From The Elegance of the Hedgehogby Muriel Barbery, p. 160:
“…pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.”
I love words. They’ve been a lifelong passion of mine; a singularly important way for me to connect and comprehend, verbally and in writing, as they merge to form the language we use to communicate with one another every day. I love reading them, pronouncing them in my head, and learning their definitions in order to cement my recall of their meanings. My compulsion to stop reading to confirm my contextual understanding of a new-to-me word, formerly via Webster and now via Google has, over the years, disrupted many a reading session. Still, those interruptions have provided a long-lasting, ever-expanding benefit: a larger vocabulary of words from which to choose the specific one whose meaning most “accurately” conveys what I’m trying to express. It’s a challenging choice at times!
This process sounds terribly serious, but I assure you it’s not, at least not entirely. In fact, it’s often a source of entertainment, enabling wordplay at no one’s expense, as I come across alternative meanings for “commonly” used words and phrases applied in a new situation. So for the remainder of this post, I’m sharing some we’ve heard this summer on Seguin, “rafted-up” in unfamiliar phrases or pronunciations. I’ll also mention other words that emanate from living on or near the ocean.
The following cartoon from John Deering, chief editorial cartoonist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the land-locked (if you exclude the Mississippi River) but multi-laked state’s largest newspaper, certainly sets the tone for my commentary:
As a safety measure, Chris and I stay connected via radios when we are physically apart on the island. Thanks once again to the solar installation and the donors who made it possible, this summer we are also able to regularly monitor the USCG distress/safety radio Channel 16. I’m familiar with radio-speak from my career, but not the “sea-going” lingo that comes from listening to mostly fishermen and some fisherwomen, and others, bantering on our shared channel or on Channel 16. From those I consider PC, comes “nailin” mackerel,” suggesting a successful fishing day to this “land-lubber.” And from the USCG, the following broadcast entrees, always delivered in threes: “buoyancy-buoyancy-buoyancy;” “pon-pon, pon-pon, pon-pon;” “securitas-securitas-securitas;”or “silence-silence-silence” with a French pronunciation that phonetically sounds like “seelonce-seelonce-seelonce.” When they were on Seguin, I asked the USCG for the meanings and if the repetition was for clarity or emphasis. Absent definitive responses, I invite current or former Coasties, or anyone more knowledgeable than I, to “weigh-anchor” on the topic
Then there are those words whose meanings are sea-specific, including Downeast, ketch and yawl, maritime, and tides. They sound simple enough, but a bit of a challenge for we flat-landers, at least initially. Thanks to Google, we finally learned the meaning of the term “Downeast” this summer, having been consistently confused by last year’s sailing visitors who, upon departing Seguin, were headed Downeast to Boothbay and other more northerly destinations, including Canada. “Ketch” and “yawl” refer to types of sailing vessels, or S/V; specifically, the position of the mast’s relative to the rudder post and also perhaps, the associated rigging of their sails. In this part of the world, it’s not referring to the effort expended when the baseball you run under lands smack dab in the palm of your “mitt” (catch) when you and your team (y’all) are fielding. “Maritime” sounds pretty straightforward, but from my experience, it means that things will happen according to sea time, not human commitments or clocks. Finally, “tides”, that combination of lunar and solar influences, currents, and winds that create “diurnal” tides on Seguin: two low tides and two high tides daily, each 45 minutes to an hour later than the day before over a month’s span of time. What we haven’t been able to Google to our understanding yet, is the meaning of the positive or negative number of feet identified for all four daily tides; specifically, the level of the water where and as measured against what?
We invite your comments to help us to get “ship-shape” by “weighing anchor” on the topic of tides, or any other sea-worthy tale or tidbit worth swapping!!