Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Greyness, the vegetation sinking into wetness and death

Old Grumpy, disdainful as ever in his smart tartan coat

When we walked back by the river yesterday, the word that came to mind was dank - clammy, misty, damp and dark also follows.  The weather is miserable in the sense that the sun is missing from the sky and we are covered by heavy clouds that leak a fine misty rain.  Pansies hang their heads in misery, fallen leaves lose their colour, is it depressing? not really this is British weather you become accustomed to it.
Dank is a Scandinavian word, middle english, wet, marshy ground, a pool, it flows as a word through the Scandinavian language in its wet form.  Our language follows the many times in history when we have been attacked by outside forces, the Romans, Saxons, Angles, Vikings and then the Normans, our language is a reminder of the mongrel nature of being British.
It is in evidence when we drive through villages with strange names,  latin will denote Norman overlordship, the manorial system; Saxon etmyology has a simplicity and more often or not is the name of a specific person's land.

This morning I came across an article by A.D. Mills, he has written a Dictionary of British Place Names, so if you were to look up Whitby his explanation would be thus; "White farmstead or village, or of a man called Hviti.  OScand. hviti" 1086.

 In actual fact Whitby had an earlier name The earliest record of a permanent settlement is in 656, when Streonshal, was the place where Oswy the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey, under the abbess, Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held there in 664. Wiki entry.....

The sea mists at Whitby are called frets, or so my daughter informs me

Scandinavian heritage in Essex,
British (Celtic) /Saxon heritage;


  1. How interesting. I love learning about words and their history. You are so right about the weather.

    Even my son commented on how miserable the weather was yesterday. 'All grey again, I see' when he came out of his room to go into town after days of being stuck in front of his computer wait to hear about his next job.

  2. I love learning the history of words. Here in the states the east coast has loads of English names, Dutch names and as you head south Spanish names. From Louisiana through the midwest we get French names as this is former French territory. And then out west it's Spanish again. And every where there are Indian names, and best of all names made up by locals.

  3. Hi Jarmara, Hope your son gets the job ;) The river Esk that reaches the sea at Whitby means 'water'..

    Hi Janet, America is such a big place, that I'm sure it would be impossible to write a book on place-names...