The Fading, Untranslatable Words of the Gaelic Mindscape

The Virtual Gael

Robert Macfarlane has been exploring two very interesting and inter-related phenomena in recent years: words that are tied to features or perceptions of the landscape that are highly culturally specific, and the extinction of those words from common usage because of the changing relationship between people and the landscape that they inhabit. Such words are specific to a particular way of being and living within the land that are reflected in people’s concepts and vocabulary, and as “modernity” (or whatever we want to call the technocratic mentality and way of life) has bulldozed all previous forms of life in its path and condemned them to extinction, so have the concepts and words become highly endangered. Macfarlane explores the words and history on his daily Twitter feed, in publications, and so on.

His work tends to focus on the British Isles, and fortunately he includes Scottish Gaelic (and other…

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Sojourning Smith

I am sometimes asked where all the ideas come from that inspire a new poem. Well, I range around. Today’s poem’s train of thought was provoked  by a tweet. I am not a frequenter tweeter, but I do follow a few who are only on Twitter. And my current favourite is The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) who is wittily discoursing on the Brexit crisis about what to do with the problem of it. A lot hangs upon the Good Friday Treaty (aka the Belfast Treaty of 1998), which spelled out the end of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We live in border country. For instance, today we went to the launderette in Fermanagh, which is eight miles away. If we opted for ones in Leitrim, we would have had to travel around sixteen miles to do the dirty washing. We fill our prescriptions in Fermanagh…

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