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 Post subject: Hèman Dubh / Hé Mantú
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 6:15 pm 
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Yep. I just realised that they're the same waulking song; the first rendering of the name is as Gaidhlig and apparently standard; the second is as titled on the Cran album Music From The End Of The World. I was aware of the first name, but until today I'd only heard Cran's version, so for that, Hé Mantú was it. Up to now, anyway. This could arguably go in the ITM Forum, but as I'm nominally concerning myself with questions about Irish and Scots Gaelic, here, I suppose this is the place.

So, my questions: First, does anyone know of a concrete meaning for "Hèman"? Google's giving me zilch. Second, are the spellings actually interchangeable (as might be the case in some mouth music, I imagine), or is the Cran spelling a typically Irish one for this Scottish song? Or should I just shut up and drink my pint? :wink:

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2012 9:39 pm 
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The refrain "Hèman Dubh" is actually just vocables, à la hi ho ro 's na horo eile. Sometimes the vocables match actual Gaelic words, and get spelled accordingly (dubh, eile), but they don't mean a damn thing (unless you buy the theory that Gaelic vocables are remnants of Pictish verse, in which case they mean the same thing that the unheard falling tree in the forest sounds like).

The spellings of vocables aren't entirely fixed but they do tend to follow certain patterns - "Mantú" doesn't look right, though there's nothing specifically wrong with it that I can see (and "Hèman" violates the "leathan ri leathan agus caol ri caol" rule). I can't speak to spellings anns a' Ghaeilge (hint, hint).

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2012 11:02 am 
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Seonachan wrote:
The refrain "Hèman Dubh" is actually just vocables, à la hi ho ro 's na horo eile. Sometimes the vocables match actual Gaelic words, and get spelled accordingly (dubh, eile), but they don't mean a damn thing (unless you buy the theory that Gaelic vocables are remnants of Pictish verse, in which case they mean the same thing that the unheard falling tree in the forest sounds like).

Thanks. It was my first suspicion that all of this might be just vocables, nothing more.

Seonachan wrote:
The spellings of vocables aren't entirely fixed but they do tend to follow certain patterns - "Mantú" doesn't look right, though there's nothing specifically wrong with it that I can see (and "Hèman" violates the "leathan ri leathan agus caol ri caol" rule). I can't speak to spellings anns a' Ghaeilge (hint, hint).

Right - "Mantú" is rather strange-ish, even to this armchair enthusiast nonspeaker (and thanks for the hint, BTW :) ). And something was bothering me about "Hèman" but I couldn't put my finger on it. Oddly enough, usually when I see a violation of the broad-for-broad, slender-for-slender rule in Irish (and I've noticed it doesn't really apply in Old and Middle, and is violated orthographically only on rare occasion in Modern; "Gaelach", for example), the lapse stands out like a sore thumb for me, I've become so habituated to the standard. So, normally Scots Gaelic shouldn't hit me any differently in that regard.

FWIW, the arguably problematic spelling "Hèman Dubh" goes at least as far back as 1949. :wink:

[Edited throughout to correct for a missed fáda. Pesky things. :wink: ]

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