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We have had overnight what is, according to the Orkney Islanders, a skutch of snaa. It’s kuilan up, though, there’s skyelly apae the lift, and it’s tow-lowsin already. Oddly enough, a lot of these words derive from the Norse.  My syntax is probably askew in places which will happen when you plug words from another language into your own.


a skutch of snaa


in the back yard


and in the front yard






483px-Britain_peoples_circa_600.svgThe Orkney Islanders use “lift” for the atmosphere or sky, which is from the Old English (read “Anglo- Saxon”) word “lyft” — compare to the Modern German “luft.”  This is not really surprising. The “Saxon” part of that triple threat to Post-Roman Celtic Britain (Angles and Saxons and Jutes, oh my!) were originally a Germanic tribe, called “Saxon” because of the seax, a type of short sword or long knife which was their weapon of choice for wreaking havoc, which they were reputed to be very good at.  The Angli were another Germanic tribe from Angeln an area located on the Baltic shore of what is now Schleswig-Holstein in Germany.

482px-England_878.svgThe Angles, Saxons and Jutes displaced the Brythonic-speaking Celtic people into what are now Wales and Cornwall.  The land they appropriated eventually became known as Angleland and their language became Anglo-Saxon.  The Viking Danes muscled in and simplified the elaborate agglutinative grammatical structure into something a lot more streamlined and added a heaping tablespoon of vocabulary. Christianity added a dollop of Church Latin and William the Bastard added a dollop of Norman French (which already contained a soupçon of Old Norse).  Simmer the ingredients for another 600 years and voilà — Shakespeare.

English has a long history of accumulating vocabulary, which it seems to do more readily than any other language.  Even when we have multiple words for essentially the same thing — pig, cow and sheep (Anglo-Saxon for the animal) pork, beef and mutton (Norman French for the meat), dirt (Old Norse), soil (Anglo-Norman) and ground (Anglo-Saxon), sky (Old Norse), heaven (Anglo-Saxon), and firmament (Church Latin), — we keep them all and use them to create fine gradations of meaning and  precision of expression.

I can probably get away with using “a skutch of snaa.”  Although the Orkney Islands are technically part of Scotland, they are more Norse than Caledonian. Some of my ancestors are reputed to be from Sutherland (so called because, although it is on the norther coast of Scotland, it is south of Norway) and/or Caithness, again more Norse than Caledonian (I got my blue eyes and blond hair from somewhere), some came from Scotland by way of Ulster and Georgia, some came from England (the law of averages would be in favor of there being some Dane, Norse or Saxon in that mix, any of whom were noted for blond hair and blue eyes).  One way and another, there’s Norse in my heritage somewhere.

Aged 1 and 4Both my parents had light hair as children, which darkened as they aged to a dark brown (my dad had very dark brown hair, mom’s was a medium brown before she became a suicide blond*), but my brother and I were tow-headed as children, stayed blonder much longer than they did, and our hair never got as dark as either of our parents, remaining a light brownish blond until it turned grey (that’s “grey” spelled w-h-i-t-e). (Can you tell I played outside a lot?)


Exactly as it comes out of the follicle

Dark hair tends to grey before it whitens. Lighter hair tends to skip grey and go straight to white, especially blond hair. (I know this from personal experience.) My paternal grandmother (Windom-Lee) was blue eyed and, based on old photographs, had completely white hair by the early 1940’s. If my mom had known anything about heredity, she would have known that my dad’s eyes were a heterozygous brown.  Since brown is a dominant trait and blue is a recessive trait, my homozygously blue eyed mom (“it takes two to make blue“)  had a 50:50 chance of having a brown eyed child, which she wanted.  The odds were not in her favor, alas.  Both her children were blue-eyed and blond-haired.

IMG_1170IMG_1173When I went outside to take  pictures and check the mail, the Canada geese were coming honking back in long skeins to “roost” for the night at the playa lake down the street.   And the big yellow feral tomcat whose territory includes my house was hunkered down in the junipers.  Me being me, I went back in the house and got a handful of cat food and put it down by the junipers where he’s sure to find it. IMG_1174The geese brought to mind the lyric “Geese in flight and dogs that bite” from the song “Carolina in My Mind” written and sung by Ol’ Mud Slide Slim himself, James Taylor, which is a personal favorite and a good place to stop.

*dyed by her own hand.