Monday, November 18, 2013

Hither and thither and morning coffee

click photo to enlarge
Though the language police would wish otherwise, language changes. Over time spelling and grammar are modified by use. New words are introduced, existing words take on new or additional meanings and old words are cast aside. I was thinking about this the other day when, in a slightly self-conscious manner, I used the phrase "hither and thither". These two words, both singly and in this pairing, are rarely heard today; they sound old-fashioned, the sort of language you'd come across in Shakespeare or in the novels and poetry of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The context for my use of the phrase was an explanation to someone that we'd been travelling about a lot in recent weeks and consequently much of my photography during this time had been done beyond the confines of Lincolnshire. As I uttered the phrase, I made a mental note to try and find out whether "hither and thither" was ever in widespread use and, if so, when it became replaced by "to this place and that" or, more colloquially, "here and there". A bit of research produced no satisfactory answer to the question. Most of what I discovered came from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and from that source I was interested to find the words had more meanings than I knew.

The word, "hither" has its origins and equivalents in Old English,Old Norse and the Germanic language. "To or towards this place" (now "here") is its principal meaning. However, it was also used to mean, "to, or or on this side of", "up to this point in time", "to this end" and "in this direction". A United States variant is, apparently, "Hither and yon" (or yond). The earliest recorded use of the phrase as I used it (though with somewhat different spelling), dates from the early A.D.700s. "Thither" has a similar lineage to hither, as does "whither" ("to what place" or "where").

One of our recent "hithers" (or was it a "thither") was London. Whilst there I visited the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and took this photograph of people taking morning coffee. The bird's-eye-view of the tables and chairs, the subtle colours and raking light that produced elongated shadows, appealed to me and so it became the subject of one of my better photographs taken at that location.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14.2mm (38mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On