This week's theme comes to us courtesy of Duncan Howell, of Newfoundland, who collects and compares multiple authorities for us. Excellent, fascinating work, Duncan.
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Thesis Statement: "Last week, in a dwy, I spelled yaffles of crannicks through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog, and up out of the droke."
I'm not kidding. I really did. This week, I'll explain what I was doing, with a lot of help from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. (DNE) and other sources. All quotes taken from DNE unless otherwise noted.
The authorities vary somewhat, and I will be noting Canadian Oxford Dictionary (COD), Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (SOED), American Dialect Dictionary (ADD), Dictionary of Canadianisms (DC), Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (DAC), Survey of English Dialects (SED), and English Dialect Dictionary (EDD).
dwy – an eddy, flurry; squall. (DNE)
[EDD has dwyes – eddies. COD, SOED have nothing.]
– Journal of American Folklore. VIII, 1895, 39.
twy – "a meteor squall on the coasts." The Sailor's Word-Book: An Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms (London: Blackie & Son, 1867) 704.
dally – noun: sudden lull or slackening of the wind. verb: of the wind, to turn or shift in direction. (DNE)
– an aphorism I'm passing along from my father, Russ Howell, aged 88.
Thesis Statement: "Last week in a dwy [snow squall], I spelled yaffles of crannicks through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog, and up out of the droke."
spell – verb: to carry a burden on one's shoulders, usually halting from time to time for a rest.(DNE)
spell – noun: (a) a short distance, especially that between the resting places of a man with a heavy burden on his back. (b) the burden itself. (DNE)
[For want of a documented etymology, my guess is that both the verb and noun senses evolved from the "resting" connotation.]
– Rev. Wm. Wilson. Newfoundland and Its Missionaries (Cambridge, Mass.: Dakin & Metcalf, 1866) 215
"Short distances are in common speech measured by spells.
– Rev. Julian Moreton. Life and Work in Newfoundland: Reminiscences of Thirteen Years Spent There. (London: Rivingtons, 1863) 30.
Thesis Statement: "Last week in a dwy [snow squall] I spelled [carried, with intermittent rest stops] yaffles of crannicks through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog, and up out of the droke."
yaffle – an armful (of dried and salted cod-fish, kindling, etc); a load. (verb: to gather an armful) (DNE¹)
– Daily News, St. John's, April 28,1862, p.2.
We're going to yaffle them boughs now.
– P. K. Devine. Ye Olde St. John's, 1750-1936 (St. John's: The Newfoundland Directories, 1936) 57
Get over to Lester's field and get another yaffle of dandelions.
– Evening Telegram (newspaper) St. John's. May 4,1964, p.7
¹ COD has yaffle but notes: "origin unknown". EDD has yafful ("an armful") and jaffle. SED has yafful ("armful of hay"). DNE proposes that the origin is jag(ful), which SOED has. SOED also has jag ("to carry in a cart or on a pack horse.") EDD has jag(g).
Yaffle is also an English country name for a Green Woodpecker and this site gives a few more meanings for the word.
Thesis Statement: "Last week in a dwy [snow squall] I spelled [carried, with intermittent rest stops] yaffles [armfuls] of crannicks through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog, and up out of the droke."
crannick; cronnick; cran – a tree or root killed or much weathered by wind, water or fire; piece of such wood gathered as fuel; small twisted fir or spruce. (DNE)
Virginia M. Dillon, The Irish Element, in the Speech of the Southern Shore of Newfoundland. (St. John's: Memorial University of Newfoundland M.A. thesis, 1968) 135.
EDD has crannock ("root of furze...which has been burnt"), and also crank ("dead branch”). DC has crunnick. COD has no direct entry but, interestingly, lists crannog ("an ancient lake dwelling in Scotland or Ireland"), as coming from the Irish crann ( a tree or branch"). SOED also has crannog.
Thesis Statement: "Last week in a dwy [snow squall] I spelled [carried, with intermittent rest stops] yaffles [armfuls] of crannicks [dry spruce and fir kindling] through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog and up out of the droke.
gowithy; gold-withy – sheep laurel (kalmia angustifolia), or other similar sort of low shrub. (DNE)
– Ernest Rouleau. Studies on the Vascular Flora of the Province of Newfoundland (Canada), (Montreal: Institut Botanique de l'Universite de Montreal,1956) 31.
Etymological musings: Wanna know what I think? I think the word came from "go-with-thee". First, that's the way it is commonly pronounced.... "gowithy" = "go with thee". Second, you always bring home leaves and twigs stuck to your clothes and in your boots after you walk through it. It will always go with thee! Finally, lots of common plant names contain biblical references. ( Burning Bush, Jacob's Ladder, Star of Bethlehem, Solomon's Seal, etc). Furthermore, "go-with-thee" is a common biblical quotation. See Exodus 33:14, Judges 7:4, 2 Samuel 13:26, Ezra 7:13. It's so common, it has invaded secular literature. See Don Quixote, ch.57, and "The Outsong" in Kipling's Jungle Book.
Anyhow, that's what I think. But...I don't think any of the dictionaries agree with me!
A "withy" is a strong, flexible twig, used in making baskets and the like, often from the willow. I don't know what the Newfoundland shrubs look like, but there might be some connection there.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
I don't agree with you, either. I think the "withy" came from the twigs, as Arnie suggested. The "gold" or "gould" either came from someone's name or indicates a color associated with the plant.
The earliest citation from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, (DNE) is from 1846:
Indeed, Gould for this plants dates back at least to 1840:
The plant was also called goldleaf:
All species of Kalmia contain andromedotoxin and arbutin and and are poisonous. The plants are toxic to sheep and other browsing animals, which is why another name for sheep laurel is lambkill. Even the milk produced by cows that eat it and the honey produced by bees from the nectar of this plant are poisonous. Of course, things that are poisonous in quantity may be therapeutic in small doses. Digitalis, for example, is from foxglove (Digitalis species). It’s used as a heart medicine in controlled doses, but you'd die if you ate the plant. So the teas the Indians made from goldwithy may have contained a therapeutic amount, if drunk in moderation. But, then again, they may have just been slowly poisoning themselves. I've also read that the Indians used it as a cough medicine.
An 1884 journal, Medicinal Plants Used by the Cree Indians, Hudson's Bay Territory, had this entry:
In fact, Plants For A Future says, “Sheep laurel is a very poisonous narcotic plant the leaves of which were at one time used by some native North American Indian tribes in order to commit suicide ”. Poisonous Plants of Pennsylvania also says the "Delaware Indians used laurel for suicide."
The DNE traces withy, meaning willow, to 1894. The OED Online traces that meaning to 961. Interestingly, the OED says it comes from an Old English word (I can’t reproduce the OE characters): “OE. wí i (= L. vitex, v tic- Agnus Castus).” Vitex agnus-castus is not a willow at all, but rather a member of the verbena family (Verbenaceae). They both have slender, flexible twigs that can be woven into baskets and such.
I can see where the withy came from in goldwithy, but I don’t understand the gold. At first I thought it might pertain to the color of the twig or something, but I can’t find anything to suggest the plant had any gold color to it whatever. The pollen of the flowers would be gold (or yellow). Kalmias have their stamens (male parts) folded over and tucked into pockets in the petals. When tripped by an insect, the stamens are released and pollen is catapulted onto the insect. It subsequently flies to another flower and rubs up against the stigmas (tips of the female parts), thus pollinating the flower. I suppose people walking through a patch of Kalmia might also trip the stamens and be sprayed with pollen. When they got home they would discover yellow (or gold) pollen all over their pant-legs. Could this be the source of the gold in the common name? I know, it sounds far-fetched. But it's better than "Go With Thee."
TinmanThis message has been edited. Last edited by: tinman,
Who'd have thought we'd get into an extensive cross-discussion of a dialect etymology? Well done, guys!
Duncan had pointed out this:
And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then I shall be weak, and be as another man. Judges 16:7. (King James Version.)
Today's word has made me distinctly hungry. I'm off for breakfast. - WC
Thesis Statement: Last week in a dwy [snow squall], I spelled [carried, with intermittent rest stops] yaffles [armfuls] of crannicks [dry spruce and fir kindling] through the gowithy [sheep laurel, etc.], across the bakeapple bog and up out of the droke.
bakeapple – a low plant growing in bogs and producing an amber berry in late summer; cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). (DNE)
DC has baked-apple berry; COD has bakeapple = cloudberry, "corruption of Inuit** ‘appik' + apple".
Bakeapples (which, to me, bear no resemblance in appearance or flavour to baked apples) are to die for, but are EXTREMELY hard to harvest. Consequently, they demand a premium price. A friend of mine, who was exhausted from struggling through soft peat bogs on his first bakeapple-picking expedition, said "Now I understand why they cost $60.00 a gallon!" In my opinion, they'd be cheap at twice the price. They also grow in Scandinavia, where they are distilled into a liqueur.
– Gordon Pinsent, John and the Missus: A Novel (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., 1974) 77.
He remembers the bumper buckets of berries he gathered from the barrens surrounding the town, the bakeapples that he picked from the Witless Bay marshes...."
– Harold Horwood, Newfoundland (Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1969) 102.
...and various delicious berries. Of these latter, the Newfoundland summer produces a considerable variety, as cranberries, whortleberries, and the exquisitely delicate cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), known locally as "bake-apples".
– Sir Edmund Gosse, The Life of Philip Henry Gosse (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1890) 50.
[I believe whortleberries and huckleberries (the latter are not found in Newfoundland) share a common etymology in the Middle English hurtleberry. I assume that early settlers, seeing blueberries for the first time (they are not native to Europe) called them by a name they were familiar with.]
O.K. I'm convinced. Go-with-thee is probably wrong, but I have entertained that notion for many years and it's hard to give it up! In regard to gold, EDD lists it as "sweet willow" and OED lists it as "marsh marigold", so there appears to be a solid tradition of gold as a plant name.
It is an amazing coincidence that you should quote TOCQUE and GOSSE in the same posting. Philip Tocque(1814-1899) and Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888) were contemporary residents of my little ol' home town of Carbonear, Newfoundland. Tocque was a native of Carbonear and Gosse an immigrant and indentured servant from Poole, England. They travelled in the same social circles, were members of the same literary club and both, as youths, worked as clerks in the merchantile house of Slade, Elson & Company. Tocque became a prolific writer on such divers subjects as the seal hunt, anti-slavery and womens' rights. He eventually became a deacon in the Episcopal Church in the United States and finished his career as a preacher in the backwoods of Ontario. Philip Henry Gosse became a self-educated naturalist. He wrote the first scientific study of Canadian entomology and invented the marine aquarium. He wrote over 300 books and was elected to the Royal Society. His stern opposition to the theory of evolution compelled him to compose works which hurt his reputation in the general scientific community but which, somehow, did not interfere with his close professional relationship with Charles Darwin. His son, Sir Edmund Gosse and grandson, Dr. Philip Gosse were notable literary and scientific persons in their own right. Altogether, Philip Tocque and Philip Gosse were two local boys who made good.
Thesis Statement: "Last week in a dwy [snow squall], I spelled [carried, with intermittent rest stops] yaffles [armfuls] of crannicks [dry spruce and fir kindling] through the gowithy [sheep laurel, etc.] across the bakeapple [cloudberry] bog, and up out of the droke."
droke – a valley with steep sides, sometimes wooded and with a stream. (DNE)
– P. K. Devine, Folklore of Newfoundland in Old Words, Phrases, and Expressions, Their Origin and Meaning (St. John's: Robinson & Co., Ltd., 1937) 5.
Last week, in a snow squall, I carried, with intermittent rest stops, armfuls of dry spruce and fir kindling through the sheep laurel, potentilla and rhododendrons, across the cloudberry bog and up out of the steep wooded valley.
Or, to put it more succinctly.......
Last week, in a dwy, I spelled yaffles of crannicks through the gowithy, across the bakeapple bog, and up out of the droke.
Phew! I'm tired!