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Puttin' on Airs

Whenever someone pretends to be someone they are not, we call it “puttin’ on airs.” Writing fiction is a form of that expression. After all, I do not live in the early 1800s and certainly do not have a fancy castle. Still, I wanted to avoid going too far with the pretense.

I have read several works where the author was very particular about language and its correct use. For example, a novel set in Scotland might use Gaelic words or expressions particular to the dialect of a region. If an author can pull it off, great for him or her! When it is done well, it adds richness to the story. However, when it is poorly executed, it stops the story in its tracks and leaves the reader confused, angry, and/or disgusted.

Unfortunately, I do not have a team of scholars and editors who can assist me in proper usage. I did not want to take the chance of ruining the story. In my work, I do not attempt it unless I know with absolute certainty I am correctly using a word or phrase. As a result, my use of Gaelic is very careful and deliberate in my books.

I do have bits of Gaelic that have special meaning to the story. In the prologue, the chieftain’s name is Ailig. I stumbled upon a name translation that said it was Gaelic for “Alex” or “Alec.” I thought that would be a nice tie-in for another important character in the book. I won’t spoil the story and say who.

Another bit is the name of the valley where the village in the prologue and, eventually, the inn are located. I toyed with different words and phrases. They all danced closely to Outlander, though. I wanted something unique. While flipping through a Gaelic dictionary, I found a few words and cobbled together this name: Gleann A’bunadh. The word “gleann” is obvious; it means glen or valley. “A’bunadh” can mean “of the origin,” “from the origin,” or “original.” When you read the book, I hope you see the meaning there as well.

The final two pieces of Gaelic are a personal joke. The town is named Deoch, and the castle is Fion. According to my handy dandy English to Gaelic dictionary, Deoch means “drink.” Fion means “wine.” I giggle a little when I write those names.

I am sure a Gaelic scholar will be quick to correct me if I have incorrectly used any terms. Please do! I need all the help I can get!