Ná gabh bean gan locht

Ná gabh bean gan locht

Do not take a wife without fault.

Note: This proverb seems to be exclusive to Goidelic Celts. It has only been found in Irish and Scots Gaelic. “Na gabh tè air bith mar mhnaoi ach tè air am bi athais agad. (Take no woman for a wife in whom you can not find a flaw.)” The reason is simple; a woman without fault does not exist. It is better to find the fault before the wedding than after. By the way, a man without fault does not exist either. Even a wise man has faults. “Ní bhíonn saoi gan locht.”

Is maith an bhean í ach níor bhain sí a broga di go foill

Is maith an bhean í ach níor bhain sí a broga di go foill

She is a good wife, but she has not taken off her shoes yet.

Note: She is a good woman, but it is still quite early in the marriage. She has not taken off her shoes yet from the wedding. She has not yet gotten comfortable in her new situation. The wedding is still on her. Many Irish had only one pair of shoes in their possession. To preserve them, these poor people would only wear shoes at wakes, weddings, baptisms, fairs, and other special occasions. Other normal times, they would go about barefoot. Therefore, when a wife took off her shoes, it was a sign that she had settled in to normal times. When she is truly settled is the time to say whether she is a good woman or not. But the Scots have another proverb, “Am fear a labhras olc mu mhnaoi, tha e cur mi-cliù air fhèin.” (Who speaks ill of his wife dishonors himself.)

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

Is geal leis an bhfiach dubh a ghearrcach féin

The raven thinks its own nestling fair.

Note: This week’s seanfhocal is a generalization of the English proverb, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” (Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, Molly Bawn, 1878.) Perhaps, closer to the mark is the aphorism, “A mother’s pride, a father’s joy.” (Sir Walter Scott, Rokeby, 1813, canto III, st. 15.) Nature blinds the parent to any imperfections of its offspring. This is a lesson every teacher learns early in a career.

For a demonstration of this phenomenon, visit any sporting event organized for children and watch the parents. Parents have been known to assault other parents at such games over wrongs perceived upon their progeny. One youth league even requires the parents to sign a parental code of conduct before they will admit a child to the program.

Note also: An ancient Druid idiom is embedded in this week’s seanfhocal. Druids worshipped the sun. Nothing could be more pleasing to Druids then to have the sun shine on them. Therefore, to express pleasure with something, it is customary in the Irish language to say that it is bright with you, i.e., like the sun, it shines on you. For example, this week’s proverb literally says, “Its own nestling is bright with the raven.”

Consider other examples. Is geal an scéal liom é. (It is glad news to me. Literally: The story, it [is] bright with me.) Ní geal leat é. (You don’t like him. Literally: He is not bright with you.) Is geal leis a bhfeiceann sé. (He likes what he sees. Literally: What he sees is bright with him.) Note the pattern, “Is geal le …” (Is bright with …)

The same pattern is also used with the Irish verb for shine, taitin. With the preposition ‘le’ (with), taitin is used to express pleasure. Thaitin do theach liom. (I liked your house. Literally: Your house shined on me.) Taitníonn sé leis na daoine. (The people are fond of him. Literally: He shines on the people.) Another way of expressing pleasure is to use the verbal noun of taitin, teatneamh. Níl sé i mo thaitneamh. (I don’t like it. Literally: It is not in my shining [or brightness].) Finally, one of the many ways to say, “I love you.” in Irish is “Mo thaitneamh thú.” (Literally: My brightness [is] for you.)

Folaíonn grá gráin

Folaíonn grá gráin

Love veils ugliness.

Note: The ancient Romans often depicted Cupid, their god of love, as blindfolded because love was thought to be blind. The more common image of Cupid as a winged boy shooting arrows was actually taken from earlier Greek images of Eros, their god of love. But the Greeks also knew that love was blind. Eros was thought to randomly fire his arrows into the hearts of lovers. So no one could explain where their heart led them.

I have heard of reasons manifold
Why love must needs be blind,
But this the best of all I hold —
His eyes are in his mind.
     Coleridge, Reason for Love’s Blindness, 1828.

Some pundits have noted that love is blind but marrage restores sight.

Daltaí na Gaeilge