Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Yes But not Ceilidh

Saturday morning I heard on the radio Coin Street Community Builders were holding a ceilidh in Bernie Spain Gardens on the South Bank of the River Thames. I thought absolutely brilliant. I remember they held a ceilidh about nine years ago. There was a group of Scottish drummers there, how they danced and swirled as they played their drums. Between dances they sank glasses of beer. The more beer they drank the faster they danced. The faster they danced the higher their kilts swirled. The higher the kilts swirled the more was revealed of what Scotsmen wear; or rather do not wear under their kilts. I can tell you, that day a number of old ladies lives were shortened by the increased strain on their pounding hearts. “Ay Jimmy is that your sporran and Sgian Dubh I see?”

Off Mrs YesBut and I went to the banks of the Thames. What a disappointment, it was an English Ceilidh. An English Ceilidh, there is no such thing as an English Ceilidh. Ceilidh is a Gaelic word for a Scottish or Irish informal gathering for music, dancing, song and story. Is the English language so bereft of words that it has to steal words from other languages?

Many years ago when I was working overseas, an Indian clerk told me “Ah you English are so clever, you have words for everything”. Wrong on two accounts, I’m not English, secondly the English language hasn’t got words for everything. Its always been open to take to its own words from other languages. From the time of Britain’s occupation of India, we get from Hindi: bungalow, juggernaut, shampoo, jungle. From Yiddish: bagel, glitch, nosh schmuck.
But Ceilidh is the usurping of a word too far. Why not call it an English Folk Festival? Thank goodness they didn’t use the Welsh word for a cultural festival “Eisteddfod” - they probably couldn’t spell it and certainly not pronounce it.

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