The lives and works of people in North America involved with Scottish Gaelic is the focus of a new video series, ACGA Agallamh, created by the An Comunn Gàidhealach Ameireaga (ACGA), the American Gaelic Society. The premiere program features an interview with Dr. Michael Newton, who last month released his latest book, “Gaelic in Your Gob: Four Dozen English Words that came from the Scottish Highlands.”
Newton has given us important scholarly works on Scottish Gaelic culture, including Warriors of the Word: The World of the Scottish Highlanders (2009), Seanchaidh na Coille: Memory-Keeper of the Forest (2015), an anthology of Scottish Gaelic poetry from Canada, and A Handbook of the Scottish Gaelic World (2000). He has also written less academic books to lure those with a more general interest, or potential interest, in Scottish Gaelic, most notably The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic and The Everyday Life of the Clans of the Scottish Highlands (2020).
As its title suggests, Gaelic in Your Gob is in the latter group, but Newton brings the same level of scholarship and scrutiny to bear in this book on words as he did in Warriors of the Word. Each of the 48 chosen words is examined in a brief essay that investigates their origins, how they leapt from Gaelic to Scots or English, and how their usage evolved over time. Some of the words clearly come from Scottish Gaelic (crag, cairn, slogan, loch). Others may surprise you (shindig, snazzy, croon, blackmail, pet, ptarmigan, and even Scot).
Words are windows into the past, and Newton opens those windows wider to give us a clearer view of the relationships between Scottish Gaelic, Scots, and English (and sometimes Irish, Latin, and Pictish). The essays are illuminating and entertaining, and there’s Gaelic galore (another word covered by the book) in many of the essays.
Watch the half-hour interview for more information on the book itself and a discussion of the history and relationship of Scottish Gaelic and its neighboring languages. A full review of the book was published in the latest edition of the ACGA newsletter, An Naidheachd Againne.
Look for Gaelic in Your Gob: Four Dozen English Words that came from the Scottish Highlands, by Michael Newton, Illustrations by Natalia Lopes, Saorsa Media/Ingram, 2021