Proverbial Sayings

Ní·airciu a n-áthu la linni.

Ní·airciu a n-áthu la linni.

(I cannot see * their * fords * with * pools)

I can't tell the ford from the deep water.

In the Táin, Cú Chulainn meets Lóch in single combat in a river ford, as was the usual practice. This time, however, the Morrígan also joins in attacking him, in the successive forms of an eel, a wolf, and a hornless heifer leading a herd of cattle that churn up the riverbed. Cú exclaims (in the YBL and LU versions) that he can no longer be sure of his footing, using what appears to be a proverbial expression for confusion.

Is cenn daim for dartaid.

Is cenn daim for dartaid.

(is * head * of ox * on * calf)

It's like a calf with the head of an ox.

This expression is found in O'Mulconry's Glossary, along with the paraphrase "mórpersan for becphobul" = "a great personage over a paltry people". The image expresses the incongruity of having an eminent individual at the head of a petty endeavour.

Is loimm for sáith súan i fat.

Is loimm for sáith súan i fat.

(is * mouthful * on * surfeit * sleeping * in * length)

Sleeping too long is like having one drink too many.

Too much sleep can leave you with a hangover.

A proverbial saying incorporated into a poem that Emer recites to Cú Chulainn in "Serglige Con Culainn", when he won't get out of bed.

Cáid cach ceól co cruit.

Cáid cach ceól co cruit.

(noble * every * music * until * harp)

All music falls short of the harp in refinement.

This, from a section of misceallaneous sayings in "Tecosca Cormaic", highlights the high status of the harp as the instrument of the nobility.

Gar cían co·tías for cel.

Gar cían co·tías for cel.

(short * long * until * I may go * on * dissolution)

Sooner or later we die.

A set phrase, quoted in "Sanas Cormaic" #283.

Do·rónus cintecal de!

Do·rónus cintecal de!

(I have made * felt * of it)

I've made a mess of it!

"Sanas Cormaic" (#239) gives this proverbial phrase as an example of the use of the word "cintecal" ("ceinticul" in DIL), a borrowing from Welsh into Old Irish that apparently means "matted wool, felt". Compare Modern Irish "Rinne mé praiseach de!" (literally, "I made a porridge of it!).

Ba robad do throich.

Ba robad do throich.

(it would be * warning * to * foredoomed man)

It would be a warning to a man doomed to die.

This is the first of a long litany of images of useless or impossible actions found in "Aislinge Meic Con Glinne".

Is cuinchid smera cen smúais.

Is cuinchid smera cen smúais.

(it is * asking for * marrow * without * (red) marrow)

It's like asking for marrow fat without marrow.
(It's like asking for chicken soup without chicken.)

Quoted by Stokes in his edition of "Amra Choluimb Chille" in RC.xx.436.x.

Is dobrán re miníascach...

Is dobrán re miníascach
seobacc re hénaib sléibe,
catt re lochaid, cú re muicc,
ben micc is máthair chéile.

(it is * otter * against * little fish /
hawk * against * birds * of mountain /
cat * against * mouse * dog * against * pig /
wife * of son * and * mother * in-law)

Like an otter with little fishes,
a hawk with mountain birds,
a cat with a mouse, a dog with a pig,
a son's wife and her mother-in-law!

A verse edited by Kuno Meyer in ZCP 6.268.

Máthair etha aig...

Máthair etha aig, athair saille snechta.

(mother * of grain * ice * father * of bacon * snow)

Ice is the mother of grain, snow is the father of bacon.

These lines come from a short passage of weather wisdom in "Tecosca Cormaic", §17. The word translated "bacon" can also mean salted meat in general.

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