Week ninety: SARSDEN (probability 7060), by David Sutton

A SARSDEN or SARSEN is a block of sandstone or quartzite, left in the landscape as a relic of denudation. The name is a corruption of Saracen: at the time of the Crusades Saracen was often applied to anything felt to be outlandish and the appearance of these stones in the landscape seemed to the locals to be just that, though geologically speaking, a SARSDEN is not to be confused with an ERRATIC, which is a mass of rock transported by glaciation and deposited at a distance from its native source.

Saracen also gives us SARSENET, SARCENET, SARCONET or SARSNET, which was a thin tissue of fine silk prized in mediaeval times, and SARRASIN or SARRAZIN, a name for buckwheat, from the French ble sarrasin, Saracen corn.

Incidentally, another name for a SARSDEN is a GREYWETHER. A wether is a kind of sheep (to be precise, a castrated ram) and apparently these boulders, being rounded and of a greyish colour, tend at a distance to look like sheep.


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