Saturday, June 13, 2009
Whiskies and their Gaelic pronounciations
Scotland is a country where most of the population cannot pronounce and/or explain the majority of her placenames. And it's not just in the 'Gaelic' Highlands - Gaelic names are found as far south as Berwickshire and even into Cumbria. Evidence of the extent of Gaelic speaking communities who named their habitat some 1000 years ago.
Whilst some names use archaic Gaelic and others have been Anglicised beyond easy comprehension, a knowledge of Gaelic is a valuable key to Scotland's core identity. Uisge-beatha is a good example. Many may mock Americans or Sasannaich for their perceived inability to pronounce 'ch' as in 'Lock Lomond' but many Scots are equally guilty of mangling their nation's topography. So, here's some thoughts on our Gaelic whisky names... in no particular order.
Allt a' Bhainne (owlt a bhan-ya) - the Burn of the Milk. The pronounciation of 'bainne' varies greatly according to the Gaelic dialect. In Skye, it is roughly 'benya', in mainland and 'standard' Gaelic it's 'banya' with a soft slenderised 'a' and in Lewis it's 'bonya'. Unless an expert in Srath Spè Gaelic can tell me otherwise, then it isn't 'vane'. A great name though. I've yet to drink from this particular allt.
Dailuaine (dal oo-ane-ya) - the green meadow. Many seem to have difficulty with the 'oo-ah'. 'Dail' itself is apparently a loan from auld Norse and common throughout Scotland.
Bruthach a' Chladaich (broo-aCH a CHlattiCH) - the brae of the shore. Pay attention, Laddie PR folk. There is no 'k' in your name! See above. As a native Gael from Port Weymss, just down the coast from Bruichladdich said when i queiried if the native Ilich had replaced 'ch' with 'k', "Amaideas!" (nonsense). The 'Brook Laddie' may wash with the English and American markets but let's face it, the Sasannaich and Yanks are to linguistic diversity and respect for indigenous cultures what Gary Glitter is to childcare.
Bun na h-Aibhne (boon na havfen-ye) - the mouth of the river. Usually seen in it's slightly incorrect rendering of Gaelic's notorious genitive case, 'Bun na h-Abhainn', you can see the correct grammar in it's Ileach neighbour 'Port na h-Aibhne' or Portnahaven. Take note. Meanwhile, for such blatant dereliction of our tongue's grammar, stand in the corner with a double dram of Ledaig.
Until the next time when i may tackle the likes of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Edradour then you can check out the Scottish Place-name Society here, if you need guidance on the linguistic wealth that is Scotland's topography.