Lost language of landscape
One man’s quest to revive the lost language of the natural world
Photographer Dominick Tyler has launched a project to bring back into usage the beautiful words that we once used to describe our natural environment
Epilimnion. Gloup. Keggas and Kiskeys. A photographer is seeking todocument and revive evocative, beautiful, lost or underused words that describe features in the British landscape.
Dominick Tyler realised the inadequacy of his own vocabulary for describing our countryside when he was taking photographs for Kate Rew’s book, Wild Swim. “It shamed me because I come from a rural part of Cornwall, surrounded by nature,” he says.
He is now collecting and acquiring the rich, strange and often incredibly specific language of landscape for an online glossary, The Landreader Project, the highlights of which will form Uncommon Ground, a book of words and photographs published by Guardian Faber next spring.
Anyone can contribute words to the glossary and Tyler’s approach is liberal – anything that contributes to the experience of a landscape will be accepted: academic terms familiar to geologists, dialect and colloquial words and a few terms he admits he is “sneakily” trying to reimport from America (jackstraw, cow’s belly) because they are lovely or useful.
It’s not just physical features we can see (gloup – a blowhole or sea-jet, created by the partial collapse in the roof of a sea cave in a coastal cliff) but things we can feel too (epilimnion, cow’s belly – both defined below).
As Tyler says, a vocabulary of landscape helps us connect to it, enjoy it, and do justice to its richness.