Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bna's Your Uncle

My mother spent the week with family in an Irish-speaking part of the country, taking in some salt air and brisk winds and staggering cliff tops, and she was cut off from all modern elements.
No, not entirely isolated.
Her friend and neighbour sent a text message, in typically brief text message language, about the glorious weather back at the old homestead, with a remark about how 'even bna was out and about.'
Mater had no inkling of what bna might be, but a quick guess told her that the friend was incorporating Irish words because of Mater's proximity to the Irish-speaking folk. Despite the years in which my brother and I became educated in the ways of Irish grammar, none of it made an impression on Mater, and she emerged from our schooldays knowing only the words for milk and shopping, and an affectionate term for a fool- all of which she uses intermittently to this day.
Mater thought and thought. Bna. What might it be? It was out, whatever it was, because the weather was fine.
It might well be the moon.
She asked her young nephew, as he sat doing his homework, if bna meant the moon.
It was not the moon, he assured her, with a shake of his head.
Worse, he had never heard of a bna.
Mater was lost after that. Her grasp of the Irish language had reached its limits, and her main resource- the nephew- had turned up no answers.
She got another text message a while after the first, with a correction from the friend, whose only mistake was typing while tired.
She had not at all been throwing around Irish words- had not, in fact, made the connection between Mater's visit and the language of the region.
She meant to say Bob.
Bob, a neighbour who had not been out in a while, had gone for a walk because the weather was delightful.
That was all she wanted to say, but it sent Mater off looking for the moon.
There we have it. Bna's your uncle.

*'Bob's your uncle' is a catchphrase used commonly in Britain and Ireland to punctuate an explanation or instruction, usually meaning, 'there you go.'
"You take this road, and then take a left, then a right, and another left- and Bob's your uncle."

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