Word Hoarding, Not Just for English Profs

An article on “Rewilding our Language for Landscapes” from TheGuardian.com is about Robert Macfarlane’s “collecting unusual words for landscapes and natural phenomena.”

These include ammil, a Devon word for the film of ice that coats leaves and branches (and cactus prickles) after a partial thaw.

The image from the article:

by John Macfarlane
by John Macfarlane

The image from Facebook, that made this particular word more captivating to me:

by Texas Hill Country
ammil from Texas Hill Country on Facebook

I sought out the users, keepers and makers of place words.

I turned also to the archive, seeking place words as they were preserved in glossaries and dictionaries, gathered on the web, or embedded in the literature of earlier decades and centuries.

the terms I collected … recognisable in that they name something conceivable, if not instantly locatable…
I became fascinated by those scalpel-sharp words that are untranslatable without remainder. The need for precise discrimination of this kind has occurred most often where landscape is the venue of work.

I also relished synonyms – especially those that bring new energy to familiar entities. The variant English terms for icicle – aquabob (Kent), clinkerbell and daggler (Hampshire), cancervell (Exmoor), ickle (Yorkshire), tankle (Durham) and shuckle (Cumbria) – form a tinkling poem of their own. In Northamptonshire and East Anglia “to thaw” is to ungive. The beauty of this variant surely has to do with the paradox of thaw figured as restraint or retention, and the wintry notion that cold, frost and snow might themselves be a form of gift – an addition to the landscape that will in time be subtracted by warmth.

Some wonderful words and excellent writing in this essay.

All lovers of words should read it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge