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 Post subject: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Tue 11 Oct 2011 9:37 pm 
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I'm subscribed to Talk Irish's word-a-day and received today damhán alla, spider. I was curious about the breakdown of this little nominal phrase, so I started searching Ó Dónaill's FGB.

damhán, 1. Small ox.
2. Ent: ~ alla, spider
~ uisce, water spider.

So I checked out alla.

alla¹ = m. Shout.
alla² = ALLTA
alla³ : DAMHÁN 2, RUÁN¹ 4.

"Wild little ox" doesn't make much sense to me, so I go to ruán for sh*ts and giggles.

Ruán 4 = Ich: Rudd. A fish, which confuses the hell out of me, but I see under 6: ~ alla = damhán alla : DAMHÁN 2.

Maybe plain old damhán is simply "spider", with the alla tacked on for some sort of emphasis? I've had a long day at work and my head's spinning with my trip around the FGB. Any natives out there have a literal translation for this poor soul?

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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Tue 11 Oct 2011 10:05 pm 
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What all that means is this:

1. The word alla doesn’t really mean anything on its own. It’s a kind of cranberry morpheme (though it’s a full word, not a morpheme) that only has meaning when attached to another word, which it then narrows down.

2. Damhán means ‘little ox’ transparently: it’s a diminutive of damh ‘ox’. It also has an entomological meaning that somehow deals with spiders, though it doesn’t really mean any specific insect on its own.

3. Ruán is a kind of fish that, for whatever reason, can also, when coupled with alla, be used to refer to a spider.

A possible (though hypothetical—I don’t know the actual history of these words, so I’m guessin) scenario of how it could have evolved:

It’s quite likely that alla is an old word that means ‘spider’, but which has lost its original meaning. At some point, very likely compound names were formed: an ‘ox spider’, a ‘water spider’, and a ‘rudd spider’. At some point, alla ceased to simply mean ‘spider’, and the most common of these words, the ‘ox spider’, came to be used generically for all spiders, so the ‘ox’ bit came to mean just ‘spider’. And voilà, you have the silly hodgepodge of words and forms that are used today. :)

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Not a native speaker.

Always wait for at least three people to agree on a translation, especially if it’s for something permanent.

My translations are usually GU (Ulster Irish), unless CO (Standard Orthography) is requested.


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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 12:03 am 
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Not to wreck a good theory there, kk, but damh alla means a "stag", and appears not to have anything to do with spiders.

:rolleyes: OR - perhaps it backs it up in a slightly altered way: alla meant "spikey" and so the damh alla is "a spikey ox" (think of the antlers). And a damhán alla is "a little stag". But damh also means "a strong person" so a damhán is "a strong little bugger" and damhán alla is "a spikey strong little bugger". And a ruán is "a little red thing" so ruán alla is a "a spikey little red bugger". None of which, or course, tells us why buggery has nothing to do with insects or your oxter has nothing to do with castrated bulls ( :rolleyes: though I could easily be convinced that it means "place that smells like a bull" after a day of hard work in the fields - and I would also then say I was "nackered.). :winkgrin:

Ain't languages fun! :LOL:

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WARNING: Intermediate speaker - await further opinions, corrections and adjustments before acting on my advice.
My "specialty" is Connemara Irish, particularly Cois Fhairrge dialect.
Is fearr Gaeilge ḃriste ná Béarla cliste, cinnte, aċ i ḃfad níos fearr aríst í Gaeilge ḃinn ḃeo na nGaeltaċtaí.
Gaeilge Chonnacht (GC), go háraid Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge (GCF), agus Gaeilge an Chaighdeáin Oifigiúil (CO).


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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 12:08 am 
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Spikey spiders :S We have very plain ones in Ireland Breandán :D

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It is recommended that you always wait for three to agree on a translation.
I speak Connemara Irish, and my input will often reflect that.
I will do an mp3 file on request for short translations.

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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 12:42 am 
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Bríd Mhór wrote:
Spikey spiders :S We have very plain ones in Ireland Breandán :D

That was a joke, a Bhríd. ;) I thought you would have noticed. :mrgreen:

There are some words that just can no longer be analysed because the original meanings have changed or been lost to antiquity.

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WARNING: Intermediate speaker - await further opinions, corrections and adjustments before acting on my advice.
My "specialty" is Connemara Irish, particularly Cois Fhairrge dialect.
Is fearr Gaeilge ḃriste ná Béarla cliste, cinnte, aċ i ḃfad níos fearr aríst í Gaeilge ḃinn ḃeo na nGaeltaċtaí.
Gaeilge Chonnacht (GC), go háraid Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge (GCF), agus Gaeilge an Chaighdeáin Oifigiúil (CO).


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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 12:56 am 
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Breandán wrote:
Bríd Mhór wrote:
Spikey spiders :S We have very plain ones in Ireland Breandán :D

That was a joke, a Bhríd. ;) I thought you would have noticed. :mrgreen:

There are some words that just can no longer be analysed because the original meanings have changed or been lost to antiquity.


Ofcourse I knew it was a joke doh. LOL
Mine was too.

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It is recommended that you always wait for three to agree on a translation.
I speak Connemara Irish, and my input will often reflect that.
I will do an mp3 file on request for short translations.

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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 1:27 am 
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Bríd Mhór wrote:
Breandán wrote:
Bríd Mhór wrote:
Spikey spiders :S We have very plain ones in Ireland Breandán :D

That was a joke, a Bhríd. ;) I thought you would have noticed. :mrgreen:

There are some words that just can no longer be analysed because the original meanings have changed or been lost to antiquity.


Ofcourse I knew it was a joke doh. LOL
Mine was too.

Yep. :wave:

Actually, by "spikey" I was thinking more of how the legs themselves look compared to other insects.

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WARNING: Intermediate speaker - await further opinions, corrections and adjustments before acting on my advice.
My "specialty" is Connemara Irish, particularly Cois Fhairrge dialect.
Is fearr Gaeilge ḃriste ná Béarla cliste, cinnte, aċ i ḃfad níos fearr aríst í Gaeilge ḃinn ḃeo na nGaeltaċtaí.
Gaeilge Chonnacht (GC), go háraid Gaeilge Chois Fhairrge (GCF), agus Gaeilge an Chaighdeáin Oifigiúil (CO).


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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 2:45 am 
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In Scottish Gaelic, damhan by itself can mean spider, although they also have a damhán alla equivalent, which can be written/pronounced as damhan-allaidh, damhan-alluidh, or damhan-eallaich, all derived from the Old Irish damán n-allaid, according to MacBain's etymological dictionary of Scottish Gaelic.

FGB has a cross-reference form alla to allta, an adjective meaning "wild", and that fits with the Scottish Gaelic meaning. MacBain says that the Old Irish allaid meant "foreign, barbarous, fierce". He also says that damhan comes from the Old Irish dam, meaning an ox or stag, but points out that the Indo-European root of dam lead to names for a number of other kinds of creatures in various languages (and is even related etymologically to English words such as "tame" and "domestic"), so in a sense damhán alla might be seen as something like "fierce [little] creature", which can make sense for a spider..

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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 8:22 am 
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The root in damh (and ‘tame’ and ‘domesticated’, not to mention ‘despot’ and ‘timber’) originally meant ‘home’ in the Indo-European proto-language (a meaning still found in the Slavic languages where a home is often called something like dom), and it was used as the base of domesticated animal names in many of the daughter languages (the ‘home animals’, so to speak).

So I guess MacBain is right here: a spider really is just a ‘little wild deer’, or a ‘wild rudd’ … for whatever reason the Irish thought that was a logical name to give to it …

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Always wait for at least three people to agree on a translation, especially if it’s for something permanent.

My translations are usually GU (Ulster Irish), unless CO (Standard Orthography) is requested.


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 Post subject: Re: Puzzled by words
PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct 2011 12:17 pm 
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Quote:
"Wild little ox" doesn't make much sense to me, so I go to ruán for sh*ts and giggles.


In languages, you often use mammals' names, plus some qualifyer (adjective etc) to make insect names. In Breton, a grasshopper is "jao-lann", a gorse-horse, a woodloose is "moc'hig", a small pig, etc...

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