hidden europe 54

Wordcraft: A Wander through the World of Words

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: photo © Robsonphoto2011 / dreamstime.com


New Nature Writing may not be so new after all. But it taps a vein of nostalgia, reasserting aspects of landscape and nature from which we have become detached by modernity. Whatever its history, a new cadre of nature writers are doing much to revitalise travel writing. It is part of a wider movement to rewild the English language.

Rewilding is suddenly very much in fashion. Across the Atlantic, rewilding advocates are championing projects that range from supporting Mexican wolves to protecting the historic sacred lands of native peoples in the Desert Southwest of the United States. In Britain, George Monbiot’s groundbreaking book Feral spurred debates on the management of British uplands with some calling for the reintroduction of wild cats. But the most conspicuous and widespread rewilding of this decade has not been in landscape at all. It has rather been in language.

Since the inception of hidden europe, this magazine has been characterised by close attention to language and a particular approach to landscape. We have focused on the details of a scene, rather than on the broad sweep of a panorama. We have always tried to be specific when it comes to descriptions, be it a matter of ecclesiastical architecture, geomorphology or flora and fauna. Wild tarragon growing on a disused railway platform is, let’s face it, more interesting than just weeds. And a red-throated diver evokes more than merely a bird.

Ten years ago, we were quite proud of the fact that we knew the difference between a blackberry ( Rubus fruticosus) and a BlackBerry (Telephonium portabile ). But now our prowess with words has been entirely eclipsed by a new generation of selfstyled nature writers who have a thousand terms for everything squirreled away in their word hoard.

So a hole in a hedge made by an animal may be a smeuse, a smout or even a lunkie. No longer are there simply icicles, but rather snipes, tankles, shuckles and aquabobs. All four words evidently have some currency in parts of England where, once every few decades, it gets cold enough for a tankle to develop.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 54.
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