Horthmen as 'mGall'

X99Lynx at aol.com X99Lynx at aol.com
Wed Aug 18 16:43:38 UTC 1999

In a message dated 8/13/99 4:16:39 AM, Brian M. Scott wrote:

<<<creach na nGall ngorm> 'plunder of the swarthy Northmen' is
also noted.>>

And what madness is this?  The Celts calling Northmen 'Galls?'

A Northman (like Knut) who knew Latin could call them "Galls" right back!

The standard explanation is that in Old Irish, etc., "Gall" meant foreigner
because 'Gauls' were the only foreigners the Insulars knew.

But it seems a bit untidy for Gaels using the names of their continental
'gaol' (relatives) to describe foreigners.  Especially with the Romans

But what if Gaelic borrowed the Germanic (e.g., Saxon) "walh" (presumably
meaning foreigner)? There was apparently no initial /v/ or /w/ in Goidelic
Celtic.  But in medieval times, it was not uncommon for the /g/ in Gaelic to
stand-in for the /w/ in English.  (So that we have , e.g., "galc" - thicken
cloth, fulling; from the English walk, waulk.)

So we can in this manner see Germanics calling Celts (whom the Romans called
Gallic), 'Walh', and Gaelic Celts picking it up, going back to the initial
/g/ and calling Germanics 'Gall' - which is what the Romans called the Gallic

And although there is no clear connection between Gaelic and Gallic, there is
irony enough in this.

Steve Long

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