Gaelic in Vernacular English
The Gaelic Basis of Dark Peak (More Widely South Pennine) Vernacular Speech
2019, 2020. Steve Moxon, Deepcar, Sheffield 36, England. email@example.com
A Creative Commons copyright applies
That Dark Peak (and, more widely, South Pennines) place-names and customs cannot be understood without Gaelic etymology (see parallel articles on this website) maybe is not so much of a surprise for a sometime very remote, un-enviable (steep-hilled, clay-soiled) area, given recent fine-scale genetics research findings (Leslie et al, 2015). Northern England turns out to be genetically very close to Scotland, not to the rest of England; and there’s a very distinct genetic cluster unique to the South Pennines (dubbed ‘West Yorkshire’, but including much of Lancashire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and even northern Notts, northern Staffs). Previous research separately by geneticists Steven Oppenheimer and Bryan Sykes (outlined in their books, The Origins of the British and Blood of the Isles) had shown that unlike the east of Britain (where live the descendents of migrants from north-west Europe who were speaking proto-English over here thousands of years before the small influx of Angles/Saxons), the west of Britain remains today largely the home of people whose ancestors arrived very anciently from the European Atlantic seaboard — the ‘Celtic’ migration route. This would be congruent rather than evidence, however. Language may very poorly map on to gene distribution: culture can sweep across a geographical area independently of its peopling. What would be evidence is if, as an apparently (until relatively recent pre-history) ‘Gaelic survival’ area, the Dark Peak retains in local current speech some prominent traces of Gaelic. That would well enough complete an internally consistent picture that local place-names and customs indeed are Gaelic.
Gaelic may be hidden in plain sight, as it were, albeit Anglicised in sound and rationalised in meaning, and possibly swamped by newer lexicons of subsequent language(s), with words lost through no longer of use in a different linguistic framework. In this way, some or much Gaelic even in mangled form may not have survived. These problems aside, it would be expected that there is detectable retention of what is most significant — that which remains so today as in the past (albeit that some of the most important words, like boy/girl & lass/lad, pre-date ‘Celtic’, and even Proto-Indo-European). An obvious place to look is distinctive weather vocabulary (see below), but, most of all, where language has its key function: in starting, keeping going and ending personal interaction, all the time ensuring civility and togetherness of the parties. Nah then / eh up / ar tha guin? / ar do … luv / chuck / cock / flower … ar / nah … reight (-eo / -o) … aye … aimer … champion … ta luv … cheerio / t’ra / s’ long luv / si thi / bye luv. That’s the framework, the bare bones of a standard conversation Dark Peak locals — and that includes native Sheffield city residents — all recognise, and as Dark Peak locals (if not those from a much wider area) might well conduct it (with fellow locals). It feels like a more familiar, more intimately personal, almost parallel language; one that somehow stands on the inside of an English superstructure. And that is just how it turns out to be. It is readily shown all to be from Gaelic: every expression and word without exception.
It is also easily shown not to be Norse. Nothing in local conversational staple seems remotely akin to what corresponds in either meaning or sound in Norse. Only rarely is there even superficial similarity, and, with but a sole exception, the differences betray contrasting etymological origins (that is, they don’t share a common Proto-Indo-European root). Norse is not conceivably the root of any South Pennines conversational staples, despite Norse having long been assumed to be the basis of Yorkshire dialect, whether of the Pennines or the York plain (which is almost completely contrasting in major respects — topography and migration history). With the benefit of insights from genetic research, showing the relatively low number of Norse invaders, it may well be that Norse had significantly less impact even in the eastern parts of Britain where there was Norse settlement, let alone in the west, where there was little if any — none at all in the Dark Peak area, where there appear to be no Norse place-names.
TA LUV is clearly Scottish Gaelic tapadh leibh, pronounced (capitalising the stressed syllables) ‘TAH-puh LEH-eev’, ‘thanks to you’ (formal). Ta luv is standard shortening over time to leave out the medial unstressed syllable. Sound-wise, ‘LEH-eev’ and ‘TAH’ hardly could be better conserved despite Anglicisation and the elapse of time since Gaelic was spoken. With here two etymological puzzles solved simultaneously that thereby are mutually reinforcing derivations, this is as clear-cut as it gets in philology. It’s anyway the only game in town. Nobody had bothered to address luv, because nobody had any idea what it might be other than what at face value it seemed to be. As for ta, baby talk ta-ta is the OED’s ridiculous suggestion, and Norse takk inexplicably would have to lose the most conspicuous part of its sound. In any case, neither would explain the integral luv element.
LUV, leibh is a contraction of le sibh, a composite pronoun & preposition meaning ‘with you, together with you, on your side, in your favour, by you’ — le is the preposition ‘with, together with, in company with, on the same side with’, and denotes feeling; sibh is the personal pronoun, ‘ye, you’. [Note that Gaelic bh is always pronounced ‘v’.] The word is not love except in its sound, hence denoted luv. We rationalise it as love but recognise it can’t be so, given no distinguishing sex of recipient or issuer. Males would never address each other thus, and it wouldn’t crop up everywhere, as it does, a universal glue of conversation, acting as regular reminder of the social cement necessary for engagement. Love is a far too strong, nay inappropriate term for it.
Sometimes used, but much more common further south (as in Leicester), where it appears to replace luv (though corresponding luv is also used), DUCK is diùc, diucadh, ‘coming to, presenting one’s self: adventus, accessus’ (according to one early 19th century Gaelic dictionary), ‘approach, present one’s self, according to another’. It is not, as has been suggested, ‘Duke’, which anyway makes no sense.
Luv (leibh) is integral to other conversational staples: notably parting salutations, as in BYE LUV. Bye has been assumed to be the second element in Good-bye, a supposed implausibly recent shortening of God be with you, where God has been garbled to good in the way it might be in a ‘minced oath’, yet Good-bye is nothing of the kind. The name of God is not being ‘taken in vain’ here. Quite the contrary. Even more problematic is the oddity of the shortening. There is no trace of with, despite this being the one other element that is stressed in the construction. GOD be WITH you would shorten to sound something like ‘gwiu’. Or, if God did weirdly become Good, it might be pronounced ‘good-wiu’. The words of which any trace remains — be and you — are un-stressed, and as such would be the elements readily lost. This has the air of forced etymology, in ignorance of even the possibility of a Gaelic derivation. Bye easily can be seen to be from Scottish Gaelic beannachd, ‘blessings’, with luv (leibh) the integral qualifier, ‘to you’, just as it functions is ta luv. Beannachd leibh is pronounced ‘BAY-uh-nach LEH-eev’, ending up as bye luv, again through the usual loss of medial un-stressed syllables in word evolution, with influence on the ‘BAY’ syllable by what followed in the original construction, to render it ‘bey’ (try saying ‘bay-uh’ often and quickly). As with ta luv, there is confidence in derivation with the simultanous occurrence of two elements being mutually reinforcing; and this is further compounded through both whole constructions being close parallels.
And here’s another to make it three. S’LONG LUV is from slàn leibh, literally, ‘health to you’, in the sense of ‘good’, ‘whole’, ‘safe’; slàn being pronounced ‘slahn’ or ‘slawn’. Leading etymologist Anatoly Lieberman wrote about so long in his Oxford University Press blog last year: “Can it be a corruption of Irish slaan = health? Gaelic speakers in Eire-land commonly salute by saying slaan–leat = health with thee, for farewell (suggested in 1901)”. [Note Liberman didn’t consider the leibh form, or didn’t twig it was luv: he was considering the informal, -leat version.] He dismisses all five suggested derivations as improbable, but the other four are plain daft, leaving by default the Gaelic derivation, which anyway ceases to be improbable once the surprise of the applicability of Gaelic etymology has passed. To an academic etymologist as is Lieberman, a Gaelic derivation of a seeming quintessentially English expression is nigh-on preposterous. He’s mistaken. Yet again, the combination with luv (leibh) plus the close parallel with other constructions (ta luv and bye luv) seals it.
Liable to crop up at any conversational juncture, luv (leibh) is joined by several other terms similarly denoting engagement with another party, likewise functioning as a lubricant and coming to be seen as terms of endearment: CHUCK, likely from chuige, chugad, ‘towards thee, to you’; COCK, most probably from caig, a grammatical form of the verb meaning ‘to couple together’, denoting ‘(a rush of) conversation’; and FLOWER from a grammatical form of faoil, pronounced ‘fàoèl’, ‘profuse hospitality’, likely faoilidh, ‘profusely liberal’ (very open), pronounced ‘faoèl’-è’, which looks set for a usual letter transposition to promote the medial consonant as Anglicisation cum rationalisation forces it into the guise of a familiar and meaningful word. Faoil / faoilidh is surely related to the Gaelic word for ‘welcome’, fáilte. Note the highly apposite roots, all concerning togetherness, with no need to try to ‘force’ derivation: the etymology is readily apparent.
The king of these sort of terms, though — if luv be the queen — was not and has not become a term of endearment, but is the quintessential way of regularly injecting into conversation a reminder of togetherness: REIGHT(-EO-/O), from réiteach (or some grammatical form of it, eg, réitíonn), ‘agreement, settlement, reconciliation’, and ‘disentangling’, which has evolved from an original notion of clearing away obstacles. The meaning here is an exact fit for the usage, even as specific meaning has been lost to users themselves. Reight does not mean ‘right’ (‘yes’), as can be gauged from its usage. ‘Are we reight, then?’ self-evidently means ‘are we all-right?’; that is ‘are we getting on well together?’, not ‘are we correct?’ As a parallel from contemporary American English, this is likewise what is really meant by ‘are we OK?’
Likewise assumed to be but actually not meaning ‘yes’, AYE shares with the local word oss (as in oss thissen!, ‘make an effort!’) a root in aois, which is traceable back to Proto-Indo-European h–eyu, ‘long time, vital force, life, long life, eternity’. Consequently, aye actually means ‘always, ever, continually, on all occasions, still, all the same, ever afterwards, henceforward’.
Other ‘continuity’ words (that also have not become terms of endearment) are AIMER, ‘fine’, surely from tha mi gu math, literally ‘I am well’, pronounced ‘HA mi gu MA’ (then losing the initial h, as is always the case with any such word locally); and also what may be the vernacular origin of what extremely belatedly has been adopted as the new vogue for starting sentences with ‘so’: SOA sóer, from Proto-Celtic su-wiros, ‘good man’. Though in (modern) Gaelic this has become slightly modified to mean ‘freeman’ or ‘noble’, it seems to have persisted as its core meaning in the sense of ‘my good man’ or ‘my friend’ to maintain a conversation on good terms, or even to start one.
Returning to parting salutations, but this time where luv is not integral to the original construction (though it may be tacked on), we have CHEERI-O: tìoraidh–an–drasta, ‘see you later’, pronounced ‘CHEE-ree-ahn-DRAH-stah’. The near alliteration of the last three syllables, of what anyway is cumbersone at a total of five, explains contraction over time into one, leaving cheeri-o. An alternative take on tìoraidh-an-drasta to focus on the initial t and the principal medial sound of r is what T’RA appears to be: the most common parting utterance other than bye. A bon voyage (literally) form of parting salutation, turas math dhut, ‘good voyage’ which the Irish shorten to tooraloo, has been Anglicised to TOODLE-OO. [Dictionaries give it as being from toddle, circa 1600, Scottish and northern British, of uncertain origin — the standard giveaway that it’s from Gaelic. English dictionaries fail to pick up on northern regional vernacular until it has been officially recorded after being registered by the highly educated and spreading out of its regional base, and hence false ascription to a recent or even very recent source what actually may be ancient.] Additionally, there is another blessing form of ‘bye’: soraidh (leat) or sàraidh (according to an 1825 Gaelic dictionary), ‘a blessing wishing happiness / health/ success (to you)’, pronounced ‘SOR-é (layt) or SAER-é (layt)’. This looks very much to be rationalised in Anglicisation to ‘see ye (later)’, and hence, in dialect — ye > thee (thi) — SI-THI (LATER).
As for initial greetings, NAH THEN! — with nah (mis)taken to mean now, as it may thus be vocalised — is one of (if not the) hallmarks of local speech; a choice mode of hailing. Derived from na daoine, pronounced ‘nah dèen-eh’, its literal meaning is ‘the people’ (in translation the definite article can be dropped). All too clearly, something sounding like ‘nah dee’en -eh!’ would be Anglicised / rationalised to now then, eh? Actually, it’s likely shortened na daoine maithe, ‘(the) good people’, in that the construction is thus liable through the last element, in being pronounced ‘my-heh’, duplicating some of the sound of the second, rendering it redundant to ears listening in a superseding language (being unaware of meaning in the usurped language). The longer form has been employed to denote ‘the fairy folk’, but clearly would have been available originally to be used in the sense of ‘(hey) good people!’, familiarly, as in ‘(hey) guys!’ or ‘(hey) folks!’ Interestingly, nah then occurs locally sometimes in a longer form, nah then surrah / serry, which appears to be the addition of the above-discussed soraidh, ‘a blessing wishing happiness / health / success’. With soraidh being the meat of the meaning of the whole (the longer) expression, then nah then itself must be the merely qualifying part of the construction, as with the composite pronoun-prepositions found in other salutations; notably leibh (luv), ‘to you’. With the derivation in terms of people, nah then qualifies to provide the sense of ‘the other person’ in the plural: ‘to you lot’, as it were. So the lucky local survival of the whole of the original expression provides a cross-check of the derivation of what thereby is revealed to be the truncated version. The upshot is that if the etymology wasn’t clear enough already, it should be now. Note that it’s not an issue that the element conveying the principal part of the meaning has been axed in the evolution to nah then, because it makes no difference to the English speaker, as any knowledge of the original meaning has been lost in the transition from Gaelic.
EH UP hardly could be the suggested Norse se up, ‘watch out’, as it would serve not to greet but warn of approach, thereby if not to drive away, to get off on the wrong foot in evoking wariness. That might work in a ‘post-modern irony’ world as a piece of droll pastiche, but certainly not in any former real world setting. It’s a forced derivation for seeming want of any other possibility, given failure to look beyond assumed relevant lexicons. It appears to be an Anglicisation / rationalisation of the standard traditional greeting in Gaelic to more than one person: dia daoibh / dia duibh, pronounced ‘dee-uh yeev’; meaning literally ‘God to you’ — ‘God be with you’, with the second element being a composite pronoun & preposition do + sibh, ‘to you, for you’, where ‘you’ denotes more than one person (cf leibh: le + sibh). With no sense that possibly could be made of it in English, then there is nothing to preserve in meaning to forestall a usual shortening through alliteration, and it can readily be seen that it might well be rendered eh up; this with or without any influence to drop the initial d. There likely is such influence, though, in the (already cited) archetypal hailing form of PIE h–eyu — however slightly modified it may be through Gaelic or English — meaning ‘long time, vital force, life, long life, eternity’. Note that although the original usage by Gaelic speakers is in addressing a group rather than an individual, there is no reason why usage thousands of year later by English speakers should adhere to this distinction. Nevertheless, eh up is notable in not eliciting any reply; even a merely rhetorical one. An echo back of the same doesn’t work either: it feels like clumsy parroting. At most some sort of grunt, or ar (‘yes’ — see below) is all the acknowledgment required. It’s eh up, not eh up? There’s no question mark. Even if it’s rationalised as being ‘what’s up?’, at one and the same time everyone knows eh up does not have this meaning — cf love / luv. Nobody ever replies, say, ‘oh, I’m fine, thanks’ or ‘a bit rough, but I’ll mend’. Eh up seems designed to work in addressing a group, as everyone competing immediately with a rejoining phrase to acknowledge a greeting would not make for a constructive or sensible start of conversation.
The other Gaelic ancient standard greeting, dia duit — again, literally ‘God to you’, though addressed to one individual rather than to a group — we may have retained as AR THA GUIN? A dialect version of a rationalisation to ‘how are you going on?’ The pronounciation, ‘dee-a-gwit’, doesn’t feature alliteration, so a shortening as ensued in the case of what ended up as eh up is not on the cards. ‘Dee-a-gwit’ you can see might be taken by a Yorkshire dialect English speaker to be something like ‘dee ar’ guin?’ (‘thee are going?’), though this immediately jarrs as having a wrong word order. Hence the first two elements are swapped round to produce the appropriately word-ordered ‘ar tha guin?’ (‘are thou going?’, in the sense of ‘how are you going on?’). [Such transposition of words or consonants within words is absolutely standard in language evolution.] Interestingly, ar tha guin? retains the original sense of addressing just one individual, as it would feel odd to ask a group, in that unlike with eh up this would prompt a clash of simultaneous rhetorical replies.
It might be thought that this or a version of it, or English ‘how are you doing?’ has been shortened to arrive at AR DO, having lost, recently, a lot of the sense of the construction. If it were the English, it would entail ‘how are you going on’ existing in the different version, which would be strange before exposure to the recent, not to mention rather posh how do you do? So we’d end up with the same issue of an unlikely precursor. It more likely arose from the first and second elements of another standard Gaelic salutation, air do (slàinte), ‘on your (health)!’ [Sláinte is the noun meaning ‘health’, rather than its adjectival form slàn / slaan.] Note that locals actually say ar do rather than how do? That users themselves may well assume it to be shortened ‘how do you do?’ rendered in dialect, it does not mean that their predecessors ever used it; as indeed anything so prim surely would not have been employed in vernacular speech. If it was never used in the past, then it could not have been available for subsequent shortening. Just as with the ‘goodbye’ form of greeting re health/safety, the last element would have been dropped. As with nah then, it’s not an issue that here it’s the main one, because of the loss of any knowledge of original meaning in the switch from Gaelic to English. [Note that here ar is not the same word as ar meaning ‘yes’ (see below), which is not from air but from tha.]
Sláinte, ‘health’, would be expected to crop up in another mangling of Gaelic as an equivalent of ‘cheers!’, given that ‘good health’ is the salutation over drinks (when clicking glasses or making a toast) in many cultures. In this respect, sláinte is employed in both Scottish & Irish Gaelic. Where, then, is this in our local lingo, when, along with the rest of England, we just say cheers!? Well, unknown to us we do use it, and in two forms; neither of which we realise as being from sláinte. One is as another expression, that because we use it in a wider context we don’t see it as the salutation of choice for the pub; and the other is cheers! itself — it actually comes from Gaelic … from sláinte (from an expression containing it). ‘Good health’ in both Scottish & Irish Gaelic is slàinte mhath!, pronounced ‘SLAHN-tchuh-vah’ (/ -ja, / -yuh, / -voh, / -chuh: a variety of alternative pronunciation of the last element, mhath) or ‘SLAWN-chee-vah’. It’s from this that a regional vernacular word presumably with an original same function as cheers! appears to have emerged, in a rationalisation / Anglicisation. With, to English-speaking ears, no sense whatsoever to be made of the sound ‘SLAHN-tchuh-vuh’ / ‘SLAWN-chee-vuh’, a nearest-sounding English word that would also retain the essence of the meaning as evident from its usage and context is CHAMPION! A folk-etymological forced fit, to be sure, but the best, indeed only word folk could come up with, being the only word available. Its employment here, as well as being a stretch in terms of meaning also entails an abuse of grammar, which in itself is evidence that champion shouldn’t be taken at face value, indicating an unexpected derivation. It makes do as an approximation of ‘good health’ to fit the usage/context, albeit it’s not so appropriate to prevent its being supplanted in the pub by cheers! Yet this turns out not to be the usurpation it seems. It’s by just another manifestation of slàinte. The alliterative expression sláinte is táinte, is a more complete common pub salutation, meaning ‘health and wealth’, pronounced ‘slawn-chee iss toin-chee’. Note the repeat of the sound ‘chee’, and its being followed, in its first mention, by the sound ‘iss’. It can be seen how this would stand out in the construction when it came to Anglicisation, and to suggest a rationalisation to CHEERS; good cheer of course being the mood attending toasting everyone’s good health. Alternatively or additionally (as co-roots), it could be derived either from plain sláinte (‘SLAHN-tchuh’ or ‘SLAWN-chee’): the second syllable, that is — rationalised and made plural; and/or from the last three syllables of the pronunciation ‘slawn-cha hoo-ut’, of yet another common toasting expression, sláinte chugat, ‘health to you’. All these possibilities (or two out of three of them) could well have acted in concert. Either way, now is solved what has long been agreed to be an etymological puzzle hitherto with no satisfactory suggestions, let alone an answer.
The most obviously important words — those indicating the affirmative / negative — have been left until last because of the complication that in Gaelic this is deeper within language structure, with different wording according to the type of verb used. Nevertheless, there is evidence of Gaelic retention even here. In English there was (or is the now almost obsolete) yea / nay as well as yes / no, but South Pennines locals have a third set that corresponds to the replies in Gaelic to questions beginning with a bheil, ‘do you / are you’. The appropriate negative response here is chan eil, pronounced ‘khu-NYAIL’, where ‘khu’ denotes a sound akin to throat-clearing, as in loch. As this is very foreign to an English tongue and ears, and anyway here forms an un-stressed syllable within the construction, it likely will have been lost in the transition from Gaelic. The rest of the pronunciation, in being awkwardly complex as well as foreign, would simplify over time, and seems likely to have been rendered into the local word NAR (as it’s pronounced: it may be denoted nah, but that would risk confusion with the word nah in nah then, which is a different word: the definite article). The vowel sound is quite different from nay (or Norse nei), and nar is clearly the ‘opposite number’ of the local word for ‘yes’, AR, that readily betrays its origin in Gaelic, being from the corresponding affirmative answer to questions beginning chan eil: tha, pronounced har, that standardly for local words would lose its initial h. This differs markedly from the superficially similar Norse já, with it’s acute-accented a and the sharp initial attack indicated by j. The difference here is etymologically deep, in that já is an expression of excitement, whereas Gaelic tha denotes the affirmative in terms of agreement, just as does ar, in line with ar being a case of Gaelic retention.
Astounding as it may seem, then, the key markers in the overall shape of Dark Peak vernacular conversation do appear to be Gaelic, albeit some forms are clear and others less so.
Turning now to an example class of important vocabulary: Pennine South Yorkshire terms for distinctive weather are from Gaelic.
SNIDERED / SNIDED (snowed under) sniaghtey, ‘precipitation of snow’. ‘Snidered out’ denotes being unable to access somewhere for its being full of something, as in being hemmed in by snow.
FOO-ARH! (cold, significantly cold) fuar, ‘cold’.
NESH (feeling the cold too easily) naisg, ‘made fast, bound, protected’. The meaning in Anglicisation is one of association: opting for well-wrapped clothing to protect all the time, whether it’s cold or not, indicates being all too ready to feel even the slightest degree of cold.
PERISHING (intensely cold) air reothadh, ‘frozen’. Anglicisation cum rationalisation. Not from OE ‘to pierce’, which would pre-require a notion it supposedly explains.
SILIN (as in ‘it’s silin dahn’) (heavy rain) sìl, verb/noun ‘shower, rain in heavy showers’; sìleadh, ‘heavy showers’. It is not from any Germanic root such as silen, which all mean ‘filter, strain’.
BELTING / PELTING (snow or rain in heavy fall). Given as 1800s slang of unknown origin — code, again, for Gaelic! In Addy’s Sheffield glossary there is belt, ‘to shear the loose wool off sheep’; with beltings the product. It’s a conjugation of Gaelic bearr, ‘to shear’, with subsequent Anglicisation/ rationalisation. Heavy snowfall is taken as analagous to the cascade of white fluffy wool in sheep-shearing.
LATHERED (hot) làth bruich, ‘sultry day’. A rationalisation betrayed as such in not making sense: idiomatic in a lather, ‘in an agitated state’, is not the effect of hot weather — lather is foam arising in washing; hardly sweat.
CLARTY, CLARTED (Sticky/foul/filthy/muddy, especially regarding weather) clàtar, ‘mire’; clàiteachd, ‘gentle rain’.
CLAGGED-IN (Foggy, low-cloud) clagharra, ‘sluggish’.
NITHERING (strong wind, or its consequence of cold) neatar, ‘strong, powerful’.
PARKY (cold) pasgach, ‘wrapping, swaddling’. The usage here is indirect: indicating cold weather in the need to tightly encase in clothing.
Any and every significant vocabulary group turns out to be Gaelic; such as words for spoiled food (eg, LOPPY, lobh, ‘rot, putrify’; MANKY, meangach, meangail, ‘blemished, faulty’), and for exhaustion (eg, JIGGERED, sgìth, ‘jaded’; TATIED, teadalach, ‘slow, dilatory, sickly’; FLAGGIN’, falamh, ‘exhausted in the sense of empty, hollow’). Looking into these word groups are for future projects. Most interesti g are vulgar words — rude words, indeed. These are tackled in a parallel web-page in the same (Gaelic vestiges) sub-section of the mythology pages on this website.
As a parting shot, the pet Norse derivation of LAIKIN is likely false, instead very possibly being Gaelic leig as, ‘set free, let go, loosen’, in the sense of permitting, as signified by the added preposition. The meaning is to be allowed to be free to play, rather than playing per se. Assumption that it’s Old Norse leika, ‘a toy’, to play’, is just that. Similar words across Germanic languages suggest a common root to all in PIE, but the more specific meaning of the Gaelic word is reflected in local (Stocksbridge) usage cited in net chat: “often it is used in the context of idling or lazing, so if someone was shamming an illness, to con a day off work out of their boss, that would be laiking too”.
With Gaelic derivation being the key to Dark Peak place-names and customs confirmed by the quite remarkable, entirely unexpected significant Gaelic retention in current local speech, then Gaelic etymology really is the universal acid to cut through the medieval to our local ancient past. The question is how far beyond the Dark Peak this also applies. The genetic cluster dubbed ‘West Yorkshire’ (the South Pennines parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Nottinghamshire) by researchers in 2015 is a very good bet for Gaelic to map on to. But are there distinct traces of Gaelic more widely across western Britain? The extant Gàidhealtachd in the north-west of Scotland contrasting with the survival hidden under English in the South Pennines, shows that the retreat of Gaelic-speaking has been at greatly different rates according to where in the west of Britain you reside. Sure enough, there is a major trace of Gaelic ‘hidden in plain sight’ in the hallmark of West Country speech: my luvver. This self-evidently is luv (leibh), though seemingly a little further rationalised in being the right English grammatical form (lover rather than love), usage being more droll, and the absence of the words such as ta with which leibh was structurally associated in the original Gaelic expressions; all indicating that the retreat of the last traces of Gaelic-speaking is more advanced in the West Country than it is in the Dark Peak and wider area. Within the west Country, its least-developed county (having no cities or large towns), Dorset, where it might be expected that the retreat of Gaelic has been slowest, there indeed is retained the more original form, of luv. Most surprising of all is the Gaelic basis of words — bye and cheers — that are used not just in pockets of western Britain or west Britain generally, but across the UK as a whole. This would seem to attest to Gaelic-speaking being so long entrenched in at least a large part of Britain, that some particularly useful, evocative, succinct words could migrate to areas where Gaelic had never been spoken, to be assimilated into English for universal adoption across the entire island.