On Radio 3: Sunday Feature “Euphemism and Eroticism in Scottish Gaelic Songs”

Radio 3, not just there for the high culture in life but also, gloriously, also there for the down and dirty.  Like explaining that the Old Man of Storr, that huge phallic rockface, actually is historically called the Penis of Storr and it was a couple of letters added to the original Gaelic that allowed the more subtle, less physically accurate translation.  

This was one of a handful of revelations contained in this rather enjoyable ‘New Generation Thinker’ Sunday Feature which was also, as expected backed up by some lovely singing and wry history. I have said elsewhere how a key enjoyment of Gaelic song is how the language itself becomes part of the tune – I can’t say it any more technically than that – and it was a joy of this programme that after a little explanation of how the women bashing the tweed (not a euphemism) would produce a call and a response song about what goes on in their dark bush (a euphemism) we were then given a verse or two.  Without the translation you’d almost swear you were listening to a devotional hymn.

Peter Mackay (his surname also a euphemism, listen to the programme, this people were proper mucky) had a good old time presenting.  I especially liked the interplay with his Aunt who has amassed a huge collection of Gaelic folksong, including the dirty ones. Her laugh when explaining that just maybe that song about women liking men who know how to fix their clocks just right might not actually be about women liking expert clock menders was one of the heartiest and happiest things I’ve heard on the radio in a long time.


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