1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Scottish Gaelic
  4. >
  5. "Tha Niseag ag òl uisge-beath…

"Tha Niseag ag òl uisge-beatha."

Translation:The Loch Ness monster is drinking whisky.

December 3, 2019



Of course it is. It’s Scottish after all.


She's a she. Niseag is "Nessie" in Scots. That's a girl's name (pet form of Agnes) as well as being a diminutive of the name of the loch. And I think the Gaelic -ag suffix is a feminine diminutive.


Yes, definitely a feminine noun. :)

And yes, the -ag suffix is diminutive that has feminine grammatical gender (not necessarily used on fem. nouns though, eg. masc. bior thorn, prickle, sting, fem. biorag small thorn).

And sure, Nessie-the-monster in English is often also referred to by she, but my comment was a direct reaction to the English The Loch Ness monster is drinking whisky, and the Loch Ness monster phrase in English, I believe, is commonly referred to by it. ;-)

Had the default translation been Nessie is drinking whisky, I would possibly have written she here (not sure though, I’m not a native, I needed to Google a bit to check the English usage actually).


I think saying "it" with respect to the English translation is just fine as it refers to the word "monster" which is often just referred to as "it". At least it sounds perfectly normal to me in this context.


I'd still say "she" even if she was getting her Sunday title of "The Loch Ness Monster", because her name is Nessie and Nessie is a girl's name.

I was fairly sure about the -ag being a feminine diminutive because of my own name.


Actually you can find the -ag ending on some male names too. The Gaels had a tradition of giving their Saints pet names and you see -ag in use there. e.g. St. Moluag which is actually Mo (meaning 'my') Luag. You see it spelled as -ock in placenames so Kilmarnock is the church of 'my' Earnag (as in Earnan), not to be confused with Kilmaronock which is the church of 'my' Rònag (Ron as in Ronan). I'm sure there's more.

(I'd still agree Niseag / Nessie is a she though!)


The pictures I have seen were rather blurry. How does one know whether it's a male or a female monster?


I think it's more likely the people claiming to have seen it were drinking the whisky ...


Even in the unlikely event a plesiosaur (or related species) had survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event then it's even more implausible it would be drinking whisky.



Implausible perhaps, but how would we know? It was an awfully long time ago, maybe whisky was a popular drink among plesiosaurs...


Why? Don't you know that they invented distilled spirits. Elephants may well brew beer in their trunk but spirits were invented by Dinosaurs. It is in fact the reason they didn't do anything about the impact, too hung over.


Since the men who faked the "Surgeon's Photograph" are probably dead, the drinking of whisky should be in the past tense.


The current state of Castle Urquhart is salutary testimony as to what happens when Nessie switches to the hoose-juice... ;)


Is this not " A Ness person is drinking whisky"


Niseachs are not monsters. Well, most of them are not.


Indeed. But this is the Niseag (note the ending G rather than CH) :-)


Why are there more comments on this than virtually anything else? And anyway, isn't Nessie teetotal?


How would you you say "Nessie is drinking MY whiskey."? "Tha Niseag ag òl uisge-beatha agam."?


tha Niseag ag òl an uisge-beatha agam – you need the an, lit. something like ‘the whisky of mine’, also notice that ‘my whisky’ in nominative (the base form) would be an t-uisge-beatha agam but since it is a definite phrase, you use genitive after the verbal noun, literally Nessie is at drinking of my whisky and you don’t get t- prefixed to vowels in genitive.

You could probably just use the possessive pronoun: tha Niseag ag òl m’ uisge-beatha (there is one instance of this form in DASG corpas – Gaelic literary corpus: air a bhith ’g òl m’ uisge-beatha fad na h-oidhch’ ‘…had been drinking my whisky all night long’).

Perhaps also – if you mean ‘some whisky of mine’ rather than ‘the whisky of mine’, something like tha Niseag ag òl uisge-beatha de mo chuid, lit. ‘Nessie is drinking whisky from my share’.

But you’d need a better speaker than me to settle on a more natural-sounding translation (not sure if all my proposals above make good Gaelic).


I have never heard or seen de mo chuid and DASG has only met it four times, but then it is a pretty subtle shade of meaning that you are going for, so I shall bear it in mind for when I need to express this precise situation.

There is another structure (that I thought at first you were thinking of):

cuid may be used with a poss adj thus: a chuid airgid his money (lit. his portion of money) □ mo chuid bidhe my food □ na chuid sgrìobhaidh in his writing □ bha iad airson an cuid Gàidhlig a leudachadh they wanted to widen their Gaelic □ reic iad an cuid bheathaichean they sold their animals □ but note also an cuid chloinne 'their children', where cloinne is treated as a gen pl □ see clann □ it should also be noted that the note in Dwelly concerning a chuid mhac 'his sons' but a cuid mac 'her sons' is no longer valid -- these being, respectively, a chuid mhac and a cuid mhac. (Mark)

I suspect 'no longer valid' may mean 'a bizarre grammatical interpretation once used'. He is referring to this entry in Dwelly which is too long to copy here.

I have never been clear when to use this. It would sound fine to me to use it here, mo chuid uisge-beatha. I get the impression it is used a lot with uncountable nouns, perhaps with the logic that whisky (in general) does not belong to me, but rather a portion of the world's whisky belongs to me. This is certainly how it is used with mo chuid aodaich my 'clothing'. If anyone can shed light on this it would be appreciated.

This structure is far more common in Irish than in Gaelic. It often seems that it is the default way to say 'my' in Irish, at least in some circumstances, although I am not really sure. It is not mentioned in the notes but there are lots of examples if you search the Irish discussion pages for cuid or chuid , or even gcuid here.


Yes, I was afraid I was calquing Irish usage here a bit too much (that’s where the last sentence of my comment comes from…) – my Irish is much stronger than Gaelic (not that good either, but I sometimes feel comfortable deciding what is natural Irish and what’s not, never when talking about Scottish Gaelic :P).

In Irish I’d definitely write ag ól mo chuid uisce bheatha (or even mo chuid fuisce) and in Irish it’s generally a rule that you use cuid with uncountable (mo chuid airgid ‘my money’) and plural nouns (mo chuid leabhar ‘my books’) except for some unalienable stuff (mo chosa for ‘my feet/legs’, though in Conamara they say stuff like mo chuid cosa too). I guess some of usage examples in Dwelly might just reflect more Irish-like usage.

I would probably write uisce beatha / fuisce dem’ chuid or something like that in Irish too (but not 100% sure how natural it sounds there in this context too, to be honest).


The Runrig song An t-Iasgair has a verse
Is dh'fhàg e chuid teaghlaich (with a possibly missing for reasons of rhythm).
So at least in poetic language the form is still used. Or was in 1993.
(Am I correct if I write the form does be used? )

Sheas e shìos air an tràigh
Aig cliathaich an t-saoghail
Is dh'fhàg e chuid teaghlaich
Is chuir e an dachaidh air chùl


Yup! That sounds accurate. :)

And to give more historical context, in Classical Gaelic you’d have saoilim, saoilidh for I think, (he/she) thinks in the present and saoilfead, saoilfidh for I will think, (he, she) will think in the future. Dependent forms would be nach saoilim, saoil(eann)? don’t I, doesn’t he/she think? and nach saoileabh, saoilfe? won’t I, he/she think?.

As you see Gaelic saoilidh, nach saoil continues classical present tense basically unchanged (except that it lost synthetic forms to conjugate the verb by grammatical persons).

Irish, on the other hand, kept the two tenses separate but on the other hand lost the dependent/independent distionction and in present generalized the optional old dependent-only ending -(e)ann (which I think might have never existed in Scotland, as it itself was an innovation, generalization from strong n-stem verbs (like benaid, ·ben) of Old Irish). Hence in Irish sílim, síleann, nach síleann? in present and sílfead, sílfidh, nach sílfidh? (and also bím, bíonn, nach mbíonn? with the same -nn added later, replacing classical bídh, ·bí).

Léamh.org is a nice resource for a quick (but very much not comprehensive at the moment) reference for classical grammar: https://xn--lamh-bpa.org/grammar/ (to be fair, I wish they used the actual classical form in their domain: léaghamh​.org – it’s a lost opportunity to have actual meaningful domain in classical Gaelic! :P)


Thank you for that interesting link.

Does be is never used in any standard form of English but it is found in various regional dialects, where it is often seen by outsiders as a mark of poor education. It seems that the main dialects are Hiberno-English (from Ireland), SW English (meaning from SW England) AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) and Caribbean English, as discussed at length in this Wikipedia article. If you read that reference and see a mention of 'the habitual tense of the verb "to be" in Irish', note that this tense does not exist in Gaelic, which might explain why this is a feature of Hiberno-English, but not Highland English.


note that this tense does not exist in Gaelic

Not that it does not exist in Gaelic but rather the present (habitual) tense and the future tense merged into one and it affected the verb bi too. (And the ‘future’ forms actually continue the older present (habitual) endings, it’s the future forms that were lost)

Hence the use of the so-called ‘future’ tense in habitual statements in Gaelic.


A shilmeth, I learn something interesting every time you post. May I rephrase it my comment as

there is no perception of a separate habitual tense in Gaelic that requires a new structure to represent it in English, since the tense which used to exists has become conflated with the future.

Is this why we have certain phrases, such as saoilidh mi that look a bit like future tenses but have present meaning?

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