The Year of Words: Day 362 - The oldest word to date.


The preantipenultimate offering for the year of words and two very old words - one of which is making a come-back.

A Celtic Briton word

Starting with the ancient offering which is by my reckoning, the oldest word we've had in the series so far.

If you've ever heard an expression about 'the quick and the dead' then this is the cwic to which they were referring.

Cwic simply means living or alive and was prevalent in Anglo-Saxon English. It's believed to have been a continuation of cwicen being a Celtic Briton word in origin,

So cwic (still used in religious services and biblical readings though usually misspelled as quick) dates back at least 1600 years and may well predate even that time by another half a millennium. A lovely word to use knowing its history.

Anglo Saxon England is also quite relevant for the sixth day of Christmas being the feast day of St Egwin of Worcester (or Evesham). A Benedictine monk and later bishop of Worcester in the UK. The patron saint of widows and orphans. Happy St Egwin's Day.

While we're examining words cast your mind back to the carol. The sixth day would bring six geese a laying. However, the west country and French versions may give a different take on the previous two day's gifts.

Four calling birds appear in early written versions as four colly birds, colly being an adjective meaning as black as coal. So four calling birds may well have been four blackbirds. Those incongruous and overly generous five gold rings may also have a different origin.

Golden Pheasant

The Golden Pheasant was certainly known in Elizabethan England due to trade along the spice routes. It may explain why west country dialect (Somerset/Devon) has a name for pheasants - a goldring. European pheasants do have a ringed collar of white feathers.

Given the fashion for eating a wide variety of birds at Christmas, it may be quite possible that blackbirds and pheasant were subsequently morphed into calling birds and five gold rings - an interesting possibility.

Turning to the new offering in today's words, this has been around since at least the 1700's. However, it's what in pop music might be referred to as a re-entry at number 362. Having become archaic in the early 1900s the word had been removed from mainstream dictionaries by the first world war.

Gradually, it has crept back into use not least of which through the rise in popularity of logophilic oddities (strange words). So after an absence of half a century, the OED returned it to their extended dictionary in 2020.

Lunchtime in Lacock

We made a quick visit to Lacock today,

It's less than half an hour away and is known from just about any period drama the BBC has made over the past twenty years.

It's about the only time of year its worth going as the rest of the time its even more mobbed with tourists than this picture suggests. This was a bit of opportunism and a crafty camera angle, in fact the place was pretty packed. Still it made a break for the day and Vaughan got to see the Abbey and learn a little bit about Fox-Talbot and the early days of photography. Quite a good exhibition of astronomical photography above the museum. All in all well worth the visit over.

Will we be here? Who can say?

Having had our New Years Eve event cancelled last week, it could well be a quiet evening at the Acreage which will be fine and dandy if that's what transpires.

We are at the top of the cancellation list for one of our favourite local restaurants and their 12 course menu.

Knowing how good their food is, my taste buds are keen to take up any last minute cancellation. Knowing how good their food is, my waistline and body mass index is less committed to the idea. Wherever we end up it'll be an enjoyable evening and I won't be sorry to see the back of 2021. Let's hope that we reach a point where we can return to more normal times and learn to adapt to a virus that looks like it's going to be part of the infection scenery for some time to come. Hopefully, it may evolve to a point where it can be managed more like seasonal flu.



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