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mar ea
Posted: 21 February 2018 02:32 PM   Ignore ]  
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What exactly does “mar ea” mean? I have the impression it’s kind of an all-purpose phrase indicating the speaker’s skepticism that an assertion is true. For example, in the story “Inghean an Cheannaidhe” told by Peig Sayers, there’s the sentence, “Bhí an aimsir caithte agus nuair a bhí an t-árthach chun cuain a fhágaint ní raibh an máta ábalta ar dhul ar bórd, mar bhí sé breóidhte, mar eadh.” The French translation of the last bit that Marie-Louise Sjoestedt provides is “... car il était malade, prétendait-il” i.e. “... because he was sick, he pretended”. In English we might say “he claimed”. But in Irish of course there’s no verb “pretend” or “claim” and no subject “he”; just the expression “mar ea”.

Oddly enough neither Ó Dónaill nor Dinneen’s first edition has a listing for it under either “mar” or “ea”. Dinneen’s second edition does give “mar bh’eadh, mar bhadh eadh - as it were, as if it were so, also as interjection implies doubt and irony” and gives the examples “tá mar bh’eadh - it is, I don’t think!”, “rí mar dheadh - a pretended king”, and “tá mar bh’eadh gabhar ar an mbóthar rómham - there is what seems to be a goat on the road”. Do the native and fluent speakers here agree with all of these? Does anyone spell it “marbh ea” (the modern version of mar bh’eadh), or is it always “mar ea”?

And pronunciation: Sjoestedt transcribes it /mɑr je/ and Dinneen says it is pronounced and often written “mar dheadh”. Does everyone agree with that?

Go raibh maith agaibh as ucht bhur gcuid cabhrach!

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Posted: 22 February 2018 05:53 AM   Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I think you’ve pretty well summed up all the possible meanings of “mar ea” or “mar dhea”, i.e. scepticism and pretence. I would have thought the vowel in “dhea” was pronounced as /a/ rather than /e/, but I could be wrong. Can’t remember having come across “mar bh’eadh” or any of the other spellings. Perhaps someone else can expand on the topic?

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Posted: 23 February 2018 05:51 PM   Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I hear this phrase used occasionally in English language speech by people aged over 50 here in the West of Ireland. I translate it as ‘ostensibly’ or ‘on the face of it’. I feel like it’s always said with a little shrug.

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Posted: 24 February 2018 05:45 AM   Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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kyihsin - 21 February 2018 02:32 PM

Does anyone spell it “marbh ea” (the modern version of mar bh’eadh), or is it always “mar ea”?

No, this wouldn’t be the modern version.
There are no combined forms of mar. It is unlike ar, marar, or so.

Usual pron. /mar ya/

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Posted: 24 February 2018 06:49 AM   Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Labhrás - 24 February 2018 05:45 AM
kyihsin - 21 February 2018 02:32 PM

Does anyone spell it “marbh ea” (the modern version of mar bh’eadh), or is it always “mar ea”?

No, this wouldn’t be the modern version.
There are no combined forms of mar. It is unlike ar, marar, or so.

Usual pron. /mar ya/

Good point, I forgot about that. But it wouldn’t be “mar bh’ea” either, would it?

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Posted: 10 March 2018 05:11 PM   Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I hear ‘mar dhea’ frequently among Irish people who don’t have Irish themselves. Tis amazing how some fragments of the language has survived the conquest of English.

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