Irish Language Blog

The Nuts and Bolts of, well, Boltaí agus Cnónna (agus Scriúnna agus Tairní, for good measure!) Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

In the last blog, about “cluasa” (ears)  I happened to mention the phrase “cluaisín scriú” (the wing of a screw), since it’s based on the word for ear.  “Cluaisín” [KLOO-ish-een] literally means “little ear.”  That got me thinking about how such items are made and categorized.  This blog will just be skimming the surface of an amazingly complex world out there of nuts, bolts, nails, screws and the like.  And it also sets one wondering — how did people fasten things before the days of mass manufacturing of such small metal products.  I’ve seen hand-forged nails but haven’t heard of anything like hand-forged nuts or bolts, etc.  And I’m sure that at one time in history, all such items had a greater value per piece than today.  Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations, even refers to an unnamed Scottish village where nails used to be used as currency.  At any rate, this blog will simply introduce some of the basics.

bolta, a bolt, and this can be used for a sliding-bolt, a rifle-bolt, and in general for mechanical engineering (but not for a bolt of lightning, which would be “splanc thintrí” or “plimp thintrí“)

scriúbholta [SHKROO-WOL-tuh, note the lenition of the “b”], a screw-bolt (I guess the meaning of that one was fairly self-evident!)

bolta cró, an eye-bolt, lit. a bolt of eye or socket or bore.  “Cró” can be used for the eye of a needle (cró snáthaide), but not ever, at least per my experience and research, for the “eye” we see with; it can also be used for the holder of an electric lightbulb (cró bolgáin).  In addition, “cró” can also mean “shanty” or, with various animals, their dwelling place, as in “cró muice” (pig-sty), cró madra (dog-kennel), or  “cró cearc” (hen-house).  What a word!

How about the “nut” part?   Well, cnó and behold (or could that be “cró” and behold?), it actually is “cnó,” the ordinary word for a “nut” as in “gallchnó” (walnut) or “cnó coill” (hazelnut).  That, of course, is one of the most intriguing and sometimes the most frustrating features of language learning — one can never really assume that a metaphoric usage in one language will translate well in other.  But sometimes they do.   For example, I was actually surprised to find out how many languages allow you to say your skill in something (like language proficiency) is “rusty.”  But it’s always good to check before assuming anything vocabulary-wise.

Diving back into the “ear” world, we have “cnónna cluasacha” (wing-nuts).  As for “wingnuts” personified, sin definitely “ábhar blag eile,” since this one already looks like it’s going to be fada go leor, if not rófhada.  A “wing-nut” can also be a “cnó eiteach,” using a word closer to “wing” (which can be “eiteog” as well as “sciathán“).

Not all nuts are square, though I believe most are.  We also have “cnónna heicseagánacha” (hex or hexagonal nuts), and I’m sure there are many other specific types.

So that takes care of the basics of nuts and bolts (saving such specifications as knurled, milled, self-locking, and clamping, and, omg, eventually a discussion of “washers”).  But before we end this blog, just a few more terms, and then, I’ll try to read One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw (by Witold Rybczynski) before proceeding further.  I actually have a copy somewhere in the house, waiting to be a birthday gift for my unsuspecting husband (Sis! [pronounced “shish,” that means “Shhh!” — at least, I’ve found it used in one well-translated children’s book, not really beyond that … yet!).  So here’s just the tip of the iceberg for a few more terms: .

scriú, screw (bet you already figured that one out)

scriúire, a screwdriver

tairne, a nail (not on the hand or foot, that’s an “ionga“)

casúr, a hammer; a “large” hammer being an “ord

And since I went and brought the subject up:

leicneán, a washer (it can also mean a “wedge,” though that, i mo thaithí féin, is more typically a “ding“)

Bhuel, not sure whether I managed to hit the nail on the head for this topic, or to get anywhere near the brass tacks, but buailte nó a mhalairt, tacóidí práis nó gan iad, sin é don bhlag seo.  SGF, Róislín

Iarsmaoineamh re: fuaimniú “cró” agus “cnó”: Come to think of it, if we have the n/r variation in pronunciation with words like “cnoc” [knok OR krok], mná [mnaw OR mraw], and the Luimneach/Limerick situation, it seems we might have some confusing situations with “cnónna” [nuts] and “cróite” [sockets, etc.]  At least the plural endings would be different, to help differentiate the sound.  But normally, I’ve never really found myself discussing a “cnó” and a “cró” in the same context, so there’s never been a problem.

Iarsmaoineamh eile: suim agat sa leabhar faoi scriúirí? Seo nasc:

Iarsmaoineamh deireanach re: ord na bhfocal sa bhfrása “nuts and bolts”: in English the word order is almost always “nuts” first, then “bolts.”  In Irish, in the limited examples I can find of the phrase, the two possible word orders are about neck in neck, with “cnónna agus boltaí” (like English) somewhat in the lead.  I’ve been trying to pinpoint why “boltaí agus cnónna” (bolts and nuts) sounds more natural to me in Irish.  Innealtóirí?  Saoir?  Cad a deir sibhse?

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