Irish Language Blog

Speaking of ‘Nite, Bruite, is Ite’ (and who can prepare and eat potatoes the fastest) Posted by on Nov 9, 2013 in Irish Language

le Róislín

First, let me say, that no, although three-part titles like “Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka” and “Snipp, Snapp, Snurr” are running wildly through my head as I write this, the three words “nite,” “bruite,” and “ite” are not three characters from children’s books.   They are, as I mentioned in my last blog, rangabhálacha caite (past participles), aka aidiachtaí briathartha (verbal adjectives).  How three past participles got such charming rhyming spellings is beyond the scope of this blog, but at least it gives Irish a catchy saying (fully quoted below) and gives us a catchy blog title to work with.  Which is a good thing, because sometimes when a teacher mentions a part of speech, like “past participle,” students’ eyes either glaze over or there’s a barely perceptible groan.  Gramadach!  But grammar is really like a big, movable, constantly changing puzzle, with various parts that usually fit into just one slot in a sentence.  An-spraoi agus spórt iad a chur le chéile agus ciall a bhaint astu!  Sometimes there’s a choice of word order, for emphasis or meter, ach sin ábhar blag eile.

Now that I’ve introduced “Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka,” and “Snipp, Snapp, Snurr,” let me briefly satisfy the curiosity of anyone who didn’t encounter these books as a kid and then, I promise, I’ll get back to Irish.  They were written by a Swedish author, Maj Lindman, between ca. 1920 and ca. 1960, and totally won me over as a kid (in the reprint editions, thank you very much).  Maybe it was the teideal trípháirteach or the concept of tríríní, or just the general prominence of the number “three” in western society, thanks also perhaps to Huey, Dewey, and Louie, or as Car Talk’s Magliozzi brothers would have it, “Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe.”   Anyway, I’ve never quite gotten Lindman’s books out of my head.   Maybe that’s what started my addiction to “lions, tigers, and bears” memes (yes, I collect them from online and print sources, and someday maybe I’ll analyze the collection — tied into general socio-cultural and psycho-demographic trends, no doubt.  But that’s probably enough on Flicka, Snipp and Co., and if you’re intrigued by Lindman, who lived from 1886 to 1972, I suggest starting here or here, and beyond that, the Internet’s your “oisre.”  There’s not really much biographical info on Lindman online, ach sin ábhar blag eile!

Anyway, back to “nite,” “bruite,” is “ite,” as past participles.  Yes, grammar looms!

Last time I did mention the basic forms of the verbs from which they come, but here are a few more, just to tickle your participial palate.

nite [NITCH-uh], washed, from “nigh” [nee], wash (as a command) and just a sampler of its various forms:

Tá mé ag ní na bhfataí. I’m washing the potatoes.

Ním fataí gach lá.  I wash potatoes every day.

Nigh mé na fataí inné.  I washed the potatoes yesterday.

Nífidh mé fataí arís amárach.  I will wash potatoes again tomorrow.

Next we have “bruite” [BRITCH-uh], cooked, from “bruith” (cook , also boil, broil, grill, and bake — and what would Julia Child have to say to that?).  In real life, it’s not as ambiguous as it seems because, traditionally, the interpretation depended a lot on which food you meant: bainne – boiled, arán – baked, etc.

And various forms of this verb:

Tá mé ag bruith na bprátaí.  I’m cooking the potatoes (most likely by boiling).

Bruithim prátaí gach lá.

Bhruith mé na prátaí inné.

Bruithfidh [BRIH-hee] mé prátaí amárach.

And finally, last of three, we have “ite” [ITCH-uh], eaten, from the verb “ith” [a breathy “ih” sound, the “t” is silent], which means “eat” (the command form).

And you know the routine now:

Tá mé ag ithe na bpréataí.

Ithim préataí gach lá. (Muise!)

D’ith mé préataí inné.

Íosfaidh [EESS-hee] mé préataí amárach.

Oh, did I forget to mention (agus “ubh ar m’aghaidh”) that “ith” is an irregular verb so its future tense, “íosfaidh” leaps to a dramatically different root, “íos-” and then adds a typical future-tense suffix, “-faidh.”  Not quite as much of a leap as “faigh” (get) to “gheobhaidh” (will get), but definitely up there in the irregulars.

And here, for anyone who didn’t remember it from last time, is the saying itself: “Bheadh na fataí nite, bruite, agus ite ag an gConnachtach sula mbeidís ráite ag an Muimhneach” (The Connachtman would have the potatoes, here “fataí,” washed, cooked and eaten before the Munsterman would be finished saying the word).

As I said last time, there are at least five versions of the word for “potatoes” in Irish: prátaí (most standard, IMO), preátaí, préataí (think “praties”), fataí, and buntátaí.  Not too surprising, when we consider that the word “potato” is an import from the New World, probably the indigenous Haitian word, “batata,” as best we know it from 16th-century Caribbean culture, which was not exactly awash with dictionaries and transcripts.

So, céard (nó ‘cad’) a shíleann sibh, a Chonnachtacha agus a Mhuimhneacha?  Cé agaibh is gaiste (nó ‘tapúla’)?  Agus cá bhfuil na hUltaigh sa scéal seo?  Agus na Laighnigh?  Bhuel, tá an díospóireacht “suas” libhse.  SGF, Róislín

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  1. Mise Áine:

    @ An-spraoi agus spórt iad a chur le chéile agus ciall a bhaint astu

    Sea, go deimhin!

    @ Cé agaibh is gaiste (nó ‘tapúla’)?

    Muidne, gan dabht ar bith..;-)

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Tá áthas orm go n-aontaíonn tú leis sin. An-spórt a bheith ag plé na gramadaí!
      Maidir le gastacht is tapúlacht, sin is é vóta Áine an chéad vóta. GRMA, a Áine. Cad (céard / cad é / goidé) a shíleann na daoine eile ar an liosta seo?

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