Sunday, November 30, 2014

Puncheon (Stave)

Puncheon has several diverse meanings. One is an 80 gallon cask. Another is an awl or punch used to puncture some material such as gold. A third is a upright used for framing. Finally, the definition used below: a rough hewn board.
 Rose grabbed up her moccasins from the puncheon floor.
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

While the first two definitions trace back to the French, the last two just float freely in etymological space leaving us free to hypothesize whatever we wish. I suggest that the same process was used to hew barrel staves and rough floorboards, and in this pre-industrial environment, the same craftsperson performed both tasks. Thus the products shared the same name.

Supporting this conjecture is stave itself which matches both the boards on the sides of a barrel and that mysterious upright used for framing. Stave, as a verb, also implies piercing.

Rose was a mixed black/native American in the period following the Civil War, and though she lived in humble circumstances, not affording sawed floor boards from a lumber mills, she ably guided her family through these difficult times.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Spindrift is the foam that blows off the tops of waves.
He wiped spindrift from his eyes.
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

The derivation is from a Scottish word (spoon) meaning to run ahead of the wind and seas.

Unfortunately for our quote, Goggle asserts that the word was not in popular use until after the Civil War, and our protagonist, Cow Tom, was dumped into the broad Mississippi when the ship transporting his family to Indian Territory crashed and sank well before that time.

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Monday, November 24, 2014


A Sutler is civilian supplier to the military from the 16th to 19th century when military logistics required additional support from the indigenous civilian and the military encampments were not necessarily dangerous places. By the 20th century military logistics had improved and the battlefields became much more deadly.
But Rose couldn't be still. She ran to the storeroom and back. No Uncle Harry. She ran to the sutler shop and back. No Uncle Harry.
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

Rose was a mixed black/native American in the period following the Civil War who ran a cattle ranch and held her extended family together through stressful times or reconstruction.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014


Gorget, gorge, gargle, and gargoyle all conveniently share a common etymology from the Latin (gurgulio) for throat.
...but wore cloth turbans, and one sported a silver gorget across his chest.
...and draped around his neck on a leather strip, his shell gorget necklace.

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

A gorget is a warrior's neck ornament. According to the SCA, the gorget was a functional defensive collar to protect the throat during sword fights. By the 18th century, the gorget had evolved to a large ornate pendant of little, but decorative/ceremonial, value.

The gorgets above, from a terrific historical novel of 19th century American Indians, were worn by native Americans and made of available materials, chosen for aesthetics and value.

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According to Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms (1859) - thank you Google -
Shecoonery is "a whimsical corruption of the word chicanery - used at the South."
I wager you this. Some sort of shecoonery is afoot.
Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

The most interest thing about chicanery is that it traces back to French, and, surprisingly, stops there. Chicanery, trickery, is a French invention, not derived from some earlier Latin form. I doubt this mean that there was no chicanery in ancient Rome, but rather they called it fraud and assorted other wordes, but not chicanery, and certainly not shecoonery.

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