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Subject: Re: Campbell
From: Dennis King <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 23 May 2004 22:23:35 -0700

text/plain (46 lines)

Charles scríbas:

> Wasn't the name of the ancestor of the Kennedys,Ceindeidig mac Lorcain,
> supposed to mean "helmet head"?  The 'eidig' part, from 'étid' - 
> "clothe,
> equip, arm", purportedly refers to Ceindeidig's unattractive facial 
> features.

I think the common understanding of the name is even more overtly 
uncomplimentary: OI Cennétig < cenn (head) + étig (ugly), rather
than "cennide" (headgear, helmet).

> I think that famous ancestors tend to be a source of pride to people, 
> even
> if, or especially if, they have distinctive epithets.  Certainly, many
> important historical figures had strange nicknames, Charles the Bald, 
> Vlad
> the Impaler, Niall Glundub, Cobthach Coel.

While some early Gaelic figures ended up with heroic epithets,
such as "lámdes" (dexterous) or "lámf*ota" (long-armed), or the
well-known Conn "Cétchathach" (of the hundred battles), or Níall
"Noígiallach" (of the nine hostages), just consider these common
sobriquets that point up physical imperfections, whether won in
battle or otherwise, all culled from DIL entries from various eras:

Ingcél Cáech (one-eyed)
Cúscraid Mend (stammerer)
Diarmaid Bernach (gap-toothed)
Seaan Mantach (toothless)
Conall Cláen (bent, stooped)
Aed Caimdherc (crooked gaze)
Tadhg Camchosach (crooked legged) Ó Dálaigh
An Cammuimélach (crooked necked) Ua Baoighill
Muiris Cams*rónach (crooked nosed)
Cormac Cams*rón (crooked nose)

It seems to me that it's a romantic and insistantly idealizing
modern view, a consumerist "I deserve the best" view, that that
demands a heroic interpretation of every surname, rather than
accepting a colorful and earthy one -- even when this is at odds
with the facts of Gaelic history, the evidence of the language,
and the understanding of contemporary Irish and Scottish Gaelic


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