Thursday, July 05, 2012

Eau, the confusion

click photo to enlarge
"A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."
Alexander Pope (1688-1744), English poet

A few years ago I read some research indicating that the further you go with formal learning the unhappier you are likely to become. Learning, the authors suggested, was characterised by an upward payback curve that stopped after a first degree and thereafter went downwards. If this is true then Pope's observation isn't entirely accurate - at least as far as happiness goes.

One could argue that it isn't true anyway because a little learning - if it is presented to the student well - is a catalyst for further self-directed learning that continues throughout life, and far from being dangerous, is life enhancing. The problem is that much education doesn't achieve this goal. It used to be a characteristic of English primary education. However, the introduction of the dead hand of the National Curriculum and the utilitarian and market demands placed on the already moribund secondary and higher education put paid to that.

Pope's famous lines and education in general came to mind when I looked at my semi-abstract photograph of Bourne Eau, a stream that runs through the town of Bourne in Lincolnshire. The word "Eau" is, today, usually pronounced like the French word for water that has the same spelling. However, this is, in the words of "A Dictionary of Lincolnshire Place-Names", "a spurious Frenchified form" of "ea" (prononounced as in "bead"), a word deriving from the Old English for a river or stream that was variously written as ea, eay, ei, ee etc. The spelling "eau" and the current pronunciation has come into use, presumably, due to the "little learning" of French in English schools that has been common for seventy or so years. The old, original pronunciation clings on in some parts of the county and with some older speakers. One wonders for how long.

It's often said that a successful photograph immediately indicates its subject to the viewer. However, this aphorism, like all such sayings, is subject to exceptions. Confusion can be an appealing quality in a photograph, with the subject not immediately apparent, and the component parts of the image requiring study for the viewer to make sense of what is seen. It was those features that I noticed in this watery scene.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 640
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On