First Time

An Expression

My mother and I are avid readers, so much so that we'll cast a glance at any words that cross our path, from brochures to encyclopedias; from the backs of cereal boxes to the notices on trains.

For this month, we decided to play a bit of a word game, and investigate the first phrase or saying that we came across which was new to us.

Almost exactly one week later, I found my idiom, which turned out to be a single word: Hevelspending.

I came across this word in author (actor, radio personality, quizmaster, portrayer of Jeeves, opposite Hugh Laurie's Wooster, in the BBC adaptation of P. G. Wo-degouse's stories) Stephen Fry's Paperweight, a collection of stories, essays, transcripts for radio dramas, and other writing.

Fry contrasted some of the mundane and unattractive words we have in the English language ("We in Britain have a word 'mugger' that means exclusively "one whose profession it is to stop others in the street and forcibly to relieve them of their possessions") with some of the more lyrical words that exist in other languages.

Hevelspending, I learned, means "the gasp made by one who, walking in the morning, smells spring in the air for the first time after a long winter."

The word has not been adopted by English speakers, yet I'm surprised that it hasn't even been considered by Canadians or, at the very least, Montrealers. If you live above a certain latitude, you expect winder to last a long time, and the permafrost not to melt. But here in Montreal, we're quite close to the American border. We're only a day's drive from New York City.

Yet our winters stretch interminably for nearly - no, in actually fact - half the year. We don winter coats at Hallowe'en and, barring the odd balmy (say, 0 degrees Celsius) day in March (when everyone goes out in shorts and sandals), we can't remove them until April.

As citizens of a metropolis where we're reduced to ex-citement and sandal-wearing at the first intimation of a hint of a thought that spring might be coming, I propose we all adopt the word hevelspending.

After all, it's a phrase that neatly sums up an action we've performed all our lives in Montreal.

February-March 2012

Old Articles by Deniz B. Bevan:
Ice Apple Wine
Montreal Is An Island
Lavender Fields
Exotic Fruit
Ideas for Your 'Staycation'
Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby Diana Gabaldon
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin