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ST. MARGARET’S CAROL SERVICE

Many of you will remember our carol service last year. Our little church was packed. The sight and sound of over 100 happy people enthusiastically singing popular carols, accompanied by Val Jones on our magnificent old organ, and then quietly listening to the story of the birth of Jesus was just fantastic.
I was at the door giving everybody a song sheet as they came in to the church, so I was privileged to see so many people meeting old friends, and exchanging handshakes and hugs. This is all part of the special Christmas spirit, and it certainly contributed to the wonderful atmosphere that was in the church that night.

It’s the tradition at St. Margaret’s Carol Service to offer hot mulled wine (or fruit juice) together mince pies to enjoy before we start singing, and afterwards, if there’s any left. Last year, the number of people that came far exceeded our expectations and we ran out of mulled wine; this year we will do our best to make sure that everyone gets at least one cup.

Once again St. Margaret’s will be dressed to impress. There will be lovely flower arrangements, together with holly and berries along the window sills. Beneath the east window, which depicts the figure of St. Margaret, will be the traditional Christmas tree, covered in twinkling lights. If you would like to come along and help decorate the church, you’ll be made very welcome, just ’phone Pat Legerton on 01727 822157. If you are not sure about flower arranging, but would still like to be involved, then maybe you’d like to be one of the readers, or make some mince pies, again let Pat know, and she’ll make a note of your interest. Of course if you just want to come along on the night and enjoy yourself, then that’s absolutely fine.

Our Carol service will start at 6.30 on Sunday 17th. December. Many visitors are pleasantly surprised when they see our beautiful little church floodlit against a dark winter’s sky. You might want to come along a little earlier and have a look around the church interior.

So, if you fancy a pleasant evening singing traditional carols, in a beautiful country church, then St. Margaret’s Ridge at 6.30 on Sunday 17th December really is the place to be.

Doug Ryan

WORDS, IDLE WORDS

In Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”, the second of the Alice books, in Chapter Six, we meet Humpty Dumpty. He immediately plays word games with Alice. At one point he says, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” He is the Oxford Don who specialises in linguistic philosophy. In fact most of Carroll’s characters are Oxford Dons who specialise in one sort of philosophy or another. Queen Victoria, enchanted by “Alice in Wonderland” commanded Carroll to send her a copy of his next book. This turned out to be a rather abstruse treatise on some aspect of mathematics. She was not amused.

Words are fascinating. While we can’t all lay claim to making them mean just what we choose (though most politicians seem to have that black art), it is fun to see how they have changed their meaning over time, and between related languages.

For instance there’s a word In German which means “blessed”: “selig”. It probably meant much the same when the Saxons (or perhaps the Angles) brought it to England. Geoffrey Chaucer, writing in about 1386, the year in which Henry Frowyke was buried before the altar in St. Giles, refers to the “silly sheep”, meaning “blessed” or “peaceful”. But we now call people silly with a much more unkind meaning. Mind you, those who were short of a bob or two (to use a totally non-PC phrase) were often considered in times past to be “blessed”, or under God’s special care.

As well as German, we also have a lot of French (or at least Norman French) words in our language. Consider the words for the meat we eat (if we aren’t vegan). The Normans, who came over in 1066 and stayed long after their holiday permit had expired, ate “porc” (pork), while the Saxon country folk herded swine (German “schwein”). The Normans ate mutton (“mouton”) while their Saxon shepherds herded sheep (German “schaf”). The Normans lived in “villages” while the Saxons lived in a hamlet, i.e. a small home or “heim”. So our language represents the waves of invasions that have come to the British Isles.

Not only did our invaders bring words, but we, as invaders (or traders) elsewhere, came home, especially from India, with words to enrich our language, such as “bungalow”, “chutney”, “jungle”, “loot”, “pyjamas” and “shampoo”.

Words also get altered over time in the way we say them. There’s the word “parson”. In the eighteenth century the word “person” was pronounced with an “ar” sound, so the Vicar in charge of a parish was one of the most important “parsons” in the village. Even today you can hear people with affectedly “posh” language pronouncing the “er” vowel as an “ar”, e.g. “I’m ebsolutely sartain” (= absolutely certain).

We were taught at school to avoid the word “nice”, because it was so debased and meaningless. But its earlier meaning was “precise” or “neat”, and then ”pretty”. Indeed legal people may still refer to a finely balanced argument between two opposing points of view as “a nice point”. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology, this originally meant “stupid” or “foolish”, and then “fastidious” or “dainty”. From this it came to mean “difficult to decide” or “subtle”. The “dainty” meaning evolved into “agreeable” or “pleasing”, and so to its present meaning as a word for general approval, almost, now, devoid of meaning.

As we know, America and the UK are two countries divided by a single language. When English settlers arrived there around 1600 they spoke the English of William Shakespeare’s time, and some words we have now dropped remain in use across the Atlantic. Like “gotten” for “got”. More recently the Americans have taken to making words seem more important: “presently” for “now”. Actually in English English “presently” means “soon” – or it did until we all thought it smart to talk like Americans!

As for what the former US President George W. Bush did with words…! You may remember him stating firmly that the French had no word for “entrepreneur”. He also invented words, like “misunderestimate”, or he used words with one meaning to say something completely different, such as “disassemble”, meaning “to avoid the truth “ or “dissemble”.

So the idea of “idle words” is pretty misleading. They seem to work very hard, as Humpty Dumpty said!

William Marsterson