Yes, It’s Saint Patrick’s Day

Image of Saint Patrick's Bell, Armagh, Ireland

Saint Patrick’s Bell

As a Celticist, I have an abiding interest in Irish culture, and around March 17, so, apparently, does most of the United States. I’ve written a rant about Irish cultural myths, I’ve written about the true place of corned beef in terms of Irish culture, genuinely Irish food, like Irish Soda Bread, colcannon, Guinness, and Irish Whisky, and even Irish loan words in English, and the real nature of Leprechauns.

All of that said St. Patrick seems to have been a fifth century Romano-Britain, a speaker of a language closely related to Welsh, before he became the national saint of Ireland.

Some Wisdom about Writing from Lynn Hunt

You cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself. You have to second guess yourself just enough to make constant revision productive and not debilitating. You have to believe that clarity is going to come, not all at once, and certainly not before you write, but eventually, if you work at it hard enough, it will come. Thought does emerge from writing. Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.

So says Professor Lynn of Hunt of UCLA’s History department. The entire article “How Writing Leads to Thinking (And not the other way around)” from the Art of History column in the February 2010 issue of Perspectives on History is available online here. Thanks to Jean Smith of the History Compass Exchanges blog for calling Hunt’s article to my attention.

The idea of writing as discovery is not new to composition teachers, or rhetoricians, but I do very much wish that more senior scholars would do as Professor Hunt has, and talk about their writing process. Pass the link on to others; it might be the very thing some graduate student needs.

Iron Men, Natural History Magazine, and Simon James

Via the customary cursory glace at my referrals, I noticed that a new article on the Natural History magazine Web site links to me via the following:

At Lisa L. Spangenberg’s Digital Medievalist site you can find a good list of Celtic Web Resources (scroll down). At one of them, Simon James’s Ancient Celts Page, the author, who is an archaeologist at the University of Leicester in England, presents alternative views on this culture. After presenting the conventional wisdom, he gives an alternate history of “Celticness,” which examines the justification for unifying so many tribes under one banner—with particular attention to the British Isles.

I very much respect the work of Professor James. He’s an excellent archaeologist, and I do understand the problems of referring to a huge span of, what, three thousand years of history, and a geographical reach that covers most of Europe and a decent chunk of the Middle East as “Celtic.” The also fabulous Barry Cunliffe, another archaeologist, shares some of the same concerns.

But.

The Celtic languages are:

  1. Clearly related, with a single common ancestor.
  2. They share myths and laws and motifs not only with other Indo-European cultures, but with each others—right down to the names, never mind the stories.
  3. There are also shared myths, etymologies, laws, and practices, that are unique to Celtic languages, and shared among Celtic languages.

I note that Professor James largely ignores Celtic languages and linguistics; I really wish he wouldn’t. I realize the enormous cultural differences over time and geography—these are especially apparent in terms of archaeology and art—but given that the peoples who we associate with Celtic in terms of pre industrial history spoke a Celtic language, I assert that it is perfectly reasonable to refer to those peoples as Celts, however we decide to bento-box their artifacts.

I get Email

My site is pretty much all about things Celtic. It’s free. There are links to Amazon and other book sellers, but I don’t personally sell anything. But I still get weird scam/phishing spam. Like this one:

Hello Sales,

Am Daniel wool am interested in purchasing some of your products, I will like to know if you can ship to NewZealand, I also want you to know my mode of payment for this order is via Credit Card.

Get back to me if you can ship to that destination and also if you accept the payment type I indicated. Kindly return this email with your Website Or Attached the wholesale price sheets. I await your quick response.

Address:

Company Name: Danwool Store Ltd
Address: Unit 433,beedcroft St, Waltham, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND.
Phone: +64 4 553 2019.
Fax: +64 4 101 4336
Kind Regards.
Daniel wool.

I answered, immediately, with this:

Yes

We ship Gaelic all over the world. We can’t ship Manx to NewZealand because of the Manx Restriction laws.

We can ship up to two tons of Gaelic. Our standard price is USD $1129.00 per 100 lbs. of Gaelic.

We ship either freeze dried or with conventional dry ice per your request.

L. Spangenberg

This just in: 12/30/2009 2:25pm

Thank for your fast response and below is the item needed :

two tons of Gaelic 100 lbs

………2pcs

I will like you to get back to me with the cost and the shipping cost.and here is address for you to the shipping cost via ups or fed ex.and please kindly get back to me if this items is in stock because i do not want any delay on this.

Address:

Company Name: Danwool Store Ltd
Address: Unit 433,beedcroft St, Waltham, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND.
Phone: +64 4 553 2019.
Fax: +64 4 101 4336

Do this on time so that i can be able to give you my credit card information and complete my order for me.
Best Regards,
Daniel wool.

Philological Public Service Announcement

Beowulf is in Old English. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is in Middle English.

Every fall, and then again every spring, as various colleges and universities begin their semesters, I see a dramatic increase in the number of people visiting my site after using search phrases like:

  • canterbury tales in old english
  • general prologue old english
  • chaucer old english
  • chaucer angled saxon
  • chaucer anglo-saxon

Old English requires some special effort to read and understand; it really is a different language. Middle English is much closer to our own Modern English, albeit with funny spelling. You can get a good idea of how different Old and Middle English are by looking at the Lord’s Prayer in Middle and Old English. You can hear some Chaucer read in Middle English here, and some Beowulf in Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) here. If you’re curious about learning Old English, take a look at Michael Drout’s nicely done King Alfred’s Grammar Book, and Catherine Ball’s Old English Pages. For those interested in learning more about Middle English and Chaucer, take a look at Larry Benson’s site.

But remember: Chaucer wrote in Middle English.

Just a little Help: Tsunami Relief

As best I can determine, any money you donate will go entirely to quake/tsunami relief. If you’d rather, you can donate to the Red Cross/Red Crescent via Amazon with a single click. The British Red Cross page, with a direct donation link is here. Oxfam UK is here. CNN has a list of sites from agencies accepting donations here. If you’re thinking of buying something from Amazon, do it via Crooked Timber; they’re donating all their Amazon commissions to relief.

More on the Yogh

You’d be amazed at how hard it is to find information about the yogh. First, I’ve managed to learn that Unicode 4.0 Latin Extended B does indeed have both an upper and a lower case yogh, a yogh is that not an ezh. Take a look, if your browser supports Unicode 4.0 characters: an uppercase yogh Ȝ or U+021C and a lower case yogh ȝ or U+021D. And there are even Mac OS X fonts that support yogh as part of the Unicode character set (I particularly like Junicode). That’s the good news.

The problem is that the only word processor (versus text editor) for Mac OS X that supports the complete Unicode character set, and by “supports” I mean I can use Insert from the Character Palette, or hex encode the character, is Nisus Writer Express. Microsoft Word X does not, since the character is a Unicode character; neither MarinerWrite nor AppleWorks 6.x support Unicode only characters. The problem with Nisus Writer Express is that it doesn’t support footnotes, and the more esoteric formatting dissertations require. Mellel looks promising though, and I have hopes for true Unicode support in Microsoft Word 11. My ultimate plan is to create a custom keyboard layout, so I can easily access the characters I need. But I’m still going to check out LaTex.

I want my Yogh

There is a glyph in Middle English called the yogh.You can see a manuscript version of a yogh here. The yogh was used almost exclusively for Middle English in England, but it lingered through the eighteenth century in Scotland. The yogh, along with the thorn, another of the four special medieval English characters, is used in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo, two core texts for my dissertation.

Unfortunately, there is no yogh in Unicode. There should be; the other Medieval English characters are represented in Unicode. I’m not sure why there isn’t yogh, but there’s a very good discussion of why there should be a yogh in Unicode by Michael Everson.

I’m not alone in my desperate craving for a proper Unicode yogh; you can see some of the efforts others dealing with manuscripts on the web have had to make in order to substitute for the yogh. Here’s a scholar trying to present an edition of the Ormulum, and here’s the wonderful online edition and facsimile of the Auchinleck manuscript. Both of these examples (and I could give many more) are substituting other characters for the yogh. This sort of substitution is really not a long-term solution.

We need a yogh, in Unicode.