Shires and Such

Hello again. Here I am, sitting at my desk and working on my newly updated and fully functioning PC. Tra la la! But it wasn’t cheap. Anyway, I can access both my G-mail accounts now and the hard drive has had an upgrade that speeds it up a lot. So I’ve decided to give it a real test by posting tonight, something for my readers who love words and their etymology. I’ve been learning a few new ones myself.

I’ve been working my way through this book about the old Scottish and border kingdoms, from the earliest traceable Celtic people to the invading Roman legions, marauding Britons, Saxons, Jutes, Angles. There’s a lot of military history detailing all the cross-border warfare that went on amongst the kingdoms of northern England and all these invaders. I learned that Wales isn’t at all the local name; and they don’t refer to the rest of England as such. The Welsh word for England means “the lost lands.” With good reason!

He mentions well known figures like the victorious Authur — Moffat thinks he was a general rather than a king — and Merlin. He gives highlights of better-known Northumbrian rulers like Aedan, Aethelfrith, Edwin, Owen. He also details the expansion of the Catholic church in England. Thankfully the ancients weren’t illiterate and a few of them, such as the priest Bede, did set down the facts they’d seen or heard, so that a rough picture can be drawn.

The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms of Scotland by [Alistair Moffat]
This author has done a thorough research on his subject.

As I read, I learned the origin of the word SHERIFF. This was once two words: SHIRE REEVEthe administrator of a royal shire. According to Lexico the Old English word scirgerefa. is composed of the Old English scīr ;‘care, official charge, county’, Germanic in origin, and the OE refa. In English and Welsh counties, the SHERIFF is the chief executive officer of the Crown, having various administrative and judicial functions. Some English towns still have a SHERIFF, an honorary officer elected annually. In Scotland a SHERIFF is a judge.

Another thing I learned concerns the area where my ancestors came from: Penninghame in Gallowayshire. Ham is the old English word for home, the “ing” denoting beside. So Penninghame are the homes beside the Penn. If I knew the topography of southwest Scotland I’d know what that means. 🙂 And nearby KIRKCUDBRIGHT is named after St Cuthbert, famous missionary-monk and later leader of the early Northumbrian Church. Kirk is church, so, Saint Cuthbert’s Church. You need to hear a local pronounce the district name, Kirkcudbrightshire — I’ve been told it doesn’t sound anything like it’s spelled. 🙂

And that’s enough meandering in the murk of word origins. It’s great to be back at my old desk, though. Take care everyone.

8 thoughts on “Shires and Such

    1. I suppose Brits like yourself learned all this in childhood, but for me its a new fact. I thought of HAM as coming from Hamlet — and I guess that isn’t so far off, either. I now have a road map of England and will look that place up, 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So happy you got your computer back in better shape then before 🙂

    I, too, love the etymology of words. When we moved to Pennsylvania, we noticed how many towns/cities have the suffixes -burg, stead, ville, Some have more than one, like Plumsteadville. Also -shire, ham, and other familiar words denoting village, home, or town. Lots of place names like that all up and down the East Coast of the USA, where settlers wanted to bring their old homes with them as much as possible, i.e. New–Jersey, Hampshire. Names have meanings. Fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes, I guess it was wanting to make the new place “like home.” When we lived in Ontario we found it really that way. About every city in Europe and county in the UK have namesakes: London, Brussels, Dresden, Waterloo, Dundee, Essex, Ailsa Craig. Here in SK we have at least a few more native names like Saskatoon and Waskesiu.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Years ago, I taught a course on Minnesota history. So interesting, and sometimes funny, to study place names. My favorite is Embarrass, MN. In French, Embarras simply means “rapids” or fast-moving water, usually with obstacles. Also, St. Paul was originally known as “Pig’s Eye,” and I can’t remember the story behind that. I’ll have to look it up.

        Here in Pennsylvania, we have a town in Amish country called “Intercourse.” Several roads meet in the town, and that’s what the name references. Still.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yay on the working computer!
    It is fascinating to learn the origins of words and how they evolve over time. Can’t say I’ll remember all this but it’s enlightening as I read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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