(NOTE: Justin and Andrew will enjoy this post, I imagine. Probably also Kate and Monica, if she still reads the blog. Why? The former two because it's about the different meanings one word can have and they are sometimes casual, sometimes serious linguists. The latter two because it's about Edinburgh and what it meant to me, and by extension to them. And forward we go!)
The other evening, I saw a photo on a Scottish blogger's site, titled "Morningside by Night." I remembered the name (it's a neighborhood of Edinburgh), but couldn't remember where in the city it was located. So I looked it up on Google maps, realizing as I did so that I hadn't typed "Edinburgh, Scotland" into that site for longer than I could remember. That in itself was strange to me - before, during, and after my time there, I looked at map views of the city a lot.
I eventually found Morningside (south & just a touch west of the main part of the city, near the A702). Finding it prompted me to swing north and east and seek my old stomping grounds. Because you know what? I had forgotten the name of that neighborhood, too.
Eventually, find it I did. And I had a moment of "Newington . . . right . . . I lived there." Such simple words, but imbued with such meaning. I LIVED THERE. I woke up in the mornings hearing the chirp of tiny birds in Holyrood Park. I walked to class through the streets of Newington and the lanes of the Meadows. I picked up coffee and sandwiches at the shops along Clerk St. I settled down with a pint and good friends in a pub on West Preston St. I went to sleep at night to the sounds of university students singing their drunken way home in Pollock Halls.
And now, I live about five minutes from a small town called Newington. For Portsmouth residents, Newington is the collection of malls, fast food restaurants, and speedy oil change places along Woodbury Avenue. It's far from special. When I first visited State U, I got turned around and couldn't find my way to downtown Portsmouth. I ended up driving through Newington instead and thinking to myself, "Oh my. Why does everyone like Portsmouth so much? This is Strip Mall City." Now, it's where we go when we want fast food, something from a big box store or to see a movie - that's it.
So, yeah. Your personal relationship to a word can indeed change dramatically. I wish I could trade New Hampshire's Newington for Scotland's. :)