Irish Language Blog

Drúchta, Drúchtáin agus Drúchtíní — A Thiarcais! (Dewdrops, Little Dewdrops and Slugs — Definitely an ‘Oh-My’) [Ainmneacha Plandaí 4] Posted by on Sep 27, 2016 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

Drúchtín móna (round-leaved or common sundew), an ceann seo in Ohio. Ach ní drúchtíní na 'drúchtíní' sin ach braoiníní gumalachta! (photo, public domain: By Wilson44691 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Drúchtín móna (round-leaved or common sundew), an ceann seo in Ohio. Ach ní drúchtíní na ‘drúchtíní’ sin ach braoiníní gumalachta! (photo, public domain: By Wilson44691 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Another occasion for a three-part lions-tigers-and- bears-ish meme.   In this blogpost, we’ll look at the following words: drúcht, drúchtán, drúchtín, and móin (and its genitive case, móna) and the plant, drúchtín móna.

First let’s do “dew”

drúcht, usually meaning dew or a drop of a liquid (although the latter general usage is more typically “braon” or “deoir“)

drúchtán, a slightly diminutive form of “drúcht,” meaning” a tiny drop”

drúchtín, a light dew, and also, as we recently saw in one of the dandelion blogs, a slug (the mollusk type, not the metal disk, which is a “sluga“).  Here we’ve added the usual diminutive ending (“-ín”) that we see in many Irish words, like teachín, tigín, Séamaisín, stóirín (angl. storeen), and aintín.

And what do any of those have to do with luibhainmneacha?  The answer lies in “drúchtín móna.”  Which is … well, just read on!  We’ll break this term apart into its components and then compare it to the English name for this plant.

  1. a) drúchtín, a slug, also sundew (the plant, Genus: Drosera). What do these have in common, that they should both be named after “drúcht” (dew)? Well, it may be hard to say how any such terminology started, but slugs can also be called “seilidí drúchta” (lit. “snails of dew, or dew-snails”). I’m not aware of slugs being maidiniúil (matutinal), but there must be some association with the morning-dew.  Or else maybe Ireland has so much misty moisty weather that time of day doesn’t matter, at least not to the slug.  Or maybe there isn’t really any explanation — just traidisiún!

As for the sundew plants, apparently the “dew” reference is based on the glistening drops of gumalacht (mucilage) that this planda feoiliteach features on its tentacles to attract its prey, feithidí (insects).

  1. b) móin (peat, turf; móna, of peat, of turf). There are many types of sundew plants and apparently they grow practically all around the world, except, it seems, in extremely dry or extremely cold conditions. Three types are found in Europe, intermedia (aka “spoonleaf sundew”, D. anglica (aka English or great sundew), and the one we’re concerned with here, D. rotundifolia (aka common sundew or round-leaved sundew, from Latin “rotund-” + “-folia“).

In Irish, however, the term for this plant isn’t called “round-leaved” as such.  Instead, it’s described as “drúchtín móna,” lit. sundew of the peat(-bog).  Most plants that grow in the bog, though, seem to be labeled “bog-something” in English, not “peat-something,” so I’d actually advocate “bog sundew” as a fairly literal translation.  Not that the plant is actually called “bog sundew,” afaik, that’s just a translation and so far I’ve found no online references to a “bog sundew” as an actual name.   The English name is “common sundew or “round-leaved sundew.”

Móin” is an extremely important word to know in Irish, given its former role in providing heat (as peat) and at one time, electricity.  Also the bogs in which it is found  (na portaigh), have sheltered many archaeological artifacts, safe from marauders’ hands, until excavated by archaeologists or, in some cases, discovered by chance by people digging in the bogs.  Such finds include tubs of ancient “bog butter,” bog oak, weapons, at least one religious manuscript (vellum survives where paper, I’m guessing , would not) and even bodies, sometimes so well preserved they are sometimes initially thought to be relatively recent murder victims.  Even if most Irish houses now have central heating, the peat fire still conjures up the image of oícheanta cois tine (not that “coise tinne” we talked about last time!), with ceol agus scéalaíocht agus seanchas.

Irish does, of course, have a way to express the idea of being “round-leaved.”  In most plant names, it’s “cruinn,” meaning “round” in general, although it can sometimes mean “exact,” which has always seemed to me like a bit of a non-sequitur in the continuum of extended definitions .

So that’s your drúchtín móna.  Not a bog slug but a bog plant, and that’s one more luibhainm down.  How many more hundreds to go?  And that might be just for plants that grow in Ireland.  Globally, it’s a mindboggling project.  Of course, most of the Irish names on their own are available through online searching.  What I think is especially useful is understanding why a certain plant has a certain name, at least as best we can, since some are definitely mysterious and hard to translate literally.

On that note, I believe the braoiníní drúchta outside my house are “ag tosú ag galú,” and the morning is flying by, so I’d better wrap up this blogpost.  More eventually on móin, bog bodies, bog butter (there was a recent recreation and tasting, as I recall), and, hey, why not, more on plandaí feoiliteacha, perhaps a little convo with Audrey Shóisearach (Audrey a Dó) ón scannán “Siopa Beag na nUafás.”  An bhfuil ocras ort, a Audrey?”  SGF — Róislín

BTW, for any eagle-eyed grammar hounds, in the modern interpretation, the word “drúcht” isn’t typically considered to have a plural, but a plural used to be indicated, so I’ve gone with that, at least ar son na méime.

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