Hunting haggis

I’ve just finished a new video using Xtranormal – it’s in Scottish Gaelic and features Hamish and Helen (Seumas & Eilidh). Hamish is from Harris in the Hebrides and hunts haggis as a hobby with his haggis hound Hector (who doesn’t appear in the video), and also farms ostriches. Helen is a translator from Beijing who lives in Glasgow and translates between Scottish Gaelic and Chinese. Subtitles are available in English, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Manx and Welsh.

I wrote the dialogue in Scottish Gaelic using basic phrases, plus a few more complex constructions, and translated into the other languages as I went along. While there’s no mention of hovercrafts, or even eels, there is some discussion of whether the haggis is a real creature or not. I also recorded the dialogue as Xtranormal doesn’t support text-to-speech in Scottish Gaelic.

I plan to make similar videos in the other Celtic languages I know, changing some of the details but keeping the same basic structure.

One question that puzzled me somewhat while making this video was what is the plural of haggis? Is it haggis, haggises or even haggii?

Wikitionary gives the plural haggises.

The Haggis Hunt states that the plural is “haggii, although under certain grammatical circumstances it can be haggises or even ‘wee yins’.”

This blog gives the plural as haggis.

Collins English Dictionary gives haggises as the plural.

So it seems that there is no general agreement on the plural – I know not all these sources are equally reliable, but the less than reliable ones are interesting.

Another question is the etymology of the word haggis. The OED states that the origins of the word are unknown. In Scottish Gaelic the word for haggis is taigeis /tagʲɪʃ/, which becomes thaigeis /hagʲɪʃ/ in some contexts. This comes from the Scots word haggis, according to MacBain’s Etymological dictionary – I thought that the Scots word might come from Gaelic, but it seems not.

6 thoughts on “Hunting haggis

  1. The online Dictionary of the Scots Language has three haggises in the quotations, including one from Thomas Carlyle. They think it probably comes from ‘hag’ – chop. Like hash, maybe?

  2. That was…different. Haha, I liked it, anything abnormal or funny is great for teaching languages because it causes the language used to stick out in your head and be remembered.


  3. Actually, haggis isn’t a Scottish word. The scots Gaelic word for haggis is taigeis, pronounced CHAY-kiss I think. The plural form is taiga, which should be pronounced CHAY-kuh.

  4. Amanda, taigeis is indeed the Scottish Gaelic word for haggis (see above), and it’s pronounced TA-gish (/’tagʲɪʃ/). The plural is tageisean – TA-gish-un (/’tagʲɪʃən̪ˠ/). See: An Faclair Beag.

  5. I’ve always treated the word “haggis” as a singulare tantum ie. existing in the singular form only. In Welsh, haggis is an obvious hagis with a Welsh plural form: hagisau and another language with a “haggis” plural form is Esperanto: ŝafstomakaĵoj or ŝaftripaĵoj and hagisoj.

    The Ænglisc Ƿikipǣdia (Old English Wikipedia) webpage translates “haggis” as gehæcc which I imagine comes from mearh-gehæcc; n. A kind of pudding, a sausage: hack the lights, liver, and heart of a boar or swine: hackin a pudding made in the maw of a sheep or hog: hack-pudding a mess made of sheep’s heart, chopped with suet and sweet fruits: hatcher a dish of minced meat. has an old post connected with the uncertain etymology of haggis suggesting an Anglo-French origin…

    A more complicated case is presented by the English verbs ‘to hack,’ ‘to hash’, and the nouns ‘hash’ and ‘haggis’, whose relationship the authorities find confusing. Indeed, the origin of ‘haggis’ is usually said to be unknown, and connections with the French hachiz ‘hash’ are denied. If, however, we bring some Anglo-French and Middle English evidence to bear on the question, a different picture emerges. Whilst the new OED still persists in deriving ‘to hack’ from Germanic sources, without any mention of French, the Middle English Dictionary is nearer the mark in attributing it to ‘O.F.’ (but not ‘A.F.’, as it should). Amongst the quotations in the OED is one from a book of cookery recipes dated c.1440 in the sense of ‘to cut up into small pieces’, i.e. ‘to hash’. The MED takes this sense back in time to c.1325, but still without any mention of Anglo-French. Yet in an Anglo-French medical text from the second half of the twelfth century a mixture of herbs is to be hachez sur un ais (‘chopped up on a board’), an expression repeated a little farther on. About a century later a verse recipe for staunching blood from a wound recommends that: ‘Le ortie menuement hagee En eisil fort seit destempree’ (‘Finely chopped nettle should be soaked in strong vinegar’). The form of the verb here – hagee – is worth noting in view of the OED’s form ‘to hag’. As for the assertion that the origin of ‘haggis’ is unknown, the clear refutation of this has been in print for close on a century and a half in the first edition of one of the manuscripts of the Anglo-French Treatise of Walter of Biblesworth, with a reminder being printed from another manuscript in 1929…

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