Pirr, a light breath of wind, a cat’s paw on water

Robert-McFarlane

This is a book about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. […]

The ten following chapters explore writing so fierce in its focus that it can change the vision of its readers for good in both senses. […] A book that brilliantly shows how such seeing might occur in language, written as it is in prose that has ‘the quivering intensity of an arrow thudding into a tree’. And for over a decade I have been collecting place words as I have found them gleaned singly from conversations, correspondences or books, and jotted down in journals or on slips of paper. […]

Many of these terms have mingled oddness and familiarity in the manner that Freud calls uncanny: peculiar in their particularity, but recognizable in that they name something conceivable, if not instantly locatable. Ammil is a Devon term for the fine film of silver ice that coats leaves, twigs and grass when freeze follows thaw, a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name. Shetlandic has a word, af’ rug, for the ‘reflex of a wave after it has struck the shore’; another, pirr, meaning ‘a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water’; and another, klett, for a ‘a low-lying earth-fast rock on the seashore’. On Exmoor, zwer is the onomatopoeic term for the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight. […]

There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo – or to which silence is by far the best response. Nature does not name itself. Granite does not self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. Sometimes on the top of a mountain I just say, ‘Wow.’

~ Robert Macfarlane, from Chapter 1: “The Word-Hoard” in Landmarks


Note: Portrait –  Wharfedaleobserver

Comments

  1. As you know, I adore words, so this delights me, DK. It also reminds me that you haven’t done any of your ‘cool, unusual word posts’ of late. Just sayin’….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The echo chamber f words that sound as they should…onomatopoeia at its best

    Liked by 1 person

  3. like donna, i love language, words and letters as well. to me, this is all word porn and so wonderful –

    Like

  4. “Wow” is sometimes all you need.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘the quivering intensity of an arrow thudding into a tree’, love that.
    And a fugitive phenomenon!
    What’s interesting is that most of the words he’s talking about come from other languages. Reminds me of Zefeer. Not sure I spelled right, a slight wind. In three other languages its the word for ‘exhale’.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “And for over a decade I have been collecting place words as I have found them gleaned singly from conversations, correspondences or books, and jotted down in journals or on slips of paper. […]” <<< I do this, though not for decades…I have plans to write down the words when I get to a pen and paper…that doesn't always happen…I have many book pages dog eared, in remembrance of words, phrases, impressions or the author's thoughts, I need to go back to and commit to paper those words that sparked… I am not always organized, so as to the wind the, serendipitous gift of words are scattered, having been exposed perhaps they'll blow back across my minds landscape? /// "There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo – or to which silence is by far the best response." The silent, Breathtaking Awe when surveying the overwhelm of the grandeur while overlooking the Grand Canyon, the Magnificence of The Tetons mountain range in front of me while brushing my teeth outside, gazing, committing to memory,the moment… My favorite Oak tree, my favorite Fir tree in the woods when the leaves are ablaze with colored and falling, the sunset last night and the sunrise this morning…the internal Joy of Gratitude for the gift of sight, and what I am gifted with, along my journey…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. These words are all wonderful, but what’s the good of them if no one knows what they mean? Imagine if you used about ten of these words in a paragraph. Some people would think you were writing in a foreign language. A beautiful language, but a reading puzzle just the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fascinating. Now to find words that express my amazement at these words…

    Like

  9. On words…”One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”
    Hart Crane

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m a word nerd so I just totally love this!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. wow–I would like to join the word nerd club–whenever I write about words in my column I always get wonderful feedback–word nerds unite!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think we are a club of word-lovers.

    Liked by 1 person

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