Friday, 31 October 2014
Vindauga Or Fenester
A window, when you look into it, is more complicated than you might first imagine.
"Window" is derived from the Old Norse vindauga, which itself is derived from vindr, meaning wind, and auga, meaning an eye. So it's an eye or opening that lets the wind in. The word window has been around since about 1200 AD, before that we spoke of the eagduru.
We are apparently at odds with most other Germanic languages which have adopted variations of the Latin fenestra for window, such as the French fenetre or the German Fenster.
Up until the middle of the sixteenth century we had one of those words too; "fenester" and "window" were used interchangeably. Some scholars believe that "fenester" was used to denote a glazed window while a "window" was merely a hole in the wall. If so, then surely fenester would have been the word to survive as more and more windows contained glass panes.
The word "fenestration", meaning the style and arrangement of windows in a building, is still used by architects. And "de-fenestration" means to throw someone out of a window! I'm very interested in the former, but have never done the latter - though I did manage to defenestrate myself, by falling out of a window, on one memorably painful occasion.
But what interests me even more are the little glimpses we sometimes get of other people's lives.
Going upstairs to play ancient melodies on the harp while, outside, roses sway in time, has a certain appeal; though I suppose I'm condemned, for the rest of my days, to rattle out jigs and hornpipes on my old squeezebox.
Then, at other times, windows catch and distort unexpected reflections, like this surreal modern architecture at Murray Edwards College.
And sometimes the reflections just serve to soften the image. Reflections always pose a problem for the photographer who doesn't want his or her own reflection to complicate the image. No, I'm not going to tell you how I do it!
The reflection can become more important and even seem more real than what's contained within. This is the tower of St John's College Chapel reflected in the window of a shop, or was it restaurant, opposite.
So I hope that's shed a little light on the subject of the old vindauga (plural vindaugu) for you.