Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Spreg, Spreag

In Irish there is a word spreag meaning to "arouse, inspire; prompt, encourage" but also to to "rebuke, reprove".  This is what you find in Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla for word spreag:
spreag, v.t. (pp. ~tha). 1. Urge, incite; arouse, inspire; prompt, encourage. Duine a ~adh le rud a dhéanamh, to inspire s.o. to do sth. An pobal a ~adh, to rouse the people. ~ sé na fir, he encouraged the men. D'intinn a ~adh, to stimulate one's mind. An chuimhne a ~adh, to jog the memory. ~ smaoineamh mé, a thought occurred to me. ~ sé mé (go), it occurred to me (that). Ba é Dia a ~ thú, God inspired you. Cad é a ~ iad le sin a dhéanamh? What prompted them to do that? Mianta a ~adh, to excite passions. ~ an tsaint iad, greed drove them on. ~ an Diabhal é, the Devil tempted him. Ná ~ é, don't provoke him. Ní bhfuair mé le ~adh é, I couldn't prevail on him. Ceol a ~adh, to inspire music; to play, sing, with spirit. Ag ~adh na dtéad, twanging the strings. Ag ~adh Béarla, rattling away in English. 2. Lit: Rebuke, reprove. An peacach a ~adh, to admonish the sinner. Ag ~adh a choireanna dó, reproaching him for his transgressions.

McBain's etymological dictionary doesn't mention word spreag but it has this to say about word spreig
spreig, blame, reprove, incite, Irish spreagaim; founded on Middle English spraechen, now speak, German sprechen.
Spreach - a herd of cattle stolen and driven off in a raid, especially by Highlanders from Lowlanders. 

Spreag - Very uncommon Irish surname. Potentially of Old Norse origin, and is one of the variant forms of the more familiar surname Spragg.

In Welsh "sbragu" can mean to push someone forward. "Sbardino" means the same, sbardyn meaning spur, as in horses spur. viz. to accelarate. Spurt in English may come from the same source possibly. "Spragu" can also mean putting a spoke in someone's wheels. viz. to spoil their plans. Spragging a wheel is an old mining term, used underground band on surface tramroads. It involved putting an iron bar, wooden pole in between the spokes of a wheel to act as a brake.

So we again have both opposite meanings present in the same word.

This very strange word which can have two completely opposite meanings actually has a full etymology in Serbian, and in a particular south Serbian dialect from the Serbian Bulgarian border, the area where people still use standing "Celtic" crosses as village crosses.

In Serbo Croatian we have this set of words based on the root preg:

pregalac - zealous, hard-working person, someone who leads, who pulls, who moves things forward, who is ahead, before, in front
sprega - mutually supporting connection between two things
spregnuti - connect two things in order to support each other
zaprega - cart pulled by oxen, horses, team
upregnuti - to harness, to connect animals together in order to pull the cart
napregnuti - pull or push, exert pressure, create tension, strain, put hard work, pull hard. Like when oxen pull the cart
pregati, prezati - harness, restrict, pull back, hesitate, shrink, discourage
preglica - clasp, something which keeps things together, connected.

All these words come from the root preg meaning before it, in front of it.

In Serbo Croatian pre means before, in front. The same word is found as pred, pered in other Slavic languages, which is a composite of pre + to = before that. Pre also exists in Latin as prae.

In Serbian there is also word pra which means the same, before, old, in front. 

pradeda - great grand father
pradavno - very long time ago
prastar - very old

In south Serbian dialect go, gu, go, gi mean him, her, it, them.

pre g = pre ga, pre go, pre gu, pre gi means before, in front of him, her, it, them

In Slavic languages g changes to ž and z. So we can get:

pregni --> preži
pregati --> prezati

Also pre can become pra, and with kgh being interchangeable consonants we can get:

pregni --> pragni --> prahni

This is how you build all the above words:

preg - pre + ga = before, in front + it, him
spregnuti - s + pre + ga + nuti = with + before, in front + it, him + ending = to put two oxen together to pull the plow or cart. From this we have to team up, to support each other, to connect, to encourage, to excite...
pregalac - pre + ga + lazi = before, in front + it, him + goes = leader
upreg - u + pre + ga = into + before, in front + it, him = harness cows, horses to pull cart together...
zaprega - za + pre + ga = for + before, in front + it, him = what we put in front of carts to pull them, a team of animals supporting each other, working together
napregnuti - na + pre + ga + nuti = on + before, in front + it, him + ending = tension, what is achieved by using coordinated "spregnute" forces 

preglica - pre + ga + lica = before, in front + it, him clasp + diminutive ending = something small which connects

You can see how spreg, being yoked can mean both support, encouragement and restriction, restraint due to the fact that yoke allows oxen to synchronize their movement, work together and support each other, but it also restricts their movement.

We find these words in other Slavic languages as well.

From all this I believe that the Irish word spreag is a borrowing from a Slavic language. I also believe that the word is very old, probably dating to the time when the first yokes, carts and ploughs were constructed, which would make this word another linguistic fossil. How and when did this word arrive in Ireland? With the first Fomorian farmers who also brought Crom Dubh? With the first wheeled vehicles and first toghers, tochers? Or much later? 

I could not find any other cognates of these words in other European languages. I would appreciate if anyone could point me to the ones i missed.

I have found these potential cognates in Sanskrit:

spRz - coming in contact with, acting upon, affect. 

praga - going before, preceding, from pre, pra + ga = before it. 
pragA - go, go forward, advance, move, from pre, pra + ga = before it. 

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