Daltai na Gaeilge
Proverbs

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Bíonn siúlach scéalach.

Travellers have tales to tell.

Note: This week's seanfhocal is subject to two seemingly opposing interpretations. One interpretation is a variation of the American proverb, "Travel broadens the mind," and the English axiom, "He that travels much knows much." Such a traveller returns with a great store of sagas about his peripatetic exploits. On the other hand, there is another interpretation explicit in the English language proverb that says, "A traveller can lie with authority." In this case, the travelling storyteller can weave the wildest yarns without fear of being challenged by the untravelled audience. Maybe there is a middle ground. Isn't it the story itself that is important to the Irish, to every literate person, in fact? Was it any good? Whether it was fiction or non-fiction is of secondary interest.

Note also: Here we have an interesting grammatical case of nouns being converted to adjectives to be used as nouns. The words 'siúlach' and 'scéalach' are adjectives derived from the nouns 'siúl' (walk) and 'scéal' (story), respecitvely. Many nouns can be made into adjectives by adding the suffix -lach. As adjectives, they are hard to translate out of context. Ó Dónaill translates 'siúlach' using gerunds, "Walking, strolling, roaming," and a noun clause, "inclined to travel." However, in this sentence, the adjectives are not modifying any nouns. So the listener has to infer that a traveller is one who is "walking" or "inclined to travel." The same is true for 'scéalach.' In other words, the adjectives are used as nouns.

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