Irish Language Blog

Who Nests on the Berm, above the Wrack Line?: The Irish for ‘Sea Turtle’ Posted by on Jul 31, 2019 in Irish Language

(le Róislín)

graphic: A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nesting on the berm section of the beach, beyond can be seen plant debris in the wrack line, (per’s_Ridley_sea_turtle_nesting.JPG ); public domain; téacs Gaeilge le Roislin, 2019


In the last blog, we looked at some terms for the four main sections of a beach (crios slaparnaí, urthrá, líne raice, agus beirm).  Today we’ll look one resident of such terrain, the sea turtle, and then some general related testudinological vocabulary

turtle: turtar, an turtar, na turtair, the turtle(s)

sea turtle: turtar mara, an turtar mara, na turtair mhara, the sea turtle(s).  “Mara” comes from “muir” meaning “sea” in Irish and is a nice cognate to words for “sea” in various other Indo-European languages (Latin: mare, Welsh, môr, French: mer, etc.)

Now I haven’t been able to find a specific Irish-language reference to “Kemp’s ridley sea turtle” (Lepidochelys kempii) as shown in the picture above, but I would imagine it would translate to “turtar mara ridley Kemp,” losing the ” ‘s ” since that doesn’t show possession in Irish.  The “ridley” part seems to mostly be written in lower case and I haven’t found a clear explanation of it, although it looks like a person’s name to me (so why lower case?).  “Kemp” is definitely a person’s name, from Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman who was the first to describe the species in Florida.

terrapin: tiripín, an tiripín, na tiripíní, the terrapin(s).  Confusingly, this can also just be called “turtar” in Irish.

tortoise: toirtís, an toirtís, na toirtísí, the tortoise(s)

And by the way, I think I had some misconceptions about these animals as a child.  As I understand it now,  “turtles” (turtair) live mostly in water and have noticeably webbed feet.   “Terrapins” (tiripíní), a mostly North American word, being of Algonquin origin, live mostly where the water meets the land, be it brackish or fresh, and are a kind of in-between category.  “Tortoises” (toirtísí) is usually used for the land animal, with feet adapted for crawling on land.

It still seems a bit strange to me because I think I’ve only seen “box turtles” well inland and not particularly near water, but I guess it’s just a question of where they wander.

And then there’s always the theoretical “mock turtle,” from which “mock turtle soup” is made.  Actual turtle soup is “anraith turtair” (lit. soup of turtle) and mock turtle soup is “bréaganraith turtair” (lit. fake/mock soup of turtle).  Mock turtle soup can be made from any of the following ingredients instead of turtle meat – there doesn’t seem to be an absolute decree:

calf’s head: ceann lao (with any horn part boiled until soft and then cut into small pieces)

calf’s foot: crúb lao; presumably it would take more than one “crúb” to make the “anraith,” so the ingredients (na comhábhair) would call for “crúba lao.”  The main other place I’ve encountered the phrase “crúb lao,” since I’m not really involved in “cúram cos ceathairchosach clóis,” is in the phrase “glóthach crúb lao,” which is _________ in English (freagra thíos), with “crúb” in the “tuiseal ginideach iolra.” Dóigh éigin, ní chuireann an téarma “glóthach crúb lao” faobhar ar mo o ghoile cé nach feoilséantóir (veigeatóir) iomlán mé.  An gcuireann sé faobhar ar do ghoile-se?

stewing beef: mairteoil stobhaigh

alligator: ailigéadar — hmm, this is sounding less and less “blasta” to me!!

Frankly, I’m not I’m not very interested in consuming turtle soup or mock turtle soup, whichever comhábhair it’s made from.

So, there we have turtle in general, sea turtle, terrapin, and tortoise, plus an intriguing foray into the makings of mock turtle soup.  Hope you enjoyed it and that you’ve had some good summer fun “ag an trá,” whether you’re in the crios/zón slaparnaí, the urthrá, the líne raice, or the beirm.  SGF — Róislín

Freagra: glóthach crúb lao, calves’ foot jelly, which I’ve only read about, but never eaten.  And last I read about it was ages ago — san útrscéal  Pollyanna, más cuimhin liom i gceart é.

Gluaisín: cúram, care; cos, foot, of feet; ceathairchosach, a quadruped, of quadrupeds; clóis, of a farmyard/enclosure, domestic (re: animals)

PS: Of course, with all the emphasis on and news about lab-grown meat, it puts the whole concept of “mock turtle soup” into a new perspective, doesn’t it?   So I guess “feoil shaothraithe” will be the subject of “an chéad bhlag eile.”

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