Monday, September 15, 2008

Insults in Irish!

From the Irish News, via, it figures, the Ulster-Irish on-line dictionary, for your delectation, use, and abuse. Why do Northerners seem to excel at these verbal jousts? Ar bhfuil sínteleach mé?
Slamfhocail gives a new meaning to the poetry slams beloved of coffeehouse denizens.

15ú Meán Fómhair 2008 (thanks to

The quintessentially native Irish art of calling people names

As regular readers of the Bluffer's Guide to Irish will know, the Bluffer is a mild-mannered individual, spreading sweetness and light wherever he goes.

However, he is a little prone to the odd bout of dí-mhúineadh - bad manners, droch-spin - bad mood or even buile bhóthair - road rage.

Luckily, the victims of the Bluffer's bad humour have no idea what he's saying as he is blessed with a vocabulary of invective in his native language that would be hard to better.

Irish maslaí - insults and mallachtaí - curses are much superior to those of Anglo-Saxon stock which all begin with the letter f, but we Gaels can insult people using the whole alphabet!

Unfortunately, there isn't enough space in this article for the whole alphabet, but here's a taster.

Breast thú
has nothing to do with the female anatomy, but is a contraction of beir as tu meaning clear off or words to that effect.

Most people know amadán is a fool, but we have many more word for fool and I'm indebted to Ciarán Mac Murchaidh's Focail na nUltach which can be downloaded from the internet for many of these. Many are words that have passed from every day speech, but the Bluffer will do his bit to see them return to popularity.

For instance, bimealóir is a lovely Donegal word for a fool.

is stupid person and the adjective is dobhránta.

is another word for a dunce but it also means a small man. (Irish can be size-ist just like any other language!)

So if a small, stupid man moves into your lane without indicating, you can call him a dundarlán!

Irish speakers don't like people who talk too much and there is a pile of words to do with the loquacious.

is a foolish talker and I like the word meigeadán for a talkative person because it comes from meigeadach which means the bleating of a goat!

Duine scártha is someone with a 'bad tongue' one given to slamfhocail - lewd or obscene words.

Ráscán is someone who speaks without thinking so duine ráscánta is someone who yaks on without thinking about the feelings of others.

Laziness is another characteristic that the Irish don't like. An Irish-speaking couch potato is an oxymoron.

However you can add tall and lanky and lazy together to get, em, a síntealach, a tall, lanky, lazy person of either gender while stollaire is a lazy man.

Ciafartán is another word I like. It means 'one who is bedraggled, wet and untidy, unkempt.'

Ciafartáin are a dying breed because we all go about in cars or taxis nowadays and men are allowed to carry umbrellas without their manhood being called into question so becoming bedraggled, wet and untidy is a rare occurance.

The Irish have long been praised for the sheer poetry of their oaths, curses and maledictions.

More - and worse - next week.

Cúpla focal

dí-mhúineadh (jee-woonoo) - bad manners

(drokh-spin)- bad mood

buile bhóthair (bwilye woher) - road rage

(maaslee) - insults

mallachtaí (maalakhtee) - curses

breast thú! (brest hoo) - clear off!

amadán (amadaan) - a fool

(bimalore) - a fool

(roe-raan) - stupid person

(dunderlaan) - a dunce

(glagera) - a foolish talker

(megadaan) - a talkative person

duine scártha (dinya scaarha) - a foul-mouthed person

(slaamuckle) - lewd or obscene words

(rascaan) - someone who speaks without thinking

(sheenchilakh) -a tall, lanky, lazy person

(stawlera) - a lazy man

(keefertaan) - a bedraggled, wet and untidy person

Irish News - Lthch:

Robert McMillen

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