Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hearth, home and redundant words

click photo to enlarge
During my relatively short time on this planet I've seen words disappear from my everyday language. Take the word "aerodrome". This particularly British construction once described all the early "airfields" (a word still in use) and "airports" (today's preferred word for places with commercial flights), but is now never used except in an historical context. Or how about "palings" to describe a fence used as a boundary, and the origin of the phrase, "beyond the pale". Similarly, "petticoat" seems to have gone, not only because such full, trimmed undergarments are no longer the fashion, but also because "underskirt" replaced the word.

Looking at my photograph of the cottage at Monksthorpe Baptist Chapel, Linconshire, a building currently undergoing restoration, but still showing its old cast-iron fire with built-in ovens, it occurred to me that the word "hearth" is also becoming an endangered species. The ubiquity of central heating, gas fires and electric fires, has significantly reduced the number of open fireplaces burning wood or coal. Consequently the number of actual hearths is much fewer, and therefore the need for people to refer to the hearth is disappearing too. Phrases such as "hearth and home", and the idea of the hearth being the focal point of family life disappeared in the 1950s and 1960s, as television took over that role. And today, with the rise of computers, and other forms of entertainment and information delivery, the television is losing its place at the centre of things. Perhaps something new will come along that turns "television" into a word as antiquated as "wireless". If it draws families back together into a shared experience it will have served a useful purpose.

I took this photograph on my visit to the early eighteenth century Chapel that I have documented in another blog post here. The cottage is of an indeterminate date, but I would guess it's also eighteenth century, though the built-in stove is probably from the nineteenth century. I thought it made a good subject next to the litter of broken plaster and floor tiles, and black and white seemed to suit it better than colour.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 15mm (30mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds
ISO: 200
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On