Gaelic word of the Week blog – Mun Cuairt mun cuairt! #gaidhlig

Each week we record our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast and post the text here with added facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba.

This week our word is – Mun cuairt mun cuairt!

If you are a Gaelic speaker, one of the first things people ask is often “what does mun cuairt, mun cuairt mean?”

This expression even made its way into the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba recently!

In a Members’ Business Debate led by Murdo Fraser MSP on the Royal National Mòd – Am Mòd Nàiseanta Rìoghail – Scotland’s largest Gaelic event, Clare Baker MSP mentioned that she had learnt the expression from TV.

Clare Baker MSP, speaking in the debate on the Royal National Mòd

So where does this mysterious expression come from and why do so many people know it?

As Clare Baker pointed out, it comes from the introduction to the Gaelic children’s television programme Dòtaman which starts with the words “Mun cuairt mun cuairt a dhòtamain bhig, mun cuairt mun cuairt, saoil de thig?”. This means “around and around wee spinning top, around and around, I wonder what will come?”.

“Dòtaman” means “spinning top” and “mun cuairt” means “around”.

Dòtaman ran from 1985 to 2000  and was a staple show for young Gaelic speakers. But because it aired on BBC 2, it was also seen by many non-Gaelic speakers and became a cult TV favourite..

The show’s presenter Donnie MacLeòd – Donnie Dòtaman – is famous for singing songs and for wearing amazing hats relating to subjects he was singing about – ranging from a koala bear to castles and a seagull and much more.

We wonder if Dòtaman was still running if Donnie Dotaman would consider making a hat of the Scottish Parliament building?

The word cuairt  is useful to know on its own. It means a cycle, circuit or rotation. It can also be translated as a wee walk or trip.

If you want to read all that was said in the debate about the National Mòd in Perth, read the Official Report.

Left: Murdo Fraser MSP, who introduced the motion; right: Emma Roddick MSP who delivered her first ever speech in Gaelic at the debate.

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week has been written and read by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic Development Officer who has spent many happy hours watching Gaelic children’s programmes, Murdaidh being his all time favourite!

Murdaidh is a chàirdean!

Alasdair MacCaluim

Gaelic Word of the Week – North East Fife – Fìobh an Ear Thuath

Each week publish our Gaelic Word of the Week podcast which you can listen to at the link above. Here on the blog we add some extra facts, figures and photos for Gaelic learners who want to learn a little about the language and about the Scottish Parliament – Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. This week we continue looking at the Parliamentary constituencies and regions, this week with North East Fife – Fìobh an Ear Thuath.

This week we’re going back to Fife – Fìobha, often known as the Kingdom of Fife – Rìoghachd Fhìobha.

The word rìoghachd is often used in Gaelic to mean “country” as well as kingdom and you will often hear native Gaelic speakers say “an rìoghachd” as well as “an dùthaich” to mean “the country”.

This week’s constituency is North East Fife – Fìobh an Ear Thuath.
The biggest town in the sgìre – constituency is St Andrews. In Gaelic, the name of the town isn’t related to St Andrew at all – it is Cill Rìmhinn. This means church of Rìmhinn. In fact, the original English name of the town, Kilrymont, was an anglicisation of this. The name changed after the relics of St Andrew – Naomh Anndras, were supposedly brought to the town and it gained the name we know and love today. In Gaelic, though, it is still Cill Rìmhinn!

View of St Andrews – Cill Rìmhinn, from top of St Rule’s tower

Also in the constituency, but famous for its fine name rather than for golf or an ancient university is Auchtermuchty. This means “Upland of the place of pigs”. The Auchter part – uachdar – meaning uplands or upper part can also be seen in placenames like Auchterarder. And uachdar can also mean cream in Gaelic, called this because it is what you find at the top of the milk.

The element meaning pig is muc. You might recognise this from the Isle of Muck – Eilean nam Muc. However, in this case the “pigs” in question are “mucan-mara” – literally sea-pigs, that’s to say whales.
And in Gaelic, unlike in English, you don’t say “as fat as a pig” but rather “as fat as a seal” – cho reamhar ri ròn.

On the coast in the East Neuk too are many beautiful fishing villages. Crail is Cair Ail – the settlement at the rock and Pittenweem is Peit na h-Uamha – the estate of the cave.

And if you visit St Andrews – Cill Rìmhinn – or the East Neuk, you might get the train to Luacharas – Leuchars. This means “the place of rushes or reeds”.

Leuchars – Leucharas

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week is North East Fife – Fìobh an Ear-Thuath:

This week’s Gaelic Word of the Week was written and read by Alasdair MacCaluim, Gaelic Development Officer who spent all his childhood holidays in Cair Ail and whose granny lived in Ladybank!

If you are interested in learning more about Gaelic in Fife, you might be interested in the following new video about Gaelic in the Kingdom by Welcome to Fife.

Alasdair MacCaluim,

Gaelic Cheat sheet for International Mother Language day #gàidhlig #idml2022

This week we have a special guest blog for International Mother Language Day from our new and multilingual colleague Wacera Kamonji who has created a Gaelic cheat sheet for those wishing to learn a little Gaelic for International Mother Language Day.

Hello, my name is Wacera Kamonji and I have recently joined the Scottish parliamentary staff as part of the John Smith centre. Previously I have worked with festivals and grassroots organisation with hopes to expand my creative outlets, learn more about governmental and cultural policy and give a platform from people from a similar background to mine the opportunity to learn, grow and apply for opportunities that wouldn’t be easily afforded to them.

Today we celebrate mother language day, for me this day reminds me how important it is to retain and appreciate your mother tongue as much as possible. For me, I speak two languages, English and Swahili. As for my family, the majority speak three; English, Swahili and Kikuyu (Kenyan ethnic language)

When I was younger, I was able to understand a Kikuyu with ease and spoke English and Swahili at home. When I moved to Scotland using English became primary and I found my Swahili slowly slipping and my Kikuyu fading even more.

Luckily, going back to Kenya every summer has helped me retain some of my Swahili speaking abilities to a conversational level, though I do mix it a lot with English.

With this year’s theme of International Mother Language day looking at how technology bridges the gap in language learning, I can say recent growth in technology has helped bridge a gap in my language learning, both being cost effective as often times classes can be expensive and also being able to learn and pick up the language on my own time. YouTube, podcasts, language learning apps and now being able to have online tutors has helped me keep my language practice up.

It has also pushed me to try out other languages such as French and Spanish.

I have always found that learning a few key phrases in another language helps fill in the gaps when it comes to interacting with people of other cultures, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect, people are happy that you tried.

As for my interest in Gaelic, though I don’t speak it, I found it fascinating, mostly because many are not aware that people in Scotland have another ethic language other than English. Though not widely spoken in the country as it was over 250 years, its use and history has helped me understand Scotland’s cultural history and how Scotland has evolved over the years. Learning town and location names and places and how we unknowingly still use Gaelic, shows how quickly we absorb other languages and pepper it into our own.

Together with Gaelic Officers Alasdair and Mark, we created this cheat sheet of basic phrases as there is a growing interest to try out the language even at its basic level. This sheet is great for newbies, those with an interest in Gaelic or those who want to expand their vocabulary in other languages.

Wacera Kamonji