Irish Language Blog

Seachtain Fhéile Pádraig a Ceathair: An tSeamróg (The Shamrock) Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

(le Róislín)

Maybe this series should really be “Coicís Fhéile Pádraig” (St. Patrick’s Fortnight).  Actually, this will probably be the last blag on “Naomh Pádraig” for this year, though there’s enough information on him to have the series last go ceann bliana (for a year).

I thought we’d wrap up with “an tseamróg,” before we drown it, that is.   Well, actually, you’ve probably all drowned your seamróga already since Lá Fhéile Pádraig is thart.  Or, if your seamróg took the form of an outline drawn in the foam of your Guinness by a talented “beárista,” (cgl, bí ag ochadh) I guess you could say you had “downed” it.  Either way, let’s look at the word itself.

The word “seamróg” is not an official botanical name for a specific species of plant.  It’s based on the Irish word “seamair,” which means “clover.” There are about 300 species of clover, most of which grow sa Leathsféar Thuaidh, but some of which do grow san Afraic agus i Meiriceá Theas.  The “–óg’ ending is simply the suffix found in hundreds of other feminine nouns, like “spúnóg,” “feadóg,” and “rannóg.”

Among the most well known species are “white (or Dutch) clover” (Trifolium repens) and “red clover” (T. pratense), referring to the color of the bláth (flower), of course, not to the duilleog (leaf), which, as far I know, remains “glas.”  One clover species often associated with the “shamrock” is T. minus, smaller than some of the others, whose bláthanna are buí.

Some people say the seamróg is not even from the family to which Trifolium belongs (Fabaceae) but rather to the Oxalis family, which also has trí dhuilleog (see, for starters, for a brief low-down).  As far as the exact téarmaí luibheolaíocha go, though, níl mise ag dul “ann.”  It becomes far too confusing for someone who isn’t a luibheolaí gairmiúil.  And it seems like the entire system of tacsanamaíocht that we’ve accepted for several centuries has come faoi mhionscrúdú.  But my interest in terminology puts me more in the category of what Samuel Johnson called, albeit in English, “daorsclábhaí neamhurchóideach,” rather than that of an íolbhristeoir.  So I’ll leave the díospóireacht about Oxalis vs. Fabaceae to those a mbaineann an scéal dóibh.  Holy mackerel!  An eclipsed prepositionally-based indirect relative clause crept in there, even in though the sentence was simply an Irish-English hybrid.  Dea-thuar?  Filleadh don ghramadach sa chéad bhlag eile?

Needless to say, the engineering and transportation term, crosbhealach seamrach (cloverleaf interchange), is based on the rare, and allegedly lucky, four-leafed clover.  The possibility of a tripartite cloverleaf interchange is a bit mind-boggling, though it would be cool if they were in Ireland and you could see them from an airplane!  Or Google satellite maps, for that matter.  But more mind-boggling is the thought of a cloverleaf interchange based on the highest recorded number of leaves on a clover, which is twenty-one!  On that thought, you can put that in your “dudeen” [say: DOODJ-een], and do whatever you do with the contents of said dudeen.  Until an chéad bhlag eile, that is!  SGF – Róislín

Nótaí: crosbhealach [KROS-VYAL-ukh, from cros + bealach, way, path], daorsclábhaí [DAYR-SKLAWV-ee] drudge; íolbhristeoir [EEL-VRISH-tchoh-irzh] iconoclast; neamhurchóideach, harmless; ochadh, groaning

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  1. James Daly:

    The late lamented Johnny Cash wrote “40 shades of green”. I saw him claim it on a TV programme (I knew it already).
    While I am at it, I think Grace Kelly was the most beautiful woman in the world!

    • róislín:

      @James Daly Must be the géinte Ceilteacha (Celtic genes) – beauty, fame, talent – what more could one ask for! Johnny Cash apparently originally thought his family was mostly Irish but later found out they were actually Scottish. Comh-Cheilteach, pé scéal é! (a fellow Celt, anyway).

    • róislín:

      @James Daly Tá an ceart agat, a Shéamais. Although it is said that he got the idea from an earlier song called “49 Shades of Green.” Well, most songs borrow somewhat from previous songs, so “cén dochar”? I’d like to know what the other nine shades are supposed to be, though. Thanks for reading the blog!

  2. Mise Áine:

    ‘An eclipsed prepositionally-based indirect relative clause crept in there…’

    …is minic leo!

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Maybe I should call them EPBIRCs for short!

      Agus tá an ceart agat! Is minic leo! Agus sin taobh den scéal nár thosaigh mé air fós. Níor bhain mé úsáid ach as na cinn a bhfuil “whose” ann mar shamplaí. “To whom” agus a leithéid, sin ábhar eile do bhlag eile! Bhuel, níl ganntanas ábhar ann, pé scéal é!.

      Go raibh maith agat as scríobh agus beannachtaí na Cásca ort!
      Go raibh maith agat as scríobh. Beannachtaí na Cásca ort!

  3. Siobhan Hall:

    Hopefully you smoke the contents of the dudeen, although that’s very politically incorrect nowadays! The dudeen (Dúidín) was produced in copious quantities in the town of Knockcroghery, on the Athlone- Roscommon road, here in Ireland.
    Check out

    • róislín:

      @Siobhan Hall Go raibh maith agat as scríobh, a Shiobhán. That was very interesting. I checked out the Dudeen website you posted and it was fascinating. I hope more readers check it out as well. Slán go fóill!

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