / him.

Ba chuimhin leis na daoine sin é.  Those people remembered it / him.  In English “those people” would be the subject of the sentence.  In Irish, the word “people” is the object of the preposition “le.”  The Irish literally translates to something like “It was ‘memory’ with those people.

“Cuimhin” isn’t exactly “to remember.”  That function is taken by “cuimhneamh,” as discussed above.  Grammatically, the part of speech assigned to the word “cuimhin” is “substantive,” which in discussing Irish grammar generally means a noun that is limited to set expressions and that often no longer has grammatical gender.  Often, also, there’s no literal way to translate it as a single word; you just have to translate the entire phrase in which it appears.  There are about twenty of these substantives in fairly common usage, and a few more that are more obscure. 

Standard adjustments to this phrase create negatives, questions, etc.  For example:

Ní cuimhin liom é.  I don’t remember it / him.(note: no lenition!)

An cuimhin leat é? Do remember it / him?  Is cuimhin (Yes).  Ní cuimhin (No).

That’s it for the practical stuff.  Sorry there wasn’t much Dalí, after all.  No Proust either, though it was a flickering temptation.  Then I remembered that  Proust’s original title, À la recherche du temps perdu, didn’t have the word “Remembrance” in it, so, why bother translating “Remembrance of
Things Past
?   There’s not that much point in translating a translation, unless there’s no other recourse.  I’m pleased to note that even the Irish version of Pinocchio was translated from the original Italian, not the English, and that’s from 1933!

On further thought  ….

… if Salvador Dalí had somehow been a Gaeltacht artist (!), there would have been lots of room for pondering the topic of his famous painting, La persistencia de la memoria.  While I’m not sure what variations on the title Spanish could have offered, Irish suggests a neat though subtle contrast (all hypothetically speaking): An tSeasmhacht Cuimhne as opposed to An Dianseasmhacht Cuimhne.  Both, in theory, mean “The Persistence of Memory.” 

“Seasmhacht” is interesting in and of itself, based on the verb “seas” (stand); it also means “steadfastness” and “constancy.”  “Dianseasmhacht” builds on “seasmhacht” by adding the prefix “dian-“ (intense, vehement, hard).  Should the painting have been a diptic, with one panel for “An tSeasmhacht Cuimhne” and one for “an Dianseasmhacht Cuimhne”?  

I’m actually of two minds, also, as to whether to include the definite article or not, or to make the phrase “The Persistence of the Memory” (Seasmhacht na Cuimhne, etc.), but that makes it sound like it’s one specific memory that’s persistent.  Well, I doubt Dalí would have cared too much about the potential ambiguity of translating the title of his painting into Irish, and I doubt he would have made it a diptic ar éileamh (diptych on demand), so, on that note, might as well wrap up this blag

Nótaí: bog [not quite like English “bog” although the words are etymolgically related; it’s a short “o” like Irish “pota”], soft, used here to translate the Spanish “blanda” in Construcción blanda con judías hervidas (Premonición de la Guerra Civil); géarú ar do ghoile, to whet your appetite;” mana, premonition; osréalachas, surrealism. 

Since I couldn’t find any Irish for “bait and switch,” as such, I’ve coined a phrase for it, adding beagán uama (a little alliteration) in the process: meall agus malartaigh, from meall, entice, here “bait,” and malartaigh change, exchange, here “switch.”  Maybe Irish merchants are above the practice, but no harm in a little headline intrigue. 

Caveat: The Irish Pinocchio is back in print, if you’re interested.  If you do undertake to read it, be forewarned that it was translated into heavily dialectal Gaelainn Mhúsgraí (Muskerry Irish), so it’s quite a workout to read it unless you’re really familiar with the Irish of that area.

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