Am Bratach No. 241
November 2011
editor@bratach.co.uk



Litir bhon a’Cheathramh
le Alasdair MacMhaoirn

Fad mìosan choimhead mi air ainm-eòlas agus mar a tòrr ri ionnsachadh ann. Thug sinn sùil air mar a tha curaicealam ri lorg anns a’ chànan fhèin tre, mar eisimpleir, ainmean-àite, cruth na tìre, ainmean lusan agus an-dràsta bu chaomh leam sùil a chur ainmean bheathaichean. Gu fortanach tha stiùireadh mionaidean air a chuspair anns an leabhar, Gaelic Names of Beasts…, leis an t-Urr. Foirbeis, 1905.

For a number of months I’ve looked at naming systems and what can be learned. We’ve looked at how the language itself contains a curriculum, for example in placenames, land shapes, plant names and now I would like to look at the names of animals. Fortunately there is excellent information on the subject in the Rev Forbes’s, Gaelic Names of Beasts, 1905.

A’ tòiseachadh leis an ainm beathach, tha e a’ tighinn bhon fhacal, beò, rudeigin a tha beò. Gu h-inntinneach anns a’ Chuimris tha am facal nas fharsaing, byd, a tha a’ mìneachadh, saoghal. Ann an Gàidhlig tha e fhathast againn mar, bith, ann an abairt duine sam bith. ’S dòcha gu bheil seo a’ sealltainn dhuinn gu robh creideamh ann uaireigin gu robh a h-uile rud beò.

Beginning with the name beathach, it appears that it comes from the word beò, meaning alive. Interestingly in Welsh the word is byd, which can also mean world. This meaning survives in Gaelic, as bith, as in duine sam bith, any person in the world, or just anyone. It may also be that the world survives as a reminder that the world itself, as all within it, were thought to be alive.

A thaobh beathaichean, gu ruige seo ge-tà chan faca mi pàtran anns na h-ainmean. Chaidh lusan ainmeachadh a rèir cleachdadh, far a robh iad a’ f às is eile ach chan fhaca mi dad mar sin le beathaichean. Bha e follaiseach ge-tà, gu robh dlùth cheangal eadar mac an duine agus beathaichean agus chan e dìreach bho là gu là ach ann an dòigh spioradach.

With regard to animals, at least so far I haven’t seen a pattern in their names. Plants were named according to their use, or where they grow but similar categories don’t seem to exist with animals. It is obvious, however, that a strong connection exists between animals and people, and not only in daily existence but in spirit.

Tha cuid de theaghlaichean a’ cleachdadh beathaichean ann an suaicheantas no fiù ’s anns na h-ainmean aca fhèin. Tha Clann Chatach na h-eisimpleir math. Chan e a-mhàin gur e daoine nan cat a th’annta ach tha iad a’ fuireach ann an sgìre nan cat, Cataibh. Tha na Mathanaich ann cuideachd, leis an ainm aca a’ tighinn bho mathan. A barrachd, tha ainm eile ann airson mathan, ‘s e sin Art. Mar sin tha Clann MacArtair a’ dol air ais gu mathain. Tha seo ri lorg a-measg nan Lochlannach mar Bjornson, agus ann am Beurla le Brown à bruin.

Some families use animals in their badges, or within their names. The Sutherlands are a good example, in Gaelic not only are they the people of the cat, but they occupy the district of the cats. The Mathesons are another example as their names comes from the Gaelic word for bear. In addition MacArthur also comes from a name for a bear, as does the name Brown, which may come from bruin.

Chan eil, cho fad ’s a tha fhios ’am, an aon rud ann a thaobh Clann ’ic Aoidh, ach ‘s ann air Beinn Laghail a thachair fear dhe na stòraidhean clasaigeach anns a’ Ghàidhealtachd. Bha gaisgeach ann, Diarmaid, agus an dèidh spàirn mòir chuir e às dha torc a bha a’ sgrìosadh na sgìre mu chuairt Bheinn Laghail. Gu mi-fhòrtanach ge-tà, chaidh Diarmaid a shàthadh le fear dhe na drisean puinnseanach a bh’ air an torc agus theirig e fhèin. A thuilleadh air sin, cha robh fhios aige gu robh spiorad dhe a bhràthair-dalta, a bha na dheagh charaid, air a chur am broinn an torc le fear-buidseach. Cuideachd, nuair a bha Diarmaid na leanabh chaidh geasan dìonaidh a chur air cho fad ’s nach cuireadh e às dha torc, ach cha robh fhios aige. Cha b’ e à math a bh’ ann dha Diarmaid!

The Mackays don’t have a similar connection to animals in their name, but it was on the slopes of their Ben Loyal that one of the classic of Highland tales is said to have occurred. A hero named Diarmaid killed a boar who had been terrorising the area. Unfortunately he was stabbed by a poisonous prickle on the boar and he died himself. He was unaware that the spirit of his good friend and foster-brother had been imprisoned within the boar by a wizard. To make things even worse, he didn’t know that he was protected by magic as long as he didn’t kill a boar. All in all, Diarmaid had a bad day on Ben Loyal!

Tha fad a bharrachd ann mu ainmean bheathaichean a bu chaomh leam a dhol thairis, ach feumaidh sinn fuireach gus an ath mhios!

There is a lot more about animals that I would like to mention, but it will have to wait until next month.

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