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How To Say ‘Mess’ in Irish: 14 Ways (and Counting), Starting with ‘praiseach’ Posted by on Sep 12, 2017 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the most recent blogpost (nasc thíos), we looked at several Irish words for “mess,” inspired by thinking about the phrase “dog’s dinner,” which can either mean “food for dogs,” literally, or “a mess.”  And that was inspired by listening to some radio commentary about Brexit (and btw, do you remember the Irish word for Brexit?  It’s also a compound word, constructed much like “Brexit,” but it does end up about twice as long!  Freagra thíos –1).  So I got to thinking, how many more ways could there be.  This list isn’t necessarily exhaustive, but I think it’s a good head start.

The word I’ve heard the most for “mess” is “praiseach,” so I’ll start with that:

praiseach, mess, fiasco, litter, pottage, thin porridge, gruel, wild cabbage, kale, boodle, puddle, slop, slobber

an phraiseach, the mess, etc.

na praisí, of the mess, etc..  Probably not very widely used in this genitive form (only a few hits show up online), but it can occur in phrases like “in ainneoin na praisí” (in spite of the mess …) or “i ndiaidh na praisí” (after the mess …)

Remember, most dictionaries indicate that this noun is singular only.  To indicate many messes, one could say something like “an oiread sin de phraiseach” (such an amount of mess), or perhaps use words like “carn” or “moll” (both meaning “heap”) in the plural (cairn, mollta; by the way, for the latter, don’t confuse it with “molta,” a form of the verb “moladh,” meaning “to praise” or “to suggest”).  But a plural form does exist “praiseacha,” reverting to “praiseach” for the genitive plural (which actually makes searching for examples a little difficult).

Typical ways to add a little intensity to this are adding “amach is amach” (out and out) or “ceart” (right) or “uafásach” (terrible), giving us:

praiseach amach is amach, an out-and-out mess

praiseach cheart, a right mess.  Note what happened to the word “ceart“.  Why did this happen?  Freagra thíos–2.

praiseach uafásach, a horrible mess

Needless to say there are a few less polite ways to translate the above phrases, which I’ll omit for this family-friendly blog (blag oiriúnach do theaghlaigh)!

You might remember from last time that this word can also mean “kale” (usually “cál,” in my experience) or “wild cabbage.”  And, lo and behold, it turns out to be linguistically related to the Latin “brassica” (cabbage and some similar vegetables), used for various Latin taxonomic names of plants, and also bringing us full circle back to the Celtic world, with the Welsh word for “cabbage,” which is __________ (freagra thíos–3)

A related word is:

praiseachán, a messer, a bungler

Next we’ll recap two others mentioned last time:

prácás, mess, medley, hodgepodge, morass, slop, farrago (an prácás, an phrácáis, usually no plural)

brachán, mess, porridge, stirabout (an brachán, an bhracháin, usually no plural)

And a few we didn’t include last time:

ciseach: its most basic meaning is “wattled causeway,” distantly related to “ciseán” (basket) and “cis” (basket, wicker) or “improvised path,” but it can also mean the following: mess, hash, fiasco, morass, shambles;  mostly used in the singular (an chiseach, na cisí) but it can have a plural: ciseacha, remaining “ciseacha” for the genitive plural (at least according to teanglann.ie)

sciodar, usually used to describe watery, ermm, food, well, really diarrhea, but can also be “(watery) mess” or “slurry,” in general

tranglam, mess, clutter, bustle, confusion, congestion, and frequently used for traffic jams (tranglam tráchta, nicely alliterative, to boot!)

Other ways to imply mess, but using less specific vocabulary include:

bunoscionn, lit. upside-down (Tá an seomra ranga bunoscionn, The classroom is a mess)

droch-chuma, lit. bad appearance (Tá droch-chuma ar an duine sin, That person is a mess)

drochdhóigh, lit. bad way (Tá drochdhóigh air sin, That’s a mess)

salachar, dirt, mess; can mean excrement, depending on the context (Féach!  Tá a lán salachair ansin!, Look!  There’s a lot of dirt/mess/excrement there)

trí chéile, lit. confused, very very lit. “through itself” (Tá an seomra trí chéile, The room is a mess, I would say suggesting

Bhuel, that’s eleven basic ways to say or suggest “mess” so far, and a few more with qualifications.  I think there will be plenty more for another blogpost.  And that’s not including any words like “mess hall” or “mess kit,” which are completely different.

Hope you found this fun and helpful.  An bhfuil déagóir agat agus seomra aige/aici atá ina phraiseach / ina chiseach, srl. nó a bhfuil drochdhóigh nó droch-chuma air?  How many other ways could you describe it?  SGF — Róislín

PS: As for the question in the graphic above, I think that “droch-chuma” or “drochdhóigh” would actually be best, although they’re not quite so, shall I say, “graphic,” or maybe just “extreme.”

Freagra–1: Breatimeacht, from “Breatain” (Britain) + imeacht (going, leaving, departing)

Freagra–2: praiseach cheart: the “c” of “ceart” becomes lenited (turns to “ch”) because “praiseach” is grammatically feminine.  If we wanted to say the same thing of “prácás,” which is grammatically masculine, the phrase would be “prácás ceart.”

Freagra–3: bresych, cabbage (in Welsh).  So next up on the agenda is to figure out whether the Welsh use some cabbage-related word to mean “mess” as well.  Somehow, I don’t think I learned that in the “Cwrs Carlam.”  Or do the Welsh just stick to “traed moch” (pigs’ feet) as the figurative expression for “mess.”  Actually cabbage and pigs’ feet is probably a time-honored combination, if you’re so inclined.  I actually bought pigs’ feet (known in Irish as “crúibíní) once, but didn’t end up eating them.  Céard fútsa? 

Nasc: When Is a Dog’s Dinner Not a ‘Dog’s Dinner’?: Some Irish Vocabulary Notes for “Mess” Posted by róislín on Sep 7, 2017 in Irish Language

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  1. John M.O`Donoghue:

    is foghlaimeoir Ghaeilge mé i ndáirire.Dá bhri sin ta an-su.im agam sa ghramadach agus comhréir.

    • róislín:

      @John M.O`Donoghue A Sheáin, a chara,
      Tá áthas orm a léamh go bhfuil suim agat sa Ghaeilge. Tá súil agam go gcuidíonn an blag seo leat.

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