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Archive for June 1st, 2008

I thought I’d pass along this small section from Robert Lacey’s Great Tales from English History, the book so kindly sent to me by Kelly in California:

“The Celts were fearsome in battle, stripping down to their coarse woven undershorts and painting themselves with the greeny-blue dye that they extracted from the arrow-shaped leaves of the woad plant. Woad was the war paint of Albion’s inhabitants, and it is thought to have inspired a name that has lasted to this day. Pretani is the Celtic for painted, or tattooed folk, and Pytheas seems to have transcribed this into Greek as pretannik√©, meaning ‘the land of the painted people.’ When later translated into Latin, pretannik√© yielded first Pretannia, then Britannia.”

How very interesting! The true, exact nature of the derivation? Who knows, but I like to think that’s how it happened.

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