Friday, October 18, 2013


On a recent trip to Wales I learnt what a 'cawl' was.  What about other Celtic/Gaelic words, (that is, assuming they are not  local dialect, and if they are, how would I know?).

In an old fashioned tea room, there on the board as a specialty of the day, under the heading SOUPS, was lamb 'cawl'.  Here you have to imagine a lovely South Wales 'sing-a-song' cadence, if you can.  I had to  ask  what 'cawl' meant.  And the answer, "Well....yes...some people call it a stew and others say it is a broth...that's what it is".

I cannot think of a similar word for this sort of nourishment in my part of the country, Scotland.  A soup is a soup, a broth is a broth.  Broths I have had, usually include some sort of beans or barley, to make the bowly o' soup thick 'n more fillin' .  Both would have either a meat based stock and bits of meat in them, or the soup, may, these days, be  based on a vegetable stock.  A stew without meat, would, it seems to me, be a version of a rustic minestrone.

On a meander around our small town this week I noticed an advert for a 'Blas' .  Could this be the equivalent of the Welsh 'Blysh' I stumbled upon - pronounced like blush - when I visited Wales.  What is a 'Blysh' ? I asked the organisers, they shook their heads; I asked a native Welsh speaker from the North of Wales, she did not know.  She explained that there were some differences in Welsh vocabulary between the north and the south, though, on reflection she thought it was possibly a made up word.

The first thing to know is that Blas is masculine. There are eight meanings attributed to the word, two of the spellings should be accented; where, is not clear,  however, I presume, the accent would affect the one vowel in the middle of Blá so. You could have hours of  vocal fun playing with a grave accent or an acute one.

Okay, back to Blas and Blysh.  I am assuming of the eight possibilities with the Scottish/Gaelic 'blas', the meaning for the advertisement in town, is that there is an experience being announced.  It would neatly match what I saw and heard at the Welsh Blysh, (coined word or not).  It was  an experience, it was the title of a festival of performing arts.  My hunch tells me that is what the upcoming blas is likely to be.

Cawl, Blysh and Blas seem to have at least one thing in common, they all appear to provide different kinds of nourishment to the body and the mind.



keiko amano said...


This is a different kind of nourishment, indeed. "The bowly o' soup thick 'n more fillin': I love the phrase. It makes me hungry and ready for such a bowl.

I know "bowl," but didn't know "bowly." I can't wait to use it at next opportunity. Then I thought I wonder if "cawl" came from "bowl," also. Since C comes after B in alphabets, it could mean more than bowl, and perhaps became cowl but spelled it as cawl. What do you think?

Following a thread of my logic, I thought Blas is short of Blast. No?

Jenny said...

'Cawl' does indeed translate as a soup or a broth, ZACL but I can find no trace of 'blysh'. The closest my dictionary comes is 'blys' which means a craving, longing or lust.
Not much clarification, I'm afraid!

Anonymous said...

It's always fun working out words in another language! I hope you enjoy it, whatever it is.

Anonymous said...

A most interesting post. Flighty xx

ZACL said...

Hello Kekio,

It's lovely to hear from you.

The 'bowly...' is heard in local brogue, I cannot say if it used in other parts of Scotland. It could be. I like the phrase, as you do.

My belief is, that cawl is purely a Celtic word. Its development/etymology would have to be researched.

'Cowl' is a recognised adjective in the English dictionary and will refer to more than one type of object. A good thesaurus (OED) should give you chapter and verse on it.

Jennyta, who lives in Wales, has contributed to this discussion. Do have a look at what she says.

ZACL said...

P.S. The first time I saw the word Blas, I also thought immediately of Blast, as you have done. I cannot give you an answer to that query. However there is a long, long list of words that are prefixed with Blas, in the Gaelic dictionary. When scanning them, I wondered what the words would mean without the prefix. I have not sat down to go through that rather long list to answer my own question.

ZACL said...

I love your dictionary, Jennyta. I think it gives a clue as to how Blysh may have developed. I think whoever thought of it, stuck another letter on the end of an existing Celtic adjective which has some emotional alliance to the festival.

Everything saying 'Blysh" was in various shades of pink, just to confuse matters even more.

ZACL said...

Language can be fun, Gillyk. The sleuthing can produce fascinating outcomes, even if they aren't exactly so!

ZACL said...

Hi Mr F,

We aim to please... :)


keiko amano said...

Thank you, ZACL and Jennyta. It's exciting to know even a few Celtic or Gaelic words. I also like that flag.

ZACL said...

Which flag did you like Keiko; there are two?

Snowbird said...

I enjoyed this post and figuring out what is what! In Liverpool a meat and veg stew is called scouse, if it has no meat it's called blind scouse.xxxx

ZACL said...

Snowbird, next time I visit the land of the Liver Birds, I shall try to remember the local brogue.

Anonymous said...

I once bought a Welsh phrasebook. It disappeared in the mists of time. I knew what araf meant and also found parcio didel to be useful as well.
Astrid's version of a soup, Dutch style is what we'd call a stew, huge lumps of everything.

keiko amano said...


The first flag, white and green with a red mystical animal looked like a dragon with wings. Is it Gaelic? I remember a black flag with a white cross when I was searching for Celtic. Maybe it was Cornwall's because somehow my search on Celtic took me there. I'm probably completely mixed up. Please excuse my ignorance, but everytime I hear about Celtic, I'm excited.

Dear Snowbird,

Thank you for the words from Liverpool. It's very interesting that "Blind scouse" describes the meat eating culture. Even today, when I go out in Japan and eat so called stew, only a few small pieces of meat are in my bowl. I complain about it, so I can't imagine the people in Liverpool.

Dear Zep,

I used to think we inherited Stew from British, but Dutch came to Japan first and spread their western culture. So, I'm thinking, maybe we learned Stew from Dutch originally.


Do you rememember I talked about the home-economic textbook at the turn of the last century? It was written by one of my female ancestors, and she added at the end of the book how to make stew. One recipe showed how to make Worsheteshire sauce, and the other was using miso.

ZACL said...


The Red Dragon flag is the Welsh Flag.

Both Wales and Cornwall have various sorts of Celtic heritage, as does Ireland and Scotland. The historical Celtic language here,(similar to Welsh) was certainly known to have been spoken in the lowlands of Scotland in the 2nd century C.E. It may well have had wider use because of trading links, particularly seafaring links with the coastal communities. These days there is a push to say we were and are, all Gaels (Gaelic) and bilingual signs are appearing everywhere. The small caucus of long term Gaelic speakers are concentrated in a small area in The Western Isles. My part of the world is more visibly, historically and linguistically tied to the Nordic/Scandinavian cultures.

Thank you for reminding of your ancestor's recipes. Do you remember you and I had a chat about the spelling and pronunciation of, and the use of Worcester Sauce?

ZACL said...

Hello Zep,

It's good to hear from you.

I remember substantial soups with dumplings and bits of meat, post war. Food had to be stretched out in a variety of clever ways as there was rationing. Soup was one way to succeed, as a variety of soups could be made to ring the changes. The other food fillers, apart from bread, were potatoes and any vegetables that were available.

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating subject is language, that allows us to share our own thoughts and the world around us with others. And though they’ve been codified so often, there are always new developments as long as the language lives…

ZACL said...

You are so right, Shimon, about a language needing to live and about a living language, in its various codifications being able to continually develop. Understanding the old, the current and the developing communications is a fascinating challenge.