Friday, 20 September 2013

Getting het

The French weekend of the journées de patrimoine has just come and gone.  It's a weekend in which you can visit private buildings and property that are considered to be part of the French heritage and that are not normally open to the public.

Our friend Leo down the road opened his large and pretty garden to visitors.  Now we know his garden quite well, so we wouldn't normally have gone, but there was going to be an oboist giving a lecture/concert in the garden, so we dropped by.

The lecture was interesting enough.  The oboe is a double-reed instrument, and the three main orchestral instruments of this type are the oboe, the oboe d'amour (pitched slightly lower), and the cor anglais, all of which were demonstrated.  Our presenter told us that the name cor anglais arises from cor anglé, meaning angled, since the instrument used to be built with an angle halfway along the body to make it easier to hold.

However, I also understand that other people believe that the anglais is a corruption of the German word for angelic.  Apparently double-reed players get quite het up arguing about this.  And on musing about this fact it occurred to me that the phrase "getting het up" is the only time I ever come across the word "het" in English.

My wife is American, so her pronunciation is just occasionally a bit odd.  When she says "ate", she pronounces is like "ayt", whereas I pronounce it (correctly) as "et".  My way is apparently considered to be a bit old-fashioned these days.  So I wondered if the word "het" might be an old past participle of "heat", so the phrase would therefore mean "get heated up".  And on looking it up on the great interweb, indeed it appears that it is.

I suppose it makes a certain sense:  eat / et; heat / het.


Tim Trent said...

You've just reminded me of the verb "To put the boot in" which I think was a Graham Garden invention.

I put the boot in
I put the boot in you
I put the boot in him
We put the boot in
We put the boot in you lot
They have given us the boot

I think you had to be there!

Helen Devries said...

The origin of 'het' makes perfect sense to those from the more northerly areas of the U.K....and I loved the reprise of the 'put the boot in' declension!

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