Irishon the BBC
Chapter 7 of an online drama for learners of the Irish language (intermediate level) - 20 chapters. Written by Pól Ó Muirí. Additional resources in association with the Ultach Trust.
Fuarann grá go grod Love cools suddenly.
1. Some compound words
In previous scenes we have already seen drochrud and drochsheasamh, compounds of droch- and another word. Scene 7 has another example; drochmhúinte is a combination of droch- (= bad) and múinte, meaning ‘mannerly’ or ‘well-mannered’. Drochmhúinte then means ‘bad-mannered’.
Iarnród is a combination of a somewhat squashed version of iarann which means ‘iron’ and ród, which, conveniently enough, means ‘road’. Iarnród, then, means an iron road, or a railway track. The national railway company in the Republic of Ireland is known as Iarnród Éireann. In an earlier age, when the language movement was in the throes of inventing new words for everything, one of the new terms was gearrán iarainn. A gearrán is a kind of horse, literally a gelding, but used more generally for a nag or a hack, or, in some dialects, as a male horse rather than a mare (the joys of the multiple meanings of Irish words are all before you; at the moment they are just a pain in the neck). Anyway, gearrán iarainn is literally an iron horse, and if you have seen enough cowboy films you might expect it to mean a train, but you would be wrong. A gearrán iarainn was, in fact, intended for that new fashion accessory – new in the 1890s, anyway – the bicycle. Fortunately, the term never caught on, the word rothar, from roth a wheel, taking its place. One will, of course, occasionally come across “mo bhicycle” (my bicycle).
Spásárthach = spaceship, is from spás = space, and árthach, a vessel. Ollscoil = university is from scoil a school, and the prefix oll-, meaning enormous. With margadh, a market, it becomes ollmhargadh, supermarket, with péist, a worm or serpent, it becomes ollphéist, a serpentine monster, and with toghchán, an election, it gives us olltoghchán, general election. Rather less usefully, it supplies terms like olltáirgeacht náisiúnta, gross national product, and ollsmachtachas, totalitarianism. Leabharlann is also a compound word, with -lann tacked on to the end of the word for a book (leabhar). It means a library. This suffix can be used to form other compounds:
saothar – work (or labour); saotharlann – laboratory
pláinéad – planet; pláinéadlann – planetarium
othar – patient; otharlann – hospital
uachtar – cream; uachtarlann - creamery
You can guess, therefore, that the suffix -lann involves a place in which the kind of activity implied by the main word is carried out.
2. Laughing and smiling
As you will no doubt now expect, there is no simple verb for ‘laugh’ or ‘smile’. The most common way to express both ideas is to use the verb déan and the noun gáire. However, the complication is that it is not always possible to distinguish between the two.
There are two sentences in Scene 7 with the word gáire: ‘Ná bí ag déanamh gáire and Rinne mé gáire. It is not possible to say with certainty whether the first one means, ‘Don’t laugh’ or ‘Don’t smile’, or whether the second one means ‘I laughed or ‘I smiled’.
Sometimes you can guess from the context. In the proverb, Trí rud contúirteach, crúb capaill, adharc bó, gáire an tSasanaigh, you will know for certain that the first two dangerous things are the hoof of a horse and the horn of a cow, and you would presume that the third dangerous thing is the smile, rather than the laugh, of an Englishman.
However, other ways of expressing either laugh or smile are rather more clear:
Lig sé racht gáire – He burst out laughing
Lig sé a sheanreacht gáire – Same as above only more so
Bhí miongháire ar a béal – she had a smile on her lips
Rinne sé meangadh beag gáire – He smiled faintly
Bhí aoibh an gháire air – He had a smile on his face
Rinne sí gáire liom – She smiled at me
Rinne sí gáire fúm – She laughed at me
Bhainfeadh sé gáire as cat – It would make a cat laugh
Ag seitgháire – sniggering
3. Some idioms
Tá mé mór le gach duine a éisteann liom – I am friendly with everyone who listens to me
This idiom has entered into Hiberno-English: ‘They were very great with each other’ means that they were friendly, and is a direct translation Tá siad an-mhór le chéile:
Bhí mé mór léi blianta ó shin – I was friendly with her years ago
Níl sé mór liom níos mó – He’s not friends with me now (with the sense of a falling out)
Bhain an méid a dúirt sí preab asam – What she said startled me (literally ‘took a jump out of me’)
The basic idiom here is another of those idioms which use a simple verb (bain), a noun (preab) and a preposition (as). Bhain sé preab asam means ‘It startled me’. There are a number of other ways of saying this, also using the verb bain:
Bhain sé cliseadh asam
Bhain sé geit asam
And there is another related idiom, Bhain sé siar asam with a slightly different nuance, which means ‘It took me aback’.
4. Liking and loving people
Tá mé doirte di – I am devoted to her (with a hint that there is a bit more to it than that)
There is a range of ways of liking people. Not all the terms used for liking things can be applied to people, but some of the phrases in Scene 6, which are directed at things, can also be used for people. The following are general statements and are fairly safe; that is, they are not likely to get you into trouble:
Is maith liom Séamus – I like Séamus
Tá dúil agam i Séamus – I like Séamus
A slightly stronger idiom, expressing a particular affection, is the following:
Tá cion agam ar Shéamus – I’m fond of Séamus
There is another word for love, dáimh which evokes an entire social philosophy. It implies love of family (the whole gamut of relations to the nth degree, including those you do not like), or natives of your own townland, or parish, or county, or country (whether or not you actually like them), or, indeed, love of a particular locality. The nearest English word to it is ‘affinity’, but the Irish term assumes that this affinity involves the social group into which you were born. Níl gaol nó dáimh agam leo – I am bound to them by ties of neither kinship nor affection. Is dona do dháimh – There is no fellow-feeling in you.
Beyond these phrases, you need to tread very carefully, as shades of meaning can vary, making them treacherous to the unwary or the ignorant. All of these phrases mean ‘I love you’ – use them with care and discretion:
Tá mo chroí istigh ionat
Tá gean agam ort
Thug mé gean duit
Tá mé doirte duit
Tá mé i ngrá leat
Thug mé grá duit
5. Proverbs about love
Fuarann grá go grod – Love cools suddenly
Folaíonn grá gráin, is feiceann fuath a lán – Loves conceals ugliness, and hate sees much
Grá agus tart, dhá ghalar gan náire – Love and thirst, two shameless ailments
Ní raibh grá mór riamh nó go dtiocfadh fuath ina dhiaidh – There was no great love that was not followed by hate
An áit a mbíonn an grá is gairid oíche is lá – Night and day are short where there is love
Bíonn an grá dall – Love is blind
Dá fhad ó amharc is ea is giorra don chroí – The farther from sight the nearer to the heart (The English equivalent is ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’)
Deireadh grá bua nó buairt – the end of love is success or dismay
Nuair a imíonn an t-ádh, imíonn an grá – When luck goes, love goes
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