winter’s over (southern hemisphere here). sorry everyone, i dozed off – you know how it is for us newts when the temperature drops below tepid.

i know i’ve been nosing around in the affairs of fionn mac cumhaill far too much already, but i have one thing more to say of him before i slither off into some pristine new issues, all designed, marianne, to extend your understanding of the olden days when tomes were and common mortals thought runes were all magical; and it might just change the way you see old europe forever.

we think of fionn as irish because that’s where the texts about him are, although he was known to have connections with finland. naturally, the irish texts use irish spelling conventions to spell his name. what would it look like with english spelling conventions? either fin mac cuval or fin mac cuwal.

but wait – in both irish and english, u can represent the u for umbrella (not the northern ‘oombrella’), so two alternatives arise: fin mac caval and fin mac cawal.

but wait still further, eager earthlings, there’s another possibility. in irish dialects sometimes the second word in a two-word phrase in irish is lenited, softened, which is signalled in irish spelling conventions by an h following the softened vowel only in recent times. this is not usual these days in names after mac, but it’s a very changeable, loose feature and may have been common in the past.

all right, edmond, there’s no proof, but it’s more likely than you think because listen – if you don’t want to see a newt snarl, and very nastily at that, gills all a-bristle, listen, m’boy!

when c becomes ch in irish (pronounced like the german ch) it becomes tch, as in church, in english – and also in latin, or italian for example. in english spelling this is represented as ch or -tch. in italian through the ages, ch is spelt cc, cci, cce, che, or chi. (let me know if i’ve missed any, atilio).

italian? did i say italian? i did! i veritably did. because look: mac chumhaill could be spelt mac chiaval in italian, wouldn’t it. of course, the ai of the second syllable might mutate, especially seeing as it’s unstressed. what happens if it inclines towards an e, as some irish speakers might, in preparation for the slender ll.

it’d be mac chiavell, woon it? it would, and all you’d have to do would be close the gap between mac and chiavell and slap on a kind of one size fits all plural ending ‘i’ and there you have it, macchiavelli, the mac cumhaills when translated into italian.

so was niccolo fionn’s brother, son, or just another member of a large clan, or was he simply the conduit through whom the mac cumhaill family’s philosophy of government was saved for us all to admire? who knows? but surely anyone dealing with any texts concerning either the irish fionn mac cumhaill or the european niccolo macchiavelli ought to be aware of the connections, even if it is only to dismiss them. they are there and no honest newt could deny them!!!

for homework, long-suffering ones, think up seven things in support of the proposition that macchiavelli = the mac chumhaills, and three against. if you can’t think up three good reasons why not, you’re in good company, albeit finny (pardon the pun). you should have no difficulty thinking up dozens of good reasons why.

just a footnote: the text itself bears scrutiny. it’s one of the most bandied about and least understood texts. this prince is intent upon reducing violence by controlling rather murderous subjects. it’s a benign doctrine, but like any, susceptible of mischievous misinterpretation and misapplication.

well look, i’ve got worms to grub up and arthropods without common names to chase down, so have a nice weekend, and drive safely.

h. newt

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