Daily Archives: November 30, 2020

ahush

As December rolls in, the world of commerce and entertainment is usually all abuzz and ahum and aquiver and atwitch with excitement and energy. All is aglitter; doors and mouths alike are agape, and a time of amazement is anearing. You pretty much can’t avoid its appearance, and it can be a hassle to get away. But if you do allow yourself a little apartness, you can find yourself in a grove or a park, perhaps watching snowflakes alight as all is ahush.

For at least some of us this year, there is an almost astounding difference. In my home city, Toronto, offline commerce is largely closed at least until the winter solstice. And so the manic mall has instead entered apartments and homes, as we all scroll our browsers. But if we chance to exit – for me, to take the elevator down, to walk past the moraine of Amazon boxes in the lobby, and to go out onto the street – we can soon find ourselves out in the cool, fresh, uncrowded air, and at night if snow is falling all is again ahush.

Is ahush a word? Of course it is; it has been seen in texts for at least a century and a half. It’s not often used, but it’s a regular formation from the a- prefix you see on so many other words (etymologically related to on – this is not to say you could say afleek, but it’s not to say you could not) plus, of course, hush, a word that English has had for more than half a millennium and that I should hope needs no explanation as to its formation (as far as can be seen it really did come, like shh and whisht, from sounds people made to indicate silence).

I may seem, to some who encounter me, as someone so voluble, loquacious, even garrulous, as not to appreciate silence at all. In truth, there are few things so sweet to me as a lovely, soft, well-textured quietude. You are not so likely to see me enjoying it, for the simple reason that it’s more easily had when there’s no one else around. But here: here is a piece of music celebrating the wonder of the world when it’s ahush.