My correspondents have included a Virginian hill-farmer, a Californian environmental lawyer, a 96-year-old lady from Lancashire, a lollipop-man, and an intensive-care nurse.
I knew, though, that there would be many more such words in existence: words made fragile by the passing of time and the changing of circumstance. I hoped that the publication of Landmarks would encourage people to share their words with me.
It did. In the year since Landmarks was published in hardback, I have been sent more than 4000 words by postcard, letter, email and tweet, sent from around the world. Along with the words have come books, stories, photographs, maps and memories. It has been one of the great surprises and privileges of my writing life to receive this correspondence.
Among the letters have been a poem written by a father for his daughter, combining place-names and bird-calls; a postcard carrying a list of English fishermen’s words for the watches of the night: light moon flood, light moon ebb, dark moon flood, dark moon ebb (which became a lyric that tided in my mind for days afterwards); and a weather-book of Orcadian wind-and-snow words, with a head of bog-cotton pressed between its pages.
My correspondents have included a Virginian hill-farmer, a Californian environmental lawyer, a man whose family had farmed the same land on the Isle of Wight for more than 600 years, a 96-year-old lady from Lancashire, a lollipop-man, and an intensive-care nurse. I am so grateful to the many hundreds of people who wrote to share their knowledge and stories.
The paperback edition of Landmarks, published this May, carries a new chapter describing the correspondence I’ve received, and the unexpected lives that the book’s ideas and words have lived since publication. It also includes a fresh glossary – the ‘Gift Glossary’ – containing 500 of the most memorable place-words I’ve been sent: from aime (‘shimmering air visible above the ground in hot weather’: Caithness) through bread-and-cheese (‘edible young spring shoots on a hawthorn hedge’, Cheshire), petrichor (literally stone essence: ‘the distinctive smell of rain in the air, sometimes detectable before rain has even begun to fall, and especially strong when the first rain falls after a long, hot, dry period of weather’), all the way to zebn-slaper (literally seven-sleeper, a Somerset term for a dormouse).