Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb.

Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb.

A windy day is not a day for thatching.

Note: There week’s seanfhocal is common in many cultures. It is similar to an Italian proverb. Chi piscia contra il vento si bagna la commiscia. (He that pisseth against the wind, wets his shirt.) In other words, go with the flow. Don’t spit into the wind. An older English equivalent proverb is “A reed before the wind lives on, but the mighty oak falls.” An older and more general version of this proverb appears in the Bible, Ecclesiastes, 3:1, Tá a ionú féin ag gach uile ní agus tá a thráth ann don uile ghnó faoin spéir: tráth breithe, tráth báis, tráth curtha síl, tráth bainte fómhair, … (There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens, A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant, …)

Note also: The Irish definite article, ‘na’, appears twice in the seanfhocal, while the English definite article, ‘the’, does not appear at all. Irish will put the definite article before a noun to make it an abstract noun. In other words, the construction used here, ‘lá na gaoithe’, is used to connote any windy day. Whereas, ‘the windy day’, while literally correct in English, could technically be misconstrued as a specific day. Q: When did you go? A: It was on the windy day last week. This construction is common with seanfhocals since the subject matter is often abstract. Take, for example, the last two proverbs,

Is maith an scáthán súil charad.
(A friend’s eye is a good mirror.)

Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.
(Praise a youth and she will come.)

Ní fhanann trá le fear mall.

Ní fhanann trá le fear mall.

An ebb(tide) does not wait for a slow man.


Note: The Béarla equivalent for this seahfhocal would be “Time and tide wait for no man”.

Note also: There are two meanings to “trá” in Irish. The more common meaning is “beach” and in that case “trá” is feminine. For the other usage (such as in this seanfhocal) the noun is masculine and means “ebb” (as in tide).

Note also how the negative particle “Ní” causes the verb that follows it to be lenited. (Lenition or “séimhiú” is represented with a dot over the lenited letter in gaelic font and a trailing “h” in roman font.) Look at the other proverbs (Seanfhocail Eile) that begin with “ní.” Some appear to violate this rule. Look closer and you will see that words that are not lenited are not verbs at all, but nouns. In all of those sentences “Ní:” is the entire verb (not just a particle), and it is just the negative form of the copula “Is.” Please don’t be confused by the fact that “Ní” can do double duty.