Irish Language Blog

Toirtíní agus Díochlaontaí Posted by on Nov 24, 2011 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

‘Tis the season to be discussing milseoga of all sorts.  Starting with Halloween, at least in North America, the geataí tuile milseogra are opened and the tuile milseán starts.  (N.B.: milseog, dessert; milseán, a sweet, a piece of candy, here “of candy/sweets”; milseogra, confectionery, candy/sweets collectively).

In the United States, it seems to be séasúr na bpióg (the season of the pies), since they are so much in demand for a béile Lá AltaitheCén sórt?  We’ve recently discussed some of them – pióg úll, pióg phuimcín, pióg mhionra, and there are lots more – pióg mhónóg (b’fhéidir le gallchnónna), pióg rísíní, and I once even successfully pulled off a pióg chaora fíniúna Concord le crústa maisithe le duilleoga taosráin agus an t-iomlán glónraithe le buíocán (uibhe) agus mil.  And that, as I hope you realized, isn’t a pie made of “vine-sheep” (a non-existent concept even in my wildest imagination).  This “caora” is the plural of “caor” (berry) and it’s lenited (c becoming ch) here because the phrase is modifying pióg, which is a feminine noun.

If it were some kind of mutton pie, we would presumably at least have the grace to use the word “caoireoil” (mutton), not simply call it “caora” (sheep).  “Fíniúin” means “vine,” so “caora fíniúna is literally “wine-berries.”  Bhí an phióg sin blasta, but as for whether I will ever do all that work again, I will simply quote the seanfhocal, “Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir” (Time will tell, lit. time is a good storyteller, using “aimsir” for “time,” not the more common “am”).

In Ireland, ‘tis the season for pouring uisce beatha (or branda) into the císte Nollag and letting it age till ready to serve – you know when.  Any doubts about the recipe?  Just check with Mrs. Fogarty (one of many links for this song, this one with the Wolfe Tones:   Perhaps we’ll do more with various recipes and comhábhair for cístí Nollag closer to Christmas.  Suim agaibh ann?

As Christmas approaches, visions of all sorts of sweets and desserts dance in our heads – cístí Nollag, maróga Nollag, maróga rísíní (not really made of plumaí in the modern sense but the older sense of dried fruit, usually raisins), fíoracha sinséir (fir agus mná), brioscaí (go mór mór na cinn atá gearrtha amach le gearrthóirí brisoca i gcruthanna Nollag).  But for now, let’s look at another popular dessert, tartlets (toirtíní).

But wait, the same word, toirtíní, can also be used for tarts (toirtíní).  And there’s more!  “Toirtíní” is not just used for tarts and tartlets but also for tortes and flans.  For culinary connotation connoisseurs, though, there is another word in Irish for a “flan.”  Lo, and behold, it’s “flan” (plural: flain), borrowed into both English and Irish from what language?  That’s the …, hmm, let’s see, “preabquiz” an lae inniu.  Freagra thíos.

Why pick “toirtín” at this particular juncture?  Because it’s a masculine noun.  Not a very culinarily-based decision, ceart go leor, but simply to provide a contrast to “pióg,” which is a feminine noun.  After feminine nouns, we have the lenition issue, and after masculine nouns, we don’t, at least not for our purposes here.  An tuiseal ginideach and an tuiseal tabharthach i nGaeilge an Tuaiscirt, sin scéal eile, b’fhéidir do bhlag eile.

But we still need an tuiseal ginideach to describe the various fillings or flavors of these toirtíní.  That’s because we’re essentially saying “tart of apples,” “tart of gooseberries,” etc.  And since we’re dealing with the genitive case, we’re also, hey presto!, smack dab back in the middle of the declension system (córas na ndíochlaontaí), at least the first four of them.  So, here goes, giving the declension of the word for the filling, not for the toirtín itself:

1. An Chéad Díochlaonadh: toirtín úll

Samplaí eile:

toirtín spíonán, more than one gooseberry needed to make a tart, so genitive plural

toirtín duán, more than one kidney to make a kidney tartlet (I assume).  Don’t suppose this toirtín would ever be translated as a “flan”!

2. An Dara Díochlaonadh: toirtín seacláide

samplaí eile: toirtín biabhóige, toirtín líomóide, toirtín péitseoige, toirtín suibhe, and as for the “torte” (vs. tart), toirtín seacláide dúbailte (double chocolate torte).

All of these have the “-e” ending characteristic of 2nd declension nouns, to mean “of chocolate, of rhubarb, of lemon, of peach, of jam.”

3. An Tríú Díochlaonadh: toirtín with a 3rd-declension noun?  No real-world example comes to mind but to carry through with our examples from the previous blog:

toirtín feola (why not, if we can have kidney tarts) and toirtín muiceola

“Feoil” is the word for “meat” and “feola” means “of meat.”  “Muiceoil” was originally spelled “muicfheoil,” showing more clearly that it’s a compound word.

4. An Ceathrú Díochlaonadh: toirtín puimcín, hmm, well, can’t say I’ve ever seen a pumpkin tart as such, but the “personal-size” pumpkin pies sold in the U.S. around Halloween and Thanksgiving should qualify.

Cineálacha eile: toirtín silíní, toirtín torthaí

As you can see, if you compare all of the above to the “pióg” examples in the previous blog, the toirtíní do not require lenition of the first letter of the word for the filling, while the “pióga” do.  All because of grammatical gender and declension.  Toirtín, masculine.  Pióg (and cúróg, for that matter), feminine.  I shouldn’t overdo my clichés, I guess, but I’m tempted to say once again, “as easy (almost) as pie.”

Nóta breise: Amanna níl an focal “toirtín” sa bhfrása Béarla, mar shampla “toirtín Bakewell seacláide agus piorraí” (a chocolate and pear Bakewell, lit. Bakewell tart of chocolate and pears).  This probably has more to do with the English usage, where a “Bakewell” can be assumed to be a tart, than with Irish grammar per se.  But can “a Bakewell” also be assumed to be “a pudding” as well, since both Bakewell tarts and Bakewell puddings exist?  And don’t let the word “pudding” fool you here (go mór mór, a mhuintir Mheiriceá Thuaidh, who live where Bakewells aren’t typically sold and where puddings aren’t pastry), since a Bakewell Pudding is actually a kind of tart, in a puff pastry.  As for Christmas spirit(s), there’s also the “Cherry Bakewell” (amaretto, licéar silíní agus uachtar Bailey) but we’ll save the diúrnáin (na glincíní) for another blog.

So there you are now.  A tart for every declension.  Bhuel, maybe it would be more circumspect to say “a toirtín for every declension.” Back in the days of the “bata” in the classroom, who would ever have thought that Irish grammar could be chomh blasta, chomh sobhlasta, chomh neamúil (neam neam!)?  Hmm, does “neam neam” have a declension?  If so, we’ll be sure to talk about it in a future blog!  SGF, Róislín

Freagra don cheist faoin bhfocal “flan”: tagann sé ón bhFraincis.  And your man Flynn, who sells the flan pans, he’s “Flynn, the Flan Pan Man.”  If he sells shoddy flan pans, he’d be “Flynn, the Flim-Flam Flan Pan Man.”  And I guess he’d have to be from Flin Flon (Manitoba). “Flin Flon Flynn, The Flim-Flam Flan Pan Man” – bolgam siollaí ach cén dochar?  And yes, I do digress, but, hey, it’s the end of blag an lae inniu, so I’ll take a little spás lúbarnaíola.

Gluais: bolgam, mouthful; gallchnó, walnut; geataí tuile, flood gates; silín, cherry; tuile, flood; uachtar, cream

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