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  5. "Bha an t-uisge ann. Tha mi c…

"Bha an t-uisge ann. Tha mi cho fliuch ri sgarbh."

Translation:It was raining. I am as wet as a cormorant.

January 24, 2020



Sometimes the Scots is scarf, which gives the place-name Scarfsferry, Caithness. Both Gaelic and Norse have come from the Old Norse scarfr. So, yes, I think you are right to translate sgarbh as sgart.


I didn't know about "scarf".

A couple of years ago I was on holiday in Iceland and I did a nature expedition. The guide was showing tourists a lot of wildlife on the shore (much of which was extremely familiar I have to say) and he pointed out several cormorants. I remarked that in Scots these are "skarts". He said, do you want to know what the Icelandic word for cormorant is? I said yes please, and he said something that sounded extremely like "skarta" to me. We both laughed.

I checked with google translate and it's actually "skarfi" which is in line with your "scarf" word.


I was wondering how scarf could change to scart. According to DSL the f changed to th in Old Scots (which is not very different) and then to t - another small change.

[deactivated user]

    why would "there was rain" not work here?


    It would in theory, but it's not common in English usage in that context.


    I'm wondering if "scart" (the Scots for cormorant) would be accepted in this one! Didn't try it though.


    Modern Norwegian is sgarv, which again is very close to Gaelic. Would Icelandic be closer to Danish perhaps? Funnily enough when I put in shag (as a test). Duolingo rejected it, but I submitted a 'should be accepted response'. I think scart and sgarbh cover both species.


    To be fair, I think the mods have enough to do without approving all the various Scots words people dream up to test the system with. Fair enough on some things which are common usage (like "wee" for "beag" especially in certain circumstances), but it does say "translate into English", not into Scots, and we all know what a cormorant is.


    Shag isn't exclusive to Scots though. In New Zealand, the equivalent birds are much more commonly known as shags than cormorants.


    When various English speakers set up colonies they took their vocabulary with then. But there were two problems. One was that they were not necessarily that good at biology. The other was that the species they met did not necessarily coincide with the ones back home. In the case of cormorants and shags, Wikipedia tells us that

    Phalacrocoracidae is a family of approximately 40 species of aquatic birds commonly known as cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed recently and the number of genera is disputed. The great cormorant (P. carbo) and the common shag (P. aristotelis) are the only two species of the family commonly encountered on the British Isles[1] and "cormorant" and "shag" appellations have been later assigned to different species in the family somewhat haphazardly.

    So the two terms distinguish the two species found in the UK. Now go to New Zealand. iNaturalist tells us there are 13 species, none of which is the British cormorant or the British shag. Clearly there is no logical basis for deciding that some are cormorants and some are shags.

    The same has happened with many other types of animal and plant. There is confusion in America between rabbits and hares, and between hawks and falcons for exactly the same reason. D


    In English the present perfect tense would make better sense, as there is a visible consequence still to be seen, namely, I am wet. So, it has been raining would be better. Still, I know that there has not yet been a chapter about the present perfect in this course.


    I had to think about this quite hard, as it seemed to have substantial merit in terms of what we are taught, but it is definitely not what I would say. I think your rule about current consequence (which is not quite what I would use, but similar) is fundamentally a rule about whether to use a perfect tense or the corresponding non-perfect tense - or in other words, which is better,

    It has rained
    It rained

    and we can agree that the first is better. But no one has suggested it rained. Their suggestion is for a continuous tense. I think that is correct and for this reason I think the best translation is either of

    It was raining (when I was outside) (non-perfect continuous)
    It has been raining (recently) (perfect continuous)

    These would both make sense and sound good in English, but which is the more accurate translation? Well some things are more important in some languages than in others and this affects our translation. In both Welsh and English the perfect/non-perfect contrast is rigid (and similar in the two languages). This means that you should always translate like for like. But Gaelic is different. They do have a perfect, but it is a bit long winded and is only used when you need to emphasise the perfect aspect. That means that

    • when translating Gaelic into English (or Welsh!) you can choose when to use the perfect or non-perfect (which is why I think there is a choice in this sentence), and
    • when translating a perfect into Gaelic, you need to decide 'is it essential to mark the perfect aspect, or can I get away with the ordinary past?'

    Thus two things explain why they have not yet introduced the perfect tenses, whereas they have been introduced by this stage in the Welsh course

    1. It is complicated (more so than in Welsh or English)
    2. It is not essential (unlike Welsh and English)

    This combination is what allows them to defer it. If only one of these applied I guess they would have introduced it. D


    A cormorant and a shag are two completely different birds from the same family. Why would it accept shag? Thats like putting blackbird for thrush or great tit for blue tit. Same species - different bird.


    There's a couple of points here. One is that all three examples rely on knowing the specific terms for the species of each family found in the UK. Seen in the context of the birds of the world, blackbirds and thrushes (as you call them) are pretty close together, as are the great tit and blue tit.

    Your use of the word thrush shows how you can interpret a bird name in the context of local ornithology. Wikipedia defines thrush as a family of which one genus is Turdus - true thrushes contains at least three well-known species found in the UK, the blackbird, the mistle thrush and the song thrush (presumably the one you mean). There is always a temptation to think things are related if their names are related. A lot of people will guess that song thrushes and mistle thrushes are related, but be unaware that blackbirds are. Different terminology in a different language may give a different perception of the cladistics. The cormorant family is a case in point. Speakers of British English treat them as different (even though the proportion of the population that could actually tell them apart is minute). There will be different perceptions in different parts of the world. But what about Gaelic? In Gaelic we have

    Gaelic British English
    Sgarbh Cormorant
    Sgarbh sgumain Shag

    or at least that is what AFB and other modern dictionaries say. But I think they have become very precise as a result of the modern practice of seeking very precise definitions of species. The old dictionary, Dwelly, shows that you could happily use sgarbh for either, as well as couple of other species which we would now regard as completely different.

    But even with the terminology in the table (and even AFB recognises various other terms) Gaelic speakers are likely to think that a shag is simply a cormorant that sits on a sguman (small rock), which is pretty close to the truth. I think I would be compelled to use the term sgarbh-buill if I wanted to refer specifically to great (black) cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) (as AFB defines it). D

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