Proverbial Sayings

Is gnáth lassar hi tiarmoracht diad.

Is gnáth lassar hi tiarmoracht diad.

(is * usual * flame * in * accompaniment * of smoke)

Where there's smoke there's fire.

This is found in the Milan Glosses (40c1), where it paraphrases "proprium fumi est ut ignem nuntiat secuturum". A modern version of the old saying, which Robert MacAdam collected in East Ulster in the 19th century, runs:

"Cha dual toit gan teine 's cha dual teine gan daoine."
It's unusual to have smoke without fire and it's unusual to have fire without people.

Is fo-chen aged fecheman.

Is fo-chen aged fecheman.

(is * welcome * face * of debtor)

The face of a debtor is welcome.

Said by Conall Cernach in "Brislech Mór Maige Murthemni" to the fleeing Lugaid, whom he has just caught up with. The debt that is owed is blood, for Lugaid has slain Cú Chulainn, and Conall Cernach expects to collect on it at once.

La firu ferdacht...

La firu ferdacht. La mná mifre.

(with * men * manliness / with * women * despondency)

Men are meant to be manly. Women are meant to be sad.

So says Cú Chulainn in "Brislech Mór Maige Murthemni". This sentiment was echoed in the refrain of a nineteenth century poem, "The Three Fishers", by Charles Kingsley:

"For men must work and women must weep,
And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep."

Is dorn imm diaid tor mbríathar.

Is dorn imm diaid tor mbríathar.

(is * fist * around * smoke * a multitude * of words)

A multitude of words is a fistful of smoke.

This image of being left empty handed is a venerable proverb.

Ba moch canait a séire.

Ba moch canait a séire.

(was * early * (that) they chant * their * meal)

They have praised their meal before it was served. (They have counted their chickens before they were hatched.)

A proverbial saying found in the Book of Leinster.

Ní eter licc ocus losait rom-alt-sa!

Ní eter licc ocus losait rom-alt-sa!

(not * between * slab * and * kneading trough * has me been reared - emphatic)

I was not raised between the kneading slab and the kneading trough!

Cú Chulainn uses this and other proverbial expressions in "Tochmarc Emere" to assert that he was not brought up as a kitchen serf, but rather in the company of poets and warriors.

Cuit in tslóig...

Cuit in tslóig, is é a shamail,
ní berbthar é ar óengabail.

(ration * of the * army * is * it * its *
simile / not * is cooked * it * on * one fork)

Food for an army, as the saying goes, is not cooked on a single skewer.

This rhyming half-quatrain is part of Cú Chulainn's poetic lament, found in the LL version of the "Táin", on bearing all alone the burden of defending all of Ulster. See also Ní lassamain... and Noco modmar...

Is mucc remi·tuit mess.

Is mucc remi·tuit mess.

(is * a pig * that falls before * acorn crop)

He is a pig that dies before the acorns fall.

In other words, "he has died a premature death." In early Ireland pigs were expected to feast and grow fat on mast (fallen nuts of forest trees, mostly hazel nuts and acorns) in early autumn. A pig that does not survive until the mast fall dies before its time. This line comes from the tale "Togail Bruidne Da Derga", where Fer Rogain speaks it of the doomed king, Conaire.

The expression is also found in the Annals of the Four Masters (M1155.6) in regard to the death of Maol Seachlainn, and is reinforced by another similar expression:

As muc rémhi-téth mes, as craobh riana bláth écc ind fhir h-isin. (... and a branch before its blossoming the death of that man).

Ceilid serc ainmi ocus olc.

Ceilid serc ainmi ocus olc.

(hides * love * blemishes * and * ill)

Love conceals blemishes and bad character. Love is blind.

A proverb from the poem "Diambad messe bad rí réil". The Modern Irish version is "Folaíonn grá gráin." A 16th century poem, quoted in "A Miscellany" (p. 22) gives as a proverb "Ní breitheamh comhthrom an grádh" (Love is not an impartial judge).

I n-óenchorp at·tá side.

I n-óenchorp at·tá side.

(in * in body * is * that one)

He's only mortal. (literally, "He's in one body.")

Queen Medb says this of her adversary Cú Chulainn in the Book of the Dun Cow version of the "Táin" (LU 4849). She goes on to say "He can be wounded or even captured."

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