September 6, 2019

MÊD / MAD - "meadow"

Detail from "Abendläuten" 
by Josef Kinzel (1852-1925)
Today let's break down a common Frisian expression:

It komt my oer 't mad
or
It komt my oer it mêd

It surprises me! (literally, "it comes to me over the meadow") 

[UHt KAHmt MIGH OOrt mAWt] 
or
[UHt KAHmt MIGH OOr UHt mEHt]

This phrase translates as "it takes me by surprise" or "it overtakes or overwhelms me." You'll see it a lot in the past tense too, e.g., Dat kaam my oer 't mad. [dAWt kAWm MIGH OOrt mAWt]

The word mêd or mad means "meadow" in English. It also signifies an old measurement for as much land as one can harvest by scythe in a single day. More figuratively, it can mean “territory” or “terrain." Mêd can also mean "a medium" in the context of art.

Mêd is pronounced [mEHt] and the plural is mêden [mEH-duhn].
Mad is pronounced [mAWt] like it rhymes with "hot." Meadows do get pretty hot in the summer, but that is not a surprise. 

Just to get in a bit more vocabulary, the Frisian for "scythe" is seine. Pronounce it like it contains the word "sign." [SIGH-nuh]. The word seine also means a "blessing," both the sort given with hand signals or in the more general sense.

July 28, 2019

OAN versus OER

Grab a cup of coffee. This one is going to get intense.

Someone recently asked a great question about oer versus oan in Frisian. On their face, these two little prepositions start off simply enough:

Oer literally translates as "over." Pronounce it with the long "oo" in "moon" and with a slight schwa before the final -r. [OOuhr]

Oan literally translates as "on." pronounce it with the "oh" in boat and a with a slight schwa before the final -n. [OHuhn]

Before we go any further, here is a quote directly from Pieter Tiersma's "Frisian Reference Grammar" (p. 94): "Prepositions often have a wide variety of meanings which are difficult to categorize succinctly." That's something of an understatement! Today, I'm going to look at some more subtle uses of oer and oan and share a visceral hunch about the differences in use... but remember that I'm not a native speaker. This post gets very esoteric and subjective and may not turn out to be especially useful to others studying the language! O.K., disclaimer over. Now...

Let's start with oer and some examples from Tiersma's book, as I think these just may get to the heart of the matter. We can say oer de brêge ("over the bridge") the same way we'd use that phrase in English, and we can also say someone is talking about a subject: hy prate oer syn bernetiid ("he talks about his childhood"). But the question is, why use oer specifically here?

Tiersma notes another meaning of oer that might subtly be of assistance: oer in oere means "in an hour/within an hour." Notice that our first, most literal translation ("over") is no longer helpful. Here is another example from his book: foar de tsjerke oer meaning "in front of the church." Again, why oer specifically?

This is just my personal theory, a feeling I got from looking through phrases. When you think of a church, the building often has a definite yard, sometimes marked by a very solid brick fence. There is a certain "inside consecrated grounds" vibe to it. My suspicion is that oer in its more subtle forms is a bit, well, "grabby" and "possessive"--to try to quantify a feeling. With some subtle uses of oer, the subject is very definitely within its purview. Here's another example to try to get at this visceral sense: mei in boat oerhelje, meaning to bring to the other side by boat. Those involved are landing on and becoming a part of the other shore. From Tiersma again: hja helle my oer om op de FNP te stimmen... "she convinced me to vote for the Frisian National Party." The "om ___ te___" is a clause, so don't worry about it too much here... but the sentence itself shows that feeling of oer taking something or someone into its grasp.

Some subtle variations of oan, on the other hand, do not quite have that "keeping things within its clutches" feel... there seems to be more of a "touching upon" or flowing vibe to it. Again, these are very esoteric impressions! I warned you, right?

...oan te sjen... "look at"... looking at something does not take it into your grasp. But when we talk about a subject, prate oer, perhaps we can say that we are drawing a perimeter about it. We are holding and grasping onto a topic while we speak of it.

Ik tink oan dy. - "I think about you / I remember you."

It giet oan! - "It's on! / It's happening!"

Dêr't neat fan oan is, komt ek gjin praat fan - loosely, if you don't give hints or indications about something, no one can talk about it.

Ik bin no wol oan kofje ta! - "I really need coffee now!" Another understatement after this lesson. A more word-for-word translation would look like: "I am now really on coffee!" That ta at the end was a whole other lesson. But with the oan, there's that sense of flowing and movement... not of having something within grasp as of yet.

I really need coffee now!







June 14, 2019

Art With Frisian-Language Quote From The Little Prince


"You can see the best with the heart. That which is essential may not be seen with the eyes." 

Quote from the Frisian translation of "The Little Prince" (De Lytse Prinsand painting by Ludwig Knaus (1829 –1910). I made this with Paint.NET software. 

May 20, 2019

DRÛGJE - "to dry"

Drûgje, alternatively spelled droegje, is the verb for "to dry." The first spelling with the -û- is the more up-to-date one. It is pronounced with the long "oo" sound in "drew." Meanwhile, drûch is the word for "dry," such as with dry weather.

One of my favorite Frisian proverbs involves this verb:

Dy't nachts fisket moat deis netten drûgje
[DEET nAWkhts fIHs-kuht MWAWt DIGHs NEHT-tuhn drOOg-yuh]

or

Wa't nachts fisket moat deis netten drûgje
[VAHt nAWkhts fIHs-kuht MWAWt DIGHs NEHT-tuhn drOOg-yuh]

They both literally mean that the one who fishes by night must dry nets by day, or that there are consequences to actions... e.g., stay up late and feel it the next day.

Public domain image (1839) from the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank

March 2, 2019

FAN BÛGJEN FRJEMD - "We Bow To No one"

A quick little post. I thought I'd share a picture I made a while back with a good Frisian patriotic phrase:

Fan bûgjen frjemd
Colloquial translation: "we bow to no one" - literally, "of bowing foreign/strange"
[FAWN BOOG-yuhn FREHMT]

This phrase is in the Frisian provincial anthem, De Alde Friezen. The picture is one I took at the Imaginarium Festival in Tytsjerk.



January 25, 2019

OPROMJE- to tidy up

I recently learned a new Frisian word just in time for all the renewed interest in Marie Kondo... opromje, which means "to clean up" or "to tidy up."

opromje
to tidy up
[awp-RAWM-yuh]

It's interesting to me, as an English-speaker, how the word has a connection to the root rom ("space," "vastness," "roomy"), a connection which we don't have in our own language. 

Another word where we can see that bond is ferromming, meaning "relief," "solace," or "expansion." This makes so much sense: when something is a relief, it gives you a renewed feeling of space and freedom!

Rom roughly rhymes with "bomb" and is the emphasized syllable in the other words. [fuh-RAWM-ing], [awp-RAWM-yuh].

It is worth adding that rom has another meaning: fame or glory. For example, the provincial anthem describes it Fryske lân fol eare en rom... the Frisian land full of honor and glory. 

The verb romje has a number of different meanings. It can mean "to praise" or "to commend." However, it can also mean "to clear out," "to leave," or "to abandon."

It fjild romje...

To leave the field...
[UHT FYEHLT RAWM-yuh]

To conclude, here is a picture of a beautifully expansive field that I took on a bike ride to Boalsert from Snits: