28 September 2015

Words

Spindrift
Some words are pleasing to utter. They can have a mysterious or magical quality. Not so long ago I reflected on the word "hinterland" but now I am down by the sea. Yesterday, while listening to the radio, I was reminded of a lovely marine word - "spindrift". "Spindrift" is the foam that is whipped off the crests of waves during a gale. Though the word seems rather calm and homely, "spindrift" only occurs when the weather is wild and angry.

While mooching along the beach you may come across "flotsam and jetsam" - two more pleasant-sounding marine words. "Flotsam" is floating things lost from a boat but "jetsam" is stuff that was deliberately cast overboard or jettisoned into the sea. Every piece of flotsam and jetsam has a tale to tell even though it is further evidence of man's careless relationship with The Earth and its seas. Of course before ocean trade began there was no flotsam or jetsam. The terms are fairly modern - probably dating back to the seventeenth century.

Where the sea meets the land there is very often a strip of seashore that seems to belong neither to land or sea. Here there are strange seaside plants and perhaps nesting birds, pieces of driftwood and shells. Sometimes, in stormy weather, the sea may attempt to claim it just as land plants try to encroach upon  it in the growing season. This area is known as "the littoral". I love that word - "littoral" - never fixed, always subject to change - between the land and the sea. Haven't we all walked along "the littoral", humming songs or thinking secret thoughts poking around amidst the pebbles, the driftwood and those spiky maritime plants?
Samphire

And thinking of maritime plants with their various names - sweet vernal grass, sea cabbage, blackthorn and lizard orchids for example - you might come across "samphire" - another pleasant word to say. "Samphire" is an edible seaside plant that belongs to the parsley family and is sometimes referred to as "sea asparagus". Curiously, around the Dee estuary in Cheshire and North Wales it is often called "sampkin" but I like the word "samphire".

It is the kind of word that belongs in a poem, along with "spindrift". "flotsam and jetsam" and "littoral" - perhaps a poem that focuses mostly upon word sounds rather than intellectual probing or philosophical suggestion that aims to "plumb the depths". Sometimes, you only want the sound of words, like healing music in your head.

19 comments:

  1. Bum-hole spoken in a posh voice always makes me smile

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The sound of a bum hole can be like an elephant trumpeting hello,

      Delete
  2. You're having a Bill Bryson kind of day, getting high on words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah Jan, I just smoked a word joint,

      Delete
    2. ....and maybe another kind of joint too!!

      Delete
  3. Cleve interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is a Cleve? I bet it is a teacher word to to trick mere mortals.

      Delete
    2. I think that Red may have accidentally missed out an "r". We all make mistakes Madrian.

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. It hurts when you call me that Johnno!

      Delete
  5. Much rumination going on there...enough to raise one's interest.

    And my interest was captured at the first magnificent picture...I love the picture of the waves and the spindrift; it is also known as "spoondrift"...commonly known as "sea spray".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I am pleased that my focus on these marine words interested you Lee and that you haven't accused me of drug taking!

      Delete
  6. Some lovely gems of words there, Neil! Samphire is a great one, never heard it before. I am currently reading a book that was first published in the 19th century. The story is set on the Yorkshire coast, and there are many maritime terms in it which I have not come across before, or not often. Some are so descriptive they are self-explanatory, others I've had to look up.
    The waves picture is fantastic - looks solid, in spite of it being in ceaseless (and rather violent) motion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When we were on Mersea Island earlier this year I saw a sign that said "Samphire Pickers Will be Prosecuted". It is very much prized in certain restaurants these days.

      Delete
  7. In the U.S. samphire is known as "sea bean." But I like samphire much better.

    I like your ear for the sounds of words and their "exoticness." (Is that a word?!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Steve.
      "Exoticness" = of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized or acclimatized: exotic foods; exotic plants. strikingly unusual or strange in effect or appearance: an exotic hairstyle. of a uniquely new or experimental nature:

      Delete
  8. So pleased to have stumbled across this. I enjoyed the post itself, but love I it even more after having read the comments. No better mix than a lover of words with a sense of humor.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.