How do you suppose Welsh came to use the same word, de, for both ‘right’ and ‘south’? Could it have to do with the location of Jerusalem? Or England?
Neither of those, I think. IoanTalfryn did tell us on the Popeth Cymraeg course at Nant a fortnight ago. I can’t remember the details, but it’s something to do with the sun and drawing of swords. Perhaps Steve might remember!
On a similar note, in many languages the days are named after planets, the sun and the moon, which makes sense to me. But when was the big internabtional conference when they decided they should all follow the same order - in English, Welsh, French, Thai, etc?
HelenLindsay: But when was the big internabtional conference when they decided they should all follow the same order - in English, Welsh, French, Thai, etc?
In European languages, I would blame the Romans - although the English have kept their own week days.
For non-European languages, I wonder how much that is down to European influence, and the commercial empires that were, umm, encouraged around the world.
Hi Diane, Helen mentioned Ioan Talfyrn trying to explain this to us a couple of weeks ago. These are the notes I took at the time (with apologies if I’ve completely misremembered his points!)
If you’re orientating yourself without a compass, you use the sun. Facing the rising sun (east), your right side and the south side are the same.
Also , he talked about east “dwyrain” as being derived from"dwyre", an early word for sun rise.
North was quite interesting… Again, when facing the rising sun (east) your sword side (left) is to the north - which Ioan broke down for us as “gog” (an early word for “side” - which I haven’t managed to find in a dictionary) and “cledd” (for “sword”).
I’m the last person who should be offering advice on etymology, but that’s what I wrote down. Happy to have others come along and correct my misrememberings with actual knowledge!
Iestyn: I would blame the Romans
Tell me about it. What’d they ever do for us?
Thanks Steve, I am glad you took good notes!
Diolch, Helen and Steve - that’s a much more entertaining explanation than I expected.
Steve that’s exactly the same explanation that my evening class tutor gave a few weeks ago when the subject came up. Very interesting.
Oh, that makes slightly more sense than the (very similar) explanation I recall reading - which was that cledd was an old word for ‘left’, and the left hand side was therefore go gledd (with the usual soft mutation that go triggers). But the fact that cledd should mean ‘sword’ actually makes a lot of sense when you consider the modern form cleddyf. Interesting.
I just found this quote on the old forum from Owain (Lurch);
Lurch2 wrote: And “de” is indeed the Welsh word for south.
And also the word for right. 'Cos when you face the “rising” sun in the east (“dwyrain”, the Welsh word for East is an old word for “rising”), the south is on your right (de), and the north is on your left (“cledd” being an old word for left, thence go+cledd = gogledd.)
Not that that has anything to do with anything.
I do think myself that the connection between “cledd” as meaning left and “cleddyf/cledd” as meaning sword [which incidentally seems to have given the word “gladius” to Latin, 'cos the Celts took them out of the Bronze Age, but that is tangential!] is purely accidental. But going further into it further would really be boring for everybody! And there are no certainties on this sort of thing anyway.
[edit- just “sword side” would be such a minority way of describing the thing (so few people using swords, which were very expensive and rarely carried things) that it doesn’t seem to flow for such a fundamental word- but there are other etymological reasons implying it not being the root!]
Owain (Lurch) I do think myself that the connection between “cledd” as meaning left and “cleddyf” as meaning sword [which incidentally seems to have given the word “gladius” to Latin, 'cos the Celts took them out of the Bronze Age, but that is tangential!] is purely accidental. But going further into it further would really be boring for everybody!
I’m not bored yet, but wonder if it’s a bit of a retcon because the business about wearing the sword on the left is only really important if you’ve got a long enough sword to need to draw it across the body. Short gladius style swords were worn on the right…
@Leia fee - ooo! Didn’t know that! Just putting in the edit when you posted.
And completely tangentially, rather glad this forum is starting to have long, meandering threads on obscure topics.
Just feeling sorry for West right now. Totally left out of this thread.
bont ddu said:Just feeling sorry for West right now. Totally left out of this thread.
Oo, can’t have that! Get the feeling this one is less “accepted” than the others, but…
“Gorllewin” seems to appear with “gollewin” as an (earlier?) variant.
The earliest record of the word seems to be “golleuin”, apparently in some of the earliest written Welsh.
This possibly gives a word based around “lleu”, light, and “go” (which can sometimes cause the aspirate mutation apparently, but a pretty old word so can’t always rely on rules like that anyway!), giving a concept along the lines of “towards the half light, i.e. into the sunset”.
Both less obvious and less accepted than the other points of the compass, though!
Hope not dragging this thread out too long!
Apparently the use of “right” and “left” as a base for “north” and “south” is quite common in a lot of languages-
Particularly obvious in the Welsh “south”, though, as Diane points out. I seem to remember that one of the things that implied Asser’s “Life of Alfred” was intended primarily for a Welsh audience was his use if the Latin for “Right” to mean “South”, which would only make sense if the connection was obvious in the language of the target audience. Have no Latin to speak of myself, though.
[edit- and, indeed the connection between west and evening- West possibly being ultimately connected to vesper]-
Hope not dragging this thread out too long!
There’s no such thing as too much fun. Well, as long as you don’t get alcohol and heavy machinery involved.