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The meaning of Aftermath

Everyone knows what "Aftermath" means - or do they. Ian Mayes, the Readers' Editor of the Guardian reflected on this in his article on 15 December 2001:

Ian MayesAftermath is ... [a word which] ... speaks of our separation from the countryside and reminds us of a rural heritage, in this case subsumed in the word's changed meaning. I mentioned it in passing recently, saying that a former editor of the Guardian, Alastair Hetherington, had advised his staff to use it only in its proper sense of "second mowing". This brought the following from a reader in the Vale of Glamorgan questioning Hetherington's definition: "Aftermath is one of my favourite words, conjuring up memories of growing up on a hill farm in west Wales and seeing the lush green growth after the hay has been gathered in early summer - usually one of the weeks of Wimbledon fortnight. Aftermath is that growth - which the Ayrshire dairy cows relished so much during August - and my Concise Oxford agrees with me on this. Regrettably my Collins goes with your fiction that you need to mow a second time to get an aftermath. Not so!" He added in a subsequent email, "My parents - now in their 80s - both used 'aftermath' in the sense of the growth after mowing."

In fact, the dictionaries I consulted support both definitions - the new growth and the mowing thereof. Neither of these is the sense in which we have been using the word lately when we have applied it, not incorrectly, to events since September 11.

RemembranceRemember Me...
Some time ago I was asked whether I had any information about the use of double-exposure to create photographs "in which dead soldiers were superimposed on the portraits of the living relatives as a sign of their continued presence in the minds of the bereaved."

The photograph on the right clearly uses this technique, but in this case the ghostly image of the son watching over his mother was produced as a keepsake by the soldier himself, and the young man in question, Jack Rogers, was (in 1998) still alive at the age of 104, and writing a column for a Lincolnshire newspaper!

I would be interested to know if anyone has seen, or read about any other examples like this, particularly where the superimposed image is that of a soldier who has died.

(The photograph is from Veterans by Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries, where you can read Jack Rogers' story)

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Aftermath - when the boys came home

Tuesday 7 February 2006