Tags

, , , , , , ,

This is the next excerpt from Beatrice Allen Page’s unpublished manuscript, Landscape With Figures:

“A very soft, feathery, pocket-sized breeze has sprung up this morning. I wish I could think of another word for it. ‘Breeze’ has too sharp an edge: it should be reserved for small winds that are brisk and invigorating. As a matter of fact, on consulting the dictionary, I find that it was originally a nautical term deriving from a Spanish and Portuguese word meaning ‘northeast wind,’ and similar to an Italian word meaning ‘cold wind from the north.’

The only word I know for the kind of wind barely stirring the curtains now is ‘zephyr’ and that’s too poetic and affected for everyday use. Apparently the only way to get around the difficulty is to make a phrase: a ‘breath of air,’ for instance, or a ‘current of air,’ or a ‘tiny puff of wind.’

There is another word I feel is missing when I shift my eyes to the poplar down by the edge of the field. When a good breeze blows through them and the sun is shining on the leaves, they appear to twinkle. But when, as today, there are just little puffs of air stirring through them, the sunlight glinting and glancing off them is not quivery enough to be called a twinkle. I can’t think of any word that describes the rather indolent, intermittent gleaming.

In spite of the richness and flexibility of the English language, it lacks a number of needed words. Most of the new words that are added to the language are either technical or slang. Why do so few writers create new words? There is James Joyce, of course, but his neologisms were mostly made up of combinations of words or plays on words. Gerard Manly Hopkins created several words that admirably served their intended purpose – words like ‘inscape’ and ‘wanwood,’ for example – but they have never become part of general usage.

What is harder to understand is why we have let so many useful and onomatopoetic words fall into desuetude. For instance, the old New England word, ‘scoon,’ meaning to skim, sail or skip upon the water, from which ‘schooner’ presumably derives. Or ‘dornick,’ meaning a stone of a size suitable for throwing. And ‘springal,’ meaning an active youth. How better describe that appealingly gangly lad I saw on the beach early this morning, just looking for something to do, than as a springal searching for dornicks to throw in the water?”

Advertisements