Irish Language Blog

Ón Teanga Taíno go Gaeilge (‘barabicu’ go ‘beárbaiciú’) Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog, we referred to “séasúr na mbeárbaiciúnna” (barbecue season) while discussing the Irish word “citseap” (from the Chinese ‘kôe-chiap’ or its Malay variation).  This blog will look more closely at the word “beárbaiciú” itself, which, clearly enough, means “barbecue.”  Or should that be “barbeque”?  Or “bar-b-q”?   Or BBQ?  Or, “the barbie” (a bhuí leis na hAstrálaigh, lena gcuid “ie-anna” mar brekkie, caulie, muddie, stubbie, tallie, tinnie, etc.).  “Barbie” seems to sound like “Bobby” when the Australians (na hAstrálaigh) say it.  Ach, Béarla na hAstráile, sin ábhar blag eile (agus tionchar na Gaeilge air).

Bhuel, so far at least, I’ve only seen one spelling for the word in Irish, “beárbaiciú,” probably because it’s a relative newcomer to the language.  And those B-Q-variations wouldn’t be likely in a language that has so few words spelled with a “q,” which was not traditionally a part of the 18-letter original Irish alphabet.  “Quinín” and “quineol” are the two prominent exceptions.

There is one more related word for “barbecue” in Irish, with a completely different history, “fulacht.”   Too much for one blog, so this will be ábhar blag eile, some day.  I have to admit that “fulacht” always makes me think of the Fianna and “na SeanGhaeil,” not of Lá Saoirse or Lá Cuimhneacháin” i Meiriceá.  I guess that was because I first heard the word in stories of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his warriors (na Fianna), where the meat was more likely hog than hot dog.

What about the history of the word “barbecue” as such, anyway?  It’s been in the English language since at least 1661, with various spellings and inflections, like “barbacu’d” and “barbecu’s.”  Samuel Johnson nailed our modern spelling with his definition of “barbecue” (spelled thus): a hog dressed whole” referring to the original custom of cooking the whole animal in a pit, not over a grill.   The word came into English via the Spanish, who wrote it as “barbacoa,” based on the original “barabicu” in Taíno (an Arawakan language).  Not that the Taíno people were writing the word out in the 17th century, but presumably the Spanish heard “barabicu” and wrote it as “barbacoa.”

I’ve only seen it in Irish in the last couple of decades.  Tagairt ar bith roimhe sin, a léitheoirí?

Here are the forms of the word:

an beárbaiciú, the barbecue

an bheárbaiciú [un VyAWR-bik-yoo], of the barbecue; blas an bheárbaiciú (the taste of the barbecue)

na beárbaiciúnna, the barbecues, with the “-(ú)nna” plural ending, as found in a few, but not many, Irish words, like criúnna, scriúnna, brúscriúnna, and caisiúnna (aka cnónna caisiú), and from the Japanese “kokyus,” coiciúnna.  The “-nna” ending is sometimes applied to other vowels, as in cnónna, which we just saw in “cnónna caisiú,” and “sleánna.”

na mbeárbaiciúnna [nuh MyAWR-bik-yoo-nuh], of the barbecues; dátaí na mbeárbaiciúnna (the dates of the barbecues, referring to an event, not the food or equipment itself)

Some of the meats that are typically barbecued, in approximate order of popularity, are:





turcaí, and somewhat uniquely, specifically in western Kentucky,

caoireoil (not usually eaten much in the U.S., not even instobhach Gaelach,” which many Americans make withmairteoil

Cén cineál beárbaiciú is fearr leat?  Any favorite barbecue recipes you’d care to share? I nGaeilge nó i mBéarla?  If you send it in English, we can make it a future blog to translate it into Irish.

Tá an blag seo ag cur ocrais orm!  SGF — Róislín

Gluais: caoireoil, mutton; ispín, sausage; mairteoil, beef; muiceoil, pork; ocrais, (of) hunger

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