Gàidhlig / English


Posted by Kate on Thursday 20th April
This week, I took the opportunity to look at the eileabanachd, or mischief-making. This word was recorded in various places on the Isle of Lewis. Dobailearachd is another word for it, as is ‘Bochdainn,’ meaning poverty. If someone had tricked you, you might hear the question: “Dè a’ bhochdainn a rug ort?”

The Fieldwork Archive tells us that eileabanachd might also mean tormenting or mocking. There are a variety of mocking descriptions of people in the Archive: cho grànnda ris a’ pheacadh, as ugly as sin; plosg de dhuine, or a big wobbly fat man. You might even be rather harsh and say: chan eil eanchainn circe aige,”he’s not even got a chicken’s brain to help him out!” Not everyone would be such an easy target however, as described by the following phrase: “tha cuid dhubhailcean ann aig am bheil aogas subhailc!” or, “some vices have the appearances of virtues.”

The Gaels have always been proficient in cursing. The poetry of James Macintyre is the good example of this. In Òran don Ollamh MacIain, the poet curses Dr Samuel Johnson, who toured the Highlands and wrote a disparaging report about the people he met. In the following verse, as translated:
“Amongst the fish you’re the purblind dogfish,
That snuffling monstrosity, the monkfish,
You’re the chicken from amidst the stench,
The badger with his nose three seasons in his arse…”
MacIntyre also refers to cursed trees in describing the man, specifically the elm, the alder and the aspen. In classical Gaelic poetry, people were often described in terms of blessed or cursed trees. This poem is rather brutal and I thoroughly recommend studying it in its entirety. If you plan on cursing someone soon, do make sure you utilise plenty of trees in your verse.
If you know of any ways of making mischief, or phrases connected to mockery, please get in touch below, or on Facebook or Twitter.
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