Douglas G. Wilson
douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jun 10 05:32:37 UTC 2003
>What intrigues particularly about the piece is that word "milheglin".
>It's in no dictionary I've consulted and the only source I've found
>for it is Lillian Eichler's "The Customs of Mankind" (1924). She
>wrote, "Among northern nations of Europe, in ancient times, it was
>the custom for newly married couples to drink milheglin or mead (a
>kind of wine made from honey) for a period of about thirty days after
>marriage. Antiquarians say that from this custom grew the term 'honey
>month' or 'honeymoon'."
>Where might she have got this word from? It looks unEnglish, though
>it seems closely related to "metheglin", a word from Welsh for a
>closely related drink. Might she have misread her notes and thereby
>introduced a new word into the language?
My ignorance of the Celtic languages is even more profound than my general
ignorance, but I'll venture a guess or two. Hopefully somebody else can do
It surely looks like "milheglin" should be "metheglin" (in the sense "mead"
or so). The alteration of "met-" to "mil-" has two apparent explanations:
(1) this was erroneously transcribed from a handwritten note: "metheglin"
was written with a short or incomplete cross-bar on the "t", so that the
"e" appeared dotted (i.e., "i") and the "t" appeared uncrossed (i.e., "l")
[I think this is more likely although less interesting];
(2) the author did some amateur reconstruction based on the notion (of a
non-scholarly person familiar with Gaelic or something similar) that the
"met-" in "metheglin" is descended from "mil" = "honey" (in Irish or Scots
-- Doug Wilson
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