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I thought I might post an afterthought regarding the word “Lochlannach,” which appeared in the last blog (nasc thíos), talking about the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Although it is used for the phrase “sprús Lochlannach” (Norway spruce), a more literal translation would be “Scandinavian spruce.”
“Lochlannach” is the adjective form of “Lochlainn,” which usually shows up in its possessive form as part of the place name “Críoch Lochlann” (Scandinavia, lit. territory of Lochlainn).
The word for Norway itself is “An Iorua,” with the related words “Ioruach” (Norwegian) and “Ioruais” (Norwegian language). There are some Irish terms which, unlike “sprús Lochlannach,” have a direct correspondence to the place name involved, that is, using “Ioruach” for “Norwegian.” Among these are two types of dogs, “búmhadra Ioruach” (Norwegian buhund) and “cearbhchú Ioruach” (Norwegian elkhound).
Sometimes the English adjective “Norwegian” is expressed in Irish by the phrase “na hIorua” (of Norway), instead of “Ioruach.” Two examples are “coróin na hIorua” (the Norwegian kroner) and “ruachan uibhe na hIorua” (the Norwegian egg cockle).
“Lochlannach,” as we have seen, can be translated as Norway/Norwegian. It also shows up in a small assortment of other phrases. It can replace “Swedish,” as in the botanical term “blonagán Lochlannach” (Swedish goosefoot).
And it can be found, quite straightforwardly, where English also uses “Scandinavian,” as in “leimín Lochlannach” (Scandinavian lemming – to distinguish it from other varieties such as Arctic, Wrangell, and Transcaucasian).
It even shows up where the English term has no geographic reference, as in the Irish for “eider duck,” which is “lacha Lochlannach.”
And, back to “cearnóg a haon,” more or less, we have another tree whose name works just like sprús Lochlannach, namely mailp Lochlannach (Norway maple).
Not that any of these flora and fauna terms necessarily abide by our manmade geographical boundaries. I imagine Norway spruce trees are found in Sweden, and of course they’re cultivated in the U.S. and perhaps other countries for Christmas trees, the discussion of which is what led to this whole rigmarole. The first Google hit I found for Swedish goosefoot, apparently rare at best, was for Derbyshire, England, not Sweden. I assume it does grow in Sweden, although one can never be sure from the surface terminology (remember the case of the “Hataí Panama,” which actually originated in and are made in Ecuador).
“Lochlannach” as a noun can mean a Scandinavian person, or, in the historical sense, a Norseman. Lochlainn also gives us the surnames “Mac Lochlainn” and “Ó Lochlainn,” and the given name “Lochlainn” (Lachlan, etc.). Lochlannach is also basically synonymous with Uigingeach (Viking). A “tua Lochlannach” can be translated as “Viking axe” or “Norse axe.”
All this reminds us that translation is no easy task, and even when you have a set of definitions, there are often further nuances.
So, if you wanted to translate “Norwegian Wood,” you’d have to decide whether to pattern the phrase on an actual timber-related term, the Norway spruce, using “Lochlannach,” or whether you’d prefer to go with the actual country name, using either “Ioruach” or “na hIorua).” Maybe if you go back and cross-examine the lyrics, you could get a sense of whether Ó Leannáin-Mac Cartaine, úúps, Lennon-McCartney, were emphasizing timber types or Scandinavian origin in the song. Actually, come to think of it, the song was largely about painéalacht adhmaid, probably a symbol of superficial surface relationships, and with the ceol andúchasach provided by the siotár, then fairly novel in western music, I doubt that “An Iorua” had much to do with it. And in Barry Miles’ book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, McCartney says the wood paneling was really cheap pine, but that that didn’t make a good song title. With which I can only aontú (agree). SGF — Róislín
P.S. I’m not quite done with the Lochlannach theme but don’t want to make this blog much longer. But the hint is the follow-up will be about something that’s not only “Lochlannach” but also “inólta.” That is, if it ever really existed. Please stay tuned!
búmhadra [BOO-WAHD-ruh] buhund, and, one of my favorite Irish words – love the way the “bú” prefix causes lenition of “madra.” The “bu” part of the name apparently refers to livestock and this is a herding dog. Cognate to Irish “bó”?
cearbhchú [KYAR-uv-KHOO], from cearbh (elk) and cú (hound).
iarsmaoineamh [EE-ur-SMWEEN-yuv] iar- (after) + smaoineamh (thought)
tua [TOO-uh] axe
adhmaid [AI-midj, that “adh” represents the sound of “eye,” “my,” “pie,” or “aye” – pick your spelling! Ther “-dh” is silent], of wood
inólta [IN-OHL-tuh] potable, from “in-“ (able to be) + ólta (drunk)