Sidonius and Audoin.

The radio was playing something by Saint-Saëns and my wife asked me about his name; I said I had posted about it long ago at LH, and quickly dug up the 2004 post. It wasn’t very satisfactory, however; Saëns is certainly “a much altered form” of Sidōnius, but how did it get from one to the other? So I looked the saint up in French Wikipedia, hoping to find more detail: “Sidoine de Jumièges, appelé aussi saint Sidoine ou saint Saëns ou en latin Sidoneus…” Well, that’s confusing; can’t they pick a name and stick to it? In his exciting biography (captured by pirates, sold to monks who redeemed him but made him work at the abbey, where he became a monk) it mentions that he made a pilgrimage to Rome “en compagnie du futur saint Ouen.” Well, that’s an odd name too, thought I, so I followed the link to Ouen de Rouen: “Saint Ouen (Sanctus Audoenus Rotomagensis en latin médiéval, issu du germanique Audwin) ou Dadon…” The corresponding English article is under Audoin: “Audoin (AD 609 – on 24 August 684; also spelled Audoen, Ouen, Owen; Latin: Audoenus; known as Dado to contemporaries)…” Also, “His father was Saint Authaire (Audecharius)” and he was “a close friend of Saint Eligius,” who is “also Eloy, Eloi or Loye; French: Éloi.” Much as I love alternate names, I’m afraid the study of medieval saints might be a bit much for me.


  1. St Eligius comes up in description of the Prioress in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales, whose “gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy.”

  2. Danes obviously happened.

    Danish vikings conquered northern France, renamed it Normandy and massacred pronunciation of old French placenames.

    People who pronounce Nordenvinden as [ˈnoɐ̯ɐnˌve̝nˀn̩] are perfectly capable of turning “Sanctus Sidonius” into /sɛ̃.sɑ̃/.

  3. Christopher Henrich says

    People who pronounce Nordenvinden as [ˈnoɐ̯ɐnˌve̝nˀn̩] are perfectly capable of turning “Sanctus Sidonius” into /sɛ̃.sɑ̃/.

    I am but a spectator upon the continual growth of the IPA; but the appearance of something like the “vowel points” of the Masoretes surely takes the cake.

  4. >Much as I love alternate names, I’m afraid the study of medieval saints might be a bit much for me.

    But you have to admit they were trying hard to make it work. Consider “l’abbaye Saint-Pierre de Jumièges située alors en Neustrie.”

    Stroke of genius to move it to Jumieges, no?

    >turning “Sanctus Sidonius” into /sɛ̃.sɑ̃/.

    There was an announcer on a local radio station a few years back who read the ad for Doc Marten’s of Oak Park, turning each final consonant or cluster along with the t in Marten’s into a glottal stop. She brooked no consonants but initial consonants.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    Danes obviously happened.

    We’re talking about people who think it’s cool to pronounce cadere as [ʃwaʁ] here. They have nothing to learn from mere Danes.

    She brooked no consonants but initial consonants

    The question is which is to be master, that’s all.

  6. Lars Mathiesen says

    You may lay a multitude of sins at our door, but nasal vowels we never had any truck with.

    Also nordenvinden is small beer, try røget ørred [ˈʁ̞ɔːð̠̞̩ˠ ˈœːʁ̞ð̠̞̩ˠ] (“soft D” = syllabic velarized (non-sibilant) laminal alveolar approximant FTW). It means smoked trout.

  7. PlasticPaddy says

    ˈʁœðˀˌɡ̊ʁœðˀ mɛ ˈfløːð̩ = rødgrød med fløde

    When I hear it the ð seem to be replaced by a glottal (or subsumed in the following glottal)

  8. Lars Mathiesen says

    True, the velarization is very marked when combined with stød (which is not really a glottal segment, it’s a suprasegmental ), and it may even back further to something uvular — or maybe that’s just the impression it gives.

    Stød does not normally involve the tongue, the most frequent expression is a (somewhat progressive) creakiness / laryngealization over a bimoraic syllable, but what that does to the tongue root and place of articulation for velar/uvular consonants you’d probably need a scanner of some sort to tell.

    Do you hear the last syllabic one as a glottal stop too?

  9. PlasticPaddy says
    Here it looks to me like the tip of his tongue is staying at the bottom of his mouth for the last one, which I hear as a lengthening of the preceding vowel plus a very weak consonant, more like g or r to my ears.

  10. Lars Mathiesen says

    Well, soft d is a weak consonant; I grew up with it so of course I hear it as belonging to that phoneme, nothing to do with l or g or r.

    Within the phonology of Danish it’s velarization that keeps /ð/ apart from /j/, but in some dialects they have actually merged. You will be understood just fine if you produce an alveolar approximant for both because that is a familiar idiosyncrasy (a very marked one, though, so you will sound strange, or as if you come from Funen if you drop the stød as well).

  11. King Olaf II of Norway was canonised as St Olaf; his churches in the City of London and Southwark were both St Olave’s; but the street leading to the Southwark one mutilated the name somewhat from St Olave to St Toulus, Toulas, Toulies and eventually its current name of Tooley Street.

    And, of course, the memorable non-existent Saint Kilda, who was apparently the result of a typo by someone who thought that the placename “Skilda” was in fact “S. Kilda”.

  12. Good lord:

    There are numerous etymological theories proposed for the origin of the name Kilda – which is first recorded in the late 16th century – because there are no known saints by this name. The full name St Kilda, which first appeared on a Dutch 1666 nautical map, might be derived from the Norse words sunt kelda (meaning “sweet wellwater”), or from a mistaken Dutch assumption that the spring Tobar Childa was dedicated to a saint (Tobar Childa is a tautological place name, consisting of the Scottish Gaelic and Norse words for well, i.e., “well well”). Scottish writer Martin Martin, who visited the archipelago in 1697, believed the name Kilda was “taken from one Kilder, who lived here; and from him the large well Toubir-Kilda has also its name”. Another theory is St Kilda is a corruption of the Old Norse for Childa, the name of the freshwater spring on Hirta.

    As a 1588 map identifies the entire archipelago as Kilda, this might refer to the Culdees, anchorites who may have brought Christianity to the island. The name being a corruption of the Gaelic name for the main island of the group because the islanders tended to pronounce r as l, and thus habitually referred to the island as Hilta. The islanders also pronounced the H with a “somewhat guttural quality” making the spoken word for Hirta sound more like Kilta. Similarly, St Kilda speakers interviewed by the School of Scottish Studies in the 1960s show individual speakers using t-initial forms, leniting to /h/, e.g. ann an Tirte ([ˈan̪ˠən̪ˠ ˈtʰʲirˠʃt̪ʲə]) and gu Hirte ([kə ˈhirˠʃt̪ʲə]).

    Another theory is that it was a series of cartographical transcription errors which resulted in the name, beginning with Dutch mapmakers who might have confused Hirta with Skildar (the old name for Haskeir island much nearer the main Outer Hebrides archipelago). The Old Icelandic Skildir (“shields”) appeared as Skildar on a 1583 map by French geographer Nicolas de Nicolay. It then became S.Kilda after it was erroneously transcribed without the r and a full stop after the S by the Dutch cartographer Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer for his 1592 nautical charts. Others then wrongly assumed S.Kilda was the name of a saint creating the form that has been used for several centuries: St Kilda.

    The origin of Hirta, which significantly pre-dates the use of St Kilda, is similarly open to interpretation. One theory is that Hirta is taken from the Irish Ier, which “signifies west”. Other Celtic words such as “gloom” or “death”, or the Scottish Gaelic h-Iar-Tìr (“westland”) have also been suggested. An Icelandic saga describes an early 13th-century voyage to Ireland that mentions a visit to the islands of “Hirtir”, so the name may be derived from the shape of the island which is said to resemble a stag, (as Hirtir means “stags” in Norse). The Reverend Neil Mackenzie, who lived on Hirta from 1829 to 1844, believed the name was derived from the Gaelic Ì Àrd (“high island”), and that a further possibility was it is from the Old Norse Hirt (which means “shepherd”). The Scottish mountaineer and writer W. H. Murray had the theory that the Norse word Hirðö (pronounced ‘Hirtha’), which means “herd island”, could be another origin of the name.

    That’s just nuts. It would help if someone who knew enough to do the work would delete the bullshit amateur etymologies and leave only the vaguely plausible ones.

  13. Athelstan John Cornish-Bowden says

    Saint-Chinian is a French attempt to make sense of Occitan Sanch Inhan.

  14. Jen in Edinburgh says

    It’s mostly more badly muddled up than obviously bullshit, I think.

    Paragraphs 1 and 3 deal with two main theories for how the name of St Kilda came about:

    a) that it’s based on the Norse word ‘kelda’/spring, giving as evidence that Martin had heard of a spring there, although he believed it to be named after a legendary person. S or St becomes attached either by misreading another word, or by assuming that a spring must be named for a saint (as e.g. Tobar Mhoire/Tobermory is).

    b) It’s a misreading of ‘Skildar’ on an early map. To the best of my knowledge the successive maps showing ‘Skildar’ and ‘S.Kilda’ around the same place do exist.

    Paragraphs 2 and 4 deal mainly with the name Hirta/Hiort – now only the name of the main island in English, but still also the name of the group in Gaelic.

    a) Third main theory for the Kilda name – Kilda is a corruption of Hirta, as pronounced in the unusual Gaelic dialect of the island. Evidence that pronunciations of that type have been recorded, but it doesn’t really explain the early map names – most things seen obviously from the sea in that part of the world were named from the sea. (No one seems to be suggesting that Hirta is a corruption of Kilda, which would make at least as much sense!)

    b) Hirta is a separate name, either Gaelic or Norse. Evidence in a Norse saga which talks about visiting islands called ‘Hirtir’, but no definite link to St Kilda, I think – I’m not sure if that is the only evidence for ‘Hirta’ being in use earlier than ‘Kilda’.

    (Paragraph 2 starts with an excursion into the Culdees, which probably is genuine bullshit – there are plenty of remote islands named for the monastic cells on them, but in the north west they tend to ‘Pabbay’ type names.)

  15. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I mean, as far as amateurs go, neither Martin or Mackenzie was a professional historian or geographer or linguist, but they’re interesting as observers and recorders because they were both educated Gaelic-speakers from a highland background – an external but not completely foreign point of view.

    St Enoch of the Glasgow underground station is the same person as the Thaney of the Malinky song – also Teneu and other variants!

  16. Quoth wikipedia: “Welsh Owain has sometimes been latinised as Audoenus in certain parish registers, through a folk etymology process, because both Owain and Ouen/Audwin have a typical anglicised form of Owen.” FWIW, the more conventional Latin equivalent (for when records were kept in Latin) of Owain/Owen is said to be Eugenius, and there is apparently a debate among the learned as to whether the Welsh name is derived from Eugenius (and thus part of the whole substantial stratum of Latin-origin loans in the Welsh lexicon) or has an independent Celtic origin.

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    In Irish there are two names pronounced like Owen
    Eoghan < OI Eógan < PCelt *iwo + *gen "yew-born" with PIE etymology
    Eóin < OI Eoin < Latin Ioannes

  18. Eoghan mac Eoghain says

    My own name is almost certainly derived from the former. I am the son of Born from the Yew, whose ancestors lived on the Plain of the Yews, now living in the New Place of the Yews.

  19. David Marjanović says

    New Place of the Yews

    Rowans, whatever. 🙂

  20. I had actually thought that it must be a corruption of ?Norse “Skilday” meaning something like “Shield island” since so many islands have “-ay” or “a” endings – Mingulay, Pabbay, Raasay, Rousay, Ronaldsay, Westray, Barra, Jura and so on. But that is about the only possible explanation not listed.

    it doesn’t really explain the early map names – most things seen obviously from the sea in that part of the world were named from the sea.

    Surely not the case for inhabited islands, though.

  21. A. Sasportas says

    An Orthodox synagog in Australia is officially named St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, but you would be wrong if you thought that she was a Jew. The synagog is in St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne.

  22. My first thought was that the congregation is of descendants of the Jewish community of the island of St Kilda.

  23. At first I was going to comment that there shouldn’t be very many synagogue names that violate the Mosaic law, but “St Kilda Hebrew Congregation” seems to do it (Exodus 23:13: And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth, according to the King James Bible). However, upon further consideration, I realized that there are actually plenty of place names in Israel itself (as well as lots of other places) that involve the names of other gods, yet which could just as easily appear in synagogue names.

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