Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Getting Squiffy in Brittany


Squiffiec has always been one of my favourite place names in Brittany. It conjures up squiffy - a place where people are 'slightly drunk'; and maybe their eyes are slightly skewiff - they've had enough (Breton cider) to make them 'awry, wonky'

The Breton name for Squiffiec is Skinvieg; this suggests they've actually had a lot more than that: perhaps more like a skinful - 'enough (calvados) to make one drunk'.

The name actually comes from the Old Breton: skaw/ieg,  '(place with) elder trees’. This is equivalent to the Welsh ysgeifiog found in place names such as Ysgeifiog and Llanfihangel Ysgeifiog. In Cornish scaw  is found in place names like Boscawen and Tresco/Trescau (Scilly Islands).

It was believed in Britain at one time that if you stood under an elder tree you couldn't be hit  by lightning - and  they were regularly planted next to houses. Whoever thought up this idea must have been a more than a little bit squiffy!

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