Irish Language Blog

If You’re Going to Give a Belly Rub to a Rhinoceros, Here’s How to Say It in Irish (and some other useful vocabulary) Posted by on Nov 28, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Ar mhiste leat cuimilt bhoilg a thabhairt dom? / Would you mind giving me a belly rub? (grianghraf le Petr Kratochvil ag

Ar mhiste leat cuimilt bhoilg a thabhairt dom? / Would you mind giving me a belly rub?
(grianghraf le Petr Kratochvil ag

We recently posted an imaginary conversation in Irish with Nola (ca. 1974-2015), a Northern White Rhinoceros (Srón-bheannach Bán Tuais-ceartach) whose recent death leaves only three remaining members of her subspecies alive.   The nasc (link) to this article is thíos (below).  Since that blog was almost entirely in Irish, we’ll look at a few vocabulary highlights from the dialogue here, with pronunciation tips.  Some are general enough for use in many real-life conversations and some, admittedly, are rather rhino-specific.  Here goes:

1) Tá áthas orm bualadh leat [taw AW-huss OR-um BOO-uh-luh lyat], I’m pleased to meet you, lit. Happiness (áthas)  is on me to meet you.

2) Fadhb ar bith [FYB  erzh bih, with “FYB” rhyming with English “tribe” or “vibe”, silent “d” in “fadhb,” silent “t” in “bith“], no problem, sometimes shortened to “Fadhb R B.”  There’s no word “no” in the phrase, but the implication in the Nola dialogue is negative.  If written with a question mark, or said with questioning intonation, this phrase can be a question, “Any problem?”  Why no word for “no” in the phrase?  Bhuel, that’s scéal fada, but the nutshell answer is there’s no single discrete word for “yes” or “no” in Irish.  Instead, any verb can be used to answer “yes” or “no” (tá, níl, ‘sea, ní hea, srl.) and there are indirect ways of responding, as well (“Ceart go leor,” i.e. OK/right enough, for positive, “Seans ar bith” for negative, like saying, “No way!”).  Overall, saying “yes” and “no” has infinite varieties in Irish, some of which we may address sa todhchaí.

3) Ag rith an méid a bhí i mo chraiceann [KHRAK-un], running for my life, lit. running the amount that was in my skin

4) póitseálaí, a poacher, plural: póitseálaithe, following the same pattern for the plural as rúnaí / rúnaithe and tógálaí / tógálaithe.

5) cuimiltí boilg [KIM-il-tchee BwIL-ig], belly rubs

6) cuimiltí muiníl [KIM-il-tchee MwIN-yeel], neck rubs.  Is breá le srónbheannaigh na cuimiltí seo!

7) Síleann daoine gur féidir leo afraidíseach [AF-ruh-DEESH-ukh] a dhéanamh as ár n-adharca [ahss awr NY-ur-kuh], People think they can make an aphrodisiac out of our horns, lit. People think that (gur) able/ability (féidir) is with them (leo) an aphrodisiac to make out of our horns.  There are two main words for “horn” in Irish. “Corn” (pl: cuirn) is for musical instruments and cornucopias and “adharc” is for animals, or for … well, never mind (family-friendly blog and all that), but its other meaning actually is related to aphrodisiacs.

As for the pronunciation of “adharc,” it’s kind of tricky to represent in a “rough guide” in an English-based transliteration, since the sounds “y” and “ie” and “eye” and “igh” are so convoluted in English spelling.  So I can offer the IPA for “adharc” as /airk/.  Just remember that in IPA, the letters /ai/ mean the sound spelled various ways in English (my, aye, eye, pie, sigh, etc.) — not like the “ai” of ordinary English spelling, as in “rain,” “plain,” or “Spain.”  If you already know the Irish words “radharc” (view) or “fadharcán” (corn, on the foot), then this pronunciation should be a shoo-in.   Anyway, to really break it down, it’s “aye” as in “Aye, aye, sir!” and “irk” as in “to irk someone” (AYE-irk).  I usually try to avoid silent vowels in my rough guides, since dealing with silent letters is one of the main points of my guides, but here it seems unavoidable, with the “-e” of “aye.”  I could try “Y-irk” but it looks odd, even to me, and my hunch is that some people would assume it’s pronounced “why-irk”.

8) lao srónbheannaigh [lee SROHN-VAN-ee], a rhinoceros calf, which, for the Northern White, the world will probably never see again. “Lao” is also used for young cows in general, with several specialized terms (lao scoite, a weanling; lao diúil, a suckling calf, srl.) and also for young seals and some other animals.

9) ag baint na ndeor asam [egg buntch nuh nyor AH-sum] making me cry, lit. striking (of) the tears out of me.  Note the silent “d” of “ndeor,” which has the “n” added through eclipsis, because we’re saying “_of_ the tears,” not just “tears”.  With this change (from “deoir,” the root form), the “d” becomes silent.

10) Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo arís, May we be alive at this time next year.  A blessing in Irish which has always struck me as a bit “gruama” (gloomy).  More literally, the translation is something like, “May we bear alive/living at this time again.”  The phrase doesn’t really specify the interval of a year, but it’s implied, since this blessing is often used on holidays celebrated once a year.  I don’t think the “bear” part is really in the sense of “endure” or “I can’t stand/bear it”), more like “carry on.”  Bhur mbarúlacha?

At any rate, sin deich bhfrása as an gcomhrá le Nola.  I might post a full translation soon.  Please let me know if that would be helpful.  At any rate, I’ll probably look at some more of the vocabulary from this dialóg soon.  SGF – Róislín

Nasc:  (Comhrá (samhlaitheach) le Nola, an Srónbheannach: An Imaginary Conversation in Irish with Nola, The Rhinoceros, Posted on 23. Nov, 2015 by in Irish Language)

Dá mba mhian leat tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoi shrónbheannaigh, seo nasc eile:


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