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Five More Irish Names for Girls: Nóinín, Pt. 4 of ‘Names with a Flower Theme (Bláth / Bláithín / Bláthnaid, Daifne / Dafnae, Lil / Lile, Nóinín, Róisín / Róis / Róise, and, sort of, Mairéad / Maighréad)’  Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Translation: My name is Nóinín. And Im wearing daisies [nóiníní]! Graphic: pre-1923 image.

Translation: My name is Nóinín. And I’m wearing daisies [nóiníní]! Graphic: pre-1923 image.

Daisy?  Nóra? Onóra? Honor? Nóirín vs. Nóinín?  So what exactly is going on here with this name?

Well, here’s the short answer.  “Nóinín” is generally considered to be a variation of the name Nóra (Onóra), even though “Nóra” also has another diminutive form, “Nóirín” (Noreen).  The name “Onóra” means “honor (honour),” close to the generic Irish word “onóir.”  Bhuel, many names have more than one variant and/or diminutive, so that’s nothing new, really.

But “nóinín” is also the Irish word for “daisy.”  The website behindthename.com sums up the situation quite nicely with its comment on the name “Nóinín,” saying that it is a diminutive of “Nóra” but that “It can also be inspired by the Irish word nóinín “daisy” (nasc thíos). “Inspired” may not be real specific here, but it acknowledges the similarity without pinpointing a derivation.

A. “Nóinín” as a Name and as a Flower

At any rate, let’s look first at how we use the name in context.  The good news is there are no changes for direct address or to show possession — unlike so many other nouns and names. No changes at all to the beginning or the end of the word — almost amazing!

Nóinín

Tá Nóinín anseo.  Nóinín is here.

Dia dhuit, a Nóinín.  Hello, Nóinín.

cóta Nóinín.  Nóinín’s coat.

 

If we’re talking about the daisy, we have:

an nóinín, the daisy

dathanna an nóinín, the colors of the daisy

na nóiníní, the daisies

dathanna na nóiníní, the colors of the daisies

B. “Nóinín” in Direct Address

If we were actually talking to a daisy, we’d say the same as above.  It just wouldn’t be capitalized if we were writing it down.  So we’d say, “… a nóinín.”

So who’s been talking to daisies lately?  Well, maybe not lately, but there’s always Wordsworth, whom I’ll take the liberty of loosely translating into Irish here: … Ach anois lúcháir orm féin a chuirim, / Mo thart ag gach sruthlán a choiscim / Agus go fonnmhar grá Nádúir a chaithim / Tríot, a Nóinín ghleoite!

That’s from Wordsworth’s original, aptly named “To a Daisy”: But now my own delights I make, / My thirst at every rill can slake / And gladly Nature’s love partake / of Thee, sweet Daisy!

Well, there you have it, “daisy” in direct address.

Of course, we could debate ‘sweet’ here.  ‘Milis‘ (sweet) mostly refers to food, and “cumhra” (sweet) is more like “fragrant,” which I don’t really think is what Wordsworth intended.  I believe he meant “sweet” as in “nice” or “pretty,” i.e. “gleoite,” in Irish.  Plus I like the way the long “o” sound of “gleoite” echoes the sound of “nóinín.”  BTW, why is “gleoite” lenited, becoming “ghleoite“?  Because it’s in direct address.  Yes, adjectives can also have direct address forms, ach sin ábhar blagmhíre eile.

As for translating “rill” into Irish, I can’t say I’ve thought much about rills outside of the line “… I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills …”.  A “rill,” at any rate, in Irish, is a “sruthlán,” a slight diminutive of “sruthán” (stream, brook).

Of course, we can see that Wordsworth actually did capitalize the word “daisy,” but that was a 19th-century thing, since he also used upper case for “Nature” and “Zephyrs,” and he consistently capitalizes other words we wouldn’t capitalize today.

Robert Burns’ poem, “To a Mountain Daisy,” might have been a good exercise here but I’ve just double-checked it.  Great, great poem, but he doesn’t literally use the phrase “to a daisy” there.  His phrase “Thou bonnie gem” comes closest, since it’s in direct address, but we’re really trying to stick to daisies here, not poetic epithets for them.

C. “Nóinín” as a Name: A Brief Comment on Frequency and Popularity

As for current usage of “Nóinín” as a name, I see a nice handful of examples online, but not a whole lot, leis an fhírinne a dhéanamh.   Let’s take a quick look at “Nóinín” compared to “Nóirín.”

For “Nóirín” + “name,” I get 28,300 hits in a Google search; without the qualifier “name,” I get 107,000.   For the anglicization “Noreen” + “woman’s name,” I get 229,000; I added the qualifier because “noreen” has so many other meanings and contexts globally.   Searching for “Nóra” as such is almost too broad to be useful–there are about 130,000,000 hits, including on the first page, an anti-snoring device, a lighting company, and the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA), as well as many examples of the name “Nóra” or “Nora.”

In contrast, “Nóinín” + “name” as a search gives a mere total of 140 (adding the qualifier “name” to try to eliminate references that are just to the plant).  “Nóinín” + “woman’s name” yield even fewer results — 11, after duplicates are eliminated.  I haven’t seen too many adaptations of “Nóinín” as “Noneen,” but they do show up from time to time.  One interesting example is the sculpture “Head of Noneen” (aka Head of a Girl), from 1919, by Sir Jacob Epstein (nasc thíos).  It’s curious how an artist in the early 20th century ended up with a girl, presumably named Noneen, as a model.  And how did the girl come to be called “Noneen”?    Who was she?  Eolas ag duine ar bith?

At any rate, it seems clear that “Nóirín” is far more widespread as a name than “Nóinín.”  As for some examples of “Nóinín,” as a name, most of the hits are simply references to baby name sites or Irish name sites.  I don’t find too many examples of “Nóinín” in a real-life context, but here’s one: Nóinín Brugha (1913-2004, daughter of the Irish revolutionaries and politicians Cathal and Caitlín Brugha; Cathal, 1874-1922, was the first ceann comhairle of Dáil Éireann)

I’ve also noted online a few cúnna faoil and capaill named “Nóinín,” usually without the síntí fada, unless the owners are actually Irish speakers.

D. “Nóinín” and “Noneen” in Art and Literature

As a fictional character, we have a few “Nóiníní.”  “Nóinín Ní Chathasaigh” appears in the play _Lá Buí Bealtaine_, performed at the Abbey in 1953 and 1959, and written by none other than the author of the Irish grammar workhorse, _Progress in Irish_ and such delightful little books for learners as Micí Moncaí, Luaithríona (Cinderella) and Rápúnzell,  not to mention the pioneering and controversial _An Triail_.  Cé hí sin?  Mairéad Ní Ghráda.  Chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoin dráma seo, féach na naisc thíos, léirithe in Éirinn i 1953 agus 1959 agus i gCeanada i 2011.  Eolas faoi léirithe eile ag duine ar bith?   Bearna mhór idir na léirithe, de réir cosúlachta.  Eolas ag duine ar bith faoi léiriú ar bith eile idir an dá am?

Another fictional “Nóinín” is in the recently published children’s stories by Eibhlís Ní Dhonnchadha, _Nóinín agus Siar Aniar_ and _Nóinín agus Rollaí Pollaí_.   Eolas agaibh faoi Nóinín ar bith eile i litríocht?

There is a “Noneen” in a lesser known Seán O’Casey play, _Behind the Green Curtains_ (1961) which had a relatively late world premiere (December 5, 1962, at the University of Rochester, New York — hmm, cén fáth Rochester?).  Ar aon chaoi, it was “Noneen Melbayle,” a maid, played by Elaine Magidson, in a student performance.   BTW, this is not to be mistaken for a similar sounding play, _Behind the Green Curtain_, by Riley LaShea!  A lán cuirtíní uaine i litríocht, nach ea?  OK, whatever.  Gan a bheith ag caint faoi dhoirse uaine!

And there’s a man named “Noneen” in a 2009 Star Wars novel, _Millennium Falcon_, by James Lucerno, but whether that’s even meant to be connected to all our other “Nóiníní” is totally unclear.  Suimiúil, mar sin féin.

E. Spelling the Name “Honor”

One last point about all the women named “Honor “in English that I can think of or find reference to — the spelling consistently has the “-or” ending, not “-our,” as the generic word is spelled in Britain and Ireland.  Examples include Honor Mary Boland Crowley (politician),  Honor Tracy (writer), Honor Blackman (actress), and Dr. Dame Honor Bridget Fell (zoologist), all with British or Irish backgrounds.   Not that that’s really an Irish-language issue, but it’s worth noting if you use the UK spelling and are doing searches for these women or the name “Honor” and its cohorts (Nora, Norah, etc.).

F. Nóiníní — Some Flower References

Finally, two additional interesting uses of the word “nóinín,” in its basic sense as “daisy,” are

a) Nóinín Herbal Products, in Scarriff, Co. Clare (http://noinin.ie/) and

b) the charming Irish knit “nóinín beret” If you follow the link to the photos in the site, you’ll see a cute daisy-shaped pattern creating the crown of the hat (https://anirishknitodyssey.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/noinin-beret/)

Bhuel, bhí i bhfad níos mó i gceist anseo ná shíl mé nuair a thosaigh mé an bhlagmhír seo.  Bhabh!  Tá súil agam go raibh suimiúil, do lucht na n-ainmneacha Daisy, Nóra, Nora, Norah, Nóirín, Noreen, Nóinín agus Noneen, ar a laghad! — Róislín

Nasc ginearálta:

1) Nóta tráchta “Nóinín” mar ainm: http://www.behindthename.com/name/no10ini10n/submitted

Naisc do Noneen / Nóinín in ealaín agus i litríocht:

2) Head of Noneen: http://www.artfund.org/supporting-museums/art-weve-helped-buy/artwork/5166/head-of-noneen-head-of-a-girl-sir-jacob-epstein

3) an dráma, Lá Buí Bealtaine le Mairéad Ní Ghráda

  1. a) eolas ginearálta: http://www.irishplayography.com/play.aspx?playid=2739
  2. b) 1953: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/archives/production_detail/3495
  3. c) 1959: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/archives/production_detail/3713
  4. d) léiriú 2011 (giotaí de agus caint faoi): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvOC0nrGxdY (Dráma an Oireachtais, Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada 2011; stiúrthóir John P. Kelly, Seven Thirty Productions)

4) Leabhartha Eibhlís Ní Dhonnchadha le “Nóinín” mar phríomhcharachtar (ní ach sampla de na naisc iad seo):

  1. a) https://www.cic.ie/en/books/published-books/noinin-agus-siar-aniar-leabhair-cloite
  2. b) http://www.kennys.ie/noinin-agus-rollai-pollai.html
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