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.