Have you any idea why in America they call the pavement …”the sidewalk” while we might at times make do with “the footpath” ? This kind of thing fascinates me .What about the word “yogurt”? I was making a litre of plain yogurt just now.Sometimes I get it right and sometimes if I’m not patient with it, I’ll get curds and whey instead.In any case it’s always handy to have some in the fridge for a breakfast change with some fruit or for making a raita to cool down a hot curry .It’s easy enough to make a pint or two for the same price as milk. While I was waiting for the milk to cool I was thinking about the word “yogurt”.You might know that the word is Turkish in origin ,”Yog” meaning to condense or intensify.That’s pretty much what happens when you make milk into the magical stuff.Turkey….eh?
There’s that possibility that you may have just finished snedding turnips or digging purties and on your way haim you might be afeard of the look of a young reckless blade or a backeb article standing there blocking your way. . You might birl around with your fadge tucked under your oxter or slip on the glar or the glit and heel up while some silly gorb gulders across the road while hanching at a burger dripping with sauce . He’ll think it a great handlin to see you slip and make a hash of crossing the street.As you hirple away with a hudderin stagger, you might think that the skitter was in need of a right skelp.
You might even watch the koboy kiffling and footering as he kugs the juices off his chin and think him a leazey latchiko or maybe, him a wee bit light and wish you could loodher the meely mudha and melder him one around the ears.Then you mind the mizzle and decide that the pahal with a head on him like a pake wasn’t worth a bowl of panadey anyway….besides …the stoor of that awful burger was already turning your stomach.
You might pigh and decide that the havirl looked like he was more in need of a physick and decide that the quah was only a ramiss merchant anyway and hardly worth a hogo rift.You might scobe your heid and hit him a skelp and set off home before this skift got any heavier and it began to really teem . Better to set off up the spink before that bloody spulpin said another word.He’d always be a thickward anyway. The world would look much better after a good bowl of stirabout, anyway , you finally decided…..
Now all of the above might sound like something out of Anthony Burgess’s book “A Clockwork Orange”, the language of the “story”,seeming to be either made up ,or completely nonsenical. Burgess wrote his book , partially ,in a Russian-influenced argot , which he called “Nadsat”and set it in a near-future timeframe where he supposed the language would approximate the speech of that time.
The piece that I’ve written above above uses many words that were the norm only a generation or two ago here in Norneverland and in fact , many still feature in our everyday speech in parts of this magical land.We still rattle many of them off without realising or even thinking about their provenance.I can remember my mother always called porridge “stirabout” and I still tease my grandchild with it when playing “aeroplanes” while feeding her .People will still be called “right kowboys”….All the words used above are very real words and their origins derive from Olde English, Dutch, German, the Norsemen of Vikings fame , Gaelic- Irish and Scots- Gaelic. Many have been bastardised , of course, and were adjusted and misspelt or re-jigged to suit local usage . The language has been ever-evolving just like the land and the people.
Americans use the word “sidewalk” instead of “pavement” or “footpath”, which the rest of the world seems to have adopted. They have their own reasons for doing this and no one would think of suddenly changing a word which actually offers a better description of the usage and utility than the other two words , but apparently “sidewalk” has older origins way back in a form of the old English tongue.They even call the peculiar new language that Americans use , “American English”, what with its “center”, it’s “color” and its “jail” and so on.
The Vikings seem to have had a big influence on the Irish language, especially in relation to sea-faring terms.They were a sea-faring nation ,just as the Irish were an island race ,after all. Some Irish words reflect their Norse origins.Irish words for fish such as “cod”,boat “bad”, anchor “anchaire” are all Viking words. The word for market “margadh” or the word for penny “pinginn” similarly came with our Norse visitors.I wonder how today’s visitors and settlers will eventually effect our speech patterns and language .
Only a generation ago very few in Norneverland would have known what yogurt was….the word or the substance. Never mind it s ancient origins with the pre-Christian goatherds ,in the land now called Turkey, a century or probably much longer ,before Christ ever existed …I can still remember being asked when I opened a small carton with my lunch , while sitting with some workmates years ago. Yogurt had a very low profile forty, fifty or sixty years back and it was a Swiss firm called “Ski”( naturally enough) who first tried marketing it as a dessert item in some UK shops in 1963.There were no supermakets to speak of so a few years later in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s it was really introduced to Ireland and the UK by health-food hippies of the time .It came with the cult for natural and organic foods… wholefoods, macrobiotic diets, vegan,tofu , vegetarianism and all the rest.
The first time I saw yogurt in its natural state was in the very early 1970’s in the Vondelpark outside Amsterdam .I was hitch- hiking from Belgium up through Holland ,and Germany to Denmark. The city was a hive of counter-cultural activity then and Dutch hippies were making and selling it as a health-food at the free rock concerts held in the park at weekends . They were adding fresh fruit, nuts and grains to pint pots of the stuff.”The Whole Earth Catalog”(SIC) showed how easily the stuff could be cheaply made in large quantities by heating milk and adding cultures to continue the process from one batch to the next. It wasn’t too long before Big Business figured out there was money to be made from simple milk by charging more money than it was actually worth and selling it in tiny containers as a super-food.Then the yogurt revolution took off.Today “yogurt” is seen as a “probiotic”super cure- all and is marketed with all sorts of health-bestowing properties …with a substantial price -hike to match. It’s funny how something so simple can enter the language as though it had always existed in popular culture.It’s really relatively recent here.
My fellow -workmates wouldn’t have known what the names of many foods were back then because they weren’t popularly on sale as they are now.Most, wouldn’t have known what a chapati or a carbonara was back then either , or vermicelli, penne or fusilli pasta , yet these are everyday items on our supermarket shelves today and appear regularly on household menus .People just hadn’t been exposed to them yet.My grand-daughter’s current favourite is something she calls “Pitty Pattys” which is warmed pitta bread with a melted cheese filling.As children , we wouldn’t have known what a pitta was.
Language is indeed a funny old thing , when you think about it. Like the cultures in yogurt ,It just never seems to stops evolving and growing.