Irish Language Blog

Súgach go Deargmheisce: From “Tipsy” to “Dead-drunk” in Irish Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

From “súgach” to “ar deargmheisce,” the Irish language has numerous ways to indicate stages of intoxication.  This is, once again, just the tip of the vocabulary iceberg, but one has to start somewhere!  Here are some phrases to help get you ready for Lá Fhéile Pádraig (aka Lá ‘Éile Pádraig aka St. Patrick’s Day)

súgach [SOO-gukh], merry, tipsy

ar bogmheisce [err BOG-VESH-kyuh], tipsy, lit. on “soft-drunkenness.”  Note the lenition of “meisce” (drunkenness) after “bog-,” which here is used as a prefix.  The “mh-“ is pronounced like “v.”

ar meisce [err MESH-kyuh], drunk, lit. “on drunkenness.”  For this example, in fact for all the “meisce” examples here, note that there is no lenition after “ar” (on).  “Ar” typically causes lenition when discussing physical, material things (Tá hamstar ar bhosca, A hamster is on a box), but not for abstract topics (ar cíos, “on” rent; ar siúl, going on/happening, etc.).  That’s not to deny the material presence of “rent” in terms of the money or the paper statement, but it’s abstract in terms of physical tangibility.

caoch ar meisce [kaykh err MESH-kyuh], blind drunk, lit. blind on drunkenness; “caoch” (blind, one-eyed) is a nice cognate to the Latin “caecus” (blind) and the English “caecity,” but it’s not the most basic word for “blind” in Irish.  That would be “dall,” a form of which can also be used for drunkenness (dallta, dallta le meisce, dallta leis an ól).

ar deargmheisce [err DJAR-ug-VESH-kyuh], really drunk, mad drunk.  “Dearg” is a frequent intensifier for all purposes (deargnocht, stark-naked, etc.), so it’s no great surprise to find it used with “meisce” (drunkenness).  Remember the two points we discussed above: there is no lenition after “ar,” as with “ar meisce“ but there is lenition after “dearg-“ as a prefix, as with “bogmheisce” above, so the “m” changes to “mh.”

While the literal comparison, “as drunk as a lord” doesn’t traditionally exist in Irish, fad m’eolais, the following phrase is considered equivalent: ar stealladh na ngrást [err SHTAL-uh nungRAWST], lit. in a state of pouring out the graces (from “grásta,” grace)

And perhaps the ultimate state of drunkenness, inebriation, intoxication, tipsiness, crapulence (!), or whatever yer havin’ yerself, would be “gan féith ná comhaireamh a bheith agat,” dead drunk, very literally, “without a sinew (here understood as “sign of life”) or counting to be at you.”  To use that in a sentence, most likely you’d adjust the “a bheith agat” part to fit whatever structure you’re creating.  For example, “Ní raibh féith ná comhaireamh aige,” lit. “there was no sinew or counting at him.”  Hmm, I wonder if we could also use that to describe Spock (S3E1) in the “Inchinn Spock” episode.  Not that the Star Trek producers gave it the Irish title, just a little vocabulary nudge there.

There’s a lot more vocabulary where this came from.  This is just beagán réamhchleachtaidh [RAYV-HLAKH-tee], a little bit of warm-up (“pre-practice”), for the big day (17 Mí an Mhárta).  SGF, Róislín

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  1. Marcas:

    Oíche shúgach, maidin bhrónach!

    • róislín:

      @Marcas GRMA, a Mharcais, as scríobh isteach. Sin frása úsáideach. Agus sampla maith de shéimhiú freisin!

  2. siobhán ní luinneacháin:

    just wanted to add something; the phrase ‘maith go leor’ was used in west clare when i was growing up to refer to someone who was ‘well drunk’!! I love this irish phrase, but never hear it – I live in Dublin now, so perhaps it isnt used here to describe such a state!! oiche mhaith…

    • róislín:

      @siobhán ní luinneacháin GRMA, a Shiobhán, as an frása sin a sheoladh chugainn. Agus nach ortsa atá an t-ádh go raibh tú i do chónaí in iarthar Chláir nuair a bhí tú óg. Áit álainn!

  3. Mise Áine:

    ‘Caochta’ an focal a chuala mé féin, agus mé ag fás aníos, a Róislín, ach, go deimhin, tá ‘steamáilte’ cloiste agam, ó am go chéile, freisin!

    • róislín:

      @Mise Áine Go raibh maith agat as an dá cheann eile, a Áine. Dá mhéad is amhlaidh is fearr é, agus sa chás seo, déarfainn i ndáiríre, “dá mhéad (ólta) is amhlaidh is súgaí é,” a true case of “the more the merrier.”

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