Irish Language Blog

Frásaí Eile leis an bhFocal “Lochlannach” Posted by on Jan 20, 2010 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Recently we discussed various usages of the word “Lochlannach,” which can be translated in various ways, including “Scandinavian” and “Norse” (naisc thíos).  It’s used for Norway Spruce (sprús Lochlannach) and for Swedish goosefoot (blonagán Lochlannach).  I promised at least one more example, tastily potable, if it can be found to exist!  That was before the géarchéim happened in Haiti.  Today, there was an iarchrith, so I may return to that subject, but for now, back to “an bheoir Lochlannach.”  So how would we know if beoir Lochlannach tastes good if it might not exist?  Leann … úúps … Lean ort ag léamh!  Read on!


First the legend, in brief, then the term.  Between about 1000 and 2000 years ago, depending on whether your version of the legend concerns Vikings/Danes or Picts, the recipe for “beoir Lochlannach” was well-known to a certain tribe.  However that tribe was defeated and almost entirely killed in battle.  The last marthanóir who knew the recipe refused to yield it up, leading to his death and the loss of the oideas (recipe).  For those of you who know the story, I’m deliberately leaving out the emotional tension of the story, to avoid spoilers (millte scéil). 


By the time the legend as we know it had evolved, this “beoir” had acquired mythical stature, as fantastic as the fountain of eternal youth or ambróise Oilimpeach.   It may well have continued to be produced in remote areas, but it didn’t evolve into a commercial product.  If you haven’t read the legend before, there are many versions online and in print, including Robert Louis Stevenson’s. 


Now, to the téarmaí.  There are at least two names in Irish for this beverage: beoir Lochlannach and leann fraoigh.  The latter is literally “ale of fraoch, heather.  In English, this beverage is generally referred to as “heather-ale,” not a “beoir” and not using any ethnic reference in its name.  “Beoir” normally means “beer,” though we’ll have reason to question that here, as you’ll see. 


I imagine all you grúdairí baile and *símeoirí out there might have something to say about using the word “beoir” for “ale,” which is normally “leann.”  I can only say that I didn’t invent the term, and that the second phrase, “leann fraoigh,” does use the word for “ale.” 


But there’s an interesting twist to this story. You can read more about the possible derivation of the use of the word “beoir” in this context at The author proposes that “beoir Lochlannach” isn’t really beer OR ale as we know it, but rather a sweet mead, which would normally be “meá” in Irish.  If you need to clarify it as being sweet, you could say “meá mhilis,” but I’ve never heard of a mead that wasn’t sweet, so that might be iomarcach (redundant). 


And of course, if the beoir/leann/meá (beer/ale/mead) is really Pictish, then we shouldn’t be using “Lochlannach” at all, but rather “Piochtach” or “Cruithneach.”  But scéal na bPiochtaí, nó scéal na gCruithneach, sin scéal eile.  Ábhar blag eile.


For the final assessment, we’re almost at the 25th anniversary of the commercial revival of heather ale.  You can check it out further and, if you’re in An Ríocht Aontaithe (UK, mainland only, the site says) you can order some at which also has ales made with feamainn, péine, and caor throim (seaweed, pine, and elderberry).  The website lists pubs in Nua-Eabhrac, Filideilfia, and Siceagó that stock Fraoch Heather Ale. 


*Zymurgists.  Sadly, I can’t find any actual existing Irish term for zymurgy or its partner term, zymology.   But, to boldly coin a term where no one has coined before (fad m’eolais), we could have something like “símeoiracht” for the art or process of fermenting, based on “miotalóireacht,”  the art or process of metallurgy.  And we could have “símeolaíocht” for “zymology,” based on “miotaleolaíocht,” metallurgy as a field of study.  A parallel coinage would be “síomáis,” based on “zymase,” the enzyme which is the root of all these terms.  All these, and the word “enzyme” itself seem to be based on the Greek “zumē” (leaven).  But I’ll leave that to the blagálaithe Gréigise


Iarsmaoineamh (maidir leis an bhfocal “Lochlannach”)Posted by  on Jan 12, 2010 in Irish Language 

Deireadh Shéasúr na Nollag – faoi dheireadh! Posted by  on Jan 9, 2010 in Irish Language

Nótaí: géarchéim [gyayr-hyaym] crisis; iar-, post-; iarchrith [EE-ur-HRIH, silent c and t] aftershock; fraoch [freekh or frookh, depending on dialect] heather; fraoigh [free] of heather; grúdairí baile, home-brewers; fad m’eolais [fahd MOHL-ish] AFAIK (as far as I know).

The two words for Pict are interesting:

Piocht, an Piocht, an Phiochta, na Piochtaí, na bPiochtaí (adjective: Piochtach, Pictish)

Cruithneach, an Cruithneach, an Chruithnigh, na Cruithnigh, na gCruithneach (adjective: Cruithneach, Pictish)

 Do watch out for the word “meá” since it has dhá chomhainm (two homonyms): “meá” (a scale, measure, or weight) and “meá” (fishing-ground).  All are pronounced the same, with the initial “m” like “mute” or “muse.”    

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