Will the internet nurture or finish off languages whose speakers aren’t exactly in the mainstream of commerce? I spent a good long while fishing around on the internet trying to get a translation of various pages relating to my ‘word of the week’.
Meurlarjez is the Breton title given to Shrove Tuesday; we in the US are used to calling this celebration by its French name — Mardi Gras, ‘Fat Tuesday’. Breton is the ancestral language of Brittany, a wide spit of land that stretches into the Atlantic in the northwest of France. Breton is a Celtic language, distinct from French, and more closely related to the Celtic languages of Britain than to the now defunct Gaulish language of the Celts that originally inhabited France. In the British Isles, the Germanic tribes — Angles, speaking ‘Angle-ish,’ drove off the Celts, whose communities only held on in Ireland and Scotland (Gaelic or Goidelic Celts) as well as in Cornwall and Wales (Brittonic or Brythonic Celts). To some extent these words English and British should mean two very different things, Germanic ‘Anglo-Saxons’ versus Celtic ‘Brythons.’ Brythonic Celts established a Kingdom in the nearby region of France, which became known essentially as ‘Little Britain’ — Bretagne or Brittany.
The musical selection I am posting today is a ‘ton meurlarjez’ that is a mardi-gras tune, a parade tune to celebrate the ‘carne-vale’ the ‘farewell to meat’ when the Catholic world gets ready to begin the Lenten fast before Easter. The word Meurlarjez to the best of my ability to make out translates as ‘Big Bacon Fat.’ In 1938 when Breton was being brought back into the national spotlight as a valuable cultural heritage, author and scholar, Roparz Hemon wrote a fascinating sounding play called Meurlarjez. In it, Meurlarjez is a character, a jack-in-the-box trickster sort of a fellow, who runs around the carnival festivities tearing peoples masks off — making the point that these sort of celebrations are meant to display peoples real feelings and personalities, not obscure them as is done every other day of the year. So here is my rendition of some music for that unmasking, performed by Mr Big Bacon Fat as he dances through the streets speaking in his ancient and not-quite-dead-yet tongue.