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pdtempan
2017-04-02 23:59:12
Light and Shade
I've just spent a week on the slopes of Teide, the mountain which casts the largest shadow on earth, according to various sources for Tenerife tourist info. True or not, it was certainly true that we were not in direct sunlight until about 9.30 in the morning, about 3 hours after sunrise. Which has me thinking: the amount of sunlight an area gets is of great importance to farming communities. In French-speaking parts of the Alps and Pyrennes they use the terms adret and ubac to denote the sunny and shady slopes of the mountain. Adret seems to be from Latin ad dextrum, "to the south, south-facing", while ubac, or bac, is from opacus, "opaque, dark". In the Vosges the term envers is used for shady slopes. These differences determine where the snow lingers longest, where different crops can be grown, where herds of livestock are best kept, etc. I'm sure they must have been equally important to our ancestors and must have played a major role in coining place-names in Ireland. The various hills called Greenane or Greenoge denoting sunny spots (from Ir. grian, "sun") immediately spring to mind. But I wonder if some names on the MV lists are not more 'opaque' examples of this phenomenon. Buckoogh in Co. Mayo was interpreted as Ir. Boc Umhach 'eminence rich in copper' by John O'Donovan in the Ordnance Survey Name Book, but is there any evidence for copper there? It would be good to hear from anyone with local knowledge. The south-facing slope of Buckoogh gives the gentlest approach, while both the north-east and north-west slopes are significantly steeper. Could it really be Bac Ubhach, meaning something like "shadowy slope", where ubhach is an Irish form equivalent to French ubac? Looking on the brighter side (!), I think that some of our names with odhar or odhartha, usually understood as "dun-coloured, yellowish-brown" might well be yellowed precisely because they are weathered by the sun. Odhartha looks distinctly like an Irish form of French adret. Cashloura, a townland in the Shehy Mountains, is situated on the southern brink of a hill, so *caiseal odhartha, "sun-beaten fort" or "fort facing the sun" seems an apt description. Any thoughts and other examples?
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