A’ Mhuc Bheag Reamhar a Bhios a’ Puthadaich / The Little Fat Puffing ‘Pig’

Tha grunn fhaclan Gàidhlig airson ‘porpoise’; thàinig am fear as cumanta on Albais / There are many Gaelic names for the common or harbour porpoise; the most common came into the language from Scots

A’ Mhuc Bheag Reamhar a Bhios a’ Puthadaich

Common or Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) dorsal fin breaking the water

Common or Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) dorsal fin breaking the water

Tha dùil gun tàinig am facal Gàidhlig as cumanta airson Phocoena phocoena (harbour porpoise) – peileag – bho Albais, anns a bheil e air a chlàradh mar pellock, pellick, palach, pelluck, pallek agus pallo. Ge-tà, chan eil e soilleir mar a fhuair e àite ann an Albais, ged a tha ciall eile air mar rudeigin somalta no duine beag reamhar.

Tha faclan eile coltach ri peileag clàraichte ann an Gàidhlig, leithid pèileag, peilig, peilid agus peallach, ach tha faclan a bharrachd againn cuideachd. Bidh Hearaich is eile a’ gabhail puthag air a leithid. Tha am facal sin snog oir tha e a’ ciallachadh puthadaich no spreadhadh beag agus, gu dearbh, ’s e sin a chluinneas am maraiche nuair a tha e am measg sgaoth de pheileagan.

Ann an Geàrrloch is cuid de dh’àiteachan eile, ’s e cana a chanar ri peileag. Tha cuid de sgoilearan dhen bheachd gur ann on Laidinn canis ‘cù’ a thàinig sin. Ach ’s ann air mucan seach coin a bhios inntinn nan Gàidheal mar as trice nuair a thathar ag ainmeachadh mhamailean mara. Agus tha muc-steallain (tè a chuireas a-mach steall beag) agus poircean ‘muc bheag’ againn airson peileag.

Am measg nan teirmean Gàidhlig eile airson peileag, tha mulbhach, criabus-mara agus pulag, ach ’s dòcha gur e am facal as annasaiche fear à dualchainnt Gheàrrloch. Thathar a’ gabhail bualtairean ‘an fheadhainn a bhios a’ bualadh no a’ sùisteadh’ air buidheann de pheileagan a tha a’ leum an aghaidh na gaoithe ’s na fairge.

The Little Fat Puffing ‘Pig’

The most common Gaelic word for the (common or harbour) porpoise – peileag – reveals how our two unique native languages have interacted with each other over the centuries, as it almost certainly originates in the Scots pellack (also recorded as pellock, pellick, palach, pelluck, pallek and pallo). Its route into, or origin in, Scots is, however, clouded in mystery, although the word has a subsidiary meaning of something bulky or a short, fat person.

A pod of Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) off Shetland, Scotland

A pod of Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) off Shetland, Scotland

However, peileag (including its variants pèileag, peilig, peilid and peallach) is not the only Gaelic word for porpoise. Another common term is puthag, which has the primary meaning of ‘little puff or explosion’. Anyone who has sailed among a school of porpoises which are surfacing and expelling air from their blowholes, would attest to the accuracy of this name.

Another term, found in several Gaelic dialects, is cana. Some scholars have proposed that this originates in the Latin canis ‘dog’. However, marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises are more commonly referred to as ‘pig’; specifically, the porpoise is muc-steallain ‘pig of the small spout’ or poircean ‘small pig’.

Other recorded Gaelic terms for the porpoise include mulbhach, criabus-mara and pulag, but perhaps the most unusual word comes from the Gairloch dialect in Wester Ross where there is the collective term bualtairean ‘threshers, beaters’ for a group of porpoises which are leaping against the wind and waves.

 

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