Peithiau a maip
Recently I heard about a series of programmes on S4C (the Welsh language TV channel) presented by the naturalist Iolo Williams, in which he visits Native American communities and learns about their cultures, languages and the natural world around them. The programmes are in Welsh, apart from odd bits of English and Native American languages, and subtitles in English or Welsh are available.
In the programme I just watched, which focuses on the Lakota, Iolo uses a number of Welsh words I hadn’t heard before:
- paith (pl. peithiau) = prairie
- ci y paith (pl. cŵn y paith) = prairie dog
- meipen (pl. maip) = turnip – in this context a type of wild food found on the prairie – psoralea esculenta*
- toddi = to melt – here it is used in the context of taming wild horses
Other Welsh words for prairie include gwastatir (“level land”) and gweundir (“grass (?) land”).
The English word prairie comes from the French prairie, from the Old French praerie, from Vulgar Latin *prataria, from Latin pratum (meadow – originally “a hollow”). The existed as prayere in Middle English, but fell out of use, and then was reborrowed from French to describe the American plains, where immigrants wagons where known as “prairie schooners” [source].
*Psoralea esculenta – a herbaceous perennial plant native to prairies and dry woodlands of central North America with an edible starchy tuberous root. English names for the plant include tipsin, teepsenee, breadroot, breadroot scurf pea, pomme blanche, and prairie turnip, and the Lakota name is Timpsula [source].
Diolch i Siôn Jobbins am yr awgrym