Irish Language Blog

Maidir le Succotash (Cuid a Dó) Posted by on Nov 29, 2010 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

We recently finished a discussion of pónairí móra (líoma, as in “lima”) as a comhábhar for succotash.  Now here’s corn, the second major ingredient.  That’s “corn” in the U.S. sense.

The word “corn” in Irish and UK English usually means “edible grain” in general, NOT specifically maize or sweet corn.  In Irish, “arbhar” (corn, cereals) is likewise understood to mean “grain” (or cereal crops) in general, not just maize or sweet corn.  So to specify what Americans mean by “corn,” one generally adds the word “Indiach,” to give us “arbhar Indiach” (Indian corn).  And since we’re talking about a Native American food here, succotash, we should pay special attention to the American terminology.

In the United States, however, the term “Indian corn” generally refers to a specific variety of corn, also known as “flint corn” or “calico corn.”  It’s multicolored and therefore decorative when dry.  It’s used in many harvest-theme displays and may also be called “ornamental corn” (for more on “arbhar ornáideach,” please see below).

Here are some examples of the word “corn” in the Irish/UK English sense, with the Irish equivalent.  These are just the basic “arbhar” since they refer to grain in general, not “Indian corn” (maize):

Dlí Arbhair Foster (1784), Foster’s Corn Law (lit. law of corn, with the form “arbhair” showing possession)

Aisghairm Dhlithe an Arbhair, the Repeal of the Corn Laws (with the word “aisghairm” literally meaning “back-calling”)

Here are some examples of using the cognate word “grán” instead of “arbhar”:

grán rósta, popcorn

sacaire gráin, corn bagger (lit. sacker of “grán,” grain)

ceannaí gráin, corn-chandler or merchant (lit. buyer of grain)

But for the latter, keep in mind that there are also the terms “déileálaí arbhair” (a corn dealer) and “mórdhéileálaí arbhair” (a corn factor), using “arbhar.”

Then there are the specific stages of growing the crop.  “Standing corn” is “arbhar ar a chos” (lit. corn on its foot).  But “springing corn” gets a term of its own, “geamhar,” without the word “arbhar;” you might recall that we discussed that one last March, with the phrase “chomh glas le geamhar.”

Of course there are some situations where the word “arbhar” on its own is understood to imply “maize” or “sweet corn”:

calóga arbhair, corn flakes

arbhar stánaithe, tinned (canned) corn

arbhar sa dias, corn on the cob (lit. corn “in” the “ear”); this isn’t confused with other grains, since they aren’t commonly referred to as being “on the cob,” or at least not eaten “sa dias” and “faoi im” (buttered).  The word “dias” can also refer to the top of a blade grass or the point of a sword; it’s not the same as a “cluas” (“ear” on a human or animal, or Vulcan).  You might want to watch out for a couple of completely unrelated homonyms for “dias” in Irish, dias (a couple or pair, based on the number two) and dias (deism, in theology).

Just to add to the mix, the phrase “grán buí” can be used to mean “maize” though I don’t think I’ve heard this nearly so often as “arbhar Indiach.”

Appetite whetted?  More on corn later, in any of its meanings, más mian libhInis dom má tá suim agat ann.  Tá ábhair go leor eile ann a bhaineanns le harbhar (nó grán), mar shampla, gránola (ní hionann sin agus “granola,” an focal Béarla), síoróip arbhair, agus fruchtós, agus an tsláinte ar fud an domhain.  Then there’s also “min bhuí” (corn or “Indian” meal, lit. “yellow meal”), and all of its connotations connected to “An Gorta Mór” (The Great Hunger).

So that more or less wraps up succotash, and the Thanksgiving theme for this year.  Up next, perhaps, ábhar atá níos tromchúisí, an eacnamaíocht, mar shampla.  A bheith san fhaopach?

But one last succotash point, to get back to the question in the first succotash blog, “Sufferin’ succotash,” was a favorite expression of Sylvester the cat (deargnamhaid Tweetie Bird), and was also occasionally used by Daffy Duck.  SGF — Róislín

Nóta: arbhar ornáideach: For ornamental corn in the extreme, you might want to check out the Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota, whose exterior walls are covered with a new dried corn mural every year, using the different colors of the corn to achieve artistic effect.  I think you have to see it to believe it.  The dathanna of ornamental corn can include dearg dorcha, buí, flannbhuí, gorm, dath na mónóg, and rúibíneach (dath an rúibín).  So the effect can be quite mórthaibhseach, in all senses of the word.

Gluais: ábhar, subject, topic; deargnamhaid [DJAR-ug-NAH-widj], archenemy; mórthaibhseach, spectacular, looming large, impressive, and even gaudy; tromchúiseach, serious

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  1. Seanchán:

    So is there any difference in pronunciation between abhar and ábhar?

  2. róislín:

    For “arbhar” (corn, etc.), there are two pronunciations. More standard is “AR-uv-ur” (making it a three-syllable word). In the North, I’ve heard “AR-oor,” where the “bh” is absorbed into the vowel.

    For “ábhar” (topic, etc.), it’s “AW-wur.”

    For anyone who speaks an r-less variety of English, the distinction might be tricky.


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