Late last night I was driving home from Inveraray and passed through one of those zones where Radio 4 disappeared from that subset of wavelengths which were prepared to beach themselves on the shores of Loch Fyne and I was forced into flicking around the available stations for my entertainment. I hit upon good old Radio nan Gaidhael, the BBC’s service for the Scottish gaeltacht, and tuned in those parts of the braincells which were not concentrating on avoiding deer, or deciding that another myriad moths had spread their mortal remains upon my windscreen and now was the time to use some more of my dwindling resources of screenwash to secure a small window of visual opportunity for the road ahead, to enjoy the ultimate radio experience, i.e. anything in a language which is not within your personal glossary. When I was in Somerset I had a penchant for Radio Wales, which, apart from playing some excellent Welsh rock music, would also present such audio gems as “Anorak mega, Oh Mam!”, as happened on one unforgettable occasion when both Her Maj and I were driving home one night. Radio nan Gaidheal provides the same sort of opportunity as well as some delights from the cannon of Scottish folk and traditional music. Now, Gaelic seems to be more flexible than Welsh when it comes to new words and you’re unlikely to hear assimilations unlike listening to Radio Wales. It’s always a little odd to the English-speaker to see emergency vehicles with Ambwlans written on them, for example – but that’s what comes from the phoneticising of words from English when assimilated into Welsh. Gaelic doesn’t seem to do so much of that, although you will often hear speakers switching into English for contemporary or slang words which aren’t available (yet) in Gaelic. As an aside, I understand that there is a flourishing and dynamic Welsh slang and popular culture in which new words are being coined and used amongst young people in the same way that young English-speakers seek to baffle and exclude their parents’ generation from their own communications.
But, back to the haggis. I know, this is one of those stream-of-piffle posts where there’s no obvious (or covert, come to that) structure and the man is just knocking down whatever comes into his head. I believe the origin of the word haggis comes from the fact that this foodstuff, this comestible of the celts, this cultural food icon, contains so many ingredients! And – and there’s a clue – the English listener, upon hearing a Gaelic speaker reading out the ingredients, might assume that the whole stuff consists of nothing but “agus” (pronounced aggis), which is no more and no less than the Gaelic for “and”.
Well, that’s my small, not-very-humble, opinion and that’s that.