Proverbial Sayings

Nít lia Lagin rúni.

Nít lia Lagin rúni.

(they are not * more numerous * Leinstermen * than secrets)

There are as many secrets as there are Leinstermen. The secrets of the Leinstermen are as numerous as they are.

This is a proverbial saying imbedded in the tale "Orgain Denna Ríg". Its true origin is a bit mysterious, but it is interesting that versions of this formula have persisted down to the present day in Irish:

Ní lia duine ná barúil. = There are as many opinions as there are people. So many men, so many minds.

Ní lia tír ná nós. = There are as many customs as countries.

But then, the Roman comic playwright Terence wrote "Quot homines tot sententiae" (There are as many opinions as there are people) more than two thousand years ago!

Ní lassamain cech n-óenchrand.

Ní lassamain cech n-óenchrand.

(not * inflammable * each * one log)

A single log does not catch fire.

This is one of a series of images, found in a poem in the LL Táin, that Cú Chulainn, weary and dejected, uses to lament the strain of carrying on the fight against the invaders single-handed. The image of trying to light a fire with just one log as a metaphor for the difficulty of trying to go it alone in the world is found eslewhere in the literature. Suibne Geilt says that living without a wife is like rowing a boat with one oar (see "Tigedhus do bheith gan mnaoi"). He ends the quatrain by comparing his condition to "adúdh re hénoires" (= igniting a fire with one faggot).

See also in this collection: "Noco modmar..." and "Cuit in tslóig..."

Ba cloch i n-inad uigi sin.

Ba cloch i n-inad uigi sin.

(was * stone * in * place * of egg * that)

That was a stone in place of an egg.

A proverbial expression for a bad exchange, found the Book of Fenagh, the Annals of Connacht, and elsewhere. DIL quotes, s.v. "sop", an extended version from "Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh" where it refers to the quality of a person: "nir bo cloch in inad ugi sen 7 nir bo sop in inad largi" (that was not a stone instead of an egg or a whisp instead of a stout stick).

Ad-cota brothchán bithnert.

Ad-cota brothchán bithnert.

(obtains * porridge * lasting-strength)

Porridge provides lasting strength.

A three-word maxim from "Bríathra Flainn Fína maicc Ossu".

Fó biad inso...

Fó biad inso má ro-saig a broth an ro-saig a blas.

(good * food * this * if * reaches * its * broth * that which * reaches * its * flavor)

This is good food if its broth equals its taste (i.e. if it's as good as it smells).

A proverbial expression spoken by the Dagda in "Cath Maige Tuired".

Mani má in talam fue!

Mani má in talam fue!

(if not * break * the * earth * under it(self))

Unless the earth breaks asunder!

Thus Gér, Gabar and Fer Rogain assure Ingcél that the deed will surely be done, in "Togail Bruidne Da Derga".

Similar expressions are found elsewhere in Irish literature. In the LL Táin, Conchobar says that he will certainly bring back the stolen cattle and the abducted women "munu tháeth in firmimint cona frossaib rétland bar dunadgnúis in talman ná mono máe in talam assa thalamchumscugud ná mono thí inn fhairge eithrech ochorgorm for tulmoing in bethad" (unless the sky with its showers of stars comes down on the surface of the earth, or unless the earth breaks from an earthquake, or unless the fish-finny, blue-bordered sea come over the surface of life).

In the later tale "Cath Maige Léna", a warrior tells his king "Is briathar dúinne, nó go sluigi an talam síss sinn, nó go tuiti an fhirmaimint anuass oraind, nach béram oired ordlaig tar ar n-ais nó céim ar cúlaib 'gut chosnam-sa!" (It is our word that unless the earth swallow us, or unless the sky fall down upon us, we will not give as much as an inch, or take one step back in defending you!)

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