Irish language

We have many words in Irish for bad weather – and it's no wonder

LÁ FEANNTACH FUAR: This is mostly how people get through Christmas, not Bing Crosby’s white one but High Street cold and rain is the order of the day! 
Robert McMillen

Go mbeannaí Dia daoibh and welcome ye merry gentlemen and gentlewomen to the Bluffer’s Guide to Irish.

We’ll do our Christmas special next week but for now it’s time to look out the window and despair!

Gaeilgeoirí - Irish speakers like everyone else like to complain about an aimsir - the weather – and it’s a good conversation starter if you are stuck in the ardaitheoir - the lift with your Irish teacher.

Writing this on Saturday while getting psyched up for a Christmas do - pints of aperitif before dinner, wine with dinner (it’s the Mourne Seafood this year) and after-dinner drinks should take our collective minds of the fact that it is/was Baltic out there.

It’s bad Irish but you’ll get a smile if you say tá sé Baltach amuigh ansin - it is/was Baltic out there but there are any number of Irish words for cold weather.

I really like the phrase tá mé cónáilte leis an fhuacht - I am destroyed by the cold weather.

Lá fuar feadánta is a sharp cold day so lá fuar feadánta a bhí ann - it was a sharp, cold day while oíche rinneach is a cold, piercing night.

Bhí muid amuigh ag ól oíche rinneach - we were out drinking on a cold, piercing night.

Needless to say we avoided the plethora of rooftop bars that have become de rigeur in downtown Belfast. At times, you’d swear you were in New York.  In fact, it really reminds of the Triangle beside the Canal. (Sarcastically joking!)

Now if you want to impress your Irish-speaking friends, here are a few words that might have them looking quizzically at you.

You could drop bhí mé feannta ag an ruagán - I was skinned by the cold, sharp, dry breeze into the conversation or maybe suggest that lá stamhlaí a bhí ann inné - it was a cold and blustery day yesterday.

We have loads of words in Irish for bad weather and no wonder. Droch-aimsir is one of them. 

Doineann is another and it can be found in nice phrases such as tá doineann air - there is a storm brewing or néal doininne - a storm cloud. 

Síon is yet another word for bad weather and you’ll find it in lá na seacht síon, a very stormy day, literally, the day of seven storms!

Now, all this talk of cold weather got me thinking of what life was like before we had cars and central heating and Primark fleeces.

When people were taxed for having windows in their houses and had to live in the dark or go outside to get some light when it was particularly cold.

For instance, there is a very interesting article on climate in the Ulster Historical Foundation website. Here we find: “The seventeenth century had seen the culmination of the coldest weather cycle in a thousand years, and it has been calculated that for the decade 1690–99 the annual mean temperature in central England fell to just above 8°C.”

The weather in Ireland wouldn’t have been much different of course.

So while we might gurn about how cold it is outside in the 21st century, the evidence is that it has been much worse at a time when people didn’t have the mod-cons we take for granted today.

So its no wonder that there are more words in Irish describing bad weather than there are for good weather.

CÚPLA FOCAL

Gaeilgeoirí (gayligoree) - Irish speakers

an aimsir (un iymsher) - the weather

ardaitheoir (ardeehore) - the lift 

tá sé Baltach amuigh ansin (taa shay baltach amwee unshin) - it’s Baltic out there 

tá mé cónáilte leis an fhuacht (taa may cunaaltcha eg un ooakht) - I am destroyed by the cold weather

lá fuar feadánta a bhí ann (laa foor fadaanta ataa un) - it was a sharp, cold day 

bhí muid amuigh ag ól oíche rinneach (vee midge amwee eg awl eeha rinyakh) - we were out drinking on a cold, piercing night

bhí mé feannta ag an ruagán (vee may fanta eg un rooagaan) - I was skinned by the cold

lá stamhlaí a bhí ann inné (laa staowlee a vee un inyay) - it was a cold and blustery day yesterday

droch-aimsir (drokh-iymsher) - bad weather

doineann (dinyin) - bad weather

tá doineann air (ta dinyin er) - there is a storm brewing

néal doininne (nyayl dinyine) - a storm cloud

lá na seacht síon (laa ne shakht sheen) a very stormy day

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