Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Withenay's Wednesday Word - a series about words and their meanings. 
Sometimes the word is chosen because I like it, sometimes because it is unusual, sometimes because I have heard or read it in the previous week; often because that is just where the dictionary took me. Together we can expand our vocabulary, inch by inch (or maybe letter by letter). Your challenge is to invent a sentence in the comments box that includes it.

softly, carefully (an adverb)
Scottish, perhaps from Old Norse hofliga fitly or hogliga gently

Thirteen years ago we went on holiday with a group of friends to the Isle of Mull. It was a lovely break, staying in a big old house, chopping wood for fires and spending time with some wonderful people. We spent Easter Day on Iona, an amazing experience, with two memories that stand out: a cross made from daffodils, and the clarity of turquoise blue sea all round.

Colour in that part of the world must be particularly vivid, for the main town of Tobermory sparkles in a rainbow crescent of colour, stretching out around the bay. All the houses are painted different colours, which makes it the perfect image for a cheerful postcard home. It also inspired the children's TV series: Balamory. Little did I know when I gazed at this beautiful scene that I would be watching it for years to come with two small children!

Which brings me, slowly, to hooly. A typical episode started with the nursery teacher opening the doors, asking about the weather and, "What's the story in Balamory?" The teacher was Miss Hoolie. I had always assumed her name was just a Scots surname that the ingenious writer thought sounded good and was easy for a young child to say. Yet, when I came upon this word in the dictionary I thought how apt the definition was for a young nursery school teacher: softly, carefully. I might only have added 'cheerfully'!

For completeness, I have to also glance up at hooley: a boisterous party (Irish). Perhaps that was what the children at the Balamory Nursery thought of it!


Carol Hedges said...

I've heard this meaning a party! It's a great word, you get the picture of people spinning round and dancing. Well I do. Probably confusing it with hula hoop.

Catharine Withenay said...

I like the spinning/hula analogy. Clearly the Irish meaning of the same sounding word has had more influence on us all. Or maybe we prefer partying to being soft and gentle?

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