Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Martin Paddles a Canoe


Martin Paddles a Canoe

Last week I mentioned that this week’s post would include an audio version of “Martin Harrison Takes a Paddle,” the story that won the 2012 Ingrid Reti Literary Award. But first, some etymological considerations of two words that figure highly in the story…

The word canoe comes from the Arawakan language of Haiti. Canaoua first appeared in English in the 1500s, taken from the notes of none other than Christopher Columbus (who some revere & others feel should’ve received a paddling). The noun referred originally to a narrow boat made of a log with the center hollowed or burnt out. After a few centuries, the meaning broadened and the noun verbified, creating opportunity for the sadly seldom used pick-up line, “Voulez vous canoe avec moi?”

The word paddle takes up a page and a half in the Oxford English Dictionary. Interestingly, one meaning of the word paddle has no known source. We Americans seldom use paddle this way – to walk about in mud or water. There’s also a paddle which refers to a small leather bag (diminutive of pad), & another paddle which refers - for unexplainable reasons - to the sea-toad or lumpfish. The paddle we might use in a canoe is a relative of the word spade, & some linguists contend it was initially spaddle. Originally, it meant a long-handled spade-shaped implement used for clearing a ploughshare of earth or digging out thistles. In time, it morphed into the paddle we know today.

Thanks for indulging me in a bit of word history. Below, you’ll find the twelve-minute audio file for “Martin Harrison Takes a Paddle,” a story of a fourteen year-old boy attending Cancer Camp. I hope you find it satisfying.




My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com  Latintos, & the OED.

12 comments:

  1. Marvelous, moving story, Charlie--and so wonderfully read! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Great story, Charlie. "Sense of place" is right. You put us right out there on that lake watching the bedpan moon. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Ahoy Dawn & Barbara Jean,
    Thanks so much for popping by. I love how writing brings up unexpected bits of one's life. Writing this story put me right back at Camp Bluff Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains (I spent about ten summers running YMCA camps in my youth). I'm pleased you like the story.

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  4. Okay, so "...use paddle this way – to walk about in mud or water" must have led directly or otherwise to the emergence of "puddle," which meant boggily progressing through such muck without an implement of propulsion, which then, of course, led to the expression of being up "somewhere or other's" creek without a you-know-what at the very time you have to take a... "piddle?" Yes or no?

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  5. Charlie, just great job. Loved it and believe me you deserved the award. I know Ingrid would be thrilled you won. As others have said, terrific sense of place and poignant story and character. San Bernardino. You weren't far from me. I went to high school in Barstow. As Ingrid would say, no there's a story in that.

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  6. Hey Mindprinter & Steve,
    Thanks heaps, & Steve, being up a river without a piddle could be quite...well, uncomfortable, I suppose.

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  7. Wonderful.Congratulations on your award. I really enjoyed your story.

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  8. I love this story. Congrats on the well-deserved award.

    Fascinating stuff about "paddle" And it's so interesting that canoe is an Arwakan word. I wonder how many words we use every day are native American and we don't realize it.

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  9. Hi Anne & Wanda,
    Thanks so much, & I, also, would love to know how many native American words make up our day-to-day language, or Arabic, Lithuanian or Swahili words for that matter.

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  10. Wonderful, Charlie! Your writing is fabulous and telling of the story adds a whole other dimension to it. Yes, I found it thoroughly satisfying :-)

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    1. Hi Terry,
      I'm so glad you made it to Wordmonger - thanks for dropping by, & thanks also for the kind words.

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  11. Hi Charlie,
    Ingrid Reti's daughter, Irene, here. I love your story so much! It's exquisitely well-written; the voice is so strong and I admire how you revealed the situation Martin is in slowly. The image of the bedpan moon really stays with me, and that shining head. I think Ingrid would really have liked this story. Congratulations!

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