[Bards] What is a bard?

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Tue Jun 12 09:05:45 PDT 2007

The word "bard", like every other word in the English languages, has many 
different meanings.  The reason we will not agree on the one precise 
meaning of the word "bard" is that there isn't one.

I use the word in its most common English sense -- a poet.  I've 
occasionally been accused of doing this because I am being sloppy with 
language.  In fact, it's the exact opposite.  I use the English meaning 
because I am speaking English.  I would no more use "bard" to mean a Scots 
baird or a Welsh bardd than I would use "digital computing" to mean 
counting on my fingers, even though that's the etymological history of 
those words.  "Epee" originally meant any sword.  "Pompous" meant grand and 
stately.  "Awful" meant capable of inspiring awe.  "Villain" meant peasant. 
"Barbarian" meant anyone who cannot speak Greek.  "Cosmos" meant a 
specifically created thing (it has the same root as "cosmetic").  I will 
not use any of those words that way.

In Welsh today, a "bardd" is a poet recognized at Eisteddfod.  I have been 
recognized at Eisteddfod; I am a bard.

In early Celtic societies with religious beliefs I do not share, it denoted 
a specific position with religious consequences.  For obvious reasons, I 
cannot use it in that sense.

So, when speaking English, I use it in its English sense. And, as with any 
English word, I have to use context to tell what meaning a speaker intends.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin 

More information about the Bards mailing list