Place names always fascinate me. Here in Scotland, the root language of a place name, as well as its actual meaning, can tell something of the history of the village or town, or of its physical features.
On the drive between Inverness and Ullapool, I took some photos of road signs, showing the names both in English and in Gaelic.
Many English names in this area are simply Anglicized versions of the original (Gaelic) name.
This is easily seen in this photo.
Contin in English, Cunndain in Gaelic;
Garve in English, Gairbh in Gaelic;
Ullapool in English, Ulapul in Gaelic; and Gairloch in English and Geàrrloch in Gaelic.
However, other times, the names in Gaelic and in English are totally different. At times, this is because the words have been translated from one language into another. For example, you may have a river called The Black River in English, with the Gaelic - an exact translation of this - being, An Abhainn Dhubh.
In this example, the meanings are the same, but the 'look' of the names bear no relation to each other.
The photo below has the Ullapool/Ulapul example, but it also has some very interesting place names which would not come into that category.
Beauly. The English name for this town comes from the French, beau lieu, meaning 'beautiful place'. Clearly beau lieu was Anglicized and the resulting name remains. The name would have come from French monks who once lived in Beauly...
...and so to the Gaelic name.
A' Mhanachainn means a monastery or a priory, relating to the aforementioned priory which was built here in the 13th Century. The ruins of the priory are still to be seen in Beauly, and there is an eight-hundred year old elm tree standing at the entrance to the graveyard.
In this case, the Gaelic has neither been translated nor Anglicized. But the two languages are able to open up the history of this bonny little place near to Inverness.
Around ten years ago, the Scottish Government decided to display bilingual place names in many areas of Scotland. For Gaelic speakers, or for those with an interest in the language, this (as I think I showed above) can begin many an interesting conversation about various places.
Having two languages is a gift I am glad to have been given, by virtue of where I was born and brought up. Each language is special to me, though in different ways.
Because I have English, I can go almost anywhere in the world and find someone who understands me (Central Scotland excepted: here, I find the common response to anything I say is, 'Wha?' or 'Uh?' or 'I dinna ken'.)
Gaelic is different. It may be of little international consequence, but when I am able to speak to someone in Gaelic, I feel a bond, a sharing, a connection, a something.
In some conversations, I speak only English. In others, only Gaelic. My highest comfort zone is when I'm able to speak one language but chuck in words or phrases in the other language which express more fully what I'm trying to say. That's what most of 'us locals' do when we're together.
Oh, there are two groups to whom I simply cannot speak English: babies and dogs.
It's my native mother tongue for them. Don't ask me why, but I feel so odd speaking to a baby or to a dog in English. They're too cute, I think, to have such an official language spoken to them.
Co-dhiù, 's fheàrr dhomh falbh, 's làn thìde agam a bhith na mo leabaidh. Oidhche mhath.