Sunday, January 17, 2010

Telgud Noe - Man-throwing

"Man-throwing" (telgud noe) in its simplest definition is the adding of the suffix "tot" to a word in Old Irish.

There's of course more to it than that. "Tot" is defined and described as the sound that a wave makes or even the sound that a man's body makes when falling on water. This is specifically an onomatopoetic sound. Now before anyone gets too confused, here's a few things that one should also know
onomatopoetic: strictly speaking, of or relating to the formation or use of words which imitate sounds, like whispering, clang, and sizzle, but the term is generally expanded to refer to any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.

a.. Sidelight: Because sound is an important part of poetry, the use of onomatopoeia is another subtle weapon in the poet's arsenal for the transfer of sense impressions through imagery.

b.. Sidelight: Though impossible to prove, some philologists (linguistic scientists) believe that all language originated through the onomatopoeic formation of words.

In Auraicept na n-Éces, the Ogham are said to be composed of "sound and matter." They are a tool for unlocking the ways that sound and form relate to thought and perception. What this is all about is that some words or sounds mimic one another. Irish and specifically Old Irish is considered to be a very onomatopoetic language. Its sounds are primal and more closely connected to the ways that the human psyche relates to existence and Nature. That's why the Celts and the Druids believed that words had a power to create, especially when they were *true* words that had the onomatopoetic attribute. Poetry and words are then "man-throwing" when the sounds within them strike into the psyche through their close connections to the processes and effects they are describing (or manipulating).

Here's how the Auraicept describes the process (in Calder's translation):

"Fertot, its telgud noe, its flinging of a man, for *nae* is man, ut est, if a man suffer on land, i.e. the man allows suffering on him, he goes afterwards to bathe himself in the water, he lets himself down the bank, into the water, *tot* saith the wave under him, i.e., *tot* was the name of the sound which the wave makes: *tott; tott*, then, is its onomatopoetic name or mixed name from sound, ut est, the *bu* of cows, the *go* of geese: or the heavy voice the man utters dropping himself on the water. From the sounds of birth have been named *go go* in sound, or *bu bó*, i.e., *tot*: or again the man takes his garment about him from some one else. What he then says is *fertom* (i.e. give ye to me, i.e.) it serves me, *feartot* it serves thee, quoth thy companion to thee, that is a passive verb, *feartot* quoth his companion to him, this is an active verb."

English being a more artificial language than Irish, I expect that many would be unfamiliar with the power and effect of onomatopoeia in words and expression. It is an essential of the Poet's art however and one that is still studied in schools of higher learning today.

Here's links to onomatopoeic words and usages in



Even examples in English:

The key to the use of onomatopoetic words is to select those that evoke a response from the hidden self, the natural self, the inner self that hears and tastes and feels the words. It's a trip into how illusions are made and realties are structured. To write powerful poetry and to see words have an effect on those around us, even our surroundings, we must dive into the wracking, whapping waves of onomatopoetic, totting tons of tonn, toit, tuigen and tongues.


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