Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Quite literal folk

My brother has just come back from a delightful weekend in Bath. He makes the point that English literalism was there from the beginning.

The English, in Anglo-Saxon guise, moved into Aquae Sulis in the 6th century, in the wake of the defeat of King Arthur, as legend has it. The town's name translates as Spa of the Goddess Sulis, a Romano-British mother goddess, nurturing as well as potentially vengeful. She has some of the attributes of Minerva, being associated with poetry, wisdom and music. An evocative name then, freighted with mystical significance for the town's Celtic inhabitants.

Anyway, the English move in. What shall we call it lads? Look, there are some big, old baths over there. OK, how about 'Bath' then? Job done.

The English? Literal, unimaginative, stolid, stodgy, boring? Not completely. But, they'd surely be akin to sea-going Germans (Baden-Baden anyone?) if it weren't for the dash of Celtic inspiration that is graciously dispensed from time to time.

4 comments:

Hey Skipper said...

The English? Literal, unimaginative, stolid, stodgy, boring? Not completely.

Completely incompletely.

Gaw said...

Excellent Skip! But I feel whist comical most of the names are quite literal. Not many exotic goddesses seem to feature.

worm said...

Poor German, a sadly maligned language! The funny thing about german is that it's literal-ness can lead to surprisingly poetic and pretty descriptions. A light bulb in german is Gl├╝hbirne - literally a 'glowing pear' - which I think is much nicer than 'light bulb'!!!!

Gaw said...

A glowing pear brings all sorts of lovely images to mind.