In today's article Tulloch explores the use and origin of the very expressive word, “backend”.
Much less romantic in feeling than the word “autumn”, with its associations of maturity and fruitful harvest, and much more expressive than the American English “fall”, which simply denotes the autumnal leaf-fall, “backend” has been claimed as the Cumbrian word which perfectly fits the “lost”fifth season, after autumn and before winter.
It’s that time when there are few leaves left on the trees, the days are at their shortest and the weather at its darkest.
“Backend” lasts from harvest to Martinmas; the period following is called “efther Martlemas” or “a bit afooar Kesmas”
At the end of a rather wet, windy and blustery November, the word “backend” seems appropriate and simply right for this time of year.
Norman Nicholson used the word so expressively in his rather depressing and bleak poem The Elm Decline.
thousand years ago
high as this tarn. The pikes
were stacks and skerries
spiking the green,
the tidal surge
of oak, birch, elm,
ebbing to ochre
and the wrackwood of backend.