Sunday, 20 December 2009

An Odd Word

An overheard conversation the other day got me thinking about old words which have fallen out of general use, even within my lifetime. Writing on the subject of place names, I do come across some old terms for creatures with which wa are so familiar.

Many will already be aware of the halcyon being an alternative name for the kingfisher, it is still used by poets and, of course, gave us the phrase of 'halcyon days'. Often seen alongside motorways hunting its prey, the kestrel certainly merits its earlier name of windhover. The badger is invariably named 'brock' and yet to the Saxons broc was the word for a badger. However the fox, invariably named Reynard today, was tradtionally known as Tod. The Old English for a toad also meant a frog, while the eft is still used in crosswords as the alternative name for a newt. Regional words are manyfold. Around the borders between Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire I came across several references to a 'nicker' in place names. Although no longer in general use, until quite recently this was the regional name for a woodpecker. I did consider including the names of fish and insects, but discovered these are more numerous than anything.

As this will be my last post before the festive season, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours everything you would wish for yourselves.

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