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Letter to America: Naming of Parts On:2022-04-23 16:15:40

My Dear Americans,
    as Shakespeare once said, or more likely wrote for somebody else to say, "a nose by any other name would smell, so Romeo would were he not Romeo called" 1, or maybe I'm misremembering that line from our high school production of R & J (or was it Shakespeare in Luurrrve?) a line which I didn't have to learn anyway 'cause I played the hero, by which I mean Mercutio rather than that wet weed joint title character Whatshisname.
Good grief I've lost my place and I haven't even started yet, anyway where wasn't I? Oh! Yes! Names and not necessarily smelly ones. In fact I'd lost my place even BEFORE I'd started! I should have quoted Henry Reed rather than old Will Shagspag (whether in Luurrrve or not), so as Reed once wrote (and probably DID say himself) "For today we have naming of parts"2.
And since I am now dwelling in what I guess must be foreign parts to most of you, today we shall have naming of them. I don't mean just, "Well, it's the bloody UK innit?", I mean naming in depth, ab initio, REALLY naming.
The name of these, or at least this island might have been given as Πρεττανική (Prettanikē) by Πυθέας ὁ Μασσαλιώτης (Pytheas of Massalia) way back in the late fourth Century BC, only we can't check him because no one bothered to preserve his bloody books (and they didn't even have the excuse that they were from a Texas school board!) Luckily he was quoted, by Strabo and Pliny and lot's of other guys, so his ideas did survive (note that Texas school boards). Pytheas's is the first written mention of our name (or would be if it had survived). It is thought he might have been Greeking a Celtic word, something, possibly, like *Pretani which even possibly-er might mean something like 'the painted people' (as noted by Caesar some centuries later and of course central to that Ancient British Ladies' love song "Keep right on to the end of the woad"3)
After some time and vacillation between starting with a "P" or a "B" the Romans decided on Brit(t)an(n)ia with a "B", though for ages they couldn't figure out how many "T"s or "N"s it should have.
Then, not content to finally have a name (and in Latin too, for bonus points) the same place had a totally different name 'Albion', also from Celtic, which might mean 'white' (perhaps to make up for calling the inhabitants 'painted'? or more likely from those White Cliffs of Dover not, in all probability, that there was a Dover then).
Then, of course, we have "England" the name of the bit of *Pretani that I reside in, and often used for the whole island, either by synecdoche or more likely imperialism to the disgust and homicidal rage of the Scots and to a lesser extent the Welsh (and probably approval of the Northern Irelanders--at least the Proddy ones). This English name obviously comes from the Adventus Saxonum the 'Coming of the Saxons' and it's interesting to note that all those Celts use something actually derived from the name 'Saxon' as you would quickly discover if you told a Scot they lived in England and got the reply "Och! Ye Sassenach extremely-rude-word-that-couldn't-possibly-be-uttered-here" quite possibly followed by a Glesga kiss or a bunch o' wee heedies4.
Of course the only bit of Britain, Albion, England, or what-have-you that really matters to me (and therefor the only bit that should matter to you) is East Anglia, land of my birth. It was a great kingdom Ēastengla Rīċe from the days of Wehha in the sixth century through to the twentieth of November 869 when St Eadmund the Martyr was ...um... martyred by the mycel heaÞen here (‘The Great Heathen Army’). He was of course the Last True King and all the others since have been upstarts and pretenders, or even worse FOREIGNERS! They therefore don't count.
Anyway, the name 'East Anglia' survived the kingdom and even its two main divisions into Suðfolc and Norðfolc, the southern and northern peoples, which eventually become the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk. I live on the border between the two in Suffolk (and we NEVER mention those furriners across the River Waveney.
And finally the town I dwell in is Beccles possibly from:
Old English *Bece-laes (Meadow by the Stream), Celtic *Becc-Liss (Small-court) or even Latin Beata Ecclesia (Blessed Church), but no one really knows: it was called 'Becles' (without its full complement of 'C's) several times in the 1086 Domesday Book and that's good enough for me.
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me!




Notes:

1 And actually already used in an essay 'Name's in a What?' back in 2009.

2 Naming of Parts (1942)

Henry Reed

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.

3 By Sir Harry Lauder (1936)
"Keep right on to the end of the woad,
"Keep right on to the end,
"If the way be long, let your heart be strong,
"Keep right on round the bend."

4 The forehead of the giver rapidly applied to the nose of the receiver.
The knuckles of the fist, similarly utilised.




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