We've had some very serious - and important - blog posts lately. But it's half-term in UK schools and I feel a little bit as though school's out too. I went to the aquarium today and then rammed people on dodgems. So I'm feeling high-spirited and hopeful. I've been thinking about how brilliant words are, how evocative and exciting.
One of my favourite things is to discover the origin of words and phrases. The more arcane the better. It's almost as though we speak in ancient spells whose intentions have been lost though the incantations survive.
So history affects our language, but geography does too. It's rare that I consider anything to be beyong the pale. But it's nice, when I do, to remember that the original pale was the boundary marker around the city of Dublin. Anyone exiled for crimes against the city would be sent beyond the pale. Incidentally, if anyone knows why we ignore people who are sent to Coventry, I'd love to know.
My favourite word-origin is a cultural borrowing. In 18th century France, the cottage-industry weavers were weaving merrily away. Then, suddenly, factories started making cheap fabrics. the French temprament being what it is, the weavers took off their wooden shoes - their sabots - and threw them into the machinery. Thus becoming saboteurs.
I'm also a fan of a Welsh phrase, that hasn't made it into English. But I can always try to sell it to you here. In Wales, if you're behaviour is a bit over the top, melodramatic, unnecessary, people will say that you are going 'over the crockery', because the highest thing in the room is your best plate atop your dresser.
I'd love to learn more. Share your favourites and let's all celebrate the school holidays!
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