Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Of Gunwales, Yoghurts and Not Wasabi

I have to keep my mouth shut a lot of  the time when I meet up with folk on proper working boats for fear of putting my foot in it.  I just haven’t learned the lingo.  I don’t know a snubber from a snatcher or a Joey boat from a Tom Pudding.  I believe the latter may be some sort of cat based dessert.

Anyone who has met me will know that I don’t speak in BBC English.  Actually being a native of South Worcestershire, there is one BBC programme where I would have an authentic accent – The Archers.  However in writing  I do like to get old words right, preferring to write gunwales rather than gunnels, and I am pleased to say that at least one of my kids has followed suit.  Our Richard – himself a liveaboard narrowboater refuses to buy yoghurt if the tub calls it a yogurt.  Sadly he is running out of options on this front and down to only a couple of makes.

Where is all this leading? You may ask.  Well, see if you can work it out from this email which I was pleased to receive from Richard yesterday.

“I don't know how regular an occurrence it is for the Countdown Conundrum to go unsolved by contestants, audience and hosts alike but I got today's well within time and so would you have.

And here is today's conundrum


Tick-tock, tick-tock, tic-tock, tick-tock, doong, doong, doong, doong, doong, doong, da-da, da-da, da-da-la-da, beeeeeuw!
and the answer is.....


That's a proper bit of conundrumming for ya! “

If you can’t work that one out, you don’t deserve to.


Roger Smith said...

Ah the old wagon for carrying boats, a bit like the one for carrying hay PC99 painted.

Sarah said...

If yoghurt, why not yoghourt, which seems to have enjoyed a vogue in the past. The Concise Oxford (even my very old edition) gives yogurt as an acceptable spelling (along with yaourt, which doesn't seem to have caught on). I wonder whether there is a tendency for foreign words entering the English language to start off with complex spellings, reflecting their exocitism and exclusivity, that gradually become simplified as they become part of day to day English, and the day to day English diet.

As for gunnel, again the COD gives this as an alternative spelling; I tend to think of it as a canal boat term, used and spelled casually, whereas gunwale is the more 'proper' nautical term. It is surely no different from bosun for boatswain, and 'bosun' is now almost universally used (hence the challenge of that particular conundrum).