Note: The ancient Greeks first said “Truth in wine,” and the Romans later adopted it as the more-widely known, “In vino veritas.” Romans also added, “Drunkenness reveals what soberness conceals.” Chaucer took up this strand of thought when he wrote “For dronkenesse is verray sepulture of mannes wit and his discrecion.” Cantebury Tales. The Pardoner’s Tale, l. 558.
The seanfhocal itself uses the singular number in the object, rún (secret). It is meant to convey the sense that no individual secret is safe when one is drunk. However, some translate this seanfhocal into the plural form, secrets, to convey the vulnerability of all secrets in the possession of the drunk. It was for this reason that when Michael Collins recruited the “Cairo Gang,” the strong arm of his secret service, he looked for men who did not drink.
Note also: This seanfhocal is an example of another interesting difference between Irish and English syntax. English syntax can negate nouns and verbs. In the English translation given above, the noun is negated. “Drunkenness hides no secret[s].” However, Irish syntax can only negate verbs. The negative particle at the beginning of this seanfhocal, “Ní,” negates the verb, “cheileann,” as indicated by the séimhiú. So a more literal but less fluid English translation would negate the verb, i.e., “Drunkness does not hide a secret.”
Note: Dies Alliensis — 18 July, 390 B.C. — was a day of infamy for the Roman state. It was the day the Roman Army was routed by a band of pagan Celts at the banks of the river Allia. This defeat led to the subsequent sack of Rome by these “barbarians”. Almost four centuries later, Julius Caesar would take Rome’s revenge on the clans of the continental Celts. Ceasar’s victory over Vercingetorex marked the beginning of the end of “the First Golden Age of the Celts” (p. 21, Alexei Kondratiev, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual,Collins Press, 1998). Meanwhile, Marcus Tullius Cicero may have borrowed this week’s seanfhocal when he wrote, “Optimum condimentum fames.” (Hunger is the best sauce.)
Note also: The definite article ‘an’ prefixes a ‘t’ in the nominative and accusative case before all singular masculine nouns that begin with a vowel. So the words ‘anlann’ and ‘ocras’ which are masculine gender, singular number, require a ‘t’ before them when they are modified by the definite article ‘an.’
How does one know that these words are masculine gender? Endings can give a clue. Nouns ending in ‘…as’ are almost always masculine. In general, nouns ending with broad consonants are usually masculine. However, there are exceptions. For example, unlike the word anlann, most words ending in ‘…lann’ are feminine like amharclann (theatre), bialann (restaurant), dánlann (art gallery), leabharlann (library), and pictiúirlann (cinema). To be certain, therefore, it is a good idea to memorize the noun’s gender when you learn the noun.
Note: Thirst leads one to drink which often increases one’s desire for yet another drink. This pattern is often continued on the morning after when “cotton mouth” stimulates one’s desire for a ‘drink’ of the softer variety. This vicious cycle is one of nature’s little jokes.
Note: This is a more direct reference to what in Béarla is known as “the hair of the dog that bit you”. To some it may seem incongruous that drink would both cause and cure the condition; but the logic is often more apparent to one who is suffering the effects of “one too many”.