eye of newt

things loom out of the murk and paddling cautiously towards them, we read well the warps and bends of light in the rippling data-flow, we make conscientious use of the incidental lenses that bubble up past us to read the waters well, and we make our approach unerringly. we can retrieve a sense of the past that is evidence-based and credible from the old texts. but we have to admit that current models of pre-renaissance history just aren’t always evidence-based or credible, and learn which bits to keep and which to discard.


ps and qs

the p- q- split: how the gorgons lost their ghiks, i mean how the bourbons lost their lips.                                3500 words

the history of the gorgons is recorded by homer in ionic greek, but homer was clearly translating from much older material from many sources, and analysis shows that much of it was celtic.  gorgon is a k-form of bourbon, indicating the antiquity of that name of whose origins we have no record, and that makes the gorgons gaulish.  there’s a fair bit of linguistic evidence for this and a lot more evidence from the homeric texts and from place names and personal names some of which are still in use.

‘the p- k- split’, i call it, though ‘officially’ they talk of a division of the celtic language group into p-celtic and q-celtic. i prefer to talk of a p- k- split for four reasons:

  1. no celtic language currently uses the letter q for the sound k and anyway, q represents the combination of the letters k and u, denoting a corresponding combinations of sounds – followed by a vowel it becomes kw.  look closely at the q.  it is formed from a c (although we now often close the c into an o, having forgotten its origin) and a subscript u minus its upward stroke.  sometimes this cursive u minus its upstroke is flattened into a gentle sine wave and superimposed, but you can still readily see where it has come from. the ‘q’ that distinguishes one of the main celtic language families from the other is not specifically the kw combination properly denoted by that letter.
  2. the terms p-celtic and q-celtic don’t well differentiate between the two language groups anyway.  any list of frequently used words from any of the so called p-celtic or q-celtic contains about equal numbers of p-forms and k-forms, and you often find both k- and p- forms of the same word – bearr (shave) and gearr (cut) in irish for example.  the p-form irish bean (woman) appears as the k-forms guin as in guin-evere in britain or as gwen as in gwen-hwyfar in welsh, and as jen as in jen-ifer in cornish. the cornish kernow (cornwall), kewsel (speak(ing)) skol (school) kres (centre, peace) are k-forms, and yet cornish is called a p-celtic language.  the two groups are distinguished much more realistically by other criteria. 
  3. the split is not by any means confined to the language group we now call celtic.  it permeates european languages.  it affects sanskrit.  i see it in australian aboriginal languages.  and it you take even a quick look at cherokee, there you have an example of a true k- type language.  it as no p or b, (and no r either in surviving dialects!)  in english we have both colleges and palaces, priest and christ.  our call is also appeal, and in french it appears/occurs as appeller to call or to name. the cherokee language is almost a pure k- language. most of its words other than those it has borrowed can be pronounced without moving the lips or using the tongue tip.  i have not yet encountered any language which has ps but not ks, and would be interested to hear of any.
  4. the k- split tends to complicate itself by a further splitting into k- and s- forms (and there are other divisions equally interesting).  in english, which preserves a great many more celtic traits than some scholars seem to allow, k- can be pronounced as a k or as an s:  candle, cinder, call, ceiling for example, and this can become optional when celtik-derived words, even the word celtic itself, are concerned, or else two or forms of the one word may occur in english one spelt with a c and another with an s, colchester/silchester, for example, or kells and (a monk’s) cell, (related to the old irish word for a church, as in kildare). when you talk of a p- k- division rather than a p- k- or p- q- division, the ambiguity of the k- points you in the direction of this further major division in the languages.    

and now, let’s look at some possibilities concerning the origin of the p- k- split. as i say, this story comes to us from the greek,  but there’s no guarantee that all or indeed any of the action took place anywhere near greece, as all kinds of people came and went, invaded, married into and were known to the ancient greeks and those who told the stories that homer preserved seem to have been rather a cosmopolitan, sea-faring people of diverse cultures and customs. furthermore they bought and read each others books and presented them, sometimes in translation, as gifts to each other. wherever they went as migrants or brides or new colonies, they took their books with them.  homer observed that about 150 different languages contributed to the bronze age culture whose legends his poems preserve, and the closer you look, the less likely it is that they were all contained within the perimeters of the lands we now call greece.  by homer’s time they already had the p- k- split and if you can read about it if you haven’t already  in the article “minding our bronze age ps and qs: apollo = achilles”, also on this website. 

but it’s the gorgons who interest us here. it’s necessary to understand that the world then was not as it is currently depicted. the major features of the civilisations of the past that are discerned or imagined by today’s historians either did not exist or were not discerned by the ancients.  the sharply distinct cultural groups that today’s historians are still looking for didn’t exist as they do today. there were numerous ethnic groups but these were a continuum all over europe and south and east of the mediterranean. so were their languages.  and in addition to this the civilisation was forever mixing them, educating their elites, sending them soldiering or marrying or colonising in far distant countries and sending off individuals to seek their fortunes, be bound apprentice, or be fostered in some remote part of the world.  there were pedlars and beggars and many nomads – whole nations of nomads. forget, please!!!! tribes.  they were not often tribal. clans do not resemble tribes. forget for now even the distinction between celts and others, as it has ceased to be useful. 

try to see also the commerce, trade and politics. this is an ancient polyglot world of international trade routes, networking among far-flung cities and colonies, from continent to continent and across oceans. powerful emperors, buyers of saleable goods, send explorers to the ends of the earth in search of consumer goods ranging from diamonds and gold to linen and wine. less egotistical, even pious missionaries, or scholarly seekers after knowledge also sailed the seven seas and sought out new overland routes to far-flung lands to further human progress.  we can no longer realistically deny the mounting archaeological, linguistic and cultural evidence that they did. and politics, war and religion moved peoples, traditions and books from one place to another in surprising ways.

the gorgon, medusa, is a case in point. gor is gcor, a mutant variant of an ancient form of cathar, which is a gaulish variant of the irish cathair, a city, found in ancient greek as cwr- or cor-. the vowels have changed so we can’t tell what the original suffix was, whether –er, -ar, -or, or something neutral-sounding to the gorgons themselves. so gor means a city, a chair of residence, ultimately, a culture, a school of thought, philosophy, religion etc, a path.  (path is a p- form of cath-, and python is another with a suffix equivalent to the latin –anus, and the english –an.  cath is seen also in cathbad, cassandra, katmandu, katatjuta).  one variant of cath is gc/ad, pronounced god.) 

gon is a similarly mutated form of khan. (af)ghan, conn, ceann and ken(mara), are some other k- forms and penn, pen and ben as in penn bran, pendragon and ben nevis are p-forms of it.  gon too derives from cath but with a different suffix: -an instead of –ar.  gor and gon are equivalent terms then, both meaning a (specific) path or culture.  it bespeaks a merger of two paths, one calling itself gor (gcath’r) and the other calling itself gon (gcath’n)  of course, the c to g mutation may have happened after the merger, or before it, or at the time of it as a result of it. most such mergers were due to mass marriages.  if it happened before, the bourbons are older than we dare to think!!!

the gorgons were all once beautiful.  in those days that meant richly-dressed, well-groomed, and with no deformities.  but one of them, medusa, offended athene and was punished. med- as in mediterranean, meant centre. med-ea and med-us are probably polis-specific forms, with the endings denoting specialisations which analysis might uncover, but not just now.  (i intend to discuss noun gender in a later essay, so stay tuned.) medusa seems to have been a third, related polis.  these names almost certainly represented not individuals but polises or schools, or systems of polises or school/s. the word medicine, despite its different spelling, probably came from medus or medusa or both, its modern spelling having being construed from medus(a)+ an, with medic and medical being back-formed from it, or else conflated with forms of the uninflected stem which denoted polises similarly famed, and this gives us our first of many clues to what may have been a preoccupation of her culture. 

furthermore, asclepius, the celebrated surgeon and pharmacologist, had powerful medicines derived from medusa.  asclepius (the name means ‘as– = from the, c’le = college, polis, pius, p(ath)+ius’) learnt the art of healing from apollo (the polis, palace, college) and cheiron. (cheiron is a relation of the gorgons.  as gor comes from gc/ath+’r and -gon from gc/ath+’n, so cheiron comes from cha/e(th)ir + on. and so the two are clearly related.)  according to the legend, athene gave him two vials of medusa’s blood.  one vial could raise the dead, the other could cause instant death.  these two vials contained blood from the veins of the left and right sides of the medusa’s body.  no doubt the vials were real, they were in a box and the left hand vial could cure while the right hand one could (we hope) euthanise more or less instantly, and this was garbled and given its spin through successive tellings and translations on its way to homer into the version he has preserved for us.  so there’s further evidence in favour of her having been a purely or at least predominately medical college perhaps with no commitment to the greed and lusts of the emperors.   

her crime was to ‘lie with’ poseidon.  pos is a p-form of cath/path, and -eidon is related to eddas, to irish oideachas (education, literally edda-path), to oedipus (which is a p-form of oideachas, and to the latin educare, to educate. it’s incidental resemblance to the latin e or ex = out of + ducere = to lead, has led to the erroneous etymology now usual given for it. it is also related to the greek suffix –oides meaning ‘(same) idea (as)’  and ode, a kind of (latin) poem or similar, and the english ‘idea’ .  path of ideas/education is a fair title. this ‘path” becomes more and more evident as data accumulates, but if you don’t look for it you don’t see it. but once you realise it’s there, you start seeing it everywhere.)  poseidon too represents not a man, but a culture. 

poseidon is thought of as a sea god, meaning that he, along with neptune, manannan mac lir and lir and many others, sailed the sea in ships.  not all such sailors were in the service of some emperor.  some served the paths of knowledge with pure and pious intentions, as explorers, scientists and sociologists, and there’s no reason to imagine that poseidon wasn’t one of these.  his name suggests he was. 

but in those innocent days, as still today, it was usual for sailors to ‘lie with’ the women of the ports of call, to give them babies to strengthen their culture and to give these homeless, wandering men focus, love and the chance to be fathers. in those days before syphilis was understood it was not always considered irresponsible as it usually is now. 

“so early the next morning the sailor lad arose

and into mary’s apron threw a handful of gold

saying, ‘take this, me dear, for the mischief that i’ve done,

for tonight i fear i’ve left you with a daughter or a son,

and its home boys, home….”

if it be a girl child, send her out to nurse,

with gold in her pockets and silver in her purse,

and if it be a boy child he’ll wear a jacket blue,

and go scaling up the riggin’ like his daddy used to do,

and its home boys, home….”

but athene took offence. (athene, contrary to prevailing opinion, is possibly the name of a people distinguished by a feature of their language, the plural ending.  there’s evidence enough of the antiquity of the ancient priestly colleges as brunaux calls them – keep reading this website if you’re interested – and the two plural endings, -acha and –ath(a) or -eth were already  in use in the middle east during the bronze age.  both are still alive in modern irish, although the –a/eth(a) is eroded to -the.  (athaireacha = fathers, eanacha = birds; and sc/ealaithe, story teller, draoithe druids.) –ath(a) is found also in cornish as –edh, which is our english (e)s.  some pre-bronze age observers distinguished the two speech groups as acha-ean (–acha+an) and athen (-ath+an). athens and athene are both plural forms, the former denoting the culture, the latter its leader. 

athene turned the medusa into a winged monster with glaring eyes, huge teeth, protruding tongue, brazen claws and serpent locks, whose gaze turned men to stone.

that’s pure magical nonsense, isn’t it? or is it?  we get a bit more insight later on when perseus (per is a p-form of gor, derived from a p-form of cath+ar which had forms like pether, peter, peder, pesher, peser, peer, and par, with the vowels varying from e through a, ae, i, o, y, u, depending on where you were.  as data accumulates, it should be possible to map them and so locate them geographically.  these are p forms of the gc/ather complex from which the gor of gorgon comes, showing that they are more or less distant relations.  seus, zeus, cepheus, cephas and others are also relatives, a ticklish lineage which i will discuss in another essay.

unlike some versions, this tale admits that medusa is so ugly that people who look at her are petrified with fright, i.e., not literally turned to stone, but nevertheless it plays on this figure of speech for narrative effect. 

perseus promises the medusa’s head to a friend for a wedding present. aided by athene who still persecutes the poor girl, he goes first to sunny, mediterranean samos, where images of medusa and her two sisters are displayed, so that he will recognise her, then to mt atlas where three graeae (probably related to a greek word meaning old women, but also to graine, granny, and ygrain and denoting a college or polis.  brea, bran, brehon and fra are some p-forms). there’s ridicule in the description of them as having only one eye and one tooth between them, but again the figure of speech is manipulated for narrative effect when he steals the tooth and eye and blackmails them into telling him the whereabouts of the stygian nymphs who equip him for his quest with magic winged sandals, a satchel, and a helmet of invisibility.  (stygian = styx + ian. the x is the grecian chi pron as the german ch not the latin ks styx is related to our word sty, a pigs’ dwelling, and meant house or church.  the initial s is acquired from an olden definite article which survives in german as das and is related to the english this.  (s)tyx, without the s is irish teach (house).)    

now this suggests to me that northern africa is medusa’s place of origin: warm, balmy, comfortable, close to her sisters colleges and colleagues.

but let’s look closely at the sandals, satchel and helmet.  sandals first.  it was a widespread ancient custom to use the dried wings of birds caught for food or sport or for their beauty to decorate their clothing, and conceivably for magical purposes.  wings attached to sandals might lend to a runner’s feet the speed of the bird they came from.  scandinavian winged helmets are familiar to us too. but i don’t think it was a pair of decorated sandals that enabled perseus to pursue medusa.  she now lived, we discover, in the hyperborean realms, in a bleak, craggy, weather-ravaged land, and while he departed for it westwards from mount atlas, he must have turned north, because he departs southward, fleeing, and ends up where he started.  this means he went by sea around what is now portugal, because overland he’d have just gone straight there in a north or north-westerly direction. 

the sandals are probably ships, the wings sails; and he would have taken more than one. he had a fair bit of fighting to do when he got there.  you only have to consider the similarity of words like boot, boat and the french boi^te (box) to understand the ease with which a word for sea-going vessel might be mistranslated as sandal in transition from one language to another on its way to homer.  the satchel, too, could have been anything originally, but my guess is sails, where a word meaning sheeting of some sort is confused with one meaning something made out of sheeting.  or perhaps it was leather.

the helmet of invisibility recalls manannan mac lir’s cloak of invisibility.  considering the kind of invisibility both were after, these items might have been the uniform or customary dress of the inhabitants of the land they intended to enter secretly, wearing which they were ‘invisible’ meaning inconspicuous, to the locals, seeming only to be their own warriors.  in such disguise they might enter the highest precincts without challenge. 

these are guesses, but they show that it is possible to feel our way cautiously to the history behind the myth, and it’s worth the risk of error to try to do so.

so medusa was a sea journey away and she was way up north.  what this means is that she had experienced some mighty extreme changes of climate, from very mild, even warm to hot, to extremely cold.  med- means mediterranean. hyperborean means of,  pertaining to or characterising the extreme north.  it’s cold up there, and if you’re not used to it, and not expecting it, you’re not likely to thrive there.  the major danger  is frostbite.

severe facial frostbite comes upon the unwarned novice unexpectedly.  the face feels numb for a long time, and there’s no pain, and no hint of damage being done until it’s too late.  it isn’t until the face thaws that the pain is felt, and then it’s too late – the worst affected areas of facial flesh have already died and can’t be healed. they are destined to rot away and fall off. eyelids, noses, cheeks, lips, tongues, chins, fingers and toes are the most vulnerable and most frequently severely affected parts.  imagine what a young girl would look like!  sent to the hebrides (like being sent to outer siberia in more recent times) she would not know not to stand on deck, ignoring the painlessly increasing numbness of her face and hands, watching the sea and lamenting her fate, the damage would have been done before she got there.  and of course, she wouldn’t have been alone – her whole entourage would have suffered the same fate.

so there you are, daring to look upon a once beautiful maiden changed by the wrath of a higher authority into a hideous, terrifying monster. her eyes are rimless  – staring eyeballs in gaping sockets, as you see in ancient depictions of her. her nose is a hideous hole in her face.  her huge mouth has no lips to hide the teeth, which project horribly out of the near-gumless bone-ridges of her jaw as the images show, only slightly exaggerating the effect into curving, dog-like fangs. her tongue, visible through it, is a mass of stiff, ugly scar-tissue, protruding between her teeth. the bare bones of her fingers protruding through the flesh of her horribly damaged fingers look like brazen claws.

 that she is winged means she has adopted the scandinavian/celtic custom of wearing wings for decoration or magical purposes, and that her hair has become snakes means that she has adopted their fashion of wearing her hair in plaits.  (little girls were still referring to their long plaits (braids if you’re american) as ‘snakes’ in australia in the 1950s, when i was about six or seven years old, waggling them and pretending to make them hiss to scare each other for fun.)

but the thing most interesting to us here happens when she tries to speak. 

it’s probably no time for jokes, but in the words of the old song:  “can you say bread and butter without moving your lips?”  or perhaps rather, since it is a ventriloquists’ song, “can you say gread and gutter ghuithout ghoghing ghyour lics?” 

or what if your tongue is paralysed or gone, too?  lics becomes ghyics. 

now when perseus has decapitated the medusa, from her dead body spring the winged horse pegasus and the warrior chrysaor, helbent on pursuit, and perseus flees.  well, not from her corpse maybe but perhaps her corps. this pun is possible because of an ancient kenning or system of kennings which depicted military forces as bodies, with heads, tails, wings, horns etc. descriptions in ancient hebrew and other texts of beasts with horns, wings and heads on their horns are usually descriptions of armies that are to be faced or raised. pegasus’s wings may be merely a feature of dress,  but it may be a military term.  pegasus is the horse, i.e., cavalry of medusa’s army, and the wings are a military formation.

obviously, they sprang not from her dead body, but from her retinue, and perhaps they were armies under the command of her sons. one of the main reasons for sending shiploads of women anywhere was to provide the men of distant colonies with wives, and these might have been the first generation of warriors descended from these frostbitten beauties.  their fathers would have left their early upbringing including the teaching of their mother-tongue to their (unfortunately lipless) mothers, and so, even though they would have had well-formed lips and tongues, they would rarely have heard any language at all other than their mothers’ deformity-modified speech and they would have learned to imitate it as perfectly as children always learn to imitate their parents’ speech.  without lips, how would you tell a child just learning to speak that s/he isn’t a little gorgon, but a bourbon? 

anyway, for a practicum, try now and then speaking english, or your own native language, or any other language if it comes to that, in a ‘frostbitten’ accent, and then let the implications filter through to your perceptions of celtic, grecian, and all other cultures and languages worldwide. 

and watch this website for further essays on this subject.

Language, please, people! with Lynn Gwyst.

look, fellow earthlings, i can see that you are trying, but there is not yet in existence a course in general linguistics, nor any textbook, nor information on-line that i can in good conscience refer you to in delivering my lectures. there is plenty out there, but it’s all very faulty, and before i can even start i’ll have to write my own and i’ll even let you have it for free.

no, seriously, i’ve looked at text-books, journal articles, websites and wikipedia, books for the intelligent lay-reader, the intros to language learning books and websites and truckloads more. i’m assuming that you, o venerated reader, have done as much or are doing so or intending to. perhaps you too have noticed or will notice and been or will be dismayed by the many quite big bits that don’t ring true in the works of even the most respected of linguists. i won’t name names. well, not too many, anyway. don’t want to embarrass anyone. or not too many, anyway. or anyway, i don’t want to embarrass them too much. and only the truly deserving… my blog will identify and examine the worst of these clangers and you’ll all be the better for it.

i won’t try here to entrance you too much with forays into the special branch of linguistics called prescriptive linguistics, though it is an adorable little foray if you get time for it. google it if you like. wikipedia sums it up for the uninitiated as satisfactorily as most introductory-level university text-books do, but with fewer errors, since anyone can hop in and correct wikipedia, with the consent of a jealously watching peer group, who are the more honest for not being paid for it.

most of us are well acquainted with the idea that the standardised, standardising varieties of language used by officialdoms, educational institutions and the mainstream mass media are usually based on the speech of a ruling elite,  the so-called dominant culture, and not intrinsically superior to any of the many other forms of the language. ‘i dun roow good in inglish’ among people who speak like that naturally is as good as ‘I did very well in English’, and a wi’u bi’ of a glo’u sto (little bit of a glottal stop) is not a feature of inferior speech. they are just different variations of the same language, samples from different parts of the melange. many children grow up speaking one form at home and learning the standard as a school language, never using it again after leaving school. they are no longer regarded as inferior because of it. which is a blessed relief, because you can’t just trash whole peoples after trampling their cultures to death. so heave a sigh. here goes.

linguistics for free radicals. (try not to mop me up).
spoken language consists of vocalisations associated with meaning. written language consists of marks on paper the shapes of which are intended to represent the sounds or units of meaning of spoken language.
spoken language attempts to represent meaning, each utterance using a sequence of vocalisations associated in the minds of speaker and listener with particular meanings such that communication can occur. we can tell each other what we think and feel, what we know and believe, what we want or need, fear or deplore etc. written language attempts to represent meaning, each mark or sequence of marks representing a sound or sequence of sounds evocative of associated meaning or… yes, hilda, did you have a question? no? a complaint? you already knew that? oh all right. you’ve all read widely on the subject and grasped the pith of that. good. but i’m not on about all that at the moment. i’m on about syllables.

because they are the smallest units of verbal meaning and since each syllable has a meaning we have to look at the language not just word by word, but syllable by syllable.
you can divide words into syllables according to the rules of syllabication:

  • a syllable has a single vowel sound. …
  • doubled consonants are split to make syllables. …
  • words with single consonants between vowels are divided before the consonant.

but this is not the best way for, say, etymological purposes. syllables all have their own meaning.

i remember reading years ago in one of those very numerous books on the subject of general linguistics about a language spoken in africa which had words of many syllables to the point of hysteria, and no not welsh, an obscure african one. i remember wondering what he meant? it was the language of an illiterate people, and without writing how can you decide where a word begins and ends? you can’t, in my opinion, but what do others think?

run means something. okay, having grasped that the second n is a mere spelling convention, and ok, running means something else. the run or runn- part still means what it most naturally means, but the ing part has its own meaning which is also consistent wherever it occurs. in it? it is. then whose decision is it that run(n) and ing are one word? dr johnson’s? oxford university’s? some ancient inventor of spaces between written ‘words’. yours? mine? seems so natural now, no one would ever want to change it, least of all me, because by now i am as enchanted by the way language is now as anyone. the multisyllabic word makes the rhythms and flows of our most beautiful poetry, musical prose and endearing conversation. but i suggest that for the purposes of linguistic analysis, each syllable is a word.
naturally during the course of time, some syllables become eroded. does not becomes doesn’t. i will becomes i’ll. and con (with/together) + vers (information/verse/teach)* + a(n)(the/a)  + ti (do) + on (ing) = together information the do ing = conversation.

heehee, i/m gonna use this!  believe me, it gets ex cit ing.












crucethur = torture-box???!!!!! wyverne cracks a wobbly.

it is true o earthlings that wyvern(e)s when their danders are up make loud explosive noises and kick up a hell of a stink. with herman’s kind permission as his guest blogger, i now consent to publish this long withheld letter about the a/s text, the peterborough chronicle.

this was written in answer to a series of emails i got from an oxford scholar who thought my writings ‘very intelligent’ and therefore to be silenced.  he said he felt that unintelligent people who might believe what i said needed to be protected by him, in big-brother fashion, from the ‘danger’ of believing me because i make sense, instead of believing the traditional academic stuff which doesn’t.  here’s my reply (careful, it is still sizzling in places), slightly edited for the sake of appropriateness:

okay, you’re alarmed at the things i’m saying and their implications concerning the ‘official’ teachings of the hegemonies you see yourself as representing (if i’ve understood you correctly), and you want to know what the feic i’m doing, and perhaps why, and while the task is daunting – it’s taken me years of dedicated study to arrive at my starting points, so i don’t see how i can get you there from yours in a page or two of terse text – i can isolate single issues and present them to you in the form of questions; and i’ll ask you to respond to them directly and simply without going off your face or clouding the issue in comicalisations.

after all, you’re getting paid to perform this service for the public – the producing of knowledge – and you owe it to us to deliver it in a true and  intelligible form.  my questions have regularly been answered with rudeness, intentional cruelties and puerile vilifications, as a result of which my originally high esteem for academica has plummeted and i scarcely expect to meet with real intelligence there at all.

you yourself got where you are by agreeing wholeheartedly with everything you were taught, or knowing the exact limits within which you must keep your disagreements.  my own education has been interrupted often by a series of ‘nervous breakdowns’ triggered by shock reactions as i discovered to what extent the academics are wrong, and to what extent they expect me to sacrifice my own intellectual integrity for high marks and the goodwill of my professors.  i’m not delusional. the academics are.

consider the following exerpts from the laud (peterborough) chronicle, taken from the passage beginning “me dide cnotted strenges abuton here haeued…” down to “…y aeure it was uuerse y uuerse.”  i found it in david crystal’s the cambridge encyclopedia of the english language, with his “word for word” translation, which seems to be in line with current opinion.

“me  dide  cnotted strenges abuton here hæued and uurythen it ðat it

“one placed knotted cords      about  their  head   and twisted    it that it

gæde  to þe hærnes. hi diden heom in quarterne þar nadres and

entered to the brains. they put  them  in cell where adders and

snakes and pades wæron inne and drapen heom swa.”

snakes and toads   were    in     and killed   them   so.”

my questions and comments are:

  1. why is ‘me’ not ‘i’?  isn’t it more likely to be ‘i’ than ‘one’. if not why not?
  2. according to the lexicon, ‘their’ is not ‘here’ it is ‘heore’ or ‘hiere’.  here is ‘her’. so ‘her’ could be either ‘here’ or ‘their’ allowing for dialect difference.
  3. why is  ‘hæued’ not ‘haved’, on its way to becoming ‘had’?  i know you’ll refer me to the lexicography which shows only that in some text or texts somewhere ‘heafod’ has been translated as ‘head’, but besides being tautological, this doesn’t in this instance convince.  ‘haved’ is as etymologically likely, even if the instances of ‘heafod’ were correctly translated.  furthermore it makes more sense: ‘i had done/contrived knotted strings about here’.
  4. how the feic do you get that ‘hærnes’ means ‘brains’?  every other word so far has been translated into a current english word which it closely resembles.  why suddenly reach for such a bizarre choice of a word here?  the method would not have the desired effect. wire might, but not string. why not ‘harness’?  ‘uurythen it ðat it gæde to þe hærnes’ can then be ‘twisted it to enable it to go onto the harness’.  nets or snares of knotted string, looped into the horse’s harness ready for use.
  5. crystal’s ‘cell’ is a too specific translation of a fairly general word. ‘quarterne’ is ‘quarters’ or ‘corners’ without any difficulty (and i’d just like to mention here that the ‘–ne’ is a plural ending which occurs also in irish as –anna, and is apparently not understood to be that in translations of a/s texts i’ve studied.)  in view of the context that emerges when you stop twisting it into insanity, ‘quarterne’ can be translated best as ‘corners’.  they put them (the nets) in corners.
  6. the adders and snakes and toads were in these quarters where the nets were set up. pad = paddock = toad.
  7. why such a remove from the verb ‘drapen’ as ‘to kill’, when it makes sound sense to translate it into a much nearer modern english word ‘to trap’?

if you can answer each question plainly and calmly, please do, but if you can’t, or choose not to, preferring cutisms and comicalisations instead, don’t expect me to be impressed. (well, now he’d been very rude, explaining by way of apology that he was drunk at the time. he so often was.)

here’s my fairly literal proto-translation:

‘i haved did knotted strings here(abouts) and twisted it that it goed to the harness.  they did them (set them up) in corners where adders and snakes and toads were in, and trapped them so.’

now that’s sound gardening practice, and it clears up a nastily suppurating myth and gives us a glimpse of some real history – history so beautiful it glows.

here’s some more, in fact the very next few lines:

‘sume hi diden in crucethur, ðat is in an ceste þat was scort and nareu and undep, and dide scærpe stanes þerinne and þrengde thær-inne ðat him bræcon alle þe limes.’

the usual translation:

‘some they put into a torture-box, that is, in a chest that was short and narrow and shallow and they put sharp stones therein and pressed the man therein so that they broke all the limbs.’

(now this torture technique is also unlikely:  there are more effective ways of breaking limbs and this method would do all sorts of worse damage to skulls and ribs before it even touched the limbs.  face and belly and other soft body parts would also be much more noticeably damaged too. but close scrutiny shows very obvious ambiguities that are not and should be addressed in this kind of translation.)

my questions and comments:

  1. ‘crucethur’ occurs only this once in the whole of the surviving ‘old english’ literature. it’s only translatable as a torturebox if ‘þe man’ in this sentence is in the accusative case and not nominative. nothing distinguishes the two.  nothing tells us which is denoted by the word order of the sentence.  if it’s nominative, the ‘man’ does the pressing and the ‘crucethur’, which remains an untranslated word denoting an unidentified object or substance,  is pressed.  all other words have been translated by the nearest-sounding english word, so why go wild after this one.  lisping is common, although rarely discussed, but here’s a fine example of it.  –ur is a plural ending.  cruceth is crocus.  they were a major industry worldwide in the past as now, grown for their saffron dyes and as garden ornamentals.  so this important information about how they lived back then is lost to a macabre mistranslation of a key text.
  2. we have no dimensions for the box (ceste)– perhaps it was quite small- smaller than a breadbox. .
  3. limes’ is the object of the verb pressed (þrengde). the meaning of ‘limes’? well, not limbs, limes. that is, loams. loam is tilthy, cloddy garden soil, with good structure. a shallow box, a layer of gravel, crumbled lumps of loam, and crocuses. we’re looking at a propogation ‘flat’, as gardeners would call it, perhaps lined with half an inch of sharp gravel to ensure fast drainage with loam, lumps of (limey) earth, broken up or ‘crumbled’ to a medium tilth and pressed firmly over it to a depth of a couple of inches.  this would be as good a propagator today as it evidently was back then for forcing bulbs in, but still as useless for breaking people’s limbs in as they would have been back then.

so here’s my smoothish translation:

‘some, they put in crocuses, that is, in a box that was short and narrow and not deep, and put sharp stones therein: and pressed therein, (such) that they broke up all the loams/limes/lumps.’

once again, we’re seeing sane, sensible people doing sane, sensible things.

without going into details, here’s the rest of my translation of that excerpt, and when you’ve read it you’ll see why i’m not lusting after qualification in old and/or middle english from any university that flaps in my face the lexicon that lists crucethur as torturebox and hærnes as brains.  and why i haven’t much respect for the qualification when someone else waves it at me as if it means something other than that they’re committed to the back-teeth to entrenched falsehood with an obtuseness whose only virtue is that it keeps them on the right side of the shonky hegemonic pale. thank woden i’m beyond it!

the rest – proto:

‘in many of the castles were loaf and grain, which were rations that (for) two or three men . had to bring enough one.

that (item shown to interviewer and described here, but not named)  was so made, that is fastened to a beam and fixed a sharp iron, about the man’s trod (see oed : a trodden area surrounding a house) and halls (house), that they might not no-way-wards neither sit, nor lie nor sleep, but all that iron barred.  (in other words an iron-spike-tipped picket fence to keep out vagrants).

many dozen, they (the dusen) trapped with hunger. (being hungry, resorted to trapping small game?)

i neither know nor i cannot tell all the wonders nor all the pains (care, painstaking work) that they the workmen did on this land, and that lasted the 19 winters while stephne was king, and after, it was worse and worse. ‘

the whole excerpt in tidy fluent english:

‘i used to do knotted stringwork hereabouts, and twisted it in such a way that it could be attached to the harness. they set them up in corners where there were adders and snakes and toads and so trapped them.

some put in crocuses: that is, in a short, narrow box, not deep; and put sharp stones in them and packed (clods of) loam in such that they broke them (up).

in many of the castles there was bread and grain that were rations: each one was to bring enough for two or three men.

that (un-named thing) was made like that to be fastened to a pole, and set the sharp iron about a man’s house and yard, so that nowhere could anyone get through, not to sit or lie or sleep, but all that iron was withstanding.[i]

many people went trapping if hungry.

i don’t know and can’t tell all the wonder nor all the pains that the workmen took on this land, and that lasted the 19 winters while stephen was king. And after it was worse and worse.’

[i] This item suggests that this is a transcript from an interview, with the interrogator asking about objects that were actually there.

etty moloji on the etymology of ‘etymology’

hallo, thirsters after knowledge! i’m etty Moloji and today’s lecture is about the etymology of the word ‘etymology’. by now most of you have googled it and perhaps you’ve found something like this, which i found here http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=etymology :

etymology (n.) Look up etymology at Dictionary.comlate 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from Old French et(h)imologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia, properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” from etymon “true sense” (neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true”) + -logia “study of, a speaking of” (see -logy).

In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium. As a branch of linguistic science, from 1640s. Related: Etymologicaletymologically.
it’s in basic agreement with most of the others, so we might think of it as pretty well factual, n’est-ce pas?
No, people. it is not even trying. i give it no marks. failed. undo the lot, unpick it, and do it again, this time with a scrupulous regard for academic HONESTY.they’re fibbing. telling whoppers. taking advantage of the carefully maintained ignorance and superstitious awe of the plebs.
let’s carefully deconstruct it, stitch by fibby, pretentious stitch.

  • etymology (n.) Look up etymology at Dictionary.comlate 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,”
late 14c here is a subtle one, that’s true, but there are no documents in existence that have the date thirteen somethingty something in the top left-hand corner. the earliest firm dates anyone has are known only from the institution of the gregorian calendar in 1582. some julian dates are prolly accuratish but who knows which ones? certainly not 19th, 20th and 21st century scholars and their consensus is not to be confused with fact.
  • from Old French et(h)imologie (14c., Modern French étymologie,


all they can honestly say is ‘also occurs in/as’ and the same cautions, chickings, re the date.

  • from Latin etymologia


all they can honestly say is ‘similar to Latin…’ no proof exists that any latin text is older than  medieval – only those extant during the renaissance have been preserved and dated by unsubstantiated guesswork to accord with biblical fibbery.(see https://hermannewthermeneutics.com/2010/09/27/on-the-non-antiquity-of-the-inflected-languages/). therefore the idea that any one form in any language comes ‘from’ another is GOING HORRRRRRIBLY BEEEYYYYYOOOOOONNNNNDDDDDDDD THE EVIDENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • from Greek etymologia

again, FROM????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

all they can honestly say is ‘similar to Ancient Greek…’ since no proof exists that any latin text is older than  medieval – only those extant during the renaissance have been preserved and dated by unsubstantiated guesswork to accord with biblical fibbery.(see https://hermannewthermeneutics.com/2010/09/27/on-the-non-antiquity-of-the-inflected-languages/). therefore the idea that any one form in any language comes ‘from’ another is GOING HORRRRRRIBLY BEEEYYYYYOOOOOONNNNNDDDDDDDD THE EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (and it’s a bit of a fib to call it a fact.)


  • properly “study of the true sense (of a word),”

darlingses, they mean prolly, not properly. use your head. (still it’s what it means now, so they can prolly get away with a few prollies and not look half as shonky as they really are)

  • from etymon “true sense” (neuter of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true”) + -logia “study of, a speaking of” (see -logy). 

In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium. As a branch of linguistic science, from 1640s. Related: Etymologicaletymologically.

Teamhair, Tower, Tara: Towers in the Ancient World.

This article first appeared here: http://www.whiteoakdruids.org/EolasSamhain08.pdf

The word Teamhair occurs in Irish as Tara’s other name, and also in English where it is spelt Tower.

In English the pronunciation of the English form of this word, ‘tower’ varies a lot from person to person. Some pronounce both syllables clearly, others pronounce it as one, not always even prolonged, monosyllable, Tar, or even Tær, Tor or Ter with many not pronouncing the r, so that it becomes simply ‘taa’, ‘te’ or even ‘tae’. There are other pronunciations too, giving it either one or both syllables.

The name of the rune Tiwas or Tiwaz is within the range of possible spellings for some pronunciations of the word now spelt towers. Tiw then is back-formed from it and means the awesome person who wields high authority from a lofty tower. This opens the possibility that Tell, Tall, and the whole array of related syllables may be cognate with the Tiw, Tow-, Teamh- array array. Many English speakers pronounce a final l as a w.

This diversity is not reflected in English spelling. In Irish, the Tar- of Tara is equal to English’s mono-syllabic spoken form, while the Teamhair represents the di- syllabic form. The word seems to have been the same in English and Ireland, with the Irish sense of it focusing not on just any building, but on the Hill of Tara specifically, while in English it can refer to any high building, or even earthwork, but especially specific politically significant towers such as the Tower of London.

This same word occurs world-wide with many different spellings – mostly based upon the monosyllabic form – in compound words and in combination with a range of affixes. It sometimes means ‘tower’ or ‘towers’ and sometimes not, but many occurrences are clearly related.

We see it as anything from place-names (Tours, Tehran, Taranto, Tarq, Tarsus) to the names of gods, (Taranos, Thor, Ishtar, Terpsichore); in fast food (tarts, torte), dog-breeds (terrier ) mineral resources (tar) and sailors incidentally, (Jack Tars), tiaras, turnips, tyrants, the tarot and perhaps also the Chinese Tao, since Taoism was a culture that built towers.

Variants such as Tur-, Tyr-, Ter-, Tor-, Tour-, Teir- are to be found all over the map, in place-names of great antiquity. Check the indexes of atlases, mythologies and histories and search the listings under T in foreign language dictionaries: not all occurrences will refer directly or obliquely to towers, but enough of them will for you to see the emerging vista. There are Thera, Tia-maat, and Ish-Tar, and in Sanskrit, Yudhishthira.

Analysis of place names confirm that the ancient Tower culture, richly described and lovingly preserved in fairy tales, legends and folk-memories of many countries today, really existed and was world-wide. Ancient eastern European Rapunzels probably were reared in towers by formidable witches with magical (medical) gardens in exchange for medicine.

The likes of England’s Alison Gross who lived “…in yon tower, the ugliest witch in the North Country…” probably really did tryst their reluctant lovers into their veritable dark towers, and during that same aevum, a few outlandish countries distant, the old spinster cast her spools, and spell-bound her castle from its highest tower, where the beauteous Aurora lay wrapped up in thorny briar roses for a century, fast asleep.

Many a veritable Childe Harold really did approach that daunting Dark Tower quailing, where ruled Tyrants cruel and benign, or Tartars, or the Tarquins. Glammed-up and perhaps flirtatious ‘tarts’ made cake ‘torte’ and pastries ‘tarts’ in Germany and England), and they wore tiaras, and understood the Tarot, and attended tournaments, and went on tours (travelling from tower to tower), introducing to the locals turquoise, tourmalines, tar, terrines, tureens and turnips – and significantly for reconstructionists, tartan.

As an Irish word Teamhair looks like a plural form of a (hypothetical) singular noun Teamhar. Teamhair would then mean The Towers. And if Tara means Teamhair, it too is a plural form, perhaps of (a hypothetical) Tar. That’s one of the ways English people pronounce ‘tower’ and, so it seems, some of the olden day Irish.

Were all the Tower builders Celtic? It’s difficult to say. It’s not easy to define Celtic in today’s world, and it’s a much more elusive concept in the past. Throughout the world and within its range the word Celtic itself has many forms, both labial (P- Celtic) and non- labial (Q-Celtic), each with many variants.

Then, the meaning has diversified as rapidly and continuously as the form, not stablising until the much more circumscribed array of more or less sharply different languages that we now take for granted started to emerge out of the linguistic melange of indigenous and imported ancient and mediaeval western, middle, northern and eastern Europe and the southern coasts of the Mediterranean.

In the past, that ever-evolving melange of languages reflected a similar cultural melange, with mass marriages of fifty or more couples between cities or even up to five hundred couples between countries helping to stir the mix.

As the data accumulates and the picture emerges, it becomes clear that the Towers were world-wide; and so were the Cells, Kils, or Kells, the polises and churches of the Keltoi, the Celts. Variously known as Sel- Pel- Bel- Hel, Tel- with the vowel very various, plus a full array of suffixes, prefixes etc, variants can be found all over the map.

One of the most interesting is Gel, Gael, or Gaul, which seem to come from Goidh-el, which is variously spelt and related to Cath-al, which has P-forms related to the first two syllables of Parth-olan. These are traces of a truly international culture, incorporating Achilles, Apollo, Pwyll, Pali, Bali and more, extending perhaps into Australia, where names like Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, Balladonia, and multitudes of other indigenous place-names occur alongside clear archeological evidence of an ancient Celtic presence.

International also were the Bans, the Danes/Danaans, Mona/Iona/Iuno, Mer, Cathars and Moors, to name but a few. Hybrid names such as tur-ban, Dardanian, Minataur , Kaftan, and similar reveal the cultural interweaving that produced the cultural melange we’re discerning there.

I’m seeing a system of paths, well-travelled mostly but with lonely stretches though green-woods and mirk-woods and over high mountains and across vast plains, penetrating to most parts of the world which was peopled with heroes, tyrants, the all-too-human gods, kings and queens, wizards and dwarfs, archetypes and stereotypes, and the plain men and women of folk-tales. Yes, and elves and fairies too, ancestral to today’s él­eves (French school children), fair ladies, and the Irish fear, a man.

Here and there are mighty towers where political power is held over surrounding lands, to protect or exploit according to the morality of the Tarts or Tyrants up in the Towers. It is possible that words for thunder, such as the Cornish taran and the Irish toirneach are also related to Teamhair, as there is evidence that they used explosives.

In Ireland long ago, no one knows when, in those places where the word had come to be pronounced tír, it underwent a semantic change, such that all the land surrounding the tower and under its control was called a tír. Now the sense of a central tower has been lost and the word tír denotes simply, territory, land or a country.

This is also true in Cornish, where ‘dor’ means ‘ground’, and in Latin, where ‘terra’ means land, earth or ground. But in Cornwall we also find that ternas is still a kingdom, or realm. The -nas is a double plural; the old Goidelic –ne or –na, which is –anna in modern Irish, shorn of its final vowel as in Germanic, and provided with a redundant English pluralising final s.

A similar semantic shift occurs in both Irish and Cornish and also Spanish and many other European words for a bull. In Irish it’s tarbh . The -bh is the remains of an old dative plural ending meaning ‘of’ or ‘with’. In Cornish it’s tarow, with –ow a plural ending. In Latin it’s tauros, torro in Spanish.

It’s easy to imagine why the word for bull would be synonymous for the word for a tower. Under best conditions, the tower is fortified, built very strongly and guarded well, and there are people there to work and maintain order. The surrounding people have a refuge there in war-times, and so their homes are not so strongly fortified.

Their cows, two or three at the most per household, and most often just one, need the services of a bull but once a year. A good virile bull depending on its breed needs to service a good few more cows than one household can keep, and indeed the tamest bull becomes very difficult to manage during rut, even if not frustrated. Keeping one healthy, impassioned bull per family is impossible.

The best solution is for many families to retain just one, and keep him within the thick stone walls of the tower. Each family leads their gentle house cow to him each year in her oestrous. That way he gets his fill of cows, and no one has to take their cow further than the centre of their community for a service.

To maintain best breeding standards and avoid in-breeding, the bull would have been replaced frequently. Every year or so you would have to kill the existing bull while he’s still young enough to be tender and not yet mature enough to be indomitable, and replace him with a carefully selected unrelated young bull from another tower. Imagine the pride of having your own family cow’s bull calf selected for the honour!

All other young bulls, perhaps yearlings, would be slaughtered for meat, while milk cows too would be carefully selected for each new generation. It would make sense to do this killing while the clans are gathered for formal business and in need of feasting and inclined to festivity. This would have been the origin of the idea of a ‘bull feast’, but no idea of divinatory rites is to be found there.

Tara changes to Tarbh by the addition of a suffix. Tur becomes Turk in the same way, with the –k being a form of the Irish –(e)ach, the English –ic, the Cornish –ek, etc. Related words are the old Irish Torc, meaning both a wild boar and a noble, a tower-ic person. They were clearly hunters of wild boar, because the Irish for ‘hunt’ is toireach. How did ancient Turks come to be so far from modern Turkey? Or should I ask, how did modern Turkey come to recede to so far-flung a corner of the range of the ancient Torcs?

Consider the widespread dominion of the Tower culture from antiquity until the Roman take-over. You might see it as a cultural pool which now dries up as its well-springs are destroyed. Isolated remnants still recall their ancient past, and are still named for it. But the original Turks were not middle eastern only, they came from all cultures, all over the world, and were loved and hated and feared according to their deeds. Gallant young Austrians to this day are called ‘young Turks’. Turkish magic is deep and profound.

The x in Latin words sometimes denotes the Greek guttural chi, which is like the Celtic ch. So the -torix in Vercin-ge-TOR-ix is more likely to mean Torc, the Vercin Tower people than any of the current guesses.

Some of these towers must have had all the grimness of the fairytale accounts of them. Words for darkness including English dark, Irish dorcha, Cornish tewl, and taw which means silence. But others cultivated a different image. In Cornwall, tewedh a lisped form of towers is synonymous with stormy weather, indicating that that’s where people went during very bad storms for friendly protection, and may be another reason for the folkloric association with thunder and lightning.

It’s possible to see similarities to the old Taran system of rule and regulation in our modern civil services and systems of government. It’s also possible to see developments in multiculturalism that might allow reconstructionists to experiment intelligently with networks of local administrative centres based on the old tower system.

But even if all we do is gently sift through the right words and the right evidence from other sources, we can help our real past to re-emerge in our history books. Linking in our own thoughts, through our own understanding, to Tara’s name all that rightfully should be logically linked to it can help to restore a vital circulation which once sustained not just the sacred Hill of Tara, but the whole worldwide network of dark, solemn, mysterious, friendly, terrible, enlightened and magical towers that were a part of our ancestors’ lives and our own past lives more than a thousand years ago.

Vyvyan Ogma Wyverne

god and the devil

now what i’m trying to say is that it is very hard when perusing the languages in old texts from the renaissance and earlier, along with later literature and more recently recorded speech such as we find in dictionaries old and current, and place names and personal names and piecing together the whole picture from the scraps historians have inherited from those turbulent times, to not notice or even care when an infinitive has been split, and more relevantly to not notice that when you use your common sense instead of the text book methods, dieu (french for god) is totally and irrevocably a variant of di’el (english for devil). you’d think that would interest the scholars? they don’t burn heretics anymore do they? look also at dyw (cornish for god), deus (latin for god) and a great many other words that don’t have to be listed here in the languages of far western europe. now despite the textbook adherence to arguably fictitious chronology derived from or mocked up to accommodate the bible (whose antiquity is not proved – no evidence sustains claims to its being older than the renaissance) nobody seems to have noticed this. i know funding is short, but…

god = goth

god = godd- = goth. it meant an officialdom – all humans, also known as the cathars. it depended on which dialect you spoke. other variants include caesar, cephas, cad, cassius, caes, gas, geas, caf, guv, sephas, gad, gard, cuss, cuth- and many many more.

i can find no evidence of pre-gregorian belief in god or gods as a supernatural, superhuman being or beings. or devils or dei for that matter. they are all just people.

the greek texts are medieval – greek was a medieval school language, not older. the currently accepted chronologies are fictitious, supporting the bible chronologies which are pure fantasy. the gregorians were superstitious fanatics. history since then has been dominated by pickwickian dotards. naked emperors. billstumpsxhismark has nothing on what they make of the ‘antiquities’ they find.

dieu is jew is diw (cornish, equated with god). tewdar is judah. dieu is diel is devil. diel is dell, dail, deal is a parliament, legal deal or tower. diw is tiw is tiwas is towers. all depends on your dialect.

the devil is not always reviled. some sources portray him as easily duped, swindled and cheated. poor devil. as a culture the dev-dav-duff-dubh people were widespread. they include people from devon, descendents of david, welsh families called davies and the town of deva. not a supernatural baddy, but naive farmers.

dieu is related to theos, meaning thells (a-thel-flaed) or cells, or sels etc, ie, celtic polises. so is zeus. ll is often u in dialects of many languages.

so joe = jew, and what of josephus? dia- diw- jew- + sephas/cephas?

no wonder no one’s ever been game to focus on this bizzare piece of medieval lingustics.

i’m focusing in england, cornwall and ireland and other western european lands, and more and more i think that i’m right to do that. josephus of arimathea is where i’m focussing more and more…

herman newt and the puddle metaphor

we newts understand nothing half so well as puddles. puddles are what remain when ponds evaporate. they are the result of the uneven distribution of mud, which results in little hills and valleys forming. water seeks its own level and fills valleys while leaving hills high and dry. first you have a pond. then as that evaporates you have small islands appearing above the water level. as the water level drops further the islands get bigger, and then several may become connected by an increasingly continuous stretch of highish ground between them. eventually the proportion of water to land does a reverse – first there’s more water than land, then more land than water. soon only very low areas still contain water.

any hermeneut must be exquisitely aware that metaphors are always a calculated shift away from reality and conclusions drawn from studies made through them must be drawn very carefully with this in mind. any lens distorts. a metaphor’s distortions must be carefully observed and accounted for. then and only then, metaphors are very useful lenses. this puddle metaphor can be profitably brought to bear on the geographical distribution of any old or ancient culture. high ground surrounding a puddle and islands within it represent locations that are less easily retained by the culture concerned than that represented by low soggy ground, pools and puddles. pools and puddles represent homelands, colonies and such.

it also applies to our beliefs, derived from texts, archaeological traces and legends and folk traditions, about the geographical distribution of cultures. concerning the ancient past, we have plenty of belief, precious little hard factual data. so we’re necessarily constrained to work with belief. when a belief contributes to the basis of a major conjectural construct, it gets called ‘a hypothesis’. ‘an hypothesis’ if you are american, or if your speech is influenced by american speech.

now i’m thinking of fionn mac cumhaill, the irish legendary hero. it’s usually pronounced mc cool these days. famed for his thumb-sucking to procure hallucinatory experiences upon the basis of which he prophecied, fionn was a warrior. what else he was is immaterial. the fact is he is known in ireland from some rather old texts which are only of real interest to historians, linguists and celtic revivalists, and to hermeneuts and faerie folk too ethereal to see.

not many would dispute though that, once upon a time, at least someone thought it was pronounced mac cumhaill. that’s using irish spelling conventions, but using current english ones, it would have been spelt mc cuwal, and only the irish would have worried about the slenderisation of the final ll. slender or broad, ll is ll to a pom. or an ozzie, and i daresay a yank. (i use these national nick-names with affection in every instance and am amazed to be told that anyone ever used any of them any other way. i’ve only ever heard them used with neutrality or affection, so that’s how i’m continuing to use them.)

but that hasn’t really satisfied, has it? you’d want to know how the u is pronounced, u for uh huh or oo for oops, or both. both are possible in irish as well as english, depending in both languages on which word this particular specimen of an u occurs in and where you live. but does it matter? cah-well or coo-well. or in irish also caw-well.

it could be any of these and because it is in the nature of speech to vary with location, and references to fionn mac cumhaill must have been made by all sorts of people in all sorts of places, all three were probably in use at some time or another in the pre-renaissance and renaissance periods, and a whole lot of other spellings and pronunciations not recorded in writing as well.

one good bet, because it happens so often in so many other words, is that, like the ll, the mh was sometimes slender and sometimes broad; i.e., sometimes a v and sometimes a w. but poms, yanks, ozzies, kiwis and other users of english would notice the v/w difference, while the –ill/ -all difference, which the irish make much of, would elude them.

so someone at least somewhere would have pronounced that surname ‘mc or mac caval or cuval’.

now wise and wonder-working witches have always been at play with the eyes of newts, always including a good handful in their alarmingest cauldrons, and muttering such spells as would mutate a whole oceanful of newts (if newts could live in oceans) with particular reference to their eyes, with the result that newts’ eyes have some seriously admirable abilities not found in the eyes of lesser beings. they can see round corners, through drifts of densely matted twigs, up twisty apertures in banks and through quite meaningful depths of gravelly murk and slimy silt. nobody knows better than an amphibian how to identify and compensate for incidental or regular distortions.

now this here newt espies not just one ‘caval’ here but a whole ‘cavalry’ and dares to set this against several decades of etymological research and rashly opine that caval means horse and that this is so even when you spell it cumhaill, and find it along with sheep, cows and linen sheets in a list of old irish units of currency, and even when you put a mac in front of it and find it storied and gloried as an irish legenedary hero. IT DOESN’T MEAN ‘A FEMALE SLAVE’. it is grossly insulting and culturally and psychologically damaging to the irish and all who associate with them to continue to produce academic text-books and books for the intelligent lay reader in which any such bizarre, horribly unacadademic assertion is made.

and merely noting here (and then dodging to evade hurled rotten fruit, addled eggs and other unspeakabilia from the academics whose dog-gone, ox-dreaming reasoning has brought them to other conclusions) that mac didn’t originally mean son of but something forgotten from which words meaning son (of), worker (with), student (of), soldier (for) etc, are derived. but i believe it orignated as something close to ‘work’ via mutation of the initial sound of a word ancestral to both work and make. both share a common ancestor with fac- the latin stem of words to do with making and doing. add in the vik or viking there, but don’t pick at it now, sandra, or it’ll go off in your face! believe me, it will! just keep it in your heart.

and no, simon, we’re not dealing with PIE yet. we’re not that far back in time by a long shot, and neither is almost anyone, as you soon shall see. it is high time enlightened historical linguists found the medieval patois (pathways) which, in diversifying during medieval times, not later, gave us most of the preserved written (i.e., school) languages, as distinct from the unpreserved, unrecorded local languages of the illiterate and native languages, often despised and forgotten, of medieval school children.  PIE simply cannot be revealed through the analysis of the surviving derivatives of this patois.

i just want to share with you my newt’s-eye view of fionn mac cumhaill’s surname, because i’ve got one or two shocks for you faoi. well, i mean i’ve had one or two shocks faoi. faoi is one of my favourite irish words. it means all sorts of things, but here it means ‘concerning it’.

for now, note the horse theme. caval belongs to that whole array that opens out nicely and means horse or other large herbivorous mammal. i’ll just list them; you’ll know how to imagine their distributions through time and space on a map of the world, stopping when knowledge becomes hypothesis, because the PIE hypotheses can’t be trusted and we have to revise our sense of how language correlated to location in the olden days of elves and withces and cavaliers called fionn mac cumhaill.

here’s a partial list to get you started: caval, cheval, capall, cob, camel, gimel, gavar, chevr(on), capri, gabhair…

for homework, class, i want you to add at least a dozen more to the list, and write, say or just think750-850 words on the implications of this list with reference to the main means of conveyance of the scandinavian god thor, bearing in mind that he was a biggish chap and goats are tough but not that tough, and there were lots of little closely related but divergent cultures merging in marriage and working together exchanging words and modifying ways of using them.

that might get a lot of otherwise useful souls out of their goat carts and into some more appropriate conveyance!!!!!

blessed be, humans!

herman newt.

the rudest word of all isn’t very. by lynne gwyst.

a ‘count’ is a ‘conte’ is a ‘cunt’, i.e., a petty aristocrat or someone behaving like one – overbearingly, arrogantly and contemptuously.

a ‘cunt’ can also mean the pubic mound of a human female (not the canal as some have suggested – read on for an explanation) .

what we have here is a pair of homonyms, the same word with two or more different meanings. other examples are ‘bear’ (animal) and ‘bear’ (carry), and ‘fine’ (okay), ‘fine’ (thin and delicate), fine (high quality) and ‘fine’(penalise or a penalty). so cunt (unpleasant man) and cunt (a woman’s pubic mound) are homonyms.

both are related to gaulish forms of the modern irish ceann, from old irish words like cenn, cend, cion, et al., meaning a head, or cairn, and to English forms such as cone, or count (from the practice of piling up stones or other tokens as counters to represent livestock, sheaves etc) which occur as mutated p-forms such as mount, mound, amount, and is not particularly obscene.

this explains why in Australia at least the epithet ‘cunt’ refers to a bullying man, not to a bullying woman, although this seems to be changing and yeah, why not. in America it refers in a sexist way to a woman as a sex object, so it seems the other homonym is intended.

the examination of very rude words goes beyond linguistics, touching on sociology, psychology, interpersonal politics and more not the less sensitive for being subtle. but when it comes to ‘rude’ words, the cultural neurosis surrounding them having been instilled in early childhood when impressioning tends to be deep and enduring, the obscenification seems almost natural until you focus on it from the perspectives accessible to mature adults.

not every culture obscenifies a person’s sexual parts or excretoria. relaxed adult nudity is still common worldwide in cultures where the erotica is healthy and natural. obscenity, like other taboos, is culture specific. I’m assuming my readers are able to transcend the neurosis, and that the need for the de-obscenification of the so-called ‘rude’ words of so-called ‘refined’ English will be as clear and obvious to them as it is to me.

we’ve seen how the irish ‘feic’ meaning ‘see’ or ‘look’ was mistaken for the English word fuck, and anglicised as such. ‘fuck’ had begun life as a euphemism for rut or root (e-rot-i-ca), derived from harmless english forms of words preserved in latin as facere, to make, do, or work.

work, make, fuck or fac-, fake, wake, walk, fashion, and many more are all related forms, showing common initial letter mutations of the sort that are still preserved in welsh cornish and breton.

as you probably know I don’t believe in the antiquity of latin. we have no accurate dates for stone monuments. the earliest recorded efforts to derive a chronology for our oldest latin texts were part of a renaissance, based on fanatical religious, racist and political positions inherited from the middle ages, exaggerated by the outrages of the collapsing power structures of the period leading up to the renaissance, and distorted through the warped and delusional lenses of reconstructionists hell bent on channelling god, a claim some ecclesiasts still make for st matthew, st mark, st luke and st john, none of whom can possibly have lived more than a thousand or so years ago (but that’s beyond the scope of this essay).

latin was a school language in England for a long time, and derives much more from English than is usually observed. textbooks are still working on the belief that the besotted reconstructionists propagated, by malicious force it must be admitted, that fictitious chronology the textbooks still use, based on a roman/norman-flattering assumption that latin is more perfect, godly, and therefore nearer to the garden of eden when god spoke to adam, and is therefore nearly as old as the world itself, minus a few days for the creation…

there’s no real support for the claim. latin came into being as a school language when the norman/roman invasion of Britain, when the romans and the multilingual british nations intermarried.

dates are notoriously elusive as before the widespread use of the Gregorian calendar which was only introduced as late as 1582, different schools, towers, stores, businesses, families, farms, councils, monasteries, etc, in the same county might use quite different calendars, having no notion of synchronising theirs with that of another school or other schools that began on completely different dates. and even after the introduction of the Gregorian calendar it was a long time before the confusion caused by its introduction, and the perfectly justifiable resentment of it was sufficiently subdued to permit reliable chronologies to be compiled.

so what I’m saying is that it is more likely that the latin verb facere is derived from a cornovian word pronounced like fuck, and related to similar sounding words in the other spoken but not much written languages of Britain at the time of the latin speaking schools of tudor england. whether the initial letter mutations of the times were regularised or not as they sometimes now are at least in textbooks or within literate dialects, forms such as wake (hereward the worker) muck (mucking around, mucking things up) viking (working), make, bake, fake and (yipe) work, etc, would have been contemporaneous, mixing as freely as people do and as mindlessly mutating, following instincts beyond our understanding.

cornovian is latin for kernow – an(y), and means corn-all-s because the ‘any’ has become a plural ending. the corn, which may also be spelt kern, is itself a plural of ker which is a collapsed form of cather, and is related to words meaning chair or city of the cathers, and meaning a fortified town, but now perhaps already practically synonymous with the grain growing people of Britain before the normans/romans came, when many different languages were spoken in Britain and the languages of the schools, churches and universities, to say nothing of the merchants and seafarers were not always confined to geographic locations. perhaps they weren’t the only ones and perhaps cornovia was not only growing corn, but much becomes clear if british medieval history if we realise that that is what cornovia means.

anyway, back to the topic. it’s in these kinds of contexts, where the languages are all mixing that we find words proliferating from one language to another changing meaning slightly as they go. how did a count/cunt/conte get to be called that?

think of words like country, meaning the land. think of a country. a country is an area represented to the officialdoms of the aristoctracy by an officially appointed count. a caint is a language in irish. it’s pronounced cunt unless you’re trying to avoid it for prudish reasons.

so perhaps during the pacification of british minorities by the normans/romans, we have the small langauges of the illiterate majority represented by linguists called counts, meaning languages and by transference, linguists. these were used to communicate from the hated officialdoms, which they had to flatter in order to prosper and so were hated in their turn, and so their name has come down to us in its present form, only to clash resoundingly with an incidental homonym of the most screechingly sensitive kind. lawkes a mighty and all the poor hanged man said was ‘kill the cunts’ (guild the counts)… 

there now there aren’t any truly rude words are there?