Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

I have been an avid fan of Celtic music for over 3 years, and have listened to all sorts of trad bands, but other than sometimes messing around with the piano and singing, I haven’t really played much (though I have considered getting a whistle).
Anyway, I just attended my first folk concert yesterday, by the Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles which were amazing!
I always thought the word "strathspey" was pronounced like "STRATHS-pee" (first syllable accented), but at the concert they pronounced it as "straths-PAY" (second syllable accented and sounding almost French). Bearing in mind that we’re from all over, how do you all poonounce the word?
(Pronunciation videos on YouTube seem to differ).

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Spay , strath spay . Spay in spate .
The Spey is s river , when it is in full flow , it’s said to be in spate.
Strathspey is an area of Scotland around the river Spey.
The tune form is named after the area .

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

The Scottish Fiddlers of Los Angeles were correct in their pronunciation of strathSPEY, with the emphasis on the second syllable, as in "away".

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Thanks. I wasn’t sure if different people pronounced it differently. Good to know!

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Scots speakers, like myself and DonaldK will emphasise the second syllable. Gaelic/Highland accents will tend to balance the two syllables more as if it were two words, but it’s relatively subtle.

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Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Yes, I would tend to balance the two syllables myself being a Highlander.
🙂

Slightly more emphasis on the first syllable with place names such as Strathpeffer, Strathlogie etc.
In fact, Strathpeffer is often just referred to as "Strath" in the surrounding areas.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

"Strathpeffer is often just referred to as "Strath" in the surrounding areas."

That must cause confusion for those living near other ‘Straths’. In Mid Wales, Aberystwyth is known as ‘Aber’ - but in SE Wales, ‘Aber’ means Abergavenny. (Perhaps it can be used to refer to Aberfeldy or Aberdeen in Scotland…).

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Many place-names are compounds, with the first part being the sort of thing, and the second part being the name of the thing.

So for example there are two names for the mouth of a river, one Goidelic, one Brythonic:

Inver-
So you have Inverness, Inveraray, etc.

Aber-
So you have Aberdeen, Abernethy, Aberystwyth, etc.

Pit- is a piece of land, Strath- is a valley, and on it goes.

It’s common with these for the type-designator (the first element) to not carry the major stress.

One cool thing is that in Scotland there are a number of place-names where the first part is Pictish, the second part Gaelic.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

"Strathpeffer is often just referred to as "Strath" in the surrounding areas."

That’s a common thing here in the US also: names that have a specific meaning in a particular locality, but not outwith that locality.

With the internet and people all over the county discussing things this crops up all the time.

The most common of these is "the tri-city area". Anyone from any part of any State might tell you that they’re from "the tri-city area". Because there are hundreds of these all over the country the term has only a strictly local meaning. There are also a large number of places in the US that the locals call "the tri-State area" and this term too is meaningless if you’re not talking to a fellow local.

Who knows? There might be dozens of places in Scotland that the locals call "Strath".

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Not sure if a ‘strath’ is literally a valley, though I’d defer to Scottish people here. I think it may refer more to low lying land beside a river in a valley. Found in parts of Ireland as ‘sragh’ but also ‘inse’ as in ‘inch’. So ‘strathspey’ I think would be fields/ lands along the River Spey.

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Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Concise Scots Dictionary:
Strath: a river valley, especially when broad and flat.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Low lying land beside a river is called a haugh, round my neck of the woods.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Round here we might go over to Bishop.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Short Answer.
The emphasis is on the second syllable: strath-SPEY.

Long Answer.
The name of the type of tune derives from the placename Strathspey, meaning "Valley of the (River) Spey). Placenames of Celtic origin are constructed differently from those of Germanic (e.g. Anglo-Saxon) origin. In both cases, most placenames have two elements. One is a generic, that tells you what type of place it is, while the other is a specific, which defines the generic. So in the English name *Newtown*, "town" is the generic and "new" is the specific. This is the normal order for Anglo-Saxon names, and the stress usually comes on the first element (the specific), which is why it’s normal to say NEW-town. However, in Celtic (e.g. Gaelic, Irish, Welsh) the generic comes BEFORE the specific, and the specific element is the one that is stressed. So that’s why the pronunciation of Celtic names in Scotland is dum-BARTON (= fort of the Britons), inver-NESS (= mouth of the Ness), aber-DEEN, dun-DEE and so on.

If you have series of names like Strathspey, Strathallan, Strathmiglo, Strathglass etc it makes sense to stress the second (specific) element, since that is what makes each name distinctive.

The waters get muddied when English people who are used to pronouncing English placenames with a stress on the first element, do the same with Scottish names derived from Gaelic. So you will regularlly hear weather forecasters based in London talking about ABER-deen, INVER-ness, and (the one I really hate) CAIRN-gorms, all of which go against the principles on which the names are constructed.

So it’s fine to say SPEY-side, since that is a name constructed on the Anglo-Saxon principle, but it has to be strath-SPEY.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Agree with Borderer there about the majority not having the stress on the first syllable.
To add another couple; when I lived in England people would talk about DUNlop and DUNbar: up here in Scotland they are DunLOP and DunBAR.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

I am fairly good at learning by example from natives but the one I have wrong is Cairgorms. Though oddly the mountain itself, Cairngorm, I pronounce almost as two words with the accent on the second. I suspect I mainly hear that from Scots. The mountain area may be from the weather reports in England.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Towns like Edinburgh and Musselburgh can have varying pronunciations. Quite often, the emphasis is on the first part but often it’s fairly equal.

However, some people will emphasise "Burgh" as in this song here….

"For MusselBURGH was a Burgh,
When EdinBURGH was nane,
And MusselBURGH will be a Burgh,
When EdinBURGH’s gane."

🙂

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

On Johnny Jay’s last post, I can’t speak for the song, where metre may make demands on pronunciation. But I don’t think that anyone in everday speech has ever said "edin-BURGH". The stress is on the first element, which is why you get the colloquial form "Embra". It’s also JED-burgh, ROX-burgh, WINCH-burgh and so on, as all these names are Anglo-Saxon.

And on the OP, we should remember that strathspeys were originally called "strathspey reels", i.e. a style of reel played in Strathspey.

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

The one that really does my head in is the the southern English pronunciation of Edinburgh, giving it an extra g, viz: Edingburgh! It even came up on one of my credit card bills spelled that way!
But then a lot of Scots talk about sangwiches, instead of sandwiches (that’s if they don’t call them "pieces"!)

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Straths-PAY

Re: Seems like I’ve been pronouncing it wrong this entire time!

Just stuff I found online - I’m no authority: "Strath": (strata, stratum, stratus, stratiform? I’m guessing.) Flat. Here is a long explanation of how "strath" is used to describe erosion of a flat valley floor by a through-cutting stream to form a "strath terrace."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluvial_terrace

"Valley" would be a "hollow" in the Appalachian mountains of the eastern US. Maybe more related to the Irish "cabhán" or Scottish Gaelic "Logan" as described here?:

https://www.behindthename.com/names/meaning/hollow