Kith

uppark kithI have always been a bit envious of the Germans for some of their words: Zeitgeist for instance, it is just so good that we have even adopted it into english; Doppelgänger is another one, and then there is also Angst. When it comes to my work and it focus on specific places and their meaning, Heimat is the one. Until now I thought this to be an exclusively German concept for the place where you grew up; your origin, community, landscape, relationships, the whole mix that formed you. Heimat is the founding part of each person’s identity. But that has all just changed thanks to Jay Griffiths and her latest book KithI now have the english equivalent…kith. ‘Kith and kin’ nowadays means relations and family, but originally ‘kith’ referred to the place where you grew up, the locality that formed you, your home territory. So the phrase ‘kith and kin’ used to combine place and family. For me kith is Hampshire and includes the chalk of the South Downs, the ‘hangers’ around Steep, and the clay of the valleys. Chalk and clay, add water, and a recent biking trip with my boys on the Downs ended with us carrying the bikes down totally clogged with sticky off-white chalky-clay! They took hours to clean. Kith: a wonderfully pithy word. Thanks Jay.

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