"Hither and yon" was something my Grandma used to say, an old pioneer colloquialism meaning "here, there and everywhere" and usually referring to a mess. While making æbleskivers, she would take the beaters out of the bowl too quickly and the batter would scatter all over the wall, the cupboards, "hither and yon". She was far too good a linguist to hackney it up with "thither".
While researching old English and Celtic languages for a script, I came upon the Cumbric language once spoken in the lands now in northern England and southern Scotland - one of those awesome old Celtic tribal tongues that gave us words like "bucket", "nook" and my favorite, "dad".
Cumbric has a lot of relationship to Welsh, and in fact, it seems like the old Welsh tribe once spanned into the area. The oh-so-Scottish name "Wallace" actually means "man from Wales", but in that time they could be referring to southern Scotland as "Wales". Nobody said any of this was going to be simple - when our forefathers walked back and forth across the island and changed their names, they didn't have our convenience in mind, alas.
Anyway, I was looking at the numbering system they used, in a graph on Wikipedia:
All of the variations on Cumbric numbers are similar, and some are awesome - look at the Wasdale dialect, where "two, three, four" is "taen, tudder, anudder". But then look at the Swaledale dialect, specifically "six" and "one". That is straight-up "hither" and "yahn".
Something about the phrase "six and one" seems to perfectly fit my far-off pre-memory meaning "here and there". I can't say why, but it FEELS right. And in the dialect of Cumbric, directly where my ancestors came from, "six and one" is pronounced "hither and yon".
Yes, I've looked at the etymology of both "hither" and "yon", and while "yon" does come from the word meaning "once", hither is said to come from a Germanic root "hider" meaning "on this side". But etymology is never 100% accurate; it's only a story agreed upon, and my story feels better. I can say that "hither and yon" is an ancient holdover from an extinct language meaning "six and one" but nobody likes to fight more than a gaggle of linguists, and as we like to say, they are most cunning.Posted by Ian Williams at January 31, 2010 11:03 PM