Wednesday, 18 March 2009

South (Word Wednesday)

South is a word rich in associated meanings and various roots exist for this word.

South can be translated as meaning sun ward and this seems very appropriate really. During the day time, South is the easiest direction to find. Countries have areas they tend to refer to as the South and there is also an attitude that goes with Southerness somehow. A laidback holiday sort of an attitude....

In the UK there is a North South divide with the North being previously poorer and culturally lacking. Of course this was just snobbishness by the Southerners! The South is where the money and power of London sit, home of government, royalty and empire. Thing is most Northerners are more than happy to keep the North to themselves... With the South comes the Rat Race.

In the UK there is another region of southness beyond London and 'The South'. Cornwall, where I live, is further South by quite a long way and is the furthest South of all of the UK. It is generally termed as being part of the South West and to get here you have to go through the West Country which is part of 'The South'.

In Cornwall we are warmer than anywhere else in the UK even though we are also very wet because we stick out into the sea. Spring comes here first and winter doesn't ever really live here, it merely fights the odd battle for the occasional week or two. You can grow vines and tropical plants. The gardens of Cornwall are some of the most unusual in the country because here we can grow tropical plants that will grow nowhere else. We have seaside towns with palm trees.

This is the true South of the UK but not of England. Cornwall is one of the celtic nations of which there are six - Scotland, Wales, Ireland, The Isle of Mann, Brittany and Cornwall. As the Celts were pushed to the far corners of Europe during the Dark Ages, these are where Celtic blood remains strongest, although there are no 'pure' bloodlines in the UK. I myself and English but have Welsh and Scottish blood. F is Cornish but his surname is Pascoe (a very, very common one in Cornwall, a bit like Jones in Wales) and it is believed that this name started when a Spanish man from the Pasc ended up settling in Hayle many generations ago. Indeed many Cornish have a different look to those of many English people. Red hair is more common but many people have very dark complexions to.

Back to the sun ward attitude... There is always an attitude of Southerners being a bit soft, spoilt in the sun and easy growing conditions. I think some of this attitude is a hangover from colonial days when South meant the third world and a whole other hemisphere... In Cornish there is word Dreckly, which fools many an incomer, it doesn't mean directly it means whenever you get to it. If I say I shall do something dreckly, I may never actually get around to doing it...

Cornwall is laid back in a curious way and because so many come here on holiday and fall in love with it's beauty, many incomers move here, often for the wrong reasons. They want to live in this place, not in this community. Indeed, many find the community impossible to adjust to. Things get done via people you know and friends of friends and if you pluck a builder out of a phonebook and are in any way snotty to them, you won't get a good job done.

As someone from up country myself, I seem to have adjusted well enough to slide under the radar. Once I get around to organising my wedding and have the name Pascoe myself my Cornishness will never really come up but I shall never ever be Cornish. Just like those living in Britain but not of English descent are always British and not English. Other people never seem to settle and I can feel this attitude which would keep them apart bristling on them like a cloak, even though they are perfectly nice folk.

Is it the same in the Amercias? Is the Deep South as much an attitude as a place? I suspect it might be...

The south is often referred to as down and the north as up. There is a of course another 'down' where it is a wee bit hotter, Hell. Is there any connection? Some countries have connotations to south which mean paradise because the words for their heaven and South are similar. Indeed there is something to the Summerlands that implies South to. Could it be that South was the pagan direction of Summer and the Summerlands and that Christianity took this and twisted it as well?

Finally another root of the word South comes from Norse mythology where four dwarves stand on the cardinal directions and hold up the heavens. The dwarf who stands in the South is called Sudri.

No comments:

Post a Comment