Irish Language Blog

Mí Iúil: Mí Náisiúnta … (ainmnigh thusa é) Posted by on Jul 20, 2010 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

Before continuing with specific holidays celebrated on specific days in July, let’s look at three subjects that are celebrated all month long, at least i Meiriceá:

Brocairí Teo

Uachtar Reoite


All are interesting to ponder as causes of celebration and all are interesting as far as vocabulary goes.  As far as I know, these are only recognized sna Stáit Aontaithe.  In fact, in the U.S., there seems to be a predilection here for honoring every topic under the sun with a day, week, or month.  In many cases, the events are thinly disguised marketing strategies, but they certainly keep things lively.

What if, anything, do these three topics have in common?  And why July?

The first two at least share the feature of being edible, especially in the summer months, and the third seems to be a response to that widespread summertime complaint by children, “I’m bored.”

1) Brocairí Teo: I don’t think there was a designated word for “hot dog,” when I first got involved in Irish.  Eventually, though, someone settled on “brocaire,” instead of “dog” as such, which would have been “madra” or “madadh.”  The reason is a bit convoluted since, if anything, the hot dog most closely resembles a “broc-chú” (dachshund) rather than brocairí (terriers) of the Airedale, Boston, or Jack Russell type.  However, both “broc-chú” (lit. badger-hound) and “brocaire” (“badgerer”) are based on “broc” (badger), implying the long narrow body designed for burrowing into the brocach (badger’s set or den).  You might recognize the word “broc” from “Lord Brocktree,” a badger in Brian Jacques’ popular Redwall series.  “Broc” is pretty much a pan-Celtic word, showing up in Scottish Gaelic and Manx, as well as Welsh (broch), Breton (broc’h), and Cornish (brogh).

If you don’t think a dachshund looks like a hot dog, check out the figurine I recently saw in a Cracker Barrel restaurant-store – humorous but a bit adhfhuafar ([AH-OO-uh-fur, silent “fh”], macabre).  Corp broc-chú, le ceann, cosa, agus ruball, ach cineál borróige ar a dhá thaobh agus mustard ar a dhroim.  If you can’t get to a Cracker Barrel store, check out this link, for an actual hot-dog costume for your pet dachshund:

“Teo” is the plural of “te” (hot, warm), a somewhat irregularly formed plural.

2) Uachtar Reoite.  This seems to be a favorite word for many of my students, as well as a favorite food around the world.  It means “ice-cream” (lit. frozen cream).  “Uachtar” (cream) also means “upper portion” and has a whole slew of related words, including “uachtarán” (president) and “Sráid Uí Chonaill Uachtarach” (Upper O’Connell St.), as well as the trio of “suas,” “anuas,” and “thuas.”   Of course, most Americans have lost track of the idea of milk separation, with the cream rising to the top, since milk is largely drunk already homaiginithe (homogenized), or if you prefer, aonchineálaithe (homogenized, very literally. “one-typed”).  And that’s a nice example of how Irish can offer you a Gaelicized version of a loanword (homaiginithe) or create its own version (aon + c(h)ineál + –aithe, the suffix).

By way of background, National Ice Cream Month was so designated by Ronald Reagan, who said that it should be acknowledged with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Cén Ghaeilge atá ar “dig in”?

3) Frithleadrán is a compound of the prefix “frith-“ (anti-, counter-) and leadrán (boredom).  There’s another choice for “boredom,” leamhthuirse, but to combine that with the prefix “frith-“ would then create a noun with two prefixes (frithleamhthuirse), so using the more straightforward “leadrán” seems preferable.

Here are a few more examples using “frith-“:

frith-Apartheid, anti-Apartheid

frith-chalaois, anti-fraud

an Frith-Reifeirméisean, the Counter-Reformation

frith-aisvíreach, antiretroviral

As for “leadrán,” it means “boredom,” the abstract noun.  More commonly used by learners is the adjective “leadránach” (boring), as in “Níl an clár teilifíse “Lost” leadránach.”  If a person is saying that he or she is bored, one can use “Tá leadrán orm,” or, and in my experience more typically, one can use an expression based on a completely different set of words, “dubh dóite” (lit. “burnt black”).  Sampla: Tá mé dubh dóite den chluiche cláir seo – b’fhearr liom físchluiche. 

 None of these Irish words have anything to do with “boring” a hole.  That word, quite logically, is “tolladh,” related to words like “tollán” (tunnel) and “tollpholl” (a borehole).  What’s so logical about that, you might ask, if the most basic word for “hole” in Modern Irish is actually “poll”?  I say “logical” because the word “toll” for “hole” exists in Old Irish, in some modern Irish place names (Toll Odhar, aka Touloure, and Sliabh Toll, m. sh.), and in Scottish Gaelic (toll), and has related forms in Manx (towl) and Welsh (twll).  So it’s certainly the type of word that could have spawned various derivatives.  Not surprisingly, “poll” has generated its own verb, “polladh” (pierce, perforate), so “polladh” and “tolladh” are related, but different.

Hopefully the above explanation was not too “leadránach” and didn’t leave you “dubh dóite” or with “leadrán ort” (boredom on you).  SGF — Róislín

P.S. If your country doesn’t celebrate National Hot Dog Month, National Ice Cream Month, or National Anti-Boredom Month, please do write in and let us know what special topics or events are celebrated i do thír féin during this month (mí Iúil). 

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