Saturday, October 17, 2009

Run, Bight, Bottom, and Tickle

When I travel, I like to meet local people and understand local language. Sometimes its an unusual pronunciation, other times a special usage, but it always adds some personality to a countryside that is new to me.

A good example of uneven pronunciation comes from northeastern W. Va. Place names Jordan's Run, Canaan, Job, and Onego are all around the panhandle. I assumed that the first three would be pronounced like in the bible and the forth would be something like "on-a-go". That's true for Jordan's Run and Job, but it turns out that Canaan rhymes with insane. Onego is pronounced as one-go.

Jordan's Run highlights another local language twist. Run, creek, hollow or hollar, and bottom are common names in the Appalachians. Based on conversations with locals, a run is a whole watershed, typically made up of several creeks. A bottom is the flat land alongside the creek and a hollar is the narrow valley with steep hills on either side and a bottom in the middle.

Up in Newfoundland, everything is focused around fishing and boats. There are several different types of harbors, but my favorites are the bight and the tickle. As a local explained it to me, a bight is a broad bay that looks like a giant took a bite out of the coast. A tickle is a harbor with long, narrow entrance that opens into larger harbor. Of course, a tickle is a safer harbor if you can into it before the storm starts, but more challenging to sail into during a blow.

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