What Planet is This?

29 Jul 2005

Glisk o the Streamery Lift

Entry 334 in Roget's International Thesaurus is the synonyms for light. There are tons of them, far more than you'd think, especially of poetic terms. Jackson Mac Low once used many of them to great effect in his 9 Light Poems, and some of them were even invented in poetry, as for example "moonbeam" which first appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream (III.i, 173).

It's not just limited to English either. English's nearest relative, Scots, has many great poetic words for light, including glisk, a glint; fire-flaucht, a lightning bolt or meteor; and streamery lift, the aurora. Generally, the more common the phenomenon the more the synonyms, but even something like the Gegenschein, i.e. counterglow, has two by virtue of being loaned in.

The Gegenschein is an opposiant zodiacal shine, though not to be confused with the Zodiacal Light, that was discovered only in 1854 by Theodor Brorsen. Sir Patrick Moore wrote that he's only ever seen it once in Britain, in 1940 when the country was blacked out by air raids. Even the milky way is almost impossible to see these days if you live in an area with light pollution, something which is getting worse all the time. It's invisible to half of the citizens of the UK at least, and the aurora borealis is probably only spottable to few more.

Cite: Palmer, S.B. (2005). "Glisk o the Streamery Lift", in: What Planet is This?
Archival URI: http://inamidst.com/notes/streamerylift


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C'mon, Sean, you know better than that. Just because "moonbeam" is first recorded in print in MND doesn't mean Sh. invented it then and there. It's a straightforward compound that not unlikely has existed since OE times, though perhaps spontaneously reinvented many times (cf. "hussy", "hussif", "housewife").

John Cowan, Fri Jul 29 09:19:33 2005


Periodical essays on linguistics, history, and much more, from Shakespeare to post Romano-​British findings. Like Notes and Queries sans the queries and solely antiquarian disposition.

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