A couple of Saturdays ago, a woman came up to my stall at a FOCUS Craft Fair and browsed the books for sale. She had a daughter with her whom I guessed to be around ten years of age. That was encouraging since The Taexali Game was potentially suitable for her— depending on the girl's reading age and language capability.
“That’s a lovely word,” says the mum, pointing to Taexali, “but how do you pronounce it?”
My answer was honest as always. I told her I can’t read Latin so my pronunciation is a guess at best. I say it like TAY ZAL I the last letter rhyming with 'i' as used in the word ‘in’.
I’d recently asked archaeologist Mark Patton, a friend at Crooked Cat Publishing who can read and speak Latin, and he’d said something similar but more like TESSALI , his accent being different since he’s from Jersey. The truth is that no-one really knows and even Latin scholars have been known to quibble about the pronunciation of Classical Latin.
As for the actual local ‘Celtic’ tribal name – that seems to be gone for ever since nothing survives to clarify it.
I went on to explain to the woman that I’d lifted the word Taexali from the map of Britain which Ptolemy made sometime during the second century.
According to Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus; c. AD 90 – c. AD 168), the Celtic tribes who inhabited a large swathe of land which now encompasses Aberdeenshire and part of Tayside in Scotland were named Taexali. (The River Tay near Dundee in Scotland was referred to as the TAVA, though other variants appear as well)
I love looking at representations of Ptolemy's map because of the quirky skewed version of Scotland, his co-ordinates at a weird
Map from Wikimedia Commons:
However, it's not so easy to read this map but subsequent redraws of Ptolemy's original are.
I like this one by Spruner 1865 since it's more the image we relate to in the twenty first century. His spelling dipthongs the 'AE' from Ptolemy. In primary school, I was taught to pronounce an 'ae' dipthong as the sound of an 'a' in the word 'day' which is why I favour the pronunciation I use.
I've zoomed in to north-east Scotland to show the area Ptolemy regarded as being inhabited by Taexali tribes.
There are other reprints of Ptolemy maps to browse out there on the internet and if I had £8200 to spare I might buy the map listed HERE!
Although Ptolemy died some 50 years before the era I’ve written about in The Taexali Game, I think it’s reasonable to use the same name for the tribes who lived in that area in my novel since linguists would generally agree that names lingered for decades without much change in bygone eras.
From what I’ve read in various sources, clan names survived unchanged till some awful catastrophe occurred which altered the balance of the local population. Annihilation of the clan would have been one example of a name suddenly disappearing, and a new name being used for those who came after. As far as historians can tell, after the massive invasion of some thirty thousand troops of the Roman Emperor Severus in c. AD 210 there were probably no further major invasions of the north-east of Scotland.
I could have changed the Latin spelling to something like TAYZALI but chose not to. I'll be absolutely delighted if any of my readers get back to me and say that they bought the story purely because they matched the name to the Ptolemy reference on his map of Britannia.
I like the word Taexali- don’t you?