Proverbial Sayings

Nítat tabarthai baí duit ar dartaib.

Nítat tabarthai baí duit ar dartaib.

(are not * to be given * cows * for you * in exchange for * yearling heifers)

You shouldn't trade in your cows for calves.

This is what the healer Fingin told the gravely wounded Cethern after examining him, in the Táin. "You shouldn't make any long-term investments, because you won't live to see them mature" is the sense of it. Fingin's blunt candor earned him a fist in the face from Cethern, who didn't think a physician had the right to deliver bad news.

Condrecat lochta ocus fulachta sund indiu.

Condrecat lochta ocus fulachta sund indiu.

(meet * faults * and * cooking pits * here * today)

Today has been a bloody shambles.

This is Medb's comment to Fergus on the outcome of the final battle in the Táin. The version given is from the YBL version, except that I've recplaced "correcad" with the better form of the verb found in the LL version, which is "Condrecat lochta ra fulachta and so indiu." The play of the sounds of the words "lochta" and "fulachta" marks this as a clichéd expression, but why "faults" should meet "outdoor cooking pits" to produce an image of battlefield carnage is no longer apparent.

Is teóir i n-éim!

Is teóir i n-éim!

(is * help * in * timeliness)

That's timely help! That was in the nick of time!

A commonplace expression, and Cú Chulainn's exclamation just after Fiacha mac Fir Aba has rescued him from the joint onslaught of twenty-nine warriors, in the LL Táin.

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".

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