Seltic vs. Keltic

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Dec 28, 2001
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"Do you say Seltic or Keltic?

Only your etymologist knows for sure but here's a case made by
one of the (self-proclaimed) last of the sibilant Celts.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003 - Grope & Flail

To football fans in Glasgow and Belfast, there was never was,
never has been, any question about the pronunciation of the
name of their local heroes in green-and-white. They were, and
still are, the Celtic, pronounced Seltik. And the same with
basketball fans in Boston, although there they proclaimed their
independence from the rules of English grammar by pluralizing
the adjective: Boston Celtics (anything to placate the local

The ancient Greeks called us Keltoi and marvelled that the
red-haired rowdies at their trading posts on the upper Danube
and the middle Rhine spoke a similar tongue to that of the
red-haired rowdies at their colonies at Marseilles and
Barcelona, some 1,500 miles away. They were also impressed at
our degree of appreciation for their wine-making. One of them,
Diodorus Siculus, cutely remarked that the Keltoi would 'give a
slave for a drink.' Here we have a didactic illustration of the
legendary Celtic thrift being misunderstood by an effete
post-classical Hellenic materialism: we wouldn't make the deal
unless the wine was really good and the slave was neither
extremely energetic nor extremely attractive. Sure, we liked
their wine, but our lot knew how to deal.

Even today, there are echoes of this attitude that the Celts
are susceptible to the charms of the grape and the barley,
mostly from the non-Celtic inhabitants of Lower Britain. I
wouldn't dignify this assertion with a response. So clearly an
apparent calumny, it should be ignored. Come to think of it,
the Gaelic for water is uisge, pronounced 'whisky.'

In his account of his campaigns against the Celts in France,
Julius Caesar writes, 'They call themselves Celtae, but in our
language they're Galli.' Trouble is, nobody knows how he
pronounced Celtae; he left plenty of records but nothing on
tape. Caesar, a Roman soldier and statesman rescued from
obscurity by the Triumvirate (Johnny Wayne, Frank Shuster and
Ed Sullivan) with some help from an earlier English playwright,
would probably have risen in revolt if anyone had suggested his
name should be pronounced 'Julius Keezer.'

Celtic music entered the mainstream of popular entertainment
when the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem came to prominence
some 40 years ago. But we still pronounced it 'Seltic' and
nobody had ever heard of Cape Breton. Then John Allen Cameron
from Glencoe Station decided to leap over the seminary wall and
try for a career in showbiz. I don't know if this was much of a
loss for the priesthood but it certainly was a great gain for
the performerhood. The acknowledged godfather of Cape Breton
Celtic music, John Allan inspired legions of successors, many
of them Gaelic speakers, to achieve nationwide prominence. For
years we've been hearing Gaelic songs on CBC Radio several
times per week sung by the likes of the Rankin Family, the
Barra MacNeils and that superb Cape Breton adoptee, Mary Jane

That was the good part; the bad part was that performers,
reporters, announcers were all talking about Cape Breton Keltic
and nobody had ever heard of Scotland and Ireland where the
Seltic people live.

So who are these Celts? More than 80 per cent of Scotland,
Ireland and Wales, 60 per cent of France, probably 40 per cent
of Spain, Portugal and England and, by extension, close to half
of Canada and the United States. Twenty-five centuries ago, we
were all of Western Europe except the Mediterranean coast; 16
centuries ago we were all of Britain, before the Sassenach
started blowing in on the easterlies to subordinate our musical
Celtic to their coarse Teutonic tongue. And subordinate they
did. They never subjugated my Celtic region of Britain, but
their language took over to the total exclusion of the
indigenous. There aren't 10 Celtic words in general usage in
English today, and the land the Romans called Britannia became
the land the Germans called England.

There's no letter K in the Celtic lexicons, so the C is always
hard, which is probably why people say Keltic. But this is an
erroneous etymology; my research seems to indicate that the
term Celtic was not in general use in Gaelic or Welsh, but was
revived in the aftermath of the French revolution to
differentiate the Welsh-speaking inhabitants of Brittany from
the Celtic, but Latin-speaking denizens of the rest of France;
the term was Celtique, pronounced, of course, 'Selteek.'

But here's the clincher: dispute this at your peril. In
Paradise, it's always pronounced 'Seltik.' I've been there and
returned because Paradise is a football ground in Parkhead in
the east end of Glasgow, and is the home of the Glasgow Celtic
Football Club. The K virus may sweep the English-speaking world
but I and the crowd in Paradise remain eternally the last of
sibilant Celts.

...........The author, Robert Nicholson, lives in Pugwash, N.S."

When I were a wee bairn, it was set out for me that we (the people) were Kelts, and the footy team were Selts. WTF do I know?:(

Opinions, please.......




New Member
Jun 30, 2001
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Dirty Money
For what it's worth, Brother Walfrid, who founded Celtic in 1888, always pronounced it "Keltik".

trece verde

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Dec 28, 2001
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feckin' 'Gers fans.......


I was hoping that we could try to keep this discussion out of the perjorative..:rolleyes: :rolleyes: Stop spewing that partisan nonsense.....:p

BTW, my Celtic connection comes from my mother's side. My Gran, although a staunch Presbyterian, was still a Celtic supporter. I'd like to think that this would help me keep relatively neutral in terms of Scots footy, but the last time I checked my wardrobe, there were more green shirts than blue ones.

Yes, I do have hoops....:D



Captain Shamrock

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Jul 20, 2001
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It is actually pronounce 'Keltic' and was until more and more 'Kelts' came over to North America. It was actually pronounced with the soft 'c' at this point. Hence, the Boston 'S'eltics. It is all about preference, all about preference.....If I am talking about the Ancient Celts to my students, it is Kelts. If I am talking football as in the best team in the world, it is Glasgow soft'C'eltic. I hope this has been helpful. :rolleyes: At least we found that the minging blue nose can stick his nose in anywhere he wants. That is something that will never change, whether it is pronounced Keltic or Seltic. Right, Bucky. :) BTW, I want my $10 now. I will be at Hastings Park on Saturday. Look for me. I will be my high school soccer team getting ready for the provincials. DITH and One Dart will be there too.....


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