Thursday, November 5, 2009


From an article by Diane Solway (with photographs by Stephen Shore) in the November issue of W magazine:

Furious after waiting five minutes, Bergman charged up the steep belfry to ring the bells himself and then chewed out the minister for the lapse.

What's interesting about belfry is how easily somebody whose first language is not English (note how hopeful I am here about this probability [stand your non-English speaking ground, non-English speakers]) might mispronounce this. It might clunk, or it might sound charming in the way the woman trying to get to know the deaf man in Four Weddings and A Funeral was charming when she said something was "mice" instead of "nice." I also heard a woman finding photos for a man ask if the pickup name was spelled A-n-n-y. No, he said, A-n-n-i-e. End of digression.

Belfry is perhaps a chosen word today because I like bells so much (apparently there are lots of us--but does this necessarily mean that there now has to be a Facebook group I "can" join? What has happened to serendipity? I miss the days before Caller ID. I miss being able to be out of touch. I might have to join the uncellphoned) and because (for somebody who is eye-minded and ear-minded and in possession of opinions) it is, simply, a pretty word. It's a handsome word.

Not all bel- words are pretty and handsome words.

An approximation of the word (including its association with bells) as we read it today did not even appear until the 15th century, according to the OED. Its etymological history seems as labyrinthine as a Bergman film is intense.

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