Irish Language Blog

Some Irish Food Vocabulary from Bridget Breathnach’s Article on Baking Gingerbread Men Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

I’m always on the lookout for short online articles in Irish to recommend to students at an intermediate-ish level.  Here I’ll pass on a link to a fun article by Bridget Bhreathnach about baking Christmas cookies (nasc thíos) and provide a little vocabulary help for the learner.

Ní alt “conas” (a dhéanamh ) é agus níl oideas (recipe) ann.  It’s more a witty commentary on the experience of baking with children and also the ideal suitability of Legos as receptors for sticky bits of dough, especially if you make it “rófhliuch” by using “síoróip” instead of “siúcra.” I’m sure that readers who really want an oideas for brioscaí can find plenty of them online (1,290,000 hits for “Christmas cookie recipes” on Google)

The vocabulary will be useful even to complete beginners, at least if you’re interested in words and phrases like the following: Christmas, the smell of spices, cookie (biscuit in Irish/UK English), flour, egg, and Lego.  Úúps, bhuel, “Lego” is mentioned in the article, as I noted above, but the word is the same in Irish as in English, ní nach ionadh.  In fact, it’s my guess that it’s the same internationally (eolas agatsa?) although, come to think of it, I wonder how it’s handled in languages that aren’t written in the Roman alphabet, carachtair Shíneacha, mar shampla, nó siollaigh Ionúitise.  But that’s starting to look like a digression, so … back to our “príomhábhar.”  Beagáinín eile faoi chúlra Legos sa nóta “PS” thíos.  

So we’ll go over some of the vocabulary, and then wrap up with a glance back at the seanfhocal that is used in the introduction to the article.  That will extend our food vocabulary to include curds and whey, not quite on the beaten  linguistic path of typical food vocabulary (like uibheacha friochta and gloine bainne) but fun and traidisiúnta as well.  An bhfuil a fhios agat cén seanfhocal atá i gceist?  Muna bhfuil, léigh leat!

But first, an bunstór focal:

Christmas: As you all may remember from the recent blog in this series (nasc thíos), the basic word (frása, i ndáiríre) is “An Nollaig” (The Christmas).  The ending of the word changes according to the way the word is used in the sentence.  When used to describe something, like Christmas cookies or lights, we drop the “i” so the word really means “of Christmas.”  We see this word in two phrases in Bridget’s article: soilse na Nollag (the Christmas lights) and brioscaí Nollag (Christmas cookies).  There’s a slight difference in pronunciation, with Nollaig more like “NUL-ik” and “Nollag” more like “NUL-uk.”

the smell of spices: an boladh spíosraí [un BOL-uh SPEESS-ree].  The “-dh” of “boladh” (smell) is silent.

cookie / biscuit: briosca, plural: brioscaí.  Don’t forget the slender “r” pronunciation.  It’s not just “br” as in the English word “brisk” or “brisket,” but it’s like the “br” of the Irish word “breá” (fine) as in “Tá sé go breá inniu” (It’s fine today).

flour: plúr, and as Bridget comments astutely, “Cé go bhfuil Persil non-bio cosúil le plúr, ní plúr atá ann.” Hmmm, was she looking for some sort of lionach púdrach (powdery filler) to compensate for “taos rófhliuch“?  Tá súil agam nach raibh!

egg; the basic word is “ubh” (say “uv”), and in the text, we also see “leathubh” ([lya-huv]; why a “half-egg”  — léigh an t-alt le fáil amach céard atá i gceist ag Bridget).  She also used the plural with the definite article which means there is a prefixed “h,” giving us “na huibheachaí” ([nuh HIV-ukh-ee]; other speakers might just say “na huibheacha“).

baker:  the standard spelling is “báicéir,” but Bridget uses the variation I’ve heard in Conamara Irish: báicéara.

And to wrap up (no páipéar fillte pun intended), here’s the seanfhocal that introduces thearticle:

Ní féidir é a bheith ina ghruth agus ina mheadhg agat.  The literal translation is, “You can’t have it as curds and as whey.”  More loosely, “You can’t have it both ways,” or to use a baking analogy, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  And how to pronounce all those lovely lenited letters?

ghruth: here we’re back to our old friend, the voiced velar fricative for the “gh” sound, followed, of course, by a flapped “r”.  “Say what?” you might say.  Have you heard the phrase “Mo ghrá thú” (I love you)?  It has the same “ghr-” sound.  And if you say, “Mo ghrá thú, a Ghráinne,” you’ve got two voiced velar fricatives in one sweet phrase.  Never heard that?  Think of the guttural (throaty) “ch” sound of “chutzpah” or “Chanukah,” and then bring it lower down in your throat.  Sin é.

The “-th” of “ghruth” is silent but does give a slight puff of breath sound at the end of the word.

mheadhg: the basic word  is “meadhg” and in our text, it’s lenited, to become “mheadhg.”  The initial “mh-” is a “v” sound and the “-dh-” in the middle is basically silent, but does affect the vowel sound, which I’ve noticed as either rhyming with “Tadhg” (in English, a “long i” as in “bike”) or more like “uh-ih” pronounced really quickly.

By the way, the really literal translation of “Ní féidir é a bheith ina ghruth agus ina mheadhg agat” js “(It) isn’t possible it to be in its curds or in its whey at you.”  But translating it that way is just for demonstration purposes.  Obviously it’s not normal English word order.

Bhuel, that’s a little stór focal cócaireachta for you, and cúpla focal cáiseoireachta (gruth, meadhg) leo.  So we’ve covered our main goal for today’s blog.  And now, a fínéad beag from my own taithí cócaireachta.

It sounds like Bridget found her baking experiment a little more challenging than she expected.  Bhuel, it can happen to all of this.  Once, years ago, I followed a complicated recipe in an Irish cooking special in the New York Times magazine, around St. Patrick’s Day.  It sounded delicious.  The “seabhdar bia mara” called for three different types of seafood, cooked separately (aaarrgghh!) and then combined in one pot.  So I made a special trip to a siopa éisc, to get the freshest ingredients, diligently cooked them all separately for the exact amount of time, then mixed them together and cooked it some more as the recipe specified.

The result was a thick, grayish-looking  slurry, texture-less to boot (.i. gan chnapanna blasta gambacha bia mara).  I was horrified, especially with about deichniúr aíonna coming in a couple hours.  At my father’s suggestion, I poured in uachtar, im leáite, beagáinín siúcra (yes, sinking to that cheap taste-bud pleaser) and beagáinín salainn le blas a chur air.  The soup was salvaged, and I called it a bisque.  It tasted good enough, le harán donn Éireannach agus im agus sailéad, but still, it was a profound disappointment, which I remember to this day.  An ceacht atá le baint as an scéal sin — don’t trust any recipe that has you cook seafood twice.  “Biscuits” may be literally “bis cuit” (twice-cooked) and come out pleasantly crispy, but it doesn’t work with fish.  The second moral of the story, as I should have known, is never try a new recipe before a dinner party, no matter how tempting it appears when given the professional treatment by food writers and photographers.

Sin é mo scéal, hmmm, bia le mo bhéal?  SGF — Róislín

PS: Now that I really got to thinking about the international ramifications of the word “Lego”, I finally got around to checking its origin.  Apparently it’s from “leg godt” meaning “play well.”   Cén teanga í sin?  Danmhairgis, mar ba Dhanar an fear a bhunaigh an comhlacht “Lego,” Ole Kirk Christiansen.

Nasc d’alt Bridget:, le Bridget Bhreathnach, 18 Mí na Nollag, 2014

Nasc don mblag Nollag sa tsraith seo:

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