The Churchyard

This is the Churchyard where Patrick is buried. It’s only a few minutes walk from the house, so I go there quite often, but I don’t feel that Patrick’s spirit is particularly around his grave – I feel him around me and around the house and garden rather than where his ashes are buried. As you can see, the graveyard is beautiful, and the spring flowers – mostly yellow- are wonderfully exuberant and give promise of light and sunshine to come. I find it very moving to see this new life among the graves, and feel that it is a vivid expression of how life and death revolve in a continuous circle.

The words “churchyard” and “graveyard” got me musing about the word “yard”. Today, in the UK, a “yard” denotes a paved or concreted area which is enclosed, and it most certainly does not conjure up an image of flowers and trees. But presumably, in times gone by, a “yard” did not have this rather urban connotation, which is why we have “churchyards.” I suspect that the original meaning of “yard” – an enclosed space of any type – has been lost in the UK but retained in the US. So Americans have their backyards, while we in the UK have back gardens. In this respect, American English is nearer to its roots than British English. Likewise, some academics think that the pronunciation of East coast Americans is more akin to the way that Shakespeare and his contemporaries spoke than contemporary English received pronunciation.

I love the way that language changes and develops new meanings and new spellings, and English seems particularly fluid because there is no committee deciding what is “correct” as there is for French or Spanish, say. “Realise,” for example, often used to be spelt with a z in Britain, and it is still spelt with a z in the US. Now, increasingly, the American spelling is becoming more common in the UK again. The z flew over the Atlantic and is now making its way back! I suppose that the internet is making language change more rapidly than ever. I am certainly aware that the way I speak today is very different from how I spoke 50 years ago. But then how I live is different too. Only the churchyard seems timeless.

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