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Les dictionnaires bretons, une source pour l’ethnographie : l’article « Eghinat » chez Coëtanlem et Le Pelletier

Fañch Postic 1 
1 CRBC Brest - Centre de recherche bretonne et celtique
UBO - Université de Brest, IBSHS - Institut Brestois des Sciences de l'Homme et de la Société
Abstract : Dictionaries are a valuable source of information about the ancient existence of certain popular practices. For example, in the article entitled ‘Eghinat’ in Coëtanlem’s handwritten dictionary, the author, who drew widely on Le Pelletier (1752), tells us that at the turn of the 19th century this term referred to two types of quests that took place in Léon on the last day of every year. The first was rural and peaceful and consisted of young country folk going from house to house to collect their New Year gifts while singing canticles associated with the Nativity. The second quest, which was secular and urban and organised by the bourgeoisie in aid of the destitute, gave rise to excesses that made them true ‘bacchanals’. Moreover, first Le Pelletier and then Coëtanlem seem to have been among the first to question the au gui l’an neuf explanation that had been unanimously adopted until then (it was commonly thought au gui l’an neuf was the druids’ call when gathering mistletoe on the first of January). They proposed instead that Eghinat and related words used across the whole Atlantic coast of Europe – including Scotland (hogmanay), Spain (aguinaldo) and the west of France – to refer to New Year gifts came from the word egin, meaning ‘tip’ or ‘seed’, which was present in Breton and various other Celtic languages. This article details the different practices that accompanied the change of year in Lower Brittany and then reviews an etymological debate that has been the subject of much discussion in the literature.
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Fañch Postic. Les dictionnaires bretons, une source pour l’ethnographie : l’article « Eghinat » chez Coëtanlem et Le Pelletier. La Bretagne Linguistique, 2013, 17, pp.25-64. ⟨10.4000/lbl.1582⟩. ⟨hal-03243090⟩



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