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SEANCHAS-L  February 2016

SEANCHAS-L February 2016

Subject:

Re: alt-pluachra and alp-luachra

From:

Richard Marsh <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

List for Scholars and Students of Gaelic Folk Traditions <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 10 Feb 2016 11:11:43 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (104 lines)

Thanks for the comprehensive research, Liz. It's a nice piece of artistic 
folk composition, the way the unlettered peasant solves a problem that has 
the highly trained doctors stumped. They have all the scientific knowledge 
and medical terms, but the beggarman has the "brown grammar": the 
instinctive, on-the-ground problem-solving knowledge and cleverness of the 
uneducated brown-clad peasant. He has misunderstood the proper terms but 
scrambles them in a way that ultimately makes sense. It's like an expression 
I picked up from an illiterate magazine publisher I worked for: "a whole 
nother thing", which is more apt than "a whole other thing". A horseman 
pointed out to me the way a mare stood protectively between us and her 
newborn foal: "It's just human nature the way they do that." I would have 
called it "maternal instinct", but "human nature" says that and more.

So the beggarman fused -- by confusing partly consciously and partly 
unconsciously -- alp for a mouthful/gulp, alp=earc for newt, alt for alp, 
luachra for the rushy place where the thing lived, pluachra for 
"plúchadh...act of pressing, squeezing, smothering; suffocation.." In the 
end it all says more than the individual words: an example of folk wisdom.

I think newt and lizard would be more or less interchangeable terms in 
common use, like stork and heron, as discussed on the Old Irish list some 
time back.

I told the story with footnotes including the scientific term lissotriton 
punctatus to adults at Milk & Cookies last night and will tell it in the 
next few days to 7-11-year-olds in a school without the scholarly 
explanations.

Richard Marsh
Dublin

-----Original Message----- 
From: Liz Gabay
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 4:40 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SEANCHAS-L] alt-pluachra and alp-luachra

Hi Richard,
   Dinneen has "ailp..a protuberance, a huge lump, a high mountain;a stout
person; a bite, a mouthful".  "alp" is given as a variant spelling.

Lambert McCionnaith (1935)   has "lizard    earc; alp luachra (Donegal);
ailp luachra (Munster)"

DeBhaldraithe has "lizard    laghairt, earc luachra"

O'Dónaill has a noun   "ailp, 1. lump, chunk 2. Knob"  and "ailp = earc"
"alp" is given as a variant spelling for both these meanings.
There is also the verb "alp" that you mention below.
He also has "earc  1. Lizard.    earc luachra, sléibhte  newt,eft".

There seems to be some confusion in terminology between lizards and newts.

McCionnaith has two entries for the English word "fluke".  One is the name
of a fish and another is the name of a sheep's disease; neither is anything
like "alp luachra".
Liver flukes are parasites and are  small; the mature fluke would be found
in the liver of a sheep and would be less than an inch long.   I don't think
a person
would take one and swallow it.
I would suspect the man in the story swallowed a newt.
Maybe 'pluachra' was a pun on the word   "plúchadh...act of pressing,
squeezing, smothering; suffocation.."     Liz

-----Original Message-----
From: Seanchas-L [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Richard
Marsh
Sent: Monday, February 8, 2016 3:13 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SEANCHAS-L] alt-pluachra and alp-luachra

An alt-pluachra is "a rare and distinctive newt", lissotriton punctatus,
according to Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease, and Death in Contemporary
Legend by Gillian Bennett. The author says the creature swallowed
accidentally by a farmer in Douglas Hyde's story "The Alp-luachra" (sic) in
his book Beside the Fire, 1891 ("An Alp-Luachra", in Le h-ais na Teineadh,
1890) was a liver fluke, misidentified as an alt-pluachra by the beggarman
who finds a cure. In the body of the English version of the story it's
spelled "alt-pluachra", though the title is "The Alp-Luachra".

Ó Dónaill has for "alp": 1) swallow whole, devour; 2) grab. Luachra is gs
for rushes. This is logical, as the farmer swallowed the thing in a rushy
place. But is there any way that "alt-pluachra" makes sense, or is that just
the beggarman's mispronunciation? "Pluachra" doesn't seem to exist, even
though Bennett identifies alt-pluachra as "a rare and distinctive newt".

Irish version here -- http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/G307006/text005.html
English version here -- http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/btf/btf07.htm

But don't read it while you're eating if you're at all suggestible.

Richard Marsh
Dublin


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