Wuthering

As we learn on page 2 of Emily Brontë’s famous novel,

Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr Heathcliff’s dwellings, "wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.

The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that

N. England dial. variant of Scottish and dial. whithering, rushing, whizzing, blustering, from a verb whither (1375), used in ref. to gusts of wind and coughing fits, from O.N. *hviðra (cf. Norw. kvidra, to go quickly to and fro, related to O.E. hwiþa, air, breeze.

This Old Norse origin didn’t surprise me; the Viking invasions have left their mark in the North of England, particularly in its various dialects and place names (particularly names ending in -by and -thorpe and of course York, which used to be called Jorvik). This excellent site gives maps of the North-East with places names and their origins.
I read Wuthering Heights when I was a teenager and loved it, so I couldn’t wait to go to Haworth, near Leeds, where the Brontë family lived, and discover the landscapes that inspired so many exceptional novels.
I wasn’t disappointed.
haworth
This is the view on the way to Top Withens, the house that, they say, inspired Wuthering Heights.
wuthering heights
And this is Top Withens, which looks nothing like the description of Wuthering Heights in the book.
Top Withens
On a lighter note, my friend Jo asked me whether I danced and wailed around the house in a white dress and was horrified to hear that I didn’t know the Kate Bush song. Just when I thought I was getting to grips with this country’s culture. In fact, I had heard it, I just had no idea it was about Heathcliff and Catherine. How embarrassing.

By | 2016-10-18T15:49:26+00:00 August 26th, 2008|Words|17 Comments

About the Author:

Celine
I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

17 Comments

  1. Tony August 26, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Lovely photos and interesting bit of etymology.
    Les Hauts de Hurlevent, Hurlevent des Monts, Haute Plainte and Les Hauteurs Tourmentées don’t really cut the mustard, do they?
    And Kate Bush’s little girl act is really pukogenic, isn’t it?

  2. céline August 26, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I actually really like "Hauts de Hurlevent" as a translation and wouldn’t like to be challenged to come up with something better. As for the wonderful Kate Bush, I saw the video for the first time after rereading Wuthering Heights when I got back from my visit to Haworth and I found it extremely powerful and moving. I suppose the fact that I was rather engrossed in the Brontë’s world really helped go past its general weirdness. I can’t believe she was just 19 when she wrote it.

  3. Maria Eugenia Farre August 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Céline
    Thanks for sharing the video and the lovely pictures!
    ME

  4. Mago August 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Let me add to the category of “Brontë references in popular song”, Kate and Anna Mcgarrigle’s “Love Over and Over.”
    I’ve walked upon the moors
    On many misguided tours
    Where Emily, Anne and Charlotte
    Poured their hearts out
    And what did they know
    What could they know about love
    Or anyone know about love

  5. Luciana August 26, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Céline,
    Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books ever. Thanks for the pictures and the post!
    Luciana

  6. Lionel Dersot August 27, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Vu les mêmes paysages il y a quelques années, mais sous la neige à Noël. Très belles photos, nostalgiques.

  7. LInda Herbertson August 28, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Great post, awesome pictures.

  8. Bela August 28, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    I love the French title – ‘Les Hauts de Hurlevent’, and your photos, but hate hate hate the book. As Dorothy Parker said about something else, ‘This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.’ Even as an adolescent I couldn’t take it: too much wailing, etc… *running away*

  9. céline August 28, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Funny! Dorothy Parker is a clever lady. I don’t know why I love it so much, I really don’t. I always thought it was because of the beautiful descriptions of the moors, a landscape that was so different from the world of warm sea, sandy dunes and pine forests of my childhood, but when I reread it recently, I was surprised to see that almost all the action takes place indoors. It’s a mystery.

  10. Diver August 29, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Having now spent 12years in the UK with our lovely wet summers and freezing brrrrr winters how can you be suprised that almost all the action takes place indoors?
    Diver.x
    PS the conversation was quite fluent in the latter part of last night, so the alcohol affecting linguistics theory may have some truth in it!

  11. céline August 29, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    15 years! Good point, well made.
    "Quite fluent"? I thought it was scintillating!

  12. Diver August 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    In the absence of C I thought you might find this article useful. I’m not sure the Bronte sisters would have had the same success had they written their novels as we Yorkshire folk speak.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/voices2005/glossary/glossary.shtml
    Diver.x

  13. Cream Cheese Danish September 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    Actually, Old Norse has left its imprint on everyday English, too. Very common words like the mundane pronoun “they – their – them” and the verb form “are” are of Scandinavian and not Anglo-Saxon origin. English syntax is also more like Scandinavian today than it is like Dutch or German, so in many ways English is really a Scandinavian language–or at best a hybrid of West and North Germanic with a French and Latin overlay.
    Interesting post! I love etymology!

  14. http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/ September 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Perhaps Kate’s finest moment… 🙂
    http://transubstantiation.wordpress.com/

  15. JayDenver September 26, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Haven’t visited in awhile and was impressed by your absolutely stunning images of Haworth. Your entire post, in fact, distills for me what the internet can offer. Thank you for sharing your linguistic and photographic skills.

  16. céline September 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    How very kind, but I am not the author of the photos. Mine are easily recognisable: they are generally badly framed, a bit blurry and devoid of any interest. I will pass on your compliments to the artiste.

  17. Johanne October 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Lovely photos and a great video. I know the song but never came across the video before – thank you! I haven’t read the book but I know that I will receive the DVD soon – a present from my partner’s father – and now I am really looking forward to watching it. Thanks again!

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