Thursday, September 26, 2013

Contradictory Name

Cairngorms National Park in Scotland is called  
Pairc Naiseanta a Mhonaidh Ruaidh in Gaelic. It's right there on the sign and everything.

The former means "Blue Hills National Park"
The latter means "Red Hills National Park."

But really, that may not be too crazy.

There originally was only one Cairn Gorm, "Blue Hill" in the area, but the entire range got given the name The Cairngorms for reasons not entirely clear. The older name of the range was An Monaidh Ruaidh, the Red Hills.

I was wondering if the Monaidh is cognate with English mountain and Welsh Mona, but the latter seems to mean "cow.*" Mynnedd is mountain in Welsh. Mountain is muin or mwn in the other Gaelics. Those come from "neck," something that sticks out.

Tangent: I also learned that Isle of Mona is an older name for Isle of Angelsey.  When we were on Angelsey in 2005 we might have taken a better look at the geography had we known that, as Mona is an important place in Lloyd Alexander's The Castle of Llyr.

*Once you know the lactose-digestion theory of the spread of the Indo-Europeans out of West Asia into Europe, you start noticing the historical importance of cows even more.  On down into the settling of the American frontier and the focus on cattle-rustling.

1 comment:

james said...

If I may be forgiven a gormless comment, from the asymmetry in the phrases I suppose the translation would be something like "blue hills and red mountains" or some permutation thereof.