May 18, 2024


The Boston Celtics and Glasgow’s Celtic F.C. have related pronunciations. Why is that?

Mary Schwalm / AP, File

Bostonians have a infamous monitor document of forging their very own path with regards to pronunciations and labels.

The accent certain doesn’t do us any favors, most notably when including R’s that shouldn’t be there onto the tip of phrases. And we’re additionally on the epicenter of a area that has christened new phrases comparable to “bubblah,” “frappe,” “jimmies,” “packie,” and “parlor.”

Fortunately, although, our trademark drawl doesn’t severely reshuffle our pronunciation of the Purple Sox, Patriots, Bruins, or Celtics.

However what in regards to the begin of the phrase “Celtics”?

Since Walter A. Brown first based the Celtics in 1946, we’ve at all times referred to them because the “Sel-tics,” following an identical script as one other sports activities franchise in Celtic F.C. in Glasgow.

The avenue of pronunciation has been ingrained in Bostonians because the days of Invoice Russell, Bob Cousy, and Tommy Heinsohn.

However anybody acquainted with the tradition rooted within the Emerald Isle is aware of that the “Seltic” diction roughly stands as an outlier, particularly past the realm of sports activities.

So why is there a discrepancy when it comes to the pronunciation of “Celtic” — and are the Boston “Seltics” simply one other instance of Bostonians (and Glasgow residents) taking a longtime linguistic follow and tossing it out the window?

Branching out 

To hunt some readability on which pronunciation is right, we spoke with professor Catherine McKenna, the Margaret Brooks Robinson Professor of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard College.

The decision?

“It’s only a distinction,” she stated. “You may say in a way that the Ok- sound is extra right. However it’s not a giant deal.”

By way of primary English phonology, the “Keltic” technique stands as a deviation from the usual pronunciation of different English phrases that start with “ce” — with phrases like ceiling, cereal, and cement all starting with that “smooth” C sound.

However the origins of the phrase “Celtic” had been set within the floor lengthy earlier than English took maintain, as McKenna notes.

“In academia, we are saying ‘Keltic,’ as a result of we first get the phrase — it first happens in Greek, and it’s spelled with a Kappa, with a Ok,” she stated. “So we all know they stated Keltoi, after which we get it from Julius Caesar, spelled with a C, however we all know that Latin at that time would have stated Celtae (with a tough C pronunciation). 

“In order that’s the way in which it’s. That’s the identify. We additionally know that the Celtic languages at all times use C to spell the ‘Kuh’ sound, not a ‘Sa’ sound. In order that takes care of, sure, technically, ‘Keltic’ is right.”

Though each the Greek Keltoi and Latin Celtae would possibly seem totally different, Merriam-Webster notes of their breakdown on the variations between the “Celtic” pronunciation that it wasn’t till the Center Ages that the letter C in Latin began to be pronounced earlier than vowels as the mix ts. Earlier than that, they caught with that onerous C sound. 

Nevertheless, issues began to alter when the Celts resurfaced in historical past, particularly as different languages began to take maintain throughout the globe.

“However what occurs is, we learn about Celts in historical instances from the fifth century BC, proper by form of the second or third century,” McKenna defined. “After which they form of disappear from historical past till the 18th century. And when the concept of ‘Keltic’ or ‘Seltic’ comes again, it comes again robust, initially, in France. So that they write C-E-L-T-I-Q-U-E, as a result of that’s how you’d pronounce it in French.

“So then that will get picked up in English — in England and Eire and Scotland — and everyone is saying ‘Seltic,’ proper? In order that’s what will get picked up in Glasgow. Celtic (F.C.) goes again to the late nineteenth century … After which there’s a New York Celtics workforce that dies out after which Boston form of picks up that identify due to the Irish heritage and so forth. And by that point, ‘Seltic’ is admittedly widespread.”

That resurfacing of the “Celtic” phrase in French supplied up the deviation that we now discover in basketball and soccer. As is the case with the pronunciation of French painter Paul Cézanne (say-ZAN) or the basic phrase “c’est la vie,” these begin with the smooth C, relatively than the laborious “Kuh” sound.

At one level, the “Seltic” pronunciation was seen because the established pronunciation, as famous by Merriam-Webster. 

This shift within the pronunciation of Celt is absolutely evinced when evaluating H. W. Fowler’s 1926 Dictionary of Trendy English with Robert Burchfield’s 1996 revised version. Right here’s what Fowler needed to say about Celt(ic): “The spelling C-, & the pronunciation s-, are the established ones, & no helpful objective appears to be served by the substitution of k-.” Many years later, Burchfield observes a unique pattern: “Aside from the soccer membership Celtic (in Glasgow), which is pronounced [SEL-tik], each Celt and Celtic are pronounced with preliminary ok in normal English.”

In the end, the “Keltic” pronunciation has resurfaced in current instances as language historians opted for the phrase to higher mirror its origins in Greek and Classical Latin.

However there isn’t any main gaffe or fake pas present in choosing the French-based, “Seltic” pronunciation that was generally accepted for hundreds of years.

As McKenna notes, “it’s not a giant deal.”

As for the Boston Celtics’ origin?

So we’ve damaged down the origin of the phrase “Celtic” and its totally different pronunciations.

However what in regards to the origin of the Boston Celtics’ identify itself?

Referencing former Boston Herald Traveler sportswriter George Sullivan’s complete account of the Celtics’ first 50 years, Richard Johnson — curator of The Sports activities Museum — revealed that Walter Brown didn’t precisely must delve very deep for inspiration. 

“[Sullivan] talked to Howie McHugh, who was the primary publicist of the workforce. And the quote from Howie, who was there on the time — Walter Brown stated, ‘Wait, I’ve bought it: The Celtics. We’ll name them the Boston Celtics. The identify has an ideal basketball custom. And Boston is filled with Irishmen. Sure, that’s it. We’ll put them in inexperienced uniforms and name them the Boston Celtics.’”

It shouldn’t come as a lot shock that Brown honed in on the Irish-American populace in Boston. However as McKenna famous earlier, the Celtics additionally paid homage to a different basketball membership when it got here to their appointed moniker.

“Celtics additionally refers back to the workforce, the Authentic Celtics, who had been a workforce that performed out of New York Metropolis within the barnstorming days {of professional} basketball,” Johnson famous. “So for as soon as, we appropriated one thing from New York from a sporting standpoint as a substitute of it being the opposite manner round.

“So that they named their workforce each as a sensible measure — due to this being a really Irish-American hotbed, after which the truth that there was a workforce not too lengthy earlier than that, most likely 20 years earlier than the founding of the Celtics, that had been the Authentic Celtics. So it labored.”

Effectively, that solutions that.

As for why Boston’s baseball workforce known as the “Purple Sox” as a substitute of the “Purple Socks”? Effectively, that’s a Wickedpedia piece for one more day.

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