LINGUIST List 4.87

Fri 12 Feb 1993

Disc: Just for fun...

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  1. Michael Everson, The Charm of Making
  2. , Re: 4.64 Just for Fun... Star Trek DS9 "Babel"

Message 1: The Charm of Making

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 93 15:35:36 GMThe Charm of Making
From: Michael Everson <EVERSONIRLEARN.UCD.IE>
Subject: The Charm of Making

The mystery of Merlin's Charm of Making is, alas, no longer a

Although Merlin and Morgana both pronounce things a little
differently from each other, and even Merlin has two sounds
which to me sound like like phonemes but which must be
allophonic, I get the following from the Charm of Making in
the film "Excalibur":

/ana:l nathrakh, u:rth va:s bethud, dokhje:l djenve:/

It's not Welsh! It looks very much like an attempt at Old
Irish. (One wonders where Boorman got it.) Following is the
best I can do at reconstructing reasonable Old Irish from
it. I have normalized to Modern Irish orthography to indicate

In Old Irish:
Ana/l nathrach, orth' bha/is's bethad, do che/l de/nmha.

In Modern Irish:
Ana/il na nathrach, ortha bh/ais is beatha, do che/al de/anaimh.

In English:
Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making.

Ana/l nathrach = breath of-serpent
orth' bha/is 's bethad = spell of-death and of-life
do che/l de/nmha = thy omen of-making

ana/l fem. -a/ stem 'breath, breathing'
nathair fem. -k stem 'snake, serpent' nathrach
ortha fem. -n stem 'prayer; incantation, spell' < Latin oratio!
ba/s mas. -o stem 'death' ba/is
ocus conj. 'and' (here shortened to 's)
betha mas. -t stem 'life' bethad
do prn. 'thy'. Usually unstressed.
ce/l mas. -u stem 'omen, augury, portent'
de/numh mas. -m stem 'making, doing' de/nmha

Modern Irish would have the -is in bha/is as a /sh/ sound,
but it might not hav been so palatalized in the Old Irish
period; and the nonpalatal 's of 'and' ought to reinforce

The third part of the charm could also be doche/l de/nmha 'an
evil omen of making', but that suits the sense badly. The word
do 'thy' is usually unstressed in speech but what can you do...

Note that Merlin says de/nmhe/, which ought to be de/nmha;
perhaps there is some sort of 'incantation register' in which
a final vowel can be altered in this way... In any case I
am less than happy with the third part of this. I'd like to
have seen an imperative or hortative, but verb-first syntax
precludes even de/nae, the imperative of do-gni/ (from which
the verbal noun de/numh is formed), which anyway doesn't
have the nominal formative -mh.

I'm forwarding this file to CELTIC-L, WELSH-L, GAELIC-L,
SF-LOVERS, and LINGUIST, as it is of linguistic, cultural,
and cult-film interest. Feel free to forward it to other
forums as well. I would be interested in hearing from
specialists in Old Irish as to their opinions of this;
there are other possibilities for the retro-translation,
and indeed the use of a Latin loanword, given the context,
is problematic.

Michael Everson
School of Architecture, UCD, Richview, Clonskeagh, Dublin 14, E/ire
Phone: +353 1 706-2745 Fax: +353 1 283-7778 Home: +353 1 78-25-97
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Message 2: Re: 4.64 Just for Fun... Star Trek DS9 "Babel"

Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1993 13:15:00 PRe: 4.64 Just for Fun... Star Trek DS9 "Babel"
From: <>
Subject: Re: 4.64 Just for Fun... Star Trek DS9 "Babel"

>>>>Last week's episode of the Star Trek spin-off Deep Space 9 was
called "Babel" because of a virus that affected synaptic connections
in the temporal lobe and caused aphasia. This aphasia matched the
description of Wernicke's aphasia from the intro courses I have

My memory is fuzzy, but I believe that this plot was a rip-off from an episode
of The Twilight Zone (?). In that episode, which was extremely well done, the
victim suffered a progressive lexical-confusion aphasia, starting with just a
word here and there, progressing gradually to full linguistic isolation. In
the Trilight Zone, of course, such things happen all the time, and no virus was

Ken Beesley
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