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Subject: Re: 'Dun', etc.
From: Elisabeth Eilir Rowan <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date:Fri, 25 Feb 1994 16:17:56 EST
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Part of the problem with etymology is that things tend to change.
'Duncan', for example is usually given as meaning 'brown soldier'.
I don't know Gaelic, but if brown is 'donn', that doesn't mean
it invalidates the meaning.  When placed with another word, it's
pronunciation and even spelling can change, and over time this
can also happen.  'Dunkirk' could be either, assuming the name is
Celtic, which is probably true in this case.  My point is that you can't
always assume so.  Just because 'kirk' means church in Scotland, for
example, does not mean that 'kirche' does not mean church in German.
They're related, of course.  Folk etymologies also can really
add dirt to the quagmire, as well.  I can't think of a good example
off the top of my head, but often people will take a word, which
may be from an entirely different language than their own, but make
sense of it through analogy to some word in their language.  The
best bet for unravelling place-names is to look in reference books
specifically listing them.  Somewhere there is a study of Celtic
placenames in Britain (well, that I've come across; I'm sure there
are more, but I can try to find the reference if anyone's interested.)
 
                                           Elisabeth Eilir Rowan
                                           [log in to unmask]

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