While researching Welsh scything terms I came across the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, a wonderful Welsh dictionary run by the University of Wales. Whilst checking on more mundane words such as “haystack” and “scythe” I came across a rich seam of specific historical terms.
Under the word gwair (hay) there were terms not so dissimilar to ones we might use in English eg “gwair doldir – meadow hay”, “gwair mynedd – mountain hay”. But there were also terms such as “gwair bondew – hay growing thick at the base” and “gwair egras – one year old hay”. I hope I won’t be needing “gwair wedi cochi – hay which has been stacked while green and has deteriorated through fermentation (lit. reddened hay).”
The terms referring to different types of hay, such as “gwair maswaidd – soft tender hay, difficult to dry, August hay.”, speak to me of the farmers knowledge of the variability of hay and how the hay making process changes with season and grass varieties. This chimes with our own experiences.
There was a section of words to describe mowing with a scythe. A word I hope we won’t need to use too often is “bonllath – long stubble left after scyther or machine has cut carelessly; the height at which the scythe initially hits the corn” . Or “haffiad – a snatching, a snapping or grabbing; (clumsy) stroke with scythe, &c., a hacking” And is this another scything fault “ gwrychyn arfod – blades of grass left standing between each sweep of the scythe“?
Of course, many of these words are lost from common usage and many of them may have been highly regional in usage. Still, I find it is interesting to look at the words that people needed to describe the world around them and what that tells me about what that world might have been like.