A drink comes before a story.

Note: Jonathan Swift, the Dean of St. Patrick’s, wrote disparagingly of the drink. “We were to do more business after dinner; but after dinner is after dinner — an old saying and true, ‘much drinking, little thinking.” (Journal to Stella February 26, 1712.) On the other hand, Gore Vidal commented on one the most common past times of storytellers. “Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.” (Interview in the Paris Review, 1981). This week’s proverb points out that the storyteller will usually find both at a pub, a fair, or a party. One could say that these are the best venues for story telling.

However, the word “túisce” has a sense of preference or priority. It means “sooner,” not as an antonym to “later” but as “rather,” as shown in the following sentences. Ba thúisce liom mo bhás. (I would sooner/rather die) . Ba thúisce liom suí ná seasamh. (I would sooner/rather sit than stand). In spite of this meaning, it would be a mistake to interpret this proverb as meaning “A drink sooner/rather than a story.”

This is because “túisce” also means “first.” For example, “an té is túisce a labhair” means “the person who spoke first.” Here the word ‘is’ before an adjective of comparative degree marks the adverb as being in the superlative degree. By itself, ” túisce” is the comparative form. It does not need the word “níos” before it as do other adjectives and adverbs of the comparative degree. “Túisce” has no positive form. “Soon” in Irish is another word, “go luath.” Therefore, “is túisce” essentially means “soonest,” i.e., first. Therefore, this week’s proverb means the drink comes first, then the story.