Irish Language Blog

Dea-aimsir! Posted by on Sep 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

The title sounds short and sweet, but to some extent this blog is actually disguised coverage of prefixes, lenition, and hyphenation.  Good ole “baoite agus aistriú”!

We’ve talked a lot lately about drochaimsir [DROKH-AM-shirzh], ranging from hairicín to saighneán gaoithe.  How about some more upbeat terms, even if sometimes they’re just smaoineamh in aice le do thoil?

Let’s start with “dea-aimsir” itself.  It simply means “good weather.”  “Dea-“ is basically a positivizing prefix, translated according to the core word in the phrase.  “Aimsir” [AM-shirzh] means “weather,” except when it means “time” (in aimsir na bhFiann, etc.) or “tense” for verbs (an aimsir chaite, etc.).  Can any Celticly bilingual reader spot the close Welsh cognate? (freagra thíos)

Here’s a few more positive weather terms.  Probably the most basic:

Tá an lá go breá: The day is fine.

Tá an lá go deas: The day is nice.

Lá deas atá ann: A nice day is “in it” (i.e. It is a nice day).

Lá breá atá ann: A fine day is “in it” (i.e. It is a fine day).  

And then, a little more specialized:

soineann, nice weather (the opposite of our old friend “doineann,” one of the sona-dona pairs of opposites); somewhat formal or literary, at least as far as my experience goes. 

leoithne: a light breeze or zephyr (though you can also use “steifir” for the latter, especially, perhaps, to be poetic – it doesn’t ring any bells for everyday usage, anymore than English speakers would likely describe a day as “zephyrous”)

A distinctly Irish way of describing the weather would be to say,

Is lá bog é: It’s a soft day (i.e. with soft light rain).  This might not be considered particularly “aoibhinn” from an American viewpoint, but when the alternatives include “taomadh,” “díle bháistí,” or “tuile báistí,” all frequent in Ireland, a “lá bog” starts to sound pretty good. 

We might also recall here the song “An Ghaoth Aneas,” which praises the qualities of the South Wind a ní gach faiche féarmhar.  “Aneas” [un-YASS] means “from the south.  “Aneas” was originally spelled “andheas,” which shows the connection to the word for “south” more clearly (deisceart, ó dheas, etc.). 

And how about those prefixes, “dea-“ (good) and “droch” (bad), as in “dea-aimsir” and “drochaimsir”?  One thing to remember about these is that in Modern Irish they appear  only as prefixes.  They can’t be used after the noun they modify, only attached in front of it.  And they cause lenition in most cases.  It happens that our first pair of examples, (dea-aimsir, drochaimsir) has a core word (aimsir) that begins with a vowel, so there is no opportunity for lenition. 

You might wonder why “dea-aimsir” has a hyphen and “drochaimsir” doesn’t.  I love it when people ask questions like that!  Here’s the skinny, more or less.  Irish has stopped using as many hyphens as it used to.  The word “drochaimsir” used to be hyphenated (“droch-aimsir”), as did “ina” and “a húll” (i n-a, a h-úll).  The trend has been similar in English, which used to hyphenate “to-day” and “to-morrow” and has only recently been dropping the hyphen from words like “bi-lingual.”  Whether or not to hyphenate the English “e-mail” has been a mystery to me for almost twenty years.  Compound-word rule or majority-usage rule?  Well, that’s ábhar blag eile, if at all, anyway.  Note to self, though: r-phost vs. rphost.

The prefix “dea-“ is still always followed by a hyphen.  It causes lenition before the consonants b, c, d, f, g, m, p, s, and t. 

Samples of “dea-“ include:

dea-ainm, good name

dea-bhean, a good, kindly, or virtuous woman

dea-bholadh, a good smell, fragrance

dea-fhocal, a good or charitable word

dea-ghuí, good wish or prayer, as in the typical, if somewhat formal, letter-closer, “le gach dea-ghuí” (with every best wish, i.e. all the best, etc.)

dea-labhartha, well-spoken, witty,

dea-mhéineach, well-wishing, benevolent

dea-thoil, goodwill

Samples of “droch” include:

drochainm, bad name or reputation

drochairteagal, a bad article or a bad and dangerous person (somehow, I thought such people were “bold” and “brazen,” not “bad and dangerous,” ach sin scéal eile).

drochdhuine, a bad or evil person

drochmhúinte, unmannerly

drochrath, bad luck

After “droch,” hyphenation is limited now to nouns that actually begin with “c” and which are lenited (c becomes ch) after the prefix, as in “droch-chroí” (a bad heart or ill-will) or “droch-chiall” (folly, lack of sense).

The fact that dea– and droch– are limited to the prefix position in Irish is especially interesting, to me at least, since they have close cognates in Welsh, da (good) and drwg (bad).  In Welsh, however, they are usually used as ordinary adjectives, as in “cwrw da” (good beer) or “blaidd drwg” (bad wolf, in Doctor Who or otherwise). 

All of these topics can pave the way for further blogs.  Preferences, anyone?  Réimíreanna? Fleiscíní? Séimhiú?  Níos mó cineálacha aimsire?

Nótaí: a ní gach faiche féarmhar, which makes every field grassy (in praise of the South Wind); aistriú [ASH-trzhoo] to switch, change; díle bháistí [DJEEL-yuh WAWSH-tchee], deluge; gaolmhar [GAYL-wur or GEEL-wur] related; in aice le do thoil, wishful; taomadh [TEEM-uh], bailing, teeming (as in “teeming rain”); tuile báistí [TWIL-yuh BAWSH-tchee] downpour.

Freagra: Welsh “amser,” the focal gaolmhar to Irish “aimsir,” normally means “time.”  The Welsh word for “weather” is quite unrelated, “tywydd” [say: TUH-with, the “-wydd” sounds like English “with”].  I know you’re not necessarily reading this blog to learn to pronounce Welsh, but you may as well go for it since you’re here.

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