Gaelic phrases in Seaboard English

I’ve been looking at the Seaboard use of individual Gaelic words when speaking English in different contexts up to now – fishing, describing people, and there are plenty more of these to come. But there are also a lot of complete Gaelic phrases and expressions that have been used within living memory, and even today – conversational exchanges, exclamations, commands etc.  Quite a number of Seaboard folk have contributed to this particular list, some anonymously – mòran taing, as usual!

I’ll write the Gaelic first in this case, then the meaning, and then the Seaboard pronunciations I’ve been given or heard myself, which are often compressed, and clearly local variations.

Questions and answers

Ciamar a tha thu? How are you? Kimmer a ha oo?

Ciamar a tha sibh? How are you? (polite or plural form) Kimmer a ha shoo/shio?

Tha gu math – fine.  Ha gih ma

Tha gu brèagha – great, lovely. Ha gih bree-a

Chan eil ach meadhanach – only middling.  Han yell ach may-nach

Tha mi sgìth – I’m tired.  Ha mi skee

Tha mi marbh – I’m dead (e.g. exhausted after lifting taties) Ha mi mar-oo

Tha mi fann – I’m feeling feeble.  Ha mi fyoun

Tha creath-fuachd orm – I’m shivering with the cold (“There’s a shiver of cold on me”)  Ha creh-foo-achk orrum..

Cò tha ann? Who’s there? (“Who’s in it?”)   Co ha oun?

Am beil thu staigh? Are you in/inside? Am bil oo sty? (Said when a fisherman was knocking on the window of a crew-mate’s house in the morning, to make sure he was up)

Càite bheil X? Where’s X? Caatcha vil X?

Dè an uair a th’ ann?  What’s the time? (“What’s the hour that’s in it?”) Jay an oo-ar a houn?

Gu dè tha siud? What’s that? Kih-day a shoot?

Chan eil fhios agams’.  I don’t know. (“There’s no knowledge at me.”) Han yell iss a-mus.

Exclamations and commands

O Thighearn’! Oh Lord, Good God, Oh my God – seen as very strong, rather blasphemous.  O hi-urn!

Thighearn’ fhèin! Even stronger – Oh Lord yourself!  Hi-urn hayn!

O Thì! Oh dear! (literally Oh Jesus, but for some reason not as frowned upon as O Thighearn’).  O hi!

Mo thruaghan mise! Woe is me!  Mo roo-an meesh!

Smaoinich! Just think! Imagine! Smih-neech

Coimhead air a sin!  Look at that!  Ket er a sheen!

An seall thu air/e! Will you look at it/him/that!  (An) sholl oo a!

Greas ort! Get a move on! (“Hurry on you!”)  Gress orsht!

Dèan suidhe! Sit down, take a seat! Jen soo-ie

Cuir stad air! Stop that! Coor stat er!  (My grandfather would say that to misbehaving children)

Cuir dheth e ! Turn it off!  Coor yeh eh!  (My mother remembered a neighbour would shout it when the prized new radio, played in a house with several deaf people, was too loud for him)

Bi sàmhach! Be quiet!  Bi so-ach!  (very local pronunciation, instead of the more common saa-vach). “Dòmhnull Sàmhach” was an imaginary figure who came to send children to sleep, and here that was pronounced Dole So-ach.

Dùin an doras!  Shut the door!  Usually said without the “an” – Dooon doras!  Or one informant told me they remembered “Doon the doras!”

Fosgail an doras! Open the door! Again, usually said without the “an”. Fuskal doras!

Other Gaelic expressions

Ithidh an t-acras rud sam bith – hunger will eat anything, if you’re hungry you’ll not be choosy. Eek a dacaris root sa bi

Gu dearbh! Indeed!  Goo jerra!

Tha mi loisgt’.  I’m burnt, I’ve burnt myself.  Ha mi looshk.

Tha i coma co-dhiù. She’s easy going, couldn’t care less.  Ha i co-ma co-yoo.

Mas fhìor!  allegedly, “Aye right!” (expressing scepticism). Ma-sheer.  Also used as an adjective meaning superficial, not genuine: That’s all masheer! (just showing off),  or even fake:  That’s masheer jewellery.

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr! Happy New Year!  Blionna va oor!

Baile a‘ Chnuic. Hilton (“Town of the hill”). Balla-chrink

Seannduaig . Shandwick.  Shoun-dwik

Baile an Todhair. Balintore.  Bal an Dore (with Gaelic initial D, almost a TH)

And as usual, if you have any more, or variations on these listed, please get in touch, e.g. via the Hall. All gratefully received!