Wednesday, 30 December 2015

How blue is your valley?

Were the Ancient Celts colour blind? Place names suggest they were.
Different languages label colours in different ways. White and black are words that exist in all languages but if there is a third colour name it is always red. The fourth and fifth colours can be green or yellow, but only languages that have six different colour words will have one for blue

All The Colours, Including Grue

Languages without blue will use green instead. These languages are called grue languages.

Unlike their modern versions the old Celtic languages (Welsh, Breton, Cornish, Cumbric, Gaelic) were grue languages. For example, the word glas found in all four of these languages meant grey or green or blue or silver or turquoise. In place names it is used for the colour of the sea, of the sky, of grass, of metal, of stone, of a sword, of hedges, or of a valley.

The word is supposed by some Celtic scholars to be derived from Greek: glaukos, indicating the different colours of the sea: Glaucus was a sea deity.
In most cases if glas refers to water it is ‘blue’ and on ‘land’ it is green - if you can decide which is which, of course.
Here are a few examples:
BOLAZEC/BOTGLAZEC (Brittany): bot/bod and glas, ‘green dwelling’
BRYN-GLAS (Wales): bryn  and glas, ‘green hill’
CAEGLAS (Wales): cae and glas, ‘green valley’
CARNGLAZE (Cornwall): carn and glas, ‘blue rock(s)’
ENEZ GLAS (Brittany): enez and glas, ‘green island’
GLASCOMB (Wales): glas and cwm, ‘green hollow’
GLASGOW (Scotland): glas and cau, ‘green hollow’
KERLAZ (Brittany): ker and glas, ‘blue village’ (it is next to the sea)
PENTREFOELAS (Wales): Blue hill at the top of the village
POLGLASE (Cornwall): pol  and glas, ‘blue pool’
PWLLGLAS (Wales): pwll  and glas, ‘blue pool’

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