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Proverbs and Riddles

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  • Is minic fear fada ag ceannach fataí ó fhearr gearr. ‘It’s many a tall man who bought potatoes from a short man.’

  • Ní hiad na fir mhóra a bhaineanns an fómhair ar fad. ‘The biggest men don’t cut the whole harvest.’

  • Tuig an fear léinn leathfhocal. ‘A learned man understands half a word.’

  • Fear dubh, fear bán, fear macánta, fear slán. ‘Dark-haired or fair, a mannerly man, a sound man.’

  • Is minic a bheir cearc dhubh ubh bhán. ‘Many’s the black hen that laid a white egg.’

  • Tuigeann Tadhg Taidhgín. ‘Tadhg understands Little Tadhg.’

  • Chomh folláin le bradán. ‘As health as a salmon.’

  • Chomh géar le súil mná óige ar aonach. ‘As sharp as the eye of a young woman at a fair.’

  • Chomh leathan le cailleach agus chomh dubh (dúr?) le seanbhean.


  • A man’s picture is hanging on the wall in a frame. A person comes in and asks who is the man in the picture. ‘Brothers and sisters I have none; that man’s father is my father’s son.’ Answer: The picture is of the person himself.

  • Twins were born in March, on the first of April. One died young, and the other lived to marry his mother. Answer:  March is the name of a little village in Wales, where the twins were born on April 1. The one who survived became a priest, and performed the ceremony for his widowed mother when she married again.

  • Ten men come into a hotel looking for a place to spend the night. There’s only nine beds available. The butler is told to put one man in each bed, and have no two in the one bed. How did he do it?  Answer:  He put the second man in the first bed, the third man in the second bed, the fourth man in the third bed, the fifth in the fourth, the sixth in the fifth bed, the seventh in the sixth bed, the eighth in the seventh bed, the ninth in the eighth bed, and the first fellow in the ninth bed.1

  • A man comes to a house, looking for a horse. He’s told that he can only have a horse that was never born.  Answer: The mare died as the foal was being born.  As a hint to the solution of this riddle, Joe mentions the line in ‘Captain Wedderburn’s Courtship’ that refers to the ‘priest unborn’ – Meetcheldase (Melchisidec); see transcription and song here.

Notes

At the end of this segment, Joe sings a stanza from ‘Óró, a bhuachaillín, seol do bhó, which can be heard in its entirety here.

1The problem here, of course, is that the tenth man remains unaccounted for. Perhaps the point of this riddle is simply to befuddle the target!

Here’s another one, given in 2010 by Pádraig Ó Coirbín, a native of Carna:

  • Dhá mbeadh uisce agam, d’ólfainn fíon; ach faoi nach bhfuil uisce agam, ólfaidh mé uisce.
    ‘If I had water, I’d drink wine; but since I don’t have water, I’ll drink water.
    Answer: The speaker of the riddle is a ship’s captain. If the tide were favourable, he’d bring his ship in to shore and head for the tavern. But since the tide is out, he’ll have to be content with drinking the water he has on board.

 

 

Téarmaí & Coinníollacha | © Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh 2010 - 2011