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 Post subject: Irish fruits idiom?
PostPosted: Wed 23 Aug 2017 1:49 am 
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Location: Baile Mhic Ghoilla Eoin, VA
I have just encountered this idiom:

blıɑın nɑ n-ɑırne blıɑın bhrónɑch
blıɑın nɑ sceɑchóırí blıɑın bhreɑ́


My translation:
a sloe year is sad
and a haw year is glad


Is there any deeper meaning to this?

I have never seen either a "sloe" or a "haw," nor ever heard these words until seeing them in the dictionary for airne and sceachóir. But I gather that they are different coloured berries that grow on shrubs in Ireland. Is the meaning of this apparent to anyone with experience with these fruits?

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 Post subject: Re: Irish fruits idiom?
PostPosted: Wed 23 Aug 2017 3:42 am 
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Cúmhaí wrote:
I have just encountered this idiom:

blıɑın nɑ n-ɑırne blıɑın bhrónɑch
blıɑın nɑ sceɑchóırí blıɑın bhreɑ́


My translation:
a sloe year is sad
and a haw year is glad


Is there any deeper meaning to this?

I have never seen either a "sloe" or a "haw," nor ever heard these words until seeing them in the dictionary for airne and sceachóir. But I gather that they are different coloured berries that grow on shrubs in Ireland. Is the meaning of this apparent to anyone with experience with these fruits?


I'd translate it more along these lines:

The year of the sloe is a sorrowful year
The year of the haws is fair year


If we're to assume the idiom refers only to the fruit, perhaps it relates to the relative bitterness of the sloe (used in flavouring gin, I believe), by comparison to the haw (used in making jams and jellies, among other things). So, a year which is plentiful in the production of the more bitter fruit is sorrowful, while one plentiful in the sweet fruit is fair. Maybe, in this context, sloe and haw can be understood as metaphors for bitter and sweet respectively; the year of the haw is a sweet year, the year of the sloe is a bitter year.

I think the terms sloe and haw can refer to the shrubs as well as simply their fruit. While the plural use of haw seems to suggest it is the fruit in question, at least in the case of the haw, it's possible that the idiom has nothing at all to do with the fruit.

An alternative translation, then, might be:

The year of the blackthorn is a sorrowful year
The year of the hawthorns is fair year

In this sense, it may have the sense that the weather in which the blackthorn thrives is not pleasant, while the weather in which the hawthorn thrives is good. Therefore, a year in which the blackthorn would grow well, or produce a lot of fruit may be cold and wet, while the opposite may be true of the hawthorn.

That would seem to be the base reasoning to me. If you're looking for a deeper meaning, I know there is a tradition of making walking canes from blackthorn trees. Perhaps the suggestion is that the years of a person's life in which they rely on the blackthorn (walking stick) are sorrowful when contrasted to youth. I'm afraid I can't suggest a link between the hawthorn and youth, however this website suggests that the hawthorn fruit has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries for its astringent properties, among others. This may suggest a kind of folk-medicine mentality which associates this fruit with youth, or youthful skin. Conversely, the page also points out that the wood of the hawthorn is also used to make walking canes, so ... :dhera:


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 Post subject: Re: Irish fruits idiom?
PostPosted: Mon 28 Aug 2017 3:46 am 
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Location: Baile Mhic Ghoilla Eoin, VA
Ade wrote:
I'd translate it more along these lines:

Oh I was just trying to rhyme. I hope you don't think that was my attempt at a literal translation haha

Ade wrote:
If we're to assume the idiom refers only to the fruit, perhaps it relates to the relative bitterness of the sloe (used in flavouring gin, I believe), by comparison to the haw (used in making jams and jellies, among other things). So, a year which is plentiful in the production of the more bitter fruit is sorrowful, while one plentiful in the sweet fruit is fair. Maybe, in this context, sloe and haw can be understood as metaphors for bitter and sweet respectively; the year of the haw is a sweet year, the year of the sloe is a bitter year.

I think the terms sloe and haw can refer to the shrubs as well as simply their fruit. While the plural use of haw seems to suggest it is the fruit in question, at least in the case of the haw, it's possible that the idiom has nothing at all to do with the fruit.

An alternative translation, then, might be:

The year of the blackthorn is a sorrowful year
The year of the hawthorns is fair year

In this sense, it may have the sense that the weather in which the blackthorn thrives is not pleasant, while the weather in which the hawthorn thrives is good. Therefore, a year in which the blackthorn would grow well, or produce a lot of fruit may be cold and wet, while the opposite may be true of the hawthorn.

That would seem to be the base reasoning to me. If you're looking for a deeper meaning, I know there is a tradition of making walking canes from blackthorn trees. Perhaps the suggestion is that the years of a person's life in which they rely on the blackthorn (walking stick) are sorrowful when contrasted to youth. I'm afraid I can't suggest a link between the hawthorn and youth, however this website suggests that the hawthorn fruit has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries for its astringent properties, among others. This may suggest a kind of folk-medicine mentality which associates this fruit with youth, or youthful skin. Conversely, the page also points out that the wood of the hawthorn is also used to make walking canes, so ... :dhera:

I appreciate these thoughts. It really makes me wonder why such a saying would be one of the 'top ten idioms of Commeen'!
Perhaps it was a tradition or at least a common occurence that some old ladies would comment on whichever bush appeared most common in a given spring? Or perhaps whenever such berries were eaten people would tritely comment either optimistically or pessimistically about the rest of the year? Or maybe it was a line in a children's rhyme that happened to be popular? Or maybe the author of the list just heard it the day before writing...

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