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Speaking of Christmas in Irish — Does It End with ‘-ig,’ ‘-ag,’ or “igí”? Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

OK, admittedly, we’re not going to use the last choice (‘-igí [IG-ee]) all that often.  But I added it to today’s discussion for two reasons.  One is for a sense of completion.  If we’re going to say “Christmas” (An Nollaig) and “of Christmas” (na Nollag), we might as well be prepared to use the plural “na Nollaigí.”

We use the form “Nollaig” in sentences or phrases like the following:

Tá an Nollaig i mí na Nollag. (Christmas is in December)

Tá an Nollaig ag teacht. (Christmas is coming)

Nollaig na mBan ([… nuh mahn, silent “b”] Women’s Christmas)

don Nollaig, for Christmas

We use the form “Nollag” in sentences or phrases like the following:

Tá an Nollaig i mí na Nollag. (with “mí na Nollag” meaning “December,” lit. month of Christmas)

Daidí na Nollag OR Athair na Nollag (Daddy Christmas, Father Christmas)

crann Nollag, a Christmas tree

carúl Nollag, a Christmas carol

bronntanas Nollag, a Christmas gift

stoca Nollag, a Christmas stocking

Actually there are two possible forms for the plural (an fhoirm iolra), with “Nollaigí” the more standard one.  Neither is used all that often online, according to my Google searches, compared to the forms “An Nollaig” (47,200 hits, unfiltered; 299 filtered) and “na Nollag” (a whopping 447,000, unfiltered, 345 filtered).

  1. Nollaigí, which gets 86 hits this year. Almost all are simply grammar, dictionary, or vocabulary sites. One of the few that actually uses the word in context is a short note, “An Nollaig mar a bhí” by Máire Treasa Uí Shúilleabháin, who uses it in the sentence ” Thug sé ar ais ar bhóithrín na smaointe me chuig na Nollaigí sin nach bhfillfidh ar ais choíche.”  (http://www.gaelport.com/nuacht?NewsItemID=3659#sthash.rSoanQcB.dpuf)
  2. Nollaigeacha, which gets 18 hits this year, all but one of which are simply listings as in dictionaries, flashcards, glossaries, etc. The one example in a natural context is in a comment by patdad8 on mairemor’s fanfction, Dark Storm Rising, by Mairemor (nóta tráchta ag: https://m.fanfiction.net/r/5308521/0/1/; an téacs é féin: https://m.fanfiction.net/s/5308521/1/)

On a much bigger scale, we see a similar pattern in English, not too surprisingly.  “Christmases” gets a mere 756,000 hits compared to “Christmas” itself, which gets an ultra-whopping 1,650,000,000 hits.  Those are unfiltered numbers, but I’m sure the numbers would be ginormous, even with duplicates, etc., removed.

So there you have it.  Saying “Christmas” in Irish involves constant decision-making as to whether to use “Nollaig” or “Nollag,” and whether to include “an” or “na.”

But here’s one bit of good news about the word “Nollaig,” as opposed to a word like, say, “Cáisc” (An Cháisc, Easter).  The letter “n” doesn’t show lenition in writing, so you don’t have to worry about constantly deciding whether to add the letter “h” to show initial mutation.  With “Cáisc,” in contrast, we constantly have to decide whether it’s “c” or “ch” (ubh Chásca, but coinín Cásca; An Cháisc but Cáisc na nGiúdach).

Slán go fóill, and happy word endings! – Róislín

PS: For a little more on this topic, you might want to check out an earlier blog on the subject: Nollaig nó Nollag (How To Say ‘Christmas’ or ‘of Christmas’ in Irish) Posted on 24. Dec, 2013 by róislín in Irish Language (https://blogs.transparent.com/irish/nollaig-no-nollag-how-to-say-christmas-or-of-christmas-in-irish/)

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Comments:

  1. Gaelach:

    Also note that the first name Nollaig is mostly the girl’s name “Noelle/Noëlle”, but is more rarely seen in boys Noel/Noël.
    Don’t come across it a lot…


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