1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Tha guga blasta."

"Tha guga blasta."

Translation:Salted gannet is tasty.

November 27, 2019



Guga is the dried and salted chick of the gannet. Each year in late August, a group of men from the Ness district in the Isle of Lewis go to Sula Sgeir, 45 miles (70 km) north of Lewis, to hunt the growing gannet chicks. By that time of the year, they have not yet fledged (cannot yet fly) and are still in downy feathers. After killing, the bird is stripped of feathers, singed and salted down. The guga hunt is licensed with a restriction of 2000 birds each year. Each guga, which looks like a bicycle saddle, is allocated to someone, usually from the Ness district. You cannot order guga in a restaurant, but if you're lucky, someone may share it with you if they invite you to a meal in their home. I have not tasted guga myself, but the flavour is, shall we say, an acquired taste. In case anyone get squeamish about this: most of us eat meat, but very few of us wants to know what happens to that cow in the field before it appears as a steak on your plate.

For reference: guga is referred to as guga, even during English conversation in Lewis.


Wholy crap! Thats a long explanation!


Thought I'd give the full picture :-)


This is not totally correct. It refers to the gannet chick whether or not it has been killed, salted and dried. This is why most people on this site think salted gannet is the wrong translation. We all agree it should be left as guga in English.


Guga today is realy a word in English


Looks like Scottish Gaelic has a lot of interesting foods.


Help, they are bringing out the specialties! ;)


Never heard of this and I'm Scottish!


The gannets are only caught on Lewis, and in limited numbers.


What are gannets? What is Lewis?


Gannets are sea birds. Lewis is an island off the west coast of Scotland


Lewis is always referred to as an island, but examination of a map will reveal that it is the same sort of island as Haiti - i.e. part of an island. The other part is Harris.

Unlike Haiti which is on Hispaniola, I cannot find any name for the island that Lewis and Harris are on.


Lewis and Harris together are simply called “Lewis and Harris” or “Leòdhas agus na Hearadh” in Gaelic.


Can someone explain what gannet is? (my native language is Dutch)


Gannet = jan-van-gent in Dutch.


Intriguing. The words obviously have phonological similarity, so I wondered if the Dutch was a homophonic translation (which means just find a word in the target language that sounds similar, ignoring meaning). But it was not obvious what language it would be a translation from, as there are presumably similar words in various languages. Someone had possibly combined this with the practice of adding a personal name to the beginning of the word, a practice very common in English (e.g. Robin Redbreast and Jackdaw).

Dutch Wikipedia suggests that the gent is an old word that has been modified:

De naam van deze vogel heeft niets met de naam van de persoon Jan van Gent te maken. Het woord gent is verklaarbaar omdat daarin zowel het Engelse gander en het Nederlandse gent herkenbaar is voor een mannelijke watervogel zoals een gans. De Engelse naam werd gannet. Hoe "jan van" ervoor gekomen is, blijft onzeker. Mogelijk is het een verbastering van de Keltische naam Ian ban an sgadan (witte haringvogel). Mogelijk heeft het ook te maken met de Nederlands gewoonte om in uitdrukkingen de naam Jan te plaatsen zoals "Jan en alleman", "Jan Hen", "Jan Salie" etc.

The name of this bird has nothing to do with the name of the person from Ghent. The word gent can be explained because in both the English gander and the Dutch gent we can recognise a male goose-like water bird. The English name became gannet. How "jan van" came about remains uncertain. It may be a corruption of the Celtic name Ian ban an sgadan 'white herring bird'. It may also have to do with the Dutch custom to place the name Jan in expressions such as "Jan en alleman", "Jan Hen", "Jan Salie" etc. (Google Translate, adapted)

The translation given for Ian ban as sgadan is interesting. Ian is not a word in Gaelic. It is half way between the correct eun-bàn an sgadain 'fair/white bird of the herring' and the name Iain, which is of course, Ian in Scottish English, John in English and Jan in Dutch, so perhaps eun 'bird' got misheard as Jan?

Note I have assumed the word Keltische in the Dutch means 'Scots Gaelic', although it does not actually affect the argument much. I assumed this because (1) I cannot find the phrase in any other Celtic language; (2) the Irish for Iain is Eoin which does not fit quite as well; (3) there are very few gannets in any other Celtic country, but loads in Scotland, especially on the east coast, where you are most likely to meet a Dutch person.

Note also that the word bàn is the normal word for both a fair or white-haired person and a white-feathered bird, so there would be no inconsistency in using the word both for 'fair-haired Jan' and for a gannet. D


Quite possible, a' Dhabhidh. Don't forget that during the 17th century there was trade between the Low Countries and the Isle of Lewis (herring), and the Dutch fishers are bound to have come across gannets at that point. At one stage, the island was on the verge of being ceded to the Dutch; except the Privy Council put paid to that idea.


Thank you. To be really fussy, can I suggest you edit your post to remove the apostrophe from a Dhaibhidh? You only need the apostrophe when a' is short for an.

[deactivated user]

    Not sure i will ever use guga.


    If guga is salted gannet, what is unsalted gannet called?


    Lots of people are complaining about this. I posted about this here https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/35335626?comment_id=37698275

    Guga does not mean 'salted gannet'. It means 'young gannet'. It is always salted before consumption, but they are called guga when you catch them and they are definitely not salted then. And the term salted gannet is never used. They are always called guga all the way from going on the guga hunt to catching the guga, salting the guga, selling the guga, cooking the guga and eating the guga.

    They really need to change the translation as guga is the only correct term.


    Does not exist. The salt is used to preserve the meat. I'm based in the island where guga is eaten and everybody, whether speaking Gaelic, English or whichever language refers to this delicacy as: guga.


    I want to try! Where is this?


    You will have to travel to the Island of Lewis off the west coast of Scotland as it's the only place to find guga.


    Can you explain how this says, salted gannet is tasty


    “Tha” means “is”, “guga” means salted gannet, and “blasta” means tasty. The words are then arranged in Verb Subject Object word order, thus “Tha guga blasta”. I hope this helps.


    My native language is french but is not important here. I just want to say : it's a shame to eat that poor baby gannet (Fou de Bassan in french) will eat chicken like everyone else.


    No, but Wikipédia is interesting, especially about the naming. It is no coincidence that this Fou de Bassan has a large colony on the Bass Rock and that the hunt for this member of the Sulidae takes place on Sùlaisgeir.

    Also intriguing that its name (French Fou, Latin Morus) refers to the defence of its nest:

    Le nom vernaculaire de fou est issu, par calque sémantique, du latin morus « stupide », lui-même issu du grec moros, allusion au caractère peu farouche de cet oiseau face à l'homme qui pouvait facilement piller les œufs du nid.

    which is rather more to the point than, and significantly different to, what it says in the English version

    Morus is derived from Ancient Greek moros, meaning "foolish", and refers to the lack of fear shown by breeding gannets and birds described here as the word got censored when I tried to use it, which enables them to be easily killed.


    Well ornology's friend, I'm ok but i've an other explication for "Fou" which means crazy. "The northern gannet (Morus bassanus) owes its name to "Crazy" to the fact that, to dive in search of its food, it dives from a height of 40 m, at more than 100 km / h (wings in back). The Northern Gannet is thus able to reach 25 m deep." what do you think about it ?


    Interesting idea. Have you any references to support this? Just come across another variant. If you follow the link above to the bird that cannot be named, you will find it

    was possibly based on the Spanish slang term bobo, meaning "stupid", as these tame birds had a habit of landing on board sailing ships, where they were easily captured and eaten.


    I'm increasingly seeing Duo asking for translations of words that I haven't seen before. This time it was guga, and the translation was Salted gannet. ?


    In general, there is a big argument about the best way to teach languages. Whether you should be given a big list of vocab to learn, or whether you should just be exposed to the word, and either figure it out, if you are given tiles etc. so your options are limited.

    You do have other options, such as looking in a dictionary or reading the notes at https://duome.eu/tips/en/gd (where this word in included in the vocab list and is found in several examples. If you need a particular word in the notes, you can always use a text search. If you use this link, rather than the one you get in the web version of Duolingo, you get all the notes together, so you can find the word if it is anywhere in the notes.

    However, there is a big problem with this word in particular. If you have read the comments on this page you will see there is a big argument about what it means. As far as I am concerned, it is provable that it does not mean 'salted gannet' since it is called guga even when it is still alive (and thus not salted). The notes only make things worse since, in addition to the vocab list and the two examples where it is translated as salted gannet, there is a bit where it explains what a guga is, without using the term _salted gannet once, as well as one example where it is translated as guga. I think what has happened is that they have changed their mind about the correct translation, but have not yet had time to update all the notes and questions. Hopefully they at least accept guga as a translation of guga on all question now, and this is what you should do.

    I have posted a picture of a guga and an adult gannet on this page amongst all the various comments.

    Learn Scottish Gaelic in just 5 minutes a day. For free.