Marhofn 58.03 - May 2001

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Cheesecake No More

Helen McLaren

My first brush with Gaelic came back in the late sixties when, as part of a family holiday, we spent a few days in Arisaig. Mum had booked us into a guest house called Cnoc na Faire and, on arrival, Dad decided to ask for directions. An old man was working in his garden so Dad stopped the car and asked him the way to 'knock na fair'. 'Spoken like a true Englishman' replied the old man with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He then proceeded to teach Dad the correct pronunciation (Crochk na Fahre -sound the final 'e') and only gave us directions when he got it right!

So, when not long ago Alan asked me for the correct pronunciation of 'dead chom head' I could have had a bit of fun along the same lines. The only problem was 'dead chom head' sounded like nothing on earth so, instead, it was a case of -er, will you spell that please. It turned out to be Deadh Choimhead (19A). Deadh is pronounced 'jow' (like cow), 'ch' is always as in loch (if you want 'ch' as in challenge try 'te' as in An Teallach), and Choimhead is sort of half way between 'choyat' and 'cheyat'. Alan was, and no doubt still is, quite convinced I was winding him up. And, I do admit to enjoying a good wind-up when the opportunity arises. However, on this occasion, I tell you straight -I couldn't come up with anything half as good as the truth however much I tried. Deadh Choimhead means 'good watching' so, although I haven't climbed it myself, it is probably safe to assume you get a good view up there. Similarly, the Corbett Meall an t-Seallaidh is hill of the view. Another one that might be worth noting is Carn Faire nan Con (12A), hill of the watching of the dogs. In truth there are lots of hills with good views, so probably these were favourite look-out spots at some time. Whatever the reason for the name it is usually a reliable guide to what is, or used to be, there. These guys were far more interested in keeping hold of their cattle than winding up future generations of baggers.

Other Section 19 hills with less than obvious pronunciations are Cnoc Reamhar, big (as in area it covers rather than height) hill, which is 'crochk rower' (like power) and Tom an t-Saighdeir, the soldier's hill, which is 'tom an tijer' (like tiger but with a 'j'). Whenever you come across a word starting with 't-S...' then pronounce the 't' but not the 's'. Easy once you know. However, this one has picked up rather a good nickname -Tom Tiger -so relax and enjoy the arboreal experience.

A couple of other weirdos that are probably worth mentioning are Binnein Shuas and Binnein Shios -why an Up Hill and a Down Hill when both feel very much uphill when you climb them? The up and down usually refer to upstream and downstream. Also Beinn a'Deas and Beinn a'Tuath by Beinn Mheadhonach (24A) -why are they pointing west and east when 'deas' is south and 'tuath' is north? 'Deas' also means right, so 'tuath' has been used for left, though this is not a normal use for it. This makes sense if you see where the nearest communities are.

And finally, a couple of useful hints on pronunciation. If you find it awkward to say then it is probably wrong -oh, and a good dram usually works wonders. Slainte.

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