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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 13°C
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The Irish For Cans, Tans and Summer Plans
Samhradh comes with a sense of disappointment, rarely delivering on its promises of sunshine and gaiety, writes Darach Ó Séaghdha.

This is the latest dispatch from our columnist Darach Ó Séaghdha, author of the award-winning and bestselling Motherfoclóir. Every Sunday morning, Darach will be regaling (re-Gaeling?) us with insights on what the Irish language says about Ireland, our society, our past and our present. Enjoy.

LIKE AN OLD friend who you don’t really feel like seeing at the moment, June has arrived and brought with it the peculiar beast that is summertime in Ireland.

Samhradh comes with a sense of disappointment, rarely delivering on its promises of sunshine and gaiety.

It’s bad enough that it rains when you make any outdoor plans but the vinegar in the wound is surely the plethora of Dad jokes about the weather, like “that’s summer over so” anytime a cloud passes. 

June brings the Leaving Cert examinations and for too many people, it is their farewell to the Irish language.

That was certainly how I felt when my own time came, but as more summers passed I realised that I had missed out on something special by dismissing it.

Years later when I made an effort to return to Irish, I was surprised by how much I remembered.

For hundreds of younger teenagers, June will mark their first visit to Irish college at the Gaeltacht and their introduction to a world of céilís and craic under the watchful eye of the bean an tí.

I’m sure it’s changed a fair bit since I went in the 1990s (there was ne’er a fón póca then) but in more important ways, I’m sure it hasn’t changed at all as deagóirí slowly gain confidence in using the teanga – both in speaking Irish and in getting the shift.

On that note, here are some words from Irish to help you describe summertime better.

Brothallach – this fine word describes hot, sultry weather. It is best known from the primary school homework opening sentence “lá breá brothallach a bhí ann”.

Uachtar – there are three creams to watch out for: uachtar reoite (ice cream), uachtar gréine (sun cream) and uachtar iarghréine (aftersun cream).

The prefix ‘iar’ means ‘ex’, ‘post’ or ‘after’ but can also mean westerly.

There are some people who think uachtar iarghréine is a scam and all you really need is an aloe vera plant.

This notiony cactus is an t-aló íceach in Irish, which literally means healing aloe.

Bruithleachán – this is a person who is inclined to get very sweaty when it’s a bit warm.

Feis Cheoil – this is the Irish for a music festival, but as it is also the name of a particularly well-known music festival. You might find it misleading to use this term to refer to Electric Picnic (an Phicnic Leictreach) or Burning Man (Fear Lasartha).

The first-ever Google Doodle saluted the Burning Man festival; the initial intent of those illustrations in the early days of that company was to indicate that Larry and Sergei were out of office for the day.  

Leadóg – summer means Wimbledon and the Irish for tennis is leadóg. This one is easy to remember if you played tennis as a young lad: lad-óg.

That’s not the etymology, though – leadóg also means a smack, blow or strike.

Griandaite – suntanned. The dangers of the sun will not stop some people trying to get a tan this year. However, a tan can cause all sorts of problems.

You could also describe someone as buí le grian (literally, yellow from the sun), distinct from a Fear Buí, which is the Irish for an Orangeman.

Personally, I’d rather cans than tans.

Mála Mór Cannaí – finally, this is the Irish for a big bag of cans.

Don’t forget to recycle!

Darach’s new book Craic Baby is the follow-up to his acclaimed Motherfoclóir and is out now under the Head of Zeus imprint.

He runs @theirishfor Twitter account and the @motherfocloir podcast.

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