An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language/Preface to further Gaelic words and etymologies

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An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language  (1911)  by Alexander MacBain
Preface to further Gaelic words and etymologies


Since the publication of my Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language in January, 1896, I have had the benefit of criticisms of that work both publicly and privately, and the result of these, along with what I have gleaned from my own reading and thinking, I here give to the Gaelic Society and the public, so as to form a sort of addenda et corrigenda to my dictionary. I have to thank the critics of that work for their almost unanimous praise of it; its reception was very flattering indeed. The criticisms of most weight were from foreign scholars, the best in the way of addition and suggestion being that of Prof. Kuno Meyer in the Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. In Scotland the Inverness Courier gave the weightiest judgment on the general philology of the work; and other papers and periodicals as well added their quota of fruitful criticism. Nor did the work fail to meet with critics who acted on Goldsmith's golden rule in the "Citizen of the World"—to ask of any comedy why it was not a tragedy, and of any tragedy why it was not a comedy. I was asked how I had not given derivative words—though for that matter most of the seven thousand words in the Dictionary are derivatives; such a question overlooked the character of the work. Manifest derivatives belong to ordinary dictionaries, not to an etymological one. This was clearly indicated in the preface; the work, too, followed the best models on the subject—Prellwitz, Wharton, and Skeat. Another criticism was unscientific in the extreme: I was found fault with for excluding Irish words! Why, it was the best service I could render to Celtic philology to present a pure vocabulary of the Scottish dialect of Gadelic; the talk of the impossibility of "redding the marches" between Irish and Gaelic may be Celtic patriotism, but it is not science. As against this criticism, I was especially congratulated by Prof. Windisch for attempting to redd these same marches. A funny criticism was passed on the style of printing adopted for the leading words; no capitals are used at the beginning of each article. The critic had not seen a dictionary before without such capitals, and it offended his eye to see my work so "headless" as it is! Here again acquaintance with like philological work would have removed the "offence" and shown the utility of the style. In fact in Gaelic, with its accented vowels, capital initials are troublesome and unsightly, and the philological method is at once more scientific and more easy to work.

The following vocabulary contains (1) etymologies for words not etymologised in my dictionary; (2) new or corrected etymologies for words already otherwise traced; and (3) words omitted. These new words have come from the public and private criticisms and suggestions already referred to, and from another overhauling of such dictionaries as M'Alpine and M'Eachan.