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Metadata for text 60
No. words in text13287
Title Gnàthasan Càinnte Gàidhlig (Gaelic Idioms and Expressions)
Author (MacDonald)
Editor MacDonald, Duncan
Date Of Edition 1927
Date Of Language 1900-1949
Publisher Stornoway Gazette
Place Published Stornoway
Volume N/A
Location National Library of Scotland
Geographical Origins Lewis
Register Literature, Prose
Alternative Author Name Domhnullach, Donnachadh
Manuscript Or Edition Ed.
Size And Condition 21cm x 14cm
Short Title Gnàthasan Càinnte Gàidhlig
Reference Details NLS: 1973.187
Number Of Pages 32
Gaelic Text By N/A
Illustrator N/A
Social Context The idioms and expressions which are contained in this volume were collected by Duncan MacDonald, who was the Headmaster of Sandwickhill School in Stornoway and president of the Lewis branch of An Comann Gaidhealach. He states in the Roimh-radh (p. 1) that most of the idioms in this volume could still be heard regularly in Lewis at the time of publication. The collection was first made for ‘éisdeachd Comuinn Ghàidhealaich Leódhais’ but has now been put in print ‘airson feum na Féille’ (The 1927 Gaelic Rally organized by An Comunn Gaidhealach, see Text 61). MacDonald was born in Bernera, Lewis. In addition to Gnàthasan Càinnte, he also wrote plays. He died in 1938.
Contents This volume begins with a Roimh-radh (p. 1) by the editor (see Social Context above). The main body of the text is presented in six sections as follows:

General Idioms (pp. 2-22): This is the largest section in the book and it covers a wide range of idioms on various topics. Within this section, some verbally linked idioms have been placed together. For example we find ‘Tha bial bochd aig Iain an còmhnuidh’ followed by ‘Tha thu a’ cur bochdainn orm le do ghòraich’ (p. 13). Likewise, ‘Cha’n’eil bonn aige air an seas e’ and ‘Fhuair am balach bonn airgid aig bonn a’ ghàraidh’ (p. 18) have been placed together.

Idioms Connected with Seafaring Life (pp. 22-25): Three pages of idioms and expressions relating to the sea, fishing, and the weather, e.g. ‘Tha cùibhle mu ’n ghealaich, is fuaim mòr aig a’ mhuir’ (p. 25).

Idioms Connected with the Moor (p. 26-27): A page’s worth of idioms relating to ‘the moor’ and also to seasons and the weather, e.g. ‘Dreach an t-Sàmhraidh air a’ bhéinn: ’S fhada leam gu ’n teid mi innt!’ (p. 26).

Idioms Connected with Home Life and Occupation (pp. 27-30): Three pages of idioms and expressions relating to all aspects of home life, e.g. ‘Bha e ’dùsgadh chlach air son cur a mach air an tigh’ (p. 27) and ‘Bha Dòmhnull glé thínn leis a’ ghréim mhór’ (p. 28).

Idioms Connected with Courtship and Marriage (pp. 30-31): A page’s worth of idioms relating to courtship, such as ‘Fhuair Màiri fainne bho fhear d’ a deadhainn’ (p. 30) and ‘Ghabh Màiri pòsadh Iain thìce cho mòr ’s gu’n do chuir e gu làighe na leapa i’ (p. 30).

Idioms Connected with Religion (pp. 31-32): Two pages of idioms relating to various aspects of religion, e.g. ‘Bithidh sinn a’ gabhail na leabhraichean aig deich uairean’ (p. 31) and ‘Bha dùsgadh anns an sgìre ud an uiridh’ (p. 31).

No translations are given for any of the idioms.
Sources
Language This text brings together idioms and expressions in common use in Lewis during the 1920s. Its strength therefore lies not so much in breadth of vocabulary, as in the idiomatic applications of common words and phrases, particularly as these are said to play a central role in everyday Gaelic conversation in Lewis: MacDonald claims in the Roimh-radh that ‘Is gann a chuireas neach failte air neach eile gun a leithid so de chàinnt a chleachdadh’ (p. 1).

The section on General Idioms (pp. 2-22) contains a wide variety of expressions and idioms. For example we find ‘Tha cluas-chiùil mhath aig Dòmhnull’ (p. 3), ‘Rinn sinn cho direach ri urchair á gunna air an tigh’ (p. 3) and ‘Air do shlàinte Iain: b’ e mac-na-braiche fhein an siad’ (p. 8).

The section on Seafaring Life gives us examples of the type of language used by seafaring people rather than terms relating to parts of the boat or to the sea. For example, we find ‘Cha d’ fhuair sinn deàrgadh éisg air na lìn’ (p. 24) and ‘Cumaibh oirre fhearaibh, fhad ’s a tha ’m màrbh shruth ann: tha an ath thide-mhara air ar muin’ (p. 25).

The section on the Moor relates to all aspects of the moor, such as cattle, e.g. ‘Sud agad balach tapaidh a chaidh a thogail air math na bà’ (p. 26); the shieling, e.g. ‘’Lionadh beag is beag thogt’ an àirigh, agus b’e sud an làn-sùla’ (p. 26); and other types of buildings on the moor, e.g. ‘Tha tighean-Earraich air a’ mhointich aig muinntir Nis is Thòlastaidh’ (p. 26).

The section on Home Life gives us expressions and idioms relating to all other aspects of Island life, not mentioned in any other section. In particular, there are a number of expressions relating to the physical house, e.g. ‘’Nuair a thog e ’n tigh chuir e ’n ceann air’ (p. 27) and ‘Am bheil thu ’dol a chur tuilleadh àirde air an tigh a Dhòmhnuill? “Thige ’tha, thige ’tha” ars esan’ (p. 29).

The section on Courtship and Marriage gives us expressions used in courting such as ‘Cùl na còig riut: cha b’e do leithid a thigeadh orm!’ (p. 30), and phrases such as ‘gu’n robh e ’deanamh suas ri te-èile’ (p. 30).

In the section on Religion we find expressions relating to religious life in Lewis, such as ‘’S iomadh fear nach urrainn a mhiar no ’chorrag a chur air an latha no ’n uair aig an d’ thàinig an Ath-bhreith air’ (p. 31) and ‘B’e e-fein an gaisgeach a’ dol air cùl na Fìrinn’ (p. 31).
Orthography The orthography used is characteristic of that of the early-to-mid twentieth century. Both grave and accute accents are used throughout.
Edition First edition. An enlarged edition was published by An Comunn Gaidhealach, in Glasgow, in 1932. The new edition orders the idioms systematically by key-words rather than by subject matter (e.g. all idioms using latha are grouped together, as are those using aon). The new edition also has English translations of all idioms and expressions. It should be noted that some of the idioms in the first edition edition were left out or slightly changed in the second edition. For example, in the new edition we do not find ‘Cha’n’eil bonn aige air an seas e’ (p. 18 of this volume), either under bonn or elsewhere. ‘Fhuair am balach bonn airgid aig bonn a’ ghàraidh’ in the first edition (p. 18) becomes ‘Fhuair am balach bonn airgid aig bonn a’ bhalla’ in the second edition (p. 55). The second edition also has a list of ‘Uncommon Words’, marked by asterisks wherever they occur. These include Iaradh, meaning ‘stop, pause’, and Am muir a thìr, meaning ‘washed ashore by the sea’.
Other Sources
Further Reading MacDonald, Duncan Gaelic Idioms and Expressions with Free Translations,1932.
Thomson, Derick S. (ed.) The Companion to Gaelic Scotland, 1994.
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