‘Writan, an Old German verb meaning to scratch, is the origin of our English word, writing,’ I tell Rusty, as he makes a vigorous attack on an itch behind his ear with his back foot. ‘It says so in chapter one of this writing book.’
Rusty pauses, considers what I’m saying, then goes back to scratching his ear, with a blissful expression.
Meanwhile, I’ve drifted onto another line of thought. ‘It doesn’t make so much sense since we’ve got tied to keyboards,’ I say, ‘because now we tap. But in those days, it was not just that the marks probably looked like scratches: if the author was using some kind of pen and ink, then it would have sounded like scratching, too.’
I can say this with certainty because I once made a quill pen, from a goose feather, and used it until it was too bedraggled to function. This was despite the fact that on certain weights of paper the nib squeaked on the same tortuous level as dry chalk on a board. I cringe, just remembering the sound, let alone the ridiculous romanticism of my adolescence.
‘All the same,’ I say, ‘I’m glad Writan became writing.’
Rusty sighs, he’s done with his itch, and I know he’s waiting for me to mention biscuits or walks. It’s tough for canines in a bookish household. Instead of discreetly keeping my work out of sight, I can frequently be seen squandering valuable play-time, and who’s to know whether I’m really working?
Here’s me pondering how ‘scraping with a fingernail or claw…to relieve itching’ came to be so satisfyingly onomatopoeically renamed scratch while the afternoon is darkening into evening. Am I incubating the germ of inspiration? Only time will tell.