It is wonderful to know that as well as the rocky remains of early people, monoliths, chambers, cairns and the traces of their homes, they have left us some words. It is commonly thought that a form of Welsh was the early language of Britain and that when invaders came the ‘English’ ran away to Wales taking their language with them. I’m sure people would have moved west, I’m sure they would have done anyway to fish the waters of Wales, and the seas, to farm the lush valleys and begin to exploit the minerals of the country… I’m sure too, that many tribes and families stayed behind, lived along side the newcomers, married them and adopted some of their new customs, practices and languages. I just can’t believe there was whole-sale flight from new arrivals, the land was just too big for a small population, there was space for all, surely?
I think from early times people must have traded and treatied and adopted new ways of making pots, forging metal, growing crops, worshipping gods and talking to each other. It seems a wonder that there are still traces of the language these earliest of dwellers here, would have used, but that is the wonder of English, it has adopted so much and yet remains uniquely itself part ancient tongues, part Celtic languages part Latin, part Germanic part Scandinavian, part French and spiced with words from the rest of the world.
Old place and geographical feature names retain, Comb, Dove, Stour Tame, as you might expect… but words in our every-day language are ancient too.
- basket – meaning a little wicker thing
- beak – meaning beak
- bin – meaning large carrier
- flannel meaning little woollen thing
- .gob – meaning mouth
- nook – meaning small hole