Archive for the ‘galego’ Category

Galician elements

March 14, 2019

The periodic table of the elements is 150 this year, and as of today, there is an official Galician name for each of the 118 elements currently known to science. So here’s the periodic table in Galician, enjoy:


A táboa periódica en galego. Fonte: CCG.

PS Note that the jpg image above doesn’t quite have the resolution needed for a fully readable printout. You can download a PDF that prints nicely on an A4 page here.



O carro

May 18, 2018

While obsessing about the Día das letras galegas, I found this video with an adaptation of O Carro, a poem by the 2016 featured author, Manuel Maria. As it happens, the song is also part of the repertoire of our Galician session, although it may have been a while since we last played it.


Día das letras Galegas

May 17, 2018

The annual day of Galician Literature is happening today. Read all about it in Wikipedia or check the twitter hashtag.   The Oxford Centre for Galician Studies ran a lovely little workshop, managing to coax the Centre’s founder, John Rutherford, out of his retirement to discuss a modern sonnet inspired by Petrarch (the second one on this page).

Also on twitter, there is a lovely hashtag: #euleoengalego, for which I took a selfie, below. And local celebrations continue tonight with the pandeireteiras …


UPDATE (24.5.): I’ve now finished this one, see my review here.



Lúa de prata

May 12, 2018

So the annual day of Galician literature, Día das Letras Galegas is coming up on Thursday. It features a (safely deceased) writer each year, who wrote in Galician – they don’t have to be Galician by birth, and this year’s laureate, for instance, the poet and children’s writer Maria Victoria Moreno (1939-2005), only came to Galicia and to its language at age 22. She describes her relation with the language as a love story:

“Eu non son alófona porque o que practico, se é que escribo, podería definirse coma unha amorosa autofonía […]. A miña relación con Galicia e a miña opción pola súa lingua é simplemente unha historia de amor.” (source)

For this year’s Día das Letras Galegas the band Fuxan os Ventos has set music to one of Moreno’s poems, watch their video here. With their polyphonic arrangement, the band make it sound quite difficult, but it isn’t really. The tune only has 5 notes which are in G major and can be easily played eg on a tin whistle in D.  To demonstrate that it isn’t as hard as it seems, I’ve recorded my approximation of the tune here (also in G major, just an octave lower than Fuxan os Ventos play it).

There is a major cultural gathering in London on the Sunday (13th) ahead of the day, but not much going on around here on the day itself, so I’m hoping we can at least have a go at singing Moreno’s words (scroll down to find the poem below the image), even if it may not turn out quite as perfect as the Fuxan os Ventos version.







Neste amencer de pombas indecisas

conversarei coas fontes

onde beben pesares cristalinos

as sombras que se axitan pola noite.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No laio dos farois agonizantes

evocarei os nomes

que acenderon lucernas balbucintes

nas fragas mestas onde os medos dormen.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


Neste tremor de chumbo e de diamante

serei luz que se esconde

no ardor aceso que xerou os días

ou na xerfa esfiañada en surtidores.


Esa lúa de prata

atopou o tesouro

que eu perdera na auga.


No rubor das estrelas acaladas

achegareime á morte,

sentirei o feitizo dos seus ollos,

eo seu bico na fronte.


(Maria Victoria Moreno. Do libro: Elexías de luz, editado por Edicións Xerais. 2006)

Nooooon me deixes …

May 1, 2018

Galician word of the day (week, month? haven’t quite established a regular pattern yet!):


A Portuguese friend informed me that Galician is exactly like her language, only with lots of “x”es thrown in. Which, confusingly, are pronounced “sh” most of the time, but “ks” in some modern words like taxi (although e.g. galaxia doesn’t count as modern in this way).  So what’s with the “x”es that set Galician apart from its close relatives Portuguese and Spanish?

One small part of the answer hit me when I was reading a book about the Catalan language, which is geographically at the opposite end of the Iberian peninsula, so not much at risk of contamination with Galician words. I learned that it, too has “x”es that are pronounced “sh”, to the extent that some words containing one are actually written the same way in Catalan and Galician, although differently (and x-less) in Spanish. For instance (Spanish / English translations in brackets): deixar (dejar / to leave), baixa (baja / low; f.) caixa (caja / chest/bank) – note, however that the standard version of Catalan subsumes the letter i into the “sh” sound, so it is not heard and the pronunciation is different from the Galician one.

I don’t think there is a general rule for how these originated, and I’m slightly held back in my efforts as the big monolingual dictionary of the Real Academia Galega contains zero etymology, so I have to trust my Spanish dictionary and whatever I can find online. In the case of deixar, at least, I found out that the Spanish dejar derives from Latin delaxare, so the “x”es in Catalan and Galician must be ancestral, and the j in Spanish is a modern mutation. (Update: here is an explanation of how Spanish lost half its fricative sounds, including the one in deixar, in Spanish, and in German, thanks to Asun for the hint.)



(The title quote is from the song Lela, of course.)

This has been the fourth instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I think I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:


deixar – dejar – to leave

graciñas – gracias – thanks

estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird


The Galician Studies Centre in Cork, Ireland, has a Word of the Week feature on its blog, written in Galician and translated into English, which is here.

PS in other Galician language news, I liked this comment about a school project encouraging pupils to live in Galician for 21 days. Incidentally, this is the first article in “La voz de Galicia” that I’ve seen that is entirely written in Galician. A few that I saw were in Spanish with quotes from interviewees left in Galician.


Galicia somos nós

April 14, 2018

lovely video combining hiphop choreography with the Muiñeira de Chantada, which is also part of our session repertoire (the version in the video is by Carlos Nuñez and the Chieftains). We’ll all dance it like that next time …

The lines recited at the beginning of the video are the tail end of the poem

Galicia, by Manuel Maria

Galicia é o que vemos:
a terra, o mar, o vento…
Pero hai outra Galicia
que vai no sentimento!

Galicia somos nós:
a xente e maila fala
Se buscas a Galicia
en ti tes que atopala!

BTW, Manuel Maria is also the author of the poem O carro, the song version of which is also in our session repertoire, although we haven’t sung it very often.

Mil graciñas!

April 10, 2018

Graciñas is the diminutive of grazas (thanks) and the most common form of saying thank you in Galician. Thus it was one of the first Galician words we learned, and one of the first to strike me as odd. In other languages, one tends to big up or multiply one’s gratitude, as in merci beaucoup, muchísimas gracias, many thanks, vielen Dank, so why belittle it with a diminutive (apart from the obvious benefit that it sounds cute)?

Two years on I have a theory about this. You could say moitísimas grazas (very many thanks), which is the one-to-one equivalent to muchísimas gracias in Spanish. But the trouble with that is that it sounds a bit like you were speaking Spanish with a strange accent, and that’s not the impression you want to create.

To linguistically wave the Galician flag (para expresar a nosa galeguidad, as I heard someone say), you want to choose a word that is unmistakably Galician. As there is a massive overlap in vocabulary between Galician and Spanish, there are many cases where such a word isn’t available, but then you can use the diminutive to create one, because the Galician diminutive with – iño sounds completely different from the Spanish one with –ito (as in despacito), so no danger of confusion.

Thus, if un pouco (a bit) sounds too much like un poco, un pouquiño cannot be mistaken for un poquito. If ata logo (see you later) sounds too much like hasta luego, you can say ata loguiño instead.  So my guess is that if Galician uses even more diminutives than Spanish, and often in a context where it clearly doesn’t aim to convey the meaning “a small version of … “, it’s to flag the linguistic difference, para expresar a nosa galeguidad.

Oh, and you can still amplify the little thank yous with a number, and say mil graciñas.


(It was impossible to find a suitable picture for this one, so I had to create this text-image!)

This has been the third instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:

graciñas – gracias – thanks

estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird

Hora zulú

March 30, 2018

Volume 4 in my nascent Galician library (kindly provided by the author):

Hora zulú
by Santiago Lopo
Editorial Galaxia 2016 (in Galician)
Mar Maior 2016 (Spanish)

In January 2000, a man is washed up on the coast of Galicia and is referred to a psychiatric hospital, as he appears to have lost his memory. Known as “the professor”, he is going to spend the rest of his life there although we are increasingly suspecting that he isn’t quite as mad as we thought, and maybe he hasn’t lost his memory either.

After his death, Ana, who was one of the psychiatrists at the hospital at the time of his referral, pieces together the mysteries of the professor’s previous life from a set of five stories that he had written and hidden in different places. Ana reports the progress of her quest in emails to a former colleague and love interest, but we don’t know whether he ever reads her emails – she never refers to anything he might have said in reply, so it’s a strong possibility that the ex, now living in New York and married to somebody else, deletes her messages unread.

The novel intersperses these emails with the professor’s writings and the psychiatrists’ case notes to create a jigsaw puzzle that remains mysterious to the last. We begin to suspect that the mad professor may have been a sane man in a mad world, as becomes clear from the questionnaire he designs to test the sanity of his doctors. He is thinking about the mysteries of time in a quest to stop the man-made destruction of the environment. (Hora Zulú (Zulu Time), by the way, which occurs at the end of each of his texts, is just a navy / aviation code for Greenwich Mean Time.)

Meanwhile, Ana has her own problem with time. She wants to wind back the clock to be back with her ex (or was he just an almost lover?). As the personality of the patient is gradually beginning to make more sense, that of the psychiatrist is becoming a shade crazier, although her voice, emailing into the void with the mixture of exciting discoveries and the mourning for lost love, (to me) really was the main attraction of the book. I’d happily read more of her emails any time.

The whole tackles some big questions, including:
* what is the nature of time, and can it be stopped or reversed? and:
* am I crazy or is the world around me going crazy? speaking of which:
* can dogs read our minds?
The answers, however, remain a mystery.




PS: while I was writing this review, I came across two time-twisting news items in Express News, a Spanish weekly published in London – spooky stuff:


Estrañandote tanto

March 18, 2018

In the lyrics of Latin American songs like Shakira’s Moscas en la casa you’ll find the word extrañar in the sense of to miss (somebody), which is only used in Latin American Spanish, not in the Iberian version. In Spain you can only say “echar de menos” which can be a bit awkward in the tight space of a poem or song lyric. (In Iberian Spanish the word extrañar only exists to describe the action of things that surprise you, as you find them strange, which makes sense as the word is obviously related to strange.)

I often wondered how this came to be and how Spaniards survive (and reproduce) without the romantic “extrañandote tanto”. Only now I discovered (in the reliably educational podcast of Un pais mundial) that Galician has the equivalent word estrañar. So I’m guessing Latin American Spanish must have adopted the usage from Galician, as a vast number of Galician migrants came to Latin America in the 19th century. Does anybody know any other interesting words that crossed over from Galician to Latin American Spanish?


PS For the origins of the Spanish “echar de menos”, which also has a Galician equivalent in “botar de menos”, see the link provided in Ana’s comment, below.





This has been the second instalment of my series Galician word of the day, I think I’ll reproduce the accumulating dictionary at the bottom of each entry, see how far I get:


estrañar – echar de menos – to miss

maruxiña – mariquita –  ladybird



Anda Maruxiña

March 2, 2018

In quite a few Galician songs (eg Barciademera, Pasodobre de Sisamo) we find the name Maruxiña, which is, quite obviously, a second derivative of Maria: Maria – Maruxa – Maruxiña. However, I spotted the same word in a novel, where it was written in lower case, so I had to look up its other meaning. Turns out that maruxiña (lower case) is the ladybird (taxonomically, any beetle from the family Coccinellidae), which makes perfect sense if you think about it, as the English word ladybird also refers to the virgin Mary, as does the German Marienkäfer, and the Spanish mariquita.

Wikipedia in English says:” The name “ladybird” originated in Britain where the insects became known as “Our Lady’s bird” or the Lady beetle. Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted wearing a red cloak in early paintings, and the spots of the seven-spot ladybird (the most common in Europe) were said to symbolise her seven joys and seven sorrows”.

The German version has a slightly different story, it claims that medieval peasants thought the ladybirds, which were helpful to them, to be a magical present from the virgin Mary, thus named them after her. Oh, and the Dutch wikipedia traces it back to Germanic roots, apparently it was associated with the goddess Freya, which would explain that upon Christianisation some languages transferred it to Mary, and some to God, as in Dutch Lieveheersbeestjes and French bête à bon Dieu. The more widely used French word coccinelle, however, as well as the systematic name, derives from the conspicuous colour. Latin coccinus is crimson.

PSA: This has been the first instalment in a new series on Galician words. Watch this space.


Photo: wikipedia