Thursday, 1 April 2010

Sheer Thursday

The ballad I posted yesterday refers to the Thursday before Easter as 'Scere Thursday'. The OED has English citations for the word from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, and interestingly (to me, anyway), this is cognate with the name still used for the day in Scandinavian countries. It's related to the Old Norse skærr or skírr, which both mean 'clean, bright' - so think English 'sheer' - and therefore may derive from the practice of washing the altars on Maundy Thursday, or perhaps to the purification of the soul in confession. 'Maundy' is a good medieval word too and I'm glad it's still in such wide use, but I like the connotations of 'scere' as well.

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