Little by Little Beag air Bheag
She has red hair
This unit will give you some vocabulary which will allow you to talk about people's appearances. To start with we'll look at some common colours which are to be found in association with the body:
Note that when we are talking about a colour we say it is 'on' something, so we use the preposition air. Thus, when we ask the question 'what colour is the box?', we say 'dè an dath a tha air a' bhocsa?'. You will hear several examples in the conversation. Note also that we say that hair is 'on' a person. Tha falt dubh air Iain - John has black hair.
What colour is the box?
John has black hair
The colours in Gaelic are to a large degree attributive, meaning that the same word may actually mean a different colour with reference to a particular object compared to a second object. For example, a càr liath may be a light-blue car but falt liath is the grey hair of a person no longer in the first flush of youth.
This also occurs to a degree in English where 'red' in a red pillar-box and red hair represents significantly different chromatic qualities in each case. Ruadh may represent the ginger (red) of a person's hair, or the colour of an old copper coin or the colour of whisky. It appears as ruaidh in the genitive or possessive case, pronounced approximately 'roo-eye' and has been anglicised as 'roy', as in the famous character in Highland history, Rob Roy MacGregor (Rab Ruadh MacGriogair).
genitive, or possessive, case of red
Rob Roy MacGregor
Now listen to Eilidh using these terms describing hair colour in a simple conversation.
Listen to Eilidh describing hair colour in this simple conversation:
- Dè an dath a tha air falt Alasdair?
- What colour is Alasdair's hair?
- Tha dubh. Tha falt dubh air Alasdair.
- Black. Alasdair has black hair.
- A bheil falt dubh air Magaidh?
- Does Maggie have black hair?
- Chan eil. Tha falt ruadh oirre.
- No. She has red hair.
- A bheil falt ruadh air na peathraichean aice cuideachd?
- Do her sisters also have red hair?
- Chan eil. Tha falt dorch orra, mar a tha ormsa.
- No. They have dark hair, as I have.
- An robh falt dorch ort nuair a bha thu òg?
- Did you have dark hair when you were young.
- Cha robh. Bha falt bàn orm nuair a bha mi òg!
- No. I had blonde hair when I was young!
- Bha is ormsa. Bha falt bàn ormsa cuideachd nuair a bha mi òg.
- So did I. I also had blonde hair when I was young.
- Dè an dath a tha air d' fhalt a-nis? Nach eil e bàn fhathast?
- What colour is your hair now? Is it not still blonde?
- Tha, ach tha e a' fàs liath.
- Yes, but it is turning (growing) grey.
- Cha tig an aois leatha fhèin.
- Age does not come by herself (a Gaelic proverb).
- Cha tig! Thig falt liath leatha.
- No! Grey hair comes with her.
- Am bi falt liath ort nuair a dh'fhàsas tu sean?
- Will you have grey hair when you grow old?
- Is dòcha nach bi falt sam bith orm an uair sin. Bidh mi maol!
- Perhaps I will have no hair by then. I will be bald!
To say a bit more about a person's appearance, we need some more vocabulary. Here are some useful words:
Listen to conversation 2. You will hear how some of these words can be used to describe people.
Listen to the conversation:
- An toigh leat Anna?
- Do you like Ann?
- Is toigh l'. Tha i bòidheach.
- Yes. She is beautiful.
- Tha i bòidheach, ach tha i uabhasach àrd.
- She is beautiful, but she is terribly tall.
- Tha, ach tha mise àrd cuideachd, ged nach eil mi bòidheach.
- Yes, but I am tall as well, although I am not beautiful.
- O, tha thu eireachdail gu leòr!
- Oh, you're pretty handsome!
- Tapadh leat. Ach tha mo shròn ro mhòr.
- Thanks. But my nose is too big.
- Ist! Tha do shròn ceart gu leòr. Ach seall ormsa.
- Be quiet! Your nose is okay. But look at me.
- Dè tha ceàrr ort?
- What is wrong with you?
- Tha mo bheul ro bheag. Tha mo chluasan ro mhòr. Tha mi grànda.
- My mouth is too small. My ears are too big. I'm ugly.
- Ist! Tha thu cho bòidheach ri Anna.
- Be quiet! You're as beautiful as Ann.
- Ai, ach tha casan fada air Anna.
- Aye, but Ann has long legs.
- Tha iad fada, ach tha iad caol.
- They are long, but they are skinny.
- Tha mise reamhar agus tha gàirdeanan fada orm.
- I am fat and I have long arms.
- Sguir dheth sin! Tha do shùilean brèagha.
- Stop that! Your eyes are lovely.
- O, mòran taing, Iain. Bha mi an dòchas gun canadh tu sin!
- Oh, thanks John. I was hoping you would say that!
Asking “are you?” and “are you not?”
You will be familiar with the way we ask simple questions, using the interrogative forms of verbs e.g. a bheil thu toilichte? (are you pleased?), an robh thu anns a' chidsin? (were you in the kitchen?)
Are you pleased?
Were you in the kitchen?
In the conversation taking place in conversation 3, you will hear negative questions being asked and answered. These generally employ the word nach e.g. nach eil thu toilichte? (are you not pleased?)
Are you not pleased?
Listen to the conversation:
- Nach eil thu toilichte, Anna?
- Are you not pleased, Ann?
- Chan eil. Seall air an sgàthan seo.
- No. Look at this mirror.
- Nach e sgàthan math a th' ann?
- Is it not a good mirror?
- 'S e sgàthan math a th' ann, ach seall ormsa.
- The mirror is fine, but look at me.
- Nach eil thu den bheachd gu bheil thu bòidheach?
- Do you not think you're beautiful?
- Chan eil. Tha mo chasan ro fhada. Agus ro chaol.
- No. My legs are too long. And too skinny.
- Tha do chasan dìreach ceart.
- Your legs are just fine.
- Tha mo làmhan ro mhòr is tha mo chluasan ro bheag.
- My hands are too big and my ears are too small.
- Is toigh leam do làmhan agus do chluasan.
- I like your hands and your ears.
- O, a Phàdraig, nach eil mi grànda?
- Oh, Pàdraig, am I not ugly?
- Chan eil, gu dearbh. Tha thu brèagha.
- Certainly not. You're lovely.
- Tha thusa laghach.
- You're nice.
- Tha, agus tha mi eireachdail cuideachd.
- Yes, and I'm handsome also.
- Mmm, 's dòcha. Nach bi thu a' coimhead anns an sgàthan?
- Mmm, perhaps. Don't you look in the mirror?
- Cha bhi. Cha bhi mi a' coimhead anns an sgàthan uair sam bith.
- No. I never look in the mirror.
- Uill, coimhead anns na sùilean agamsa.
- Well, look in my eyes, then.
- Is math an sgàthan sùil caraide!
- A friend's eyes make a good mirror! (Gaelic proverb)