Landscape Words that Speak to Us
"We have forgotten 10,000 words for our landscapes, but we will make 10,000 more, given time and inclination." This statement was made by Robert Macfarlane, a leading nature writer who has been collecting unusual words for landscapes and natural phenomena. The extraordinary richness of the forgotten words from the English language is a clear indicator of our culture's disregard for the non-built environment, and the bankruptcy of the spiritual depths and sensual pleasures these words once afforded. They once belonged to the language of ordinary life experience. By contrast, the expansive poetry inferred by single words reveals the uninspiring banality of contemporary modes of speech.
Here are some examples:
Caochan is a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation
Feadan is a small stream running from a moorland lake
Fèith is a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat that is often dry in the summer
Rionnach maoim refers to the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day
èit refers to the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon to them in the late summer and autumn”
Eiscir is a ridge of glacial deposits marking the course of a river that flowed under the ice of the last glaciation.
Smeuse means the gap in the base of a hedge made by the passage of a small animal.
Ammil is a Devon term for the thin film of ice that lacquers all leaves, twigs and grass blades when a freeze follows a partial thaw, and that in sunlight can cause a whole landscape to glitter.
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