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CELTIC NAMES OF PLACES AND PEOPLES.
Four different Celtic colonisations of Cumbria have left names to the etymologist, besides a certain number of exceptional words, which it is proposed to refer to Iberian. In the explanation of all the former names, nevertheless, the main distinction to be observed, is that of Hibernian and Cambrian, and for such a separation very great facility exists in the distinct and marked characters of both languages.
During the European transit of the Celts, the Cambrian division fell under an influence that altered the initial c of a number of words into p: Irish cean, Welsh pen. The Greek dialects have suffered under a similar mixture or influence.* Again, the main character of Welsh utterance is that of a violent separation of syllables, not unlike the well-known peculiarity of Italian, a striking contrast with the extreme fluency and connectedness of Irish. Both these influences are southern, and proceed from the earlier inhabitants of the two peninsulas ; Irish has escaped them.
Every consonant in standard Irish is capable of two pronunciations, a broad and a narrow; the western dialect still preserves the distinction clearly audible. The vowels are divided into broad and narrow, a, o, u being of the former kind, e, i the latter. If there be no other overruling cause, the consonant takes its sound from the following vowel; and, according to a practice now ancient, the kind of the medial or final consonant is indicated, if necessary,
* Tonic ke, Attic pē, Doric pa: Latin yua. The Latit qu is the eq. in most cases to these varying sounds.
by a preceding vowel. Thus the a vowel in cean only shows the broad sound of the n. Some of the Celtic dialects and many of the European languages that receiyed this influence did not preserve its original condition; its existence is now therefore best traced in its effects, which form many of the most striking changes of modern dialects. Traces of this organic peculiarity are strong and general in Russian, partial in Danish and Latin, scarcely to be found in Welsh, and non-existent in German. Its effects are sufficiently ample in the Romance languages, in Anglo-Saxon orthography, and in the pronunciation of modern English. That this influence belongs to the north is tolerably evident; and seeing that it is almost perfect in Magyar, and more or less traceable in all the languages of the same stock, we may conclude that it bas come to us through the Tatár peoples.
Welsh and Irish have in common a number of initial changes which are still inexplicable to the philologist; but as some of these are euphonic, they cannot be considered foreign to the stock. But, besides these, the Celtic languages have undergone a system of aspiration that, in process of time, has quite altered the sound of the word. Fortunately, in Irish the process is still living, and in a majority of cases the old orthography has been preserved. The limited number of words explained in this chapter, is sufficient to show that the system of aspiration had commenced before the Roman occupation; in some instances the aspirated letter has disappeared, in others it is retained. Aspiration is marked in English characters with the letter h. These peculiarities, indeed, increase the difficulties of Celtic etymology, but they enable the student to identify his words almost with certainty.
Nothing in language has led to more unfounded assumptions and theories than the disappearance of Celtic names in Europe. When the succeeding races pressed in among the Celts, the names belonging to the latter were not thickly sown, as is visible in the map of Ireland, where the words that fill up the picture, whether English or Irish, all proceed from a late period. The original Celtic names were given to whole tracts of country, rivers, peoples, promontories and cities.
Pseudo-etymology, a general term for most of the processes by which older names of places disappear, has existed since languages began to mix, and still flourishes in perennial vigour. Some farther mention of its strange conceits will be found in subsequent chapters, at present we are limited to the supplanting of Celtic names. The first and most general process, is that of mistaking the word; Catterlen might have been written Catter Lane,* as it is pronounced, and if any person of the name of Catter could be found in Norway or Iceland, in real life or in fable, its Celtic existence even now would come to an end. To this class belongs the silly mistake of supposing the British balefires to have been the “fires of Baal,” which has solely arisen from the name having become so familiar through the Bible. Secondly, there is a vanity in language that wishes to explain every thing and make it intelligible. The Itawa of the Cherokees was converted by the Europeans into High Tower; and our own Blencathra was changed into Blenk Arthur, it being “best explained” in this form. And lastly, as a consequence of the closeness of the Indo-European languages to each other, any person who has learned any one of them is in danger of finding etymologies for the scattered words of all the others. This kind of monomania was once confined to the classic languages, but has now found its way into Anglo-Saxon, and Danish, whilst in Norse it threatens to become quite an epidemic. It was by the unfortunate class of persons alluded to that Picti was declared to mean the “painted people ;” and why did they think so ?—they understood Latin, but not Celtic. Derby, the town on the river, was explained by Worsaae as the “town of animals (deer)”—such an enchanted place as we read of in Eastern tales. The Cumbrian words that have been so treated, would include almost all the Celtic in the two counties.
But even when the words are acknowledged to be Celtic, they have a danger to encounter. Persons-etymologists, as they call themselves—barbarously ignorant of the fate of the Celtic languages, of Celtic history, grammar, changes and aspirations, of
. Cf. Lane End, Staffordshire.' What plainer name could be desired !-but that half the villages of England are similarly situated.
everything that can aid in discriminating, confidently find explanations of Celtic difficulties. And every author of a guide-bookblind guides !-thinks himself at liberty to frighten tourists with the origin of Celtic names.
The oldest words corresponding to the modern “town,” evidently indicate the state of the plains, when the first immigrants were entering Europe. They are all derivatives or transfers from the names of hills.
This choice of a site had perhaps a double object; the rising ground was healthier than the valley, but it also afforded protection. The Sang. nagara, a city, is from naga, a hill. The Lat. pagus, a village, is the Gr. pagos, a hill. The Nor. thorp, a village, is from the C. tor, a hill. The Ger. burg, a castle, is from berg, a hill; whence the English “ borough.” The Rus. gorad (grad), a city, is from gara, a hill, as Nóvgarad, the new city, Biolgrad, the white city, and the Ger. Stuttgart. The C. dun, a fort, a fortified house, is dun, a hill, the Angle ton, whence the English “ town.” The two last words, after making their way into the German languages, retained only a part of their meanings in some of the dialects. Gorad became the D. gaard (pr. gõrd), a country house, the Cumbrian garth, an enclosed field, the Eng. “yard,” the N. gardhr, a hedge. Dun became the A.S. tun, an estate of any extent, the Dutch tuin, a garden, the Ger. zaun, a hedge. Perhaps there is no language that has not one such word from the same origin.
As for the hybrid words explained in the glossaries of this work, there can be nothing more certain than that languages coming in contact do mis and borrow from each other. Especially, all words used as terminations (by, ton, etc.), are freely added to the existing names of the country. If I err in finding two different languages in the same word, I need only say, it is in company with W. von Humboldt, the polar star of modern philology.
ABALLABA (presumptively C. I., but its Basque derivation would be too indefinite) is probably the origin of Apple-by. Antoninus's Itinerary
ALBION (C. alb, a hill) the hill country. Frequent in old Italian names of places, Alba Longa, the long hill, etc. Cf. Albanus, the
old name of the Caucasus country, and the Spanish Albocella (C. C. uchel), the high hill. This derivation throws light on the myth of Albion and Bergion (Ger. berg, a hill), sons of Neptune, who were killed by Hercules. Ptolemy's Alouion, eq. Alvion, explains the name of the Helvii, and Helvetii of Switzerland. In Alp, eq. Alpt, we have probably the Lat. lapidis (lapis, a stone), and the name of Lapithæ, who may have come down from the Balkan.
AMBOGLANNA (H. C. amuich gleanna), the place at the outlet of the glen. Now Amble-side. Ant. It.
AXELODUNUM, H. C. uisgeamhuil dun, the marsh fort, on the wall. Several of this name in Britain and Gaul. Ant. It.
BAILEY, H. C. baile, the town. Scottish, and frequent in late Irish names of places. Ballydoyle, Doyle's town.
BARCO, H. C. bar, the hill, catha, of the fight, near Penrith.
BLATUM BULGIUM (C. C. bledd, ravage, spoil, ble, a plain), the Belgian conquest. Ant. It.
BLENCAIRN, H. C. blein, a tongue of land enclosed by the sea, or by rivers, cairn, of the burial-place.
BLENCOGO, H. C. blein cogach, the place for war, the stronghold. Blencowe, an apocopated form.
BRIGANTES (Lat. pl. of briga, a tribe; Sans. varga, a multitude), the clans, the confederates.
BRITAIN (H. C. breath, judgment), the country governed by judges, a name given by the Gauls. Cæsar says: “ The system of Druidism is thought to have been formed in Britain, and from thence carried over into Gaul; and now those who wish to be more accurately versed in it, for the most part go thither (to Britain), in order to become acquainted with it.” The name in full was Inis breithemh, the island of the judges, the oldest Cambricised form of which is Inis pryddain, as appears in the Welsh triads. Breathnach in the Irish language means Welshman, and breithemh, a judge, is pronounced brehon. The Vergobret of the Aeduans is explained correctly fear go breath, the man for judgment.
BROUGH, H. C. brugh, a fortification, on the wall, and another in Westmorland (pr. bruff). We have another pronunciation of