Friday, 13 November 2009

On saying 'yew' around Christmas time...

Issue 49: December/January 2007

I was out walking the cliffs with my family the other day.

It was one of those sunny, yet cold and blustery, afternoons where walking is such a pleasure especially the more if there’s a pint of real ale at the end of it.

Anyway, it was a busy afternoon for walking and the cliffs were full of Sunday walkers, many I suspected taking a stroll after a good roast. The fierce Atlantic breakers set the whole sea in motion with an exhilarating swell and the crashing of the waves on the rocks far below added a fresh excitement to the occasion.

It’s a very British thing to greet everyone who you pass when out walking.

Strangers pass pleasantries on the cliff tops in way that would never happen in a town. If you walked down Camden High Street in London on a Sunday afternoon wishing everyone a ‘good day’, I wonder what sort of trouble you would end up in.

Now, my walking companions always say ‘Afternoon’ or ‘Good Day’ as a formal walking greeting; terms that I gladly avoid. Of course it is the afternoon, I don’t need to remind people and just because I say ‘good day’ it might not mean the person coming the other way has the same feeling about the day so far.

Someone once said to me ‘like Russia isn’t it?’ I looked around Rinsey Head where I was walking at the time and thought ‘it might be cold but this is Cornwall and it looks nothing like Russia, what on earth are you talking about?’

I always say ‘yew’ (when you pronounce it, it rhymes with shrew). It’s a Cornish expression and I’m not sure if it translates into English. What I take ‘yew’ to mean is ‘how is it going? I’m not having a bad day, how about you?’.

It’s a word that says quite a lot really. It is also a very flexible word and can be used in many social situations.

Now most people I meet on the cliffs walking these days don’t seem to know what it means. I get a few bewildered looks, occasionally someone might say ‘what me?’ to which I just look down and shake my head.

Yet then, every so often someone will reply back with a hearty ‘Yew’ or ‘Yea, not bad’. It really is a great greeting and one which Cornish people will be saying the world over at Christmas and New Year.

Saying ‘yew’ always brings a smile to my face. It’s one of those words that has to be said with a smile; the word seems to make the lips form a grin. This is another reason why ‘yew’ is a word that we should be spreading throughout the world.

So when out walking next, forget all those ‘nice day’ exclamations and give a good hearty ‘yew’. You’ll feel much better for it and it will soon catch on.
Oh, and ‘tis the season of goodwill so I better round off on a seasonal note.

Spread a little Cornish love this Christmas, embrace your neighbours and remain positive in all you say and do (and then keep it up for the next 12 months).

Thank you for reading Cornish World in 2006, expect more of the same but more and better in 2007.

Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da (or phonetically nah-DEH-leek LO-wen hah BBLIH-dhen LO-wen if you want to impress/confuse the neighbours).
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Nigel Pengelly


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