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Peculiarities of Dialect.-- Among the native-born fishermen of New England, particularly those of the rural districts of Cape Cod and Maine, a very pure, forcible English dialect is spoken. The inhabitants of this region retain the peculiar modes of expression in use among their English ancestors, who came to this country two hundred years or more ago. It is estimated that 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Cape Cod at the present day are lineal descendants of English ancestors who settled the towns of that district between 1620 and 1750, and the percentage is probably equally as great, if not larger, on the coast of Maine. As is well known, very many of the English immigrants to these regions were men of education and good family. As a consequence the English of the shore population and of the fishermen belonging to those districts is pure, idiomatic, and strong. Many provincial words, or words which were common use in England two centuries ago and are now marked as obsolete in the dictionaries, are still in use among them. There is now in preparation, in connection with the work of the United States Fish Commission, a dictionary of words and phrases in use among the fishermen of the United States, which, when published, will afford much material deserving of the attention of the philogists. There are many expressive words and phrases in use among the fishermen- the technical language of their handicraft applied to the operations of daily life- which are full of meaning to those who know enough of fishing to understand them. Various names for tools and operations connected with their trade have been coined by them which are peculiar and hae never found place in the dictionaries. Slang is, as might be expected, very popular, and the slang phrases invented by the newspaper paragrapher, the negro minstrel, and the actor in the variety theater are as current among them as in the streets of our towns and villages. The ordinary professional slang of seamen is also prevalent among them, its vocabulary being greatly increased by slang used only by the fishermen themselves.

picture of men cleaning fish

Dressing cod on deck of fishing schooner Drawing by H. W. Elliott and Capt. J. W. Collins
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Mr. Charles Nordhoff, in a collection of short stories published under the title "Cape Cod and All Along Shore," has given excellent illustrations of the Cape Cod dialect, particularly that of Chatham, Harwich, and the neighboring towns, the truthfulness of which is all the more apparent when compared with the dialect in Miss McLean's "Cape Cod Folks." "Peter Gott, the Cape Ann Fishermen," a story by Dr. Joseph Reynolds, is also a treasury of good old Cape Ann language. The "Fisherman's Own Book," the "Fisherman's Memorial and Record Book," and "The Fisherman's Song Book," three little volumes published by Procter Brothers of Gloucester, contain many verses in dialect.

The following lines by Hiram Rich, of Gloucester, represent a fairly satisfactory attempt- perhaps the most successful yet made- to record the dialect of the fishermen of the olden time:

    The Skipper-Hermit

    For thirty year, come herrin'-time,
    Through many kind o' weather,
    The "Wren" an' me have come an' gone,
    An' held our own together.
    Do' know as she is good and new,
    Do' know as I am, nuther;
    But she is truer'n kit' an' kin,
    Or any but a mother.

    They're at me now to stay ashore,
    But while we've hand an' tiller,
    She'll stick to me an' I to her,-
    To leave the "Wren" would kill her.
    My feet have worn the deck; ye see
    How watches leave their traces,
    An' write on oak an' pine as plain
    As winters on our faces!

    But arter all is said an' done,
    There's somethin' sort o' human
    About a boat that takes at last
    The place o' child and woman;
    An' yet when I have seen some things-
    Their mothers let me toss `em-
    My boat, she seemed a barnacle
    `Longside a bran-new blossom.

    Sometimes to me the breeze off-shore
    Comes out upon the water,
    As if it left the grave of her-
    No wife to me nor daughter.
    Lor! If I knowed where green or no
    The turf is sweet above her,
    I'd buy a bit o' ground there,-wide
    As a gull's wings would cover.

    We know the tricks o' wind an'tide
    That mean an' make disaster,
    An' balk `em, too-the "Wren" an' me-
    Off on the Ol' Man's Pastur'.
    Day out an' in the blackfish there
    Go wabblin' out an' under,
    An' nights we watch the coasters creep.
    From light to light in yonder.

    An' then ag'in we lay an' lay
    Off Wonson's Cove or Oakses-
    None go by our compass-light,
    Nor we by other folkses.
    Ashore, the ball-room winders shine
    Till weary feet are warnin',
    But here an' there's a sick-room light
    That winks away till mornin'.

    An' Sundays we go nigher in,
    To hear the bells a-ringin',-
    I aint no hand for sermons, you,
    But singin's allers singin'.
    The weathercocks- no two agree-
    Like men they arg' an' differ,
    While in the cuddy-way I set
    An' take my pipe, an' whiff her.

    My pipe-eh! P'ison? Mighty s-l-o-w;
    It makes my dreamin' clearer,
    Though waht I fill it with now-days
    Is growin' dear 'n' dearer.
    I takes my comfort when it comes,
    Then no lee-lurch can spill it,
    An' if my net is empty, Lor'!
    Why, how can growlin' fill it?

    An' so we jog the hours away,
    The gulls they coo an' tattle,
    Till on the hill the sundown red
    Starts up the drowsin' cattle.
    The seiners row their jiggers by;
    I pull the slide half over,
    An' shet the shore out, an' the smell
    Of sea-weed sweeter'n clover.

The following sketch, quoted from a Boston newspaper, contains a fair example of the fishermen's dialect:* [*The facts in the case are truthfully described. The Rattler, while returning to Gloucester from a voyage to Newfoundland, in January, 1867, was overtaken by a furious gale in the vicinity of Cashe's Ledge. She was struck by a heavy sea, thrown on her beam ends or rolled over, and finally righted with the loss of both masts. She arrived in Gloucester a few days later. ]

"`Wall, you, I see another fishermen has gone down,' said a rugged, weather-beaten veteran of the sea to a reporter who, as was his wont, had invaded the quarters of the old salt near Commercial wharf. The speaker sat on an upturned keg, and had just finished reading the account of the loss of the Maud S., which had gone down near Half-Way Rock, off Portland Harbor, not long before.

"`It's cur'ous. Sometimes a vessel'll go down's easy's nothin','n' then agin she'll live what you wouldn't say th' wus a ghost of a show. Now, thar was the Rattler, pitchpoled over the shoals off Cape Ann at midnight, some thirteen years ago, in a gale of wind, `n' come right side up `n' got into port safe with every man on board,' and the old man paused and patiently waited for the usual_

"`How was that, cap'n?'

"With a preparatory `wall,' while a satisfied look overspread his face, the captain continued:

"`One of the wust shoals on the New Englun coast is `bout twenty-two league off Cape Ann, called Cashe's Shoals; yet fur all that th'r ain't much said `bout `em, which I never could explain, fur more vessels uv gone down thar than on any shoal of the same size along the coast.'

"`How large are the shoals?'

"`Wall, sailin' either side a quarter `v a mile an' you're in sixty or seventy fathom, but right on the shoals, which is only a few rod across, the water ain't much over twenty feet deep. Why, it's so shaller I've seen kelp growin' up on top o' the water, an' when thar's a blow an' the big seas come rollin' in thar's I've seen `em- a hundred feet choppin' down on the bottom- I tell you it's cruel. No shop could live thar in a storm, an' only smaller vessels can go over in calm weather. Wall, the Rattler, as I was a speakin' of, wus comin' `long down the coast from Newf'n'land loaded with frozen herrin'. The night wus a black one, `n the cap'n was off his reck'nin'. Leastways, fust thing any one knowned, a big sea lifted the vessel an' pitched her forrard. She struck her nose on the bottom, an' just then another big one struck her fair in the stern, an' lifted it clean over the bow; her masts struck an' snapped off; an' she went over the shoals an' floated in deep water on the other side, fair an' square on her keel, with both masts broke off to `ithin fifteen feet o' the deck.'

"`Where were the crew?'

"`Oh, they were down below. They said it was all over afore they knew what was up; they didn't sense it at all at first. They said, all it was they was settin' thar `n then,' illustrating by a motion of the hand toward the ceiling and back to the floor; `they struck the deck `n then came down agin all in a heap on the floor. They got up on the deck, kind of dazed like, an' thar she wus, a complete wreck.'

"`How about the man at the helm?'

"`Oh, he was lashed. But he said arterwerds, when he felt the old scraft spinnin' over, he thought it was all over with him. He held on ter the wheel fur dear life an' never lost his grip; but I tell you that's a tremendous strain on a man.' And the old captain clenched his large muscular hands as if he thought he, too, for a time, was being subjected to the same strain. `He wus pretty night gone; but they unlashed him, took him down below, and did for all him they could. Arter they got into port, he was laid up fur a long time, but finally come round all right.'

"`How did they manage to get into port with their vessel a wreck?'

"`They had a fair wind, the current was in their favor, an' they finally fell in with a vessel that towed `em in all right. That was the nar'rest `scape I ever heerd of fur a vessel.'

"`Their good angels were watching over the crew that night, sure. If any one but you, captain, had told me that story I must say I should have doubted it.'

"`Wall, you needn't doubt it, for it's gospel truth, an' the man who owned the vessel was Andrew Leighton, of Glo'ster, an' the cap'n who sailed her was named Bearse.' And then the veteran fish-dealer brought down his clinched hand upon an ice-chest that stood within reach with an emphasis that settled all debate more effectually than the most successful gag-law ever put into practice by the most astute politician."

Dialect of Marblehead Fishermen.-- The first settlers of Marblehead came from the south of England, and many of them from the Guernsey and other channel island, and the peculiarities of the dialects of their ancestors are still observable in this old town. Roads, in his History of Marblehead, says:

"So broad and quick was their pronunciation, and so strange were the idioms characterizing their speech, that a native of the town was known wherever he went. Nor was this peculiarity confined to any class or condition of men residing in the town. All shared it alike, of whatever rank or condition in life. The words were clipped off very shortly, and in some sectinos were was a slight difference in the dialect noticeable. The `Cuny Lane' people always dropped the `h' in speaking, and their vernacular was much like that of a cockney Englishman, in addition to that which betrayed them `to the manner born.'

"Hardly a family in the olden time escaped with a correct pronunciation of its name. The name of Crowninshield became `Grounsel;' Orne was transformed to `Horne;' Trefry was variously pronounced `Duvy,' `Tevy', `Trevye,' and `Trefroy;' Quiner became `Coonier;' Florence was clipped to `Flurry,' and Trasher was abbreviated to `Trash.'

"So accustomed were many of the inhabitants to the cognomen by which they were known that in some instances they did not recognize their own names when called by them. An instance of this kind is related in the `Life and Letters of Judge Story,' who was a native of the town. Once while he was trying a case in the circuit court, in Boston, the clerk called out the name of one of the jury as Michael Treffrey (it being so spelt). No answer was given. Again he was called, and still there was silence. `It is very strange,' said the clerk, `I saw that man here not two minutes ago.' `Where does he come from?' asked the judge. `Marblehead, may it please your honor,' said the clerk. `If that's the case,' said the judge,'let me see the list.' The clerk handed it up to him. He looked at the name a minute and, handing back the list, said,'Call Mike Trevye,' (throwing the accent on the last syllable). `Mike Trevye,' called the clerk. `Here,' answered a gruff voice. `Why did you not answer before?' asked the clerk. `Treffrey is no way to pronounce my name,' said the juryman; `my name is Mike Trevye, as the judge knows.'

"Another anecdote to the same purpose is related in the work: `On one occasion, when some of our fishermen were in court to settle a mutiny which had taken place on the Grand Banks (of Newfoundland ), one, on being called to state what he knew, said that the skipper and one of his shipmates had what he called a `jor of ile.' The presiding judge in vain endeavored to get a more intelligible answer, and finally Judge Story was called upon, as usual, to act as interpreter to his townsman, which he did, telling the court that a `jor of ile' in the Marblehead dialect was `a jaw, a while,' which, being interpreted, meant that the two men abused each other grossly for some time.

"Though the dialect once so general among the people is now almost extinct, there are many words used occasionally to know the meaning of which would puzzle a stranger. Often when any of the natives feel cold or chilly they will say they are `crimmy.' If they lose their way in the dark and become confused or bewildered, they will say that they were `pixilated.' In speaking of the ceiling of a room many of the older people still call it `planchment.' When a lady on examining a piece of sewing finds that it is carelessly or improperly done, it is not unusual for her to call the work a `frouch.' When food has been improperly cooked it is spoken of as `cautch.' When very angry for any reason it is a common occurrence to hear some one exclaim, `Squeal `im up!' `Squeal something at him!' or `He ought to be squealed up!' which being interpreted means, `Throw something at him!' `He ought to be stoned!' `Stone him!' A crumb or small peice of anything is called a `grummet,' and a sulky or ill-natured person is said to be `grouty'."

Fishermen of Grand Manan.-- A writer in the Gloucester Telegraph of July 16, 1870, says: "The fishermen of Grand Manan have a patois of their own. When one of them speaks of his `brush' you do not at first suspect that he refers to his hair. His boots are `stompers,' while his knife is a `throater,' and his apron is a `barvil.' His hook is a `dragon,' and his boats `pinkies,' `pogies,' and `jiggers.' He counts time by the tide, and covenants with the parson to marry him to Suke about `slack water.' The various preparations of flour and meal are known as `fish-smother,' `duff,' and `joe-floggers'; hard bread and apples are `grunt.' He applies `she to everything, from his wife to a cart-wheel or clock."

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