Words, Part 2

In the ever-continuing American-Scottish word games via cyberspace, Sheelagh played the word “swede” which prompted an instant message discussion that went something like this:

Me: Isn’t a “swede”, aka a rutabaga over here, also called a neep…as in tatties and neeps?

Shee: Swede is what the English call a neep…but the Swede and turnip are slightly different..one is a purple and white smaller item and the other a larger yellow/orange colour…the Scots tend to use the latter and call them neeps   xx

Me:  Yeah, the orangey one is what we call a rutabaga; the white -purple one we also call a turnip….

Shee: Love the name rutabaga…Indian??

Me: Yep

Shee: It is just a fabbo name. Do you ever have trouble pronouncing the longer Indian names? I am sure I would be a disaster when travelling thru some of their villages and towns!!!

Me: Huh?! Have you LOOKED at the Ghaidhlig words???? lol  Tell me how to pronounce Drmmnadrochit and I’ll teach you how to say Skaneateles.  Actually, most of our State names are Indian in origin. The list of Indigenous words morphed in to place names is very, very long.


Drumnadrochit comes from the Ghaidhlig ‘druim na drochaid’ meaning the ‘Ridge of the Bridge’ and pronounced “DRUM na DRoK it.   Skaneateles is pronounced “Skinny-atlis” which means “long lake” in Iroquois. It’s on one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate NY.

Places are often named for what they are. In Scotland: Inverness, at the head of the river Ness; Ard, point; Dun, hill; Kirk, a church or fort. In the US: Lake Okeechobee, big water, Housatonic (River) means beyond the mountain place, and Mississippi, the big river. One of my favorites is Malibu, which roughly translates as “the surf makes a loud noise all the time over there”.

There are many names that come from landforms (Craig, Cliff, Glyn, Glen, Dale, Marina), and ones that come from plants (Rose, Amber, Violet). Names come from nature in general (Dawn, Star) and the list becomes greatly expanded when the myriad of languages other than English are used. While I chose the name Kyle for my son because of its meaning “handsome”, it also comes from the Ghaidhlig for a narrow channel of water.


About Kate Cowie Riley

Kate writes two blogs currently: "Weaving the Magic Thread ~ the texture of my life", a collection of auto-biographical essays; and "Scottish Heart", where she shares her love of Scotland and the trips through Scotland that she both plans and guides. She is also Copy Editor and Lead Contributor Emerita for "Celtic Family Magazine". Kate retired in 2013 from nearly 40 years in Private Practice as a Somatic Psychotherapist & Bodyworker, Massage Therapy Instructor, Sivananda Yoga Teacher, Spa Director, and Consultant, who also wrote & taught about Eco-sustainability and WellBalance. Her professional blog, "The Riley School of Integrated Somatic Bodywork" is also retired. All of Kate's blogs are copyright by Kate Cowie Riley; all photos are copyright Kate Cowie Riley, unless otherwise stated. All photos and text or part thereof are not to be used for commercial purposes or without written permission from the author. All photos must be used in their original form, no addition or alteration are allowed. Any advertisements that are seen on the Wordpress sites are in no way supported by Kate Riley.
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2 Responses to Words, Part 2

  1. Lady I says:

    Hi there. Great blog. I got the link from the Highland Estates competition blog list. Anyway, I wanted to clarify something in this entry, because maybe I’m reading it wrong. In the conversation part, it sounds like Shee is asking if ‘rutabaga’ is an Indian word? (I’m assuming North American Indian?) I had always been told it was a European word, but I never knew which language it was from. So out of interest, I checked with the Online Etymological Dictionary, and it’s actually from the Swedish word ‘rotabagge,’ meaning rot ‘root’ + bagge ‘bag.’ So there’s the connection between the use of ‘swede’ and ‘rutabaga’ – perhaps it was a Swedish plant that was introduced to the British Isles? Anyway, good luck with the competition!

    • Kate Cowie Riley says:

      Just shows one can always learn something! I have been under the impression that it was a Native American word since I was quite young; my mistake. It makes perfect sense, then, that it is also called a swede.

      While one should always fact check when publishing, I was caught up in the IM conversation and felt it made a good intro for the thoughts I had as I was writing the blog.

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