Thursday, November 16, 2006

On the prom

click photo to enlarge
English is a promiscuous language. It will get into bed with anyone it fancies! But for all that it shows a touching constancy. Appropriated words are rarely used then callously discarded. They usually snuggle down in the language and enjoy a long-lasting relationship.

Take the word "beck". Now to some people this word denotes a popular Kansas-born singer and sometime collaborator with Jack White. But to people in rural north-west England the word means a stream. And it has done so for centuries. The word comes from the Old Norse "bekkr" meaning stream, and was introduced by Scandinavian invaders, probably in the late 700s AD. Or how about "bungalow", a (usually) single storey house, found throughout the land, and much favoured by retired people. It was originally a Hindi word, "bangla", meaning "of Bengal", but also describing a single storey dwelling, and was brought to this country by early travellers and colonists. It was first noted in the seventeenth century. The word "promenade" is known to the French, and to anyone who has learnt that language, as the word for "walk". But in England it commonly uses a French variation meaning "to take the air", and is applied to the wide, purpose-made path overlooking the sea.

My photograph shows the promenade and sea-wall at Cleveleys, Lancashire. The tide is out, the rain has stopped, and the weak November sun is drying the concrete. In the hazy distance is Blackpool. The serpentine curves of the sea-wall was the feature that drew me into this shot, and I used a long focal length lens to emphasise them. I waited for a few people to appear in the frame on the "prom". Their silhouettes seemed to add necessary dark points to which the eye is led by both the curve and stepping of the wall. The image looked best in black and white because it stressed the strong lines in the composition. But more than that, it got ride of the green lichen and weed covering the wall!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen