More Names for Dandelions in Irish (and in Welsh, too) [Ainmneacha Plandaí 3] Posted by róislín on Sep 25, 2016 in Irish Language
Searbh … searbhán … caisearbhán. That’s how the Irish language builds up its most basic term for dandelion (caisearbhán, say “kash-ar-uv-awn”) as we’ve seen in the most recent blogpost here, as well as a few earlier ones (naisc thíos).
But wait there’s more! In fact, four more ways to say “dandelion” in Irish with a few Scottish Gaelic parallels. And why did I make such a point of bringing Welsh into this blog — Welsh has at least nine ways to say “dandelion”! Some day I’ll look into some other languages and see if the various vernacular names are as abundant as the weed itself.
Well, OK, maybe I shouldn’t really call it a weed (fiaile in Irish), even if it does crop up unplanted and unexpected. But we can eat it and make wine (fíon) from it, so that’s reasonably useful (réasúnta úsáideach), isn’t it? And aren’t weeds supposed to be basically neamhúsáideach, by definition? Bhuel, that a matter for botano-philosophy (dare I call it “luibheolaíochfhealsúnacht“?), and best left for lá na coise tinne (an Irish expression for “rainy day,” but not literally; this is “rainy day” as in “a rainy day project” and the literal translation is in the note below)
Here are the other four ways to say “dandelion” in Irish. As a little caveat, I would note that I haven’t heard or seen any of these nearly as much as I’ve heard “caisearbhán” itself. Smaointí ar bith eile ar an ábhar sin, a léitheoirí? As a second caveateen, I would also note that in some cases the meanings of the individual words, or how they fit together, is still not clear, at least to me, even after pondering them quite a bit in the previous blogpost on this topic.
- a) bior na brighde, or in modern spelling, “bior na bríde” The interpretations I worked out include “the lance of the maiden” and “the well of the maiden,” with several other possibilities as mentioned in the May 27 blogpost (2016). Cf. the Scottish Gaelic bior nam brìde.
- b) fiacail leomhain (leoin), a lion’s tooth, which actually matches the original French “dent de leon.” Cf. the Scottish Gaelic fiacal leomhain
- c) beárnán beárnaigh (lit. “little gap of the gapped one” or “little gap of the indented one) or beárnán beárnach (“gapped little gap” or “indented little gap”). Regarding the “fada,” beárnán” is usually “bearnán” these days but in the older references where I found this, the long mark was used. I assume these phrases refer somehow either to the jagged edge of the leaves or to the straight-edged quality of the flower petals themselves. But frankly, it still puzzles me. I can only add that most of us probably know a closely related word, “bearna” (a gap, as in Bearna, Co. na Gaillimhe, anglicized as Barna, Co. Galway).
- d) bearnán brighde, cf. the Scottish Gaelic bearnan brìde. This version means “little gap of … a lance, a skewer, a well, water.” Whatever those might mean! Curiously, this phrase can also be used for “juniper.” A luibheolaithe, I called out to you last time, and we really need you here! How can “juniper” be equated with “dandelion”? Anyone have any ideas?
And here, once again, are the nine Welsh versions as alluded to above:
dant y llew (the tooth of the lion), the most basic choice, with a close second in “dant y ci” (the tooth of the dog)
dail clais (leaves of a bruise, not, apparently, “of a ditch,” another meaning of “clais,” similar to the Irish) — meaning what, I wonder? To apply to a bruise for healing?
blodyn faint ‘dy’r gloch (lit. “what-time-is-it” flower)
two more related ones: blodyn crafu (itchy flower) and blodyn crach (scab flower)
and the charming trio: blodyn piso’n y gwely, blodyn pisho’n gwely, and blodyn pi-pi gwely, all probably fairly self-explanatory, once we note that “gwely” means “bed.”
Fersiwn arall? — any Welsh speakers care to contribute?
So that’s five Irish versions, a few Scottish footnotes, and some Welsh variations. Meaning that down the road, if I can make it with my “cos thinn” on “lá na coise tinne,” I’ll still have to check out remaining the Celtic languages, and someday, since this plant grows in both san Eoráise and i Meiriceá Thuaidh, I’ll get around to the approximately 4000 languages of those continents. Why 4000? Well, yes, it’s a very rough estimate, but the loose count I get from pooling together various Wikipedia articles is about 2000 for an Afraic and maybe 500 for Meiriceá Theas. There are currently between 6000 and 7000 languages in the world, according to most counts, with half of them doomed to díobhadh (imeacht in éag) before the end of this century. Hopefully with so much enthusiasm for Irish these days, An Ghaeilge will not be among them, depsite the tuar tubaisteach that has frequently been heard.
Next I guess someone should get busy translating Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine into Irish. Presumably that would be Fion Caisearbháin, using ár seanchara, an tuiseal ginideach. But meanwhile, till that appears, slán go fóill — Róislín
Nóta: Aistriúchán focal ar fhocal ar “lá na coise tinne”: the day of the sore foot (or “of the sore leg,” the word “cos” meaning both “foot” and “leg”). This is a beautiful example, not only of tuiseal ginideach ainmfhocail (the genitive case of a noun, with “cos” becoming “coise“) but also of tuiseal ginideach aidiachta (with “tinn” becoming “tinne”). A grammar thing so perfect it makes my heart sing, mar a rinne an “Wild Thing” do na Trogganna. OK, I made up “*Trogganna” for “The Troggs,” but it seems to fit. Why not, if we have “busanna,” “scileanna” and “blaganna,” all adding a plural ending (-anna) to words borrowed or adapted from English?
Bláth Buí Eile — An Caisearbhán (‘Dandelion’ in Irish) Posted by róislín on May 24, 2016 in Irish Language
An Caisearbhán (The Dandelion), Cuid 2: Other Names for ‘Dandelion’ in Irish Posted by róislín on May 27, 2016 in Irish Language
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