yonder - English or Irish?

JAMES A. LANDAU Netscape. Just the Net You Need. JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Fri Jun 20 00:32:18 UTC 2008

On Wed, 18 Jun 2008 at 09:29:15 Zulu minus 0600
Josh Macfelder <josh.a.macfelder at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

I don't know if this has already been discussed, but here's the story:

I really don't know how many people actually still use the word "yonder" with the meaning of "there, over there" (also adjective) all over the US, but coming from the part of Texas where this word is quite common, I'm one of those who do. Anyway, I was listening to an Irish music CD this morning, and it's got this song called "Siul a riun," an Irish ballad. In this song, the girl sings, "I wish I were on _yonder_ hill." This song might refer to the Napoleonic wars in Europe, so I would place it in the early 19th century (I don't know of any other wars between Great Britain and France that took place in Europe, thus the placing, though I might be wrong). My Merriam Webster's says the adjective "yonder" dates back to the 14th century, but itsays zippo [sic] about the origin.

So the question is, is this word an anglicism or a gaelicism?


The Peter, Paul, and Mary version of the song (entitled “Gone the Rainbow”) included these words:

     I sold my flax, I sold my wheel
     To buy my love a sword of steel
     So it in battle he might wield
     Johnny’s gone for a soldier

These words, if accurate (PP&M frequently made changes to the songs they sung and made no claim to historical accuracy), would place the song in the days of spinning wheels and soldiers who used swords.  That would be earlier than the Wars of the French Revolution, which were mostly fought with gunpowder.  Swords went out of fashion on land battlefields in the late 17th Century with the invention of the bayonet (which in its turn was made obsolete by the pop-top on beer cans.)

So the song apparently goes back to, at the latest, the Battle of the Boyne (1690).  Did the Irish mix Gaelic and English in songs that early?

As for wars between Britain and France that were fought by British land armies in Continental Europe:

Wars of the French Revolution (British armies mainly 1808-1815)
Seven Years War
War of the Spanish Succession
Hundred Years War
Various unnamed wars between the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years War

Don’t forget the US Air Force song

     Here we go
     Into the wild blue yonder

OT a mondegreen:  the city of Elsie Gundo, California, presumably named after a famous pioneer woman.

           James A. Landau
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