Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Edge

Our wedding is all about the edge — the edge of our new life together, the edge of conventional religion and ceremony, and of course the edge of the ocean. I thought it might be fun to look deeper into this word edge and see what it's all about.

It's one of those words that goes all the way back to Proto Indo European, to the tribe of horse-herders and farmers who lived on the edge of Europe, Asia, and India. They had a word ak, meaning "sharp" or "pointed", used to speak of weapons, corners, edges, and even tastes and smells (it's related to acrid). When the word descended into Proto Germanic, it became agjo, keeping these same meanings (related to German Eck, "corner"). Then in Old English it became ecg, pronounced much like the modern word egg, meaning "corner, edge, point" and also "sword". It was not uncommon in Old English to speak of ecgplega "edge play" for swordplay, or ecghete "edge hate" for battle. The verb egg as in "to egg someone on" is from this word. But after Middle English, ecg shifted in pronunciation, spellings, and meaning, losing some of its pointedness and corneredness, and gaining associations with fringes, cliffs, and thresholds — becoming edge.

Spiritually, the word indicates an approach to a place of decision and judgement. The edge is not just where something stops and something else begins; it is a place one moves toward, leaving behind what is familiar, and a place where one must make a choice, and proceed mindfully and consciously. Standing here, one is not contained in one world or the other, but poised -- to jump, leap, or step carefully. Or maybe even move the edge.

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