Posts Tagged ‘Latin’

Walking into history

It’s Wednesday again and time for Rambler5319, my guest blogger, to take over….

Last week’s pics from my holiday were really mostly about signs. I did take some others (and a few more signs). These are from the walks I did in an area which is steeped in history. Parts of it go back to the time of the Romans and beyond.
As you approach the village from one direction, you see this magnificent hand-crafted sign. (It took over 8 months to make.)

Each element in the sign has some local significance and I was curious to find out what they all represented. Local village history gave me the answer:
The cross-keys representing St Peter’s Church (now ruined).
The white cross (blue background) represents the existing St Andrew’s Church.
The beige area represents the main cereal crop – barley.
The green area represents the other main crop – sugar beet.
The white pathway between them represents an old footpath called Peddars Way which passes through the village.
The black symbols on the left middle represent churches & chapel. To the right middle, the tree is Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Tree and the windmill is also local to the area. A lot of thought definitely went into this impressive creation.
As you approach from another side of the village you are greeted by this one

They definitely like you to feel welcome.
I found this next structure in a garden in the main street of the village. Talk about plush multi-storey avian apartments!! Ever seen one of these before?


This was about 6 miles round, mostly on paths away from the roads. The route I travelled, to the next village (Sedgeford), is a small part of what is a much longer (46 miles!) ancient path called Peddars Way. Some believe its existence actually pre-dates the Romans and that they just extended and improved it. So here I was walking on a path that Roman soldiers probably marched along almost 2,000 years ago! I’m glad I wasn’t wearing armour and carrying a heavy shield as the sun was very warm and my brow was wiped many times on this walk. Here’s a section of it but can you tell which direction my compass needle was pointing if I tell you it was about 11.00am?


I came across this notice just half a mile along the path.

In case text in pic too small to read, at the bottom it says: “This roadside verge is being positively managed to conserve wild plants and animals in a joint project between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Note it’s just the “verge”; it was only a metre or so wide.
Just before joining the main road, leading into Sedgeford, the path emerged from its agrarian setting into a narrow road called Magazine Lane; also nearby were Magazine Farm & Magazine Wood. Seemed to me like an odd name to find out in the countryside. The mystery was solved a bit further along when I found this building

It is called Magazine Cottage and is believed to have been used as a store for gunpowder during the Civil War. It was built by the LeStrange family who we will find out more about next week. As I walked past the village pub (King William IV), and down a side road, I saw a sign for a local archaeological project:

I was intrigued. I decided to visit. As well as the actual dig site there were a number of displays and talks about the finds and other general info about life in Anglo Saxon times. Volunteer diggers camp in the next field to the excavation site:

And some site facilities are what might be termed primitive. Note, in the pic below, only one tap can be used for drinking water:

Here are some of the displays, starting with the skulls:

And here are three Action Men but each item they are wearing has been hand made by a guy who is very interested in the period. He’d also made models of some of the “machines” (e.g. boulder launching catapults) the Romans used in sieges and attacks in battle.

Next was a display of what they believe may have been types of food from Anglo Saxon times. The front page of the booklet to the right of pic (sorry chopped off due to trying to get all the food dishes in) says “Dishes made on the day course – Cooking up an Anglo-Saxon feast”:

I also attended one of the 20 minute talks in a side tent. Time to put thinking cap on! Amongst other things, I learnt that an analysis of the chemicals in bones can suggest an area of the country where the individual lived. How? This is because the mix of certain elements in the water in different parts of the country can be quite specific to that area. Apparently, if you live in an area for 10 years or more, your bones will have levels of certain chemicals that have been absorbed from drinking the water in that area that will be the same as the water itself. The archaeologists compare the levels of two particular chemicals, strontium & oxygen, in the water, with the levels in the bones they find. They can then tell whether the people had lived in that area for about 10 years before their death or had moved to it from another part of the country.
Soon it was off to retrace the 3 miles back to the cottage and give my brain, as well as my legs, a rest; it had been a fascinating and very instructive time at the site. As I made my way across the field behind the site, to begin the trek home, I came across this unusual sight:

Starting with the standing white horse look left to the brown standing horse and then to, what seems to be, a brown “blob” on the floor. This “blob” really was a horse lying on its side. Every so often its tail would flick up and down but it remained in this position the whole time I was crossing the field. Was it tired or maybe sunbathing? Do horses lie down if they’re tired? Do horses sunbathe?
The following day I did a short walk, along the sea front, in the nearby town of Hunstanton. Apparently it is the only resort on the East Coast of England which actually faces west! (You’d have to look at a map to see why.) The town motto (in Latin of course) is Alios delectare iuvat, which translates to “It is our pleasure to please”. I was pleased after my visit so I suppose they succeeded. I sat down on a bench for a quick sandwich and drink. I found it was one of those which had been erected in memory of someone who’d died. Here’s the plaque:

Paul Richard Moore was not famous; I, you and lots of other people, will have never heard of him but clearly he was, and still is, VERY special to those who’d put the bench there in his memory. We don’t know how he died but look at his age – just under 30 years old. Now pause for a moment and think about that. Perhaps many readers of this post are younger or just coming up to it or some maybe past that age. Imagine if that was to be all time you would have. It’s always a great sadness when parents outlive their children as it’s one of those things, like this lad’s parents, you just don’t expect to happen. I spent a few minutes in quiet reflection: each moment we’re alive we’re making withdrawals from “The Bank of Time” but without knowing the balance left in our account! Of course, no deposits are possible and you can’t be overdrawn – but your account will be closed at some point! How we “spend” our time is important.
Walking just a short distance from the bench, I saw this. It was time to put that thinking cap on again.

Closer inspection of the info board revealed some interesting stuff.
The wall in the pic is what is left of a chapel built in 1272AD in memory of King Edmund. Apparently he’d landed, from Germany, in 855AD and, a few years later, was crowned King of East Anglia whilst still only a boy. There was peace for a while but then invaders came from Denmark. The king was captured and, when pressed, refused to give up his Christian faith. He was tied to a tree and shot by Danish archers in 870AD aged about 29. He was interred at a place called Beodericsworth which later became known as St Edmunds Bury and finally the town we know today as Bury St Edmunds. He became the first patron saint of England and remained so for about 400 years. The current patron saint (George) was not adopted until the end of the 14th cent. Not a lot of people know that!
I came across this (Latin) motto: Alis Aptar Scientis. It means “Ready for the wings of knowing”. Well are you?



Ok, a quick note from me before handing over the guest blogger. Does everyone remember the post about invisible art? Well, as I wandered around London yesterday enjoying my day off, I happened upon the exhibition itself! Just so you know it really does exist. It’s at the Southbank Centre in London, should you wish to pop along!

Remember that chemistry lesson? When you were wondering what use it would ever be I think you’re about to see why you should have paid attention.
Salt has a number of uses. First off, it can preserve: Egyptians used it when mummifying bodies and many cultures use it to preserve food.
There’s a fascinating book on the subject:

You may be surprised to learn that salt also appears, a number of times, in the Bible. In the Old Testament book called Numbers (the 4th book in the index of the Bible): “It is a covenant of salt forever, before the Lord with you and your descendants with you” (Num Ch18 v19). It also appears in the Book of 2 Chronicles (the 14th book in the index of the Bible): “….the Lord God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt” (2 Chr ch13 v5). Covenants are binding agreements between two parties so salt was clearly very important in these cases. In the New Testament there are a number of refs to salt. Remember the expression that we use when we say a person is “the salt of the earth” – it’s a direct quote of Jesus’s words recorded in Matthew’s Gospel Ch5 v13.
By the start of the 7th cent AD the city of Venice was using landfill to extend the mainland out to the islands and to produce salt it had begun using a system of “ponds” or pools which had seawater in. (NaCl – that is, sodium chloride – is what gives seawater its salinity). The system works like this beginning, quite naturally, with Pond 1. As the sun evaporates the water its salinity increases. Then it is moved (or pumped) into Pond 2 where more evaporation takes place and Pond 1 is re-filled with a fresh supply of seawater to start the process off again. Once Pond 2 has increased salinity due to the evaporation by the sun acting on it then it’s moved into Pond 3. Ponds 2 and then 1 move their water up and Pond 1 is re-filled. And so the process goes on until the salt begins to solidify and drops to the bottom of the last pond where it can be scraped out. This process saved the problem of just having single ponds which you had to wait for to go through the whole evaporation cycle over and over which could take up to a year from start to finish.
Did you know that Roman soldiers were at times paid in salt? This is where we get the English expression that someone is “worth their salt”. Our word “salary” is derived from the Latin salarium (not solarium!) which, it is believed, referred to money given to soldiers to buy salt. The Romans often located their settlements in areas with easy access to salt because it could be used, as they saw it, to further the development of civilisation and, of course, primarily their empire.
World production of salt is around 300 million tons per year. My little salt cellar holds approx 50gms.

Now, go on admit it, you’re wondering – how many times could I fill my little salt cellar from the world’s production for just one year. Ok, well here goes – 1 kg would supply me with 20 refills (20 x 50g); so 1 tonne would give me 20,000 refills; 1 million tonnes would give me 20,000,000,000 (20 thousand million =20 billion as per the OED); so finally 300 million tonnes would give me 300 x 20 billion = 6,000 billion refills or 6 Trillion refills! And just one 50gm amount lasts me ages & ages. (For comparison purposes think of it this way – there are 31.6 million seconds in a year so if I consumed what would definitely be a fatal – 50 gms/sec – it would take erm…..200,000 years to use up just one year’s production!! Numbers are just too big – blowing a gasket here! Moving on……..
In the county of Cheshire in the UK there is a small town called Northwich (pop. 20,000 as of 2001). Dated pottery fragments found there suggest the town has been associated with salt since at least 600BC and it became more important, as a source of salt, during Roman times. The town’s coat of arms has the Latin motto Sal Est Vita which means salt is life.
There is also an association with salt found in the etymology of the town’s name Northwich. The “-wich” part of the town name itself is believed to derive from the Norse “wic” (or wych) meaning bay and is associated with the traditional way of obtaining salt by evaporating sea water (Wikipedia). The “wich” (or wych) suffix occurs in other towns in the county – Middlewich, Nantwich and Leftwich. In fact anywhere in the UK with a “-wich” ending in its name means that usually there will have been a connection to salt at some point in its history. Therefore a place for making salt became a wych-house; and Northwich was so named because, you’ve guessed it, it’s the most northerly of the “-wich” towns in Cheshire.
To get salt out of the ground it has to be mined. Once the traditional (c.16th cent) method of sending men into a hole in the ground, to manually dig it out became unviable in terms of cost, producers moved to what is called “solution mining” (c.17th cent) where fresh water is pumped down a well to dissolve the salt. The salted water (brine) is then pumped back to the surface where the salt can then be extracted. The difficulty with this method is that as more salt is dissolved & drawn out, it leaves holes underground where the solid salt used to be; then land above can easily subside and this is what happened in the Cheshire area. The ignorance or deliberate avoidance of the consequences of their actions back in the 19th cent led to the salt extractors causing many areas to subside and holes to form at ground level. These holes then would fill with rain water adding to the whole problem. Indeed, in Northwich itself, there are horrendous examples of buildings leaning and damage to shops, private houses etc.
The social and practical impact of salt extraction in this area is highlighted by displays & storyboards in the SALT Museum located in the refurbished workhouse (built c.1838) in Northwich. I hope to visit it some time before the autumn and will report back.
In more modern times (1972) the group Steeleye Span released an album called Below The Salt. You, like me, may have wondered where they got the title from. In the Middle Ages, when families & their servants ate together, the salt would be placed in the middle of the table separating the two. The servants were then referred to as sitting “below the salt”. Incidentally the album contains an acapella track sung entirely in Latin which got to No.14 in the UK charts – Gaudete. I’m sure you remember that famous opening chorus: “Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus ex Maria virgine, Gaudete” (Translation: Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary, Rejoice).
You must have heard people talk of someone “rubbing salt into the wound” as a way of saying a bad situation has been made worse by whatever that person did. However did you know that the origin of it goes back to days of sail and punishment by flogging on board ship. Once the skin was broken and bleeding, salt was rubbed in to prevent infection (and therefore ultimately the loss of a crewman) but it was a very painful experience for the person concerned.
There are a number of “sal” expressions and derivations in the English language. Let’s look at a few:
1. You’ve probably heard of the compound sal volatile (pronounced sal volatilly) which is the Latin name for what we refer to as smelling salts. You know the scene in a play or film when someone faints and the salts are used to “bring them round”. Workplaces used to have some in their first aid boxes for emergencies and I’ve seen them used a couple of times. They act by releasing a small amount of ammonia gas which produces a reflex in the nose causes the person to inhale.
2. Do you know the expression people use when they don’t believe something is true – they say you have to take what another person says with a “pinch” or “grain” of salt. (The latin is cum grano salis.) The expression dates back to Roman times (with Pliny the Elder) and refers to one of the ingredients of an “antidote to poison”. Threats of poison in food were therefore said to be taken “with a grain of salt”: the inference being that the effects would be less serious if the salt was taken. The lessening effect, in modern times, has been transferred but inverted to mean a lessening of the truthfulness of a particular statement.
3. The word “salad” means salted dish and “salami” is a sausage which contains a lot of salt.
4. Remember those films again with safecrackers blowing up the safe to get the money. They were called Petremen (pronounced Peter-men) referring to the substance they used which was actually called “saltpetre” or potassium nitrate – a component of gunpowder. Originally saltpetre meant salt of rock – the “petre” bit coming from one of the Latin cases of petra meaning rock. However did you know that it can also be used as a preservative. I’m not joking, if you check Amazon you will find it on sale (4oz for £2.25 from one supplier) for curing beef.
5. A sailor can be referred to as an “old salt” – the reason coming from the preservative qualities of salt for their meat & fish which were soaked in brine.
If you get a chance have a read of Mark Kurlansky’s book (in the pic at the beginning). I really enjoyed it and it’s got to be THE authority on the subject and kept me interested from start to finish. (It’s 452 pages with a 12 page Bibliography!). Thanks to him for some of the historical stuff used in this article.
So you see salt can be a very interesting substance and far more important than you thought. Hope this has not been too much of an assault on your brain and senses (haha).

Can I have a word? Part 4

Our regular guest blogger tackles the subject of ‘Portmanteau Words’ today.

It’s back to that subject of words and, in this case, some very special words. As you’re probably aware English is a kind of “made up” or mongrel type of language. The purity of whatever language the inhabitants of our island spoke has been watered down (improved?) over the centuries in a number of ways. It’s become a mixture of so many words that have come to us from other cultures and languages around the world. Since the Romans invaded brining their Latin words, more influences have come in from a number of other conquerors: Danes, Vikings, Angles, Saxons, Normans have all been responsible for changes in our language (and place names in particular) over hundreds of years. Immigration has provided more foreign flavours to the mix. Other words have come from the days of the British Empire and the countries it traded with. Some words we’ve taken in without modification (e.g. précis & fiancée from French, apartheid & trek from Afrikaans, ashram from Sanskrit and hundreds more); others have a kind of anglicised version but betray foreign roots. It’s estimated, for example, that 30% of English words have a French origin & 60% have a Latin origin; some duplication because of the Latin origin of some French words. A recent arrival into English (late 19th cent.) is the word safari which comes directly from Swahili where it means “long journey”; more recently Wiki (as in Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian “wiki wiki” meaning fast; Baboushka (also a 1980 song by Kate Bush) from the Russian for grandmother and Gulag which is actually an acronym in Russian for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i koloniimoped from the Swedish and short for motor and pedal. And there are, of course, hundreds more.

One of the things you might not have realised is that a word like moped is actually called a “portmanteau” word because it is made up of two other words or shortened versions of them. In fact, if you think about it, the French word porte-manteau is itself made up from two other French words: “porter” (meaning to carry) and “manteau” (meaning cloak). Apparently it was first used, in the context of joined words, by Lewis Carroll in 1871 (Alice Through the Looking Glass). Remember Freedom Literature, when I quoted, from Jabberwocky, these words “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe” – I wonder did you know that “slithy” means lithe & slimy? LC was also responsible for the following portmanteaux: chortled a combination of chuckled & snort; frabjous for fair, fabulous & joyous; mimsy for flimsy & miserable. In 1964, when the country of Tanganika joined with the islands of Zanzibar the new nation was called Tanzania, a portmanteau of the two original names; similarly when Europe and Asia are combined to describe the whole land mass they become the portmanteau Eurasia. If you look back to LLM’s blog, Z is for, you will see the word zonkey – a portmanteau of zebra & donkey; also there is a zorse, a zebra/horse crossbreed and her very own, but rather difficult to conceive (think about it), catterpony. LLM’s blog, Attempting ‘sporty‘, mentioned having started NaNoWriMo which looks very “portmanteau-ish” to me. There was the interesting quidnunc from the K is for knowledge blog: that’s actually a Latin portmanteau taken directly into English. There are, of course, many others along these lines. (Btw, the French though, in their own language, don’t use the word porte-manteau this ‘joined-up words’ way).

Older residents of the UK will remember ‘O level’ exams called G.C.E.s; later came the exams for those not as academically clever – they called them C.S.E.s. Then in the rush to get everyone “on a level playing field” both exams went in the dustbin and the first portmanteau exams arrived in 1988 – the G.C.S.E.s

Probably one of the most recent – anyone heard of a turducken? (Not me!) It apparently arrived into the English language officially in 2010. It’s made by inserting a chicken into a duck, and then into a turkey. (Why would you do that?).

One of the most useless portmanteaux has to be guesstimate – it simply doesn’t help. When would you use it instead of estimate or guess both of which do the job of saying something or some figure is not exact? If you can help me out – please do.
As an aside, I suppose you could call this whole process LLW – lazylanguagewords. Why? Because it means the language (i.e. me & you) doesn’t have to come up with an original new word as such. You need a new word? Just grab a few existing ones and with a bit of welding & a few twiddles – hey presto! (You want to drive and travel – you dravel or drivel.)

The more you look into our language the more examples you can see. It got me thinking about how economical these words are: as I mentioned before, instead of saying something “is a cross between a zebra and a donkey” you just say “it’s a zonkey” – neat eh? Now I think we could use some more of these to save space and time when either speaking or writing. What next? ………Yes, you’ve guessed, I’ve been working on a few.

I was thinking of transport and how easy it would be to describe your journey with some new portmanteau words. Take this sentence for example (when you arrive at a friend’s house and they ask how you did you get here?) – “I came by bus, train and taxi.” This can be “portmanteau-ed” (see how I made a noun/adjective into a verb there?) into “I came bybutratax”. Do you see what I did there? A triple portmanteau! But it’s also very adaptable because if the journey was by train, bus & taxi it becomes trabutax. Switch it round for any combo of the words. If you wanted to include the walk to the bus stop (so walk, bus, train, taxi) you could make wabutratax (a quad portmanteau). If you’re a cyclist and you ride then travel on the train and ride again you could make bitrabi and so on. If you’re going abroad you could add the flight by plane into the mix – so taxi, plane, taxi would be taxplatax.

Now you may want to say how each leg of the journey went: good, bad, rough or whatever. I’ve had some thoughts on this too. So, for example, “I came by trabutax and the journey was gobaro. Did you get it? The journey was good, bad & rough on each of the corresponding legs by train, bus & taxi. If all three legs were good or bad you’d getgogogo or bababa.

Suppose someone serves in a café (or deli) and a customer could ask for alatchesanchoca which is a latte, cheese sandwich & chocolate cake. (Imaginary scenario: Customer to LLM – Can I have a latchesanchoca without the sandwich? LLM grits teeth & thinks: “But then it’s not a latchesanchoca!”) When four friends, each wanting a different drink, come in they could ask for an escaplatam – you got it didn’t you? An espresso, a cappuccino, a latte & an Americano. (Eseseslat = three espressos and a latte and so on.) Easy eh? Imagine the questions you’d get if those were on the menu on the wall: what’s that? Why is an escaplatam so expensive? Are they all mixed together in one cup? Are they definitely all separate? We’re definitely in LLM nightmare territory here? Where was that café again? …..Oh yes, ELM St!

Now, strictly speaking of course, the grammar-savvy among you will know that these words of mine are actually neologisms (that is words that may be in the process of entering common use) rather than actual portmanteaux (plural as per French not portmanteaus as would be in English) because they haven’t actually entered the language yet. (Therefore, to be precise, you can say that I’m making some speculative forays into the world of neologisms rather than inventing actual portmanteaux.) However just as it’s a fine line between genius and madness so it’s also a fine line between neologism and portmanteau! A definitely blurred, but possible, final frontier between invention and reality.

I wonder if you’ve thought of portmanteaux as a kind of ‘final frontier’? Out there on the edge? Are you ready to boldly go where no blogger (linguist?) has gone before? Such an ‘enterprise’ would be quite a trek wouldn’t it? Lots of stuff to Chekov the list and some old stuff to Klingon to. Also you’d need to make sure with the doctor that your “bones” are the real McCoy. Still, no space to go into all that here. (See what I did there?) Remember, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard said to his daughter, “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now; makenow always the most precious time. Now will never come again” — (from the episode calledThe Inner Light). I’m just off to scan those transport suggestions again – “beam me up, Scotty!” (To the Starship Bloggerprise – of course).

But you can see how the language could develop? It’s exciting isn’t it? (Perhaps LLM could revisit her “Things to get excited about” mood before becoming too sporty? New items on menu in café perhaps?) And it’s happening right here! And you read it first here!

Now it’s over to you – perhaps you could have a think and post some of your suggestions in the comments. It would be great to see some readers’ inventions. I’m sure you can come up with some better efforts than mine. (I can speak to Messrs Chambers, Oxford, & Collins once we’ve collected our suggestions.) Let’s get on board the E.S.S. Bloggerpriseand take our language forward to that final frontier– together! (This entry – using the most recent calculation method – is from the Captain’s Log: Stardate 2012.178)