Having moved to Pittsfield, I naturally made it a priority to get a library card (the library is wonderfully called the Athenaeum), and the first order of business once I had it was to check out a few local histories. I have just begun reading The History of Pittsfield, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts, from the Year 1734 to the Year 1800, by J.E.A. Smith (1869, repr. [1990?]), and I cannot resist passing along this sentence and footnote from page 7:
On the heights where Greylock lifts the topmost summit of the State, along the valleys of the Hoosac and the Housatonic, up the rude but flower-fringed wood-roads which penetrate the narrowing opes1 of the Green Mountains, beauty is everywhere the prevailing element.
1 The reader will pardon to necessity the employment of a word of merely local authority and very infrequent use. A hope — or more descriptively, without the aspirate, an ope — is a valley, which, open at one end only, loses itself at the other, sloping upward to a point in the mass of the mountains. The word is quite indispensable in the description of scenery like that of Berkshire; and its disuse has resulted in the adoption of such vile substitutes as “hole,” “hollow,” or even worse. Thus we have Biggs’s Hole and Bigsby’s Hollow, or more probably “Holler.” Surely neatly descriptive ope should not be displaced by such abominable interlopers as these.
WEBSTER has “HOPE, n. — A sloping plain between ridges of mountains. [Not in use.] Ainsworth.” — But English local topographical writers sometimes use the word in the sense given it in the text.
Now, that’s interesting enough, but when I went to the OED (a resource not yet available to the good Mr. Smith), I found entries for both spellings—with no indication that they are related.
The second noun hope:
[OE. hop app. recorded only in combination (e.g. fenhop, mórhop: see sense 1). It is doubtful whether all the senses belong orig. to one word. With sense 3 cf. ON. hóp ‘a small land-locked bay or inlet, salt at flood tide and fresh at ebb’ (Vigf.).]
1. A piece of enclosed land, e.g. in the midst of fens or marshes or of waste land generally.
2. A small enclosed valley, esp. ‘a smaller opening branching out from the main dale, and running up to the mountain ranges; the upland part of a mountain valley’; a blind valley. Chiefly in south of Scotl. and north-east of England, where it enters largely into local nomenclature, as in Hopekirk, Hopetoun, Hope-head, Dryhope, Greenhope, Ramshope, Ridlees Hope, etc.
And the entry ope, a. and n, definition B.2.a:
2. a. Eng. regional (south-west.). An opening; spec. a narrow, usually covered, passage between houses; = OPEWAY n.
Note the 1886 citation: W. BARNES Gloss. Dorset Dial. 85 Ope, an opening in the cliffs down to the water side. Coincidence, or a misplaced unaspirated form?
Perhaps frequent commenter Eliza can provide information as to whether either of these forms is still in use.
Incidentally, the Smith book is the source of the recent fuss about Pittsfield having the first recorded reference to baseball in America; as the SportsLine story says:
The evidence comes in a 1791 bylaw that aims to protect the windows in Pittsfield’s new meeting house by prohibiting anyone from playing baseball within 80 yards of the building…
Historian John Thorn was doing research on the origins of baseball when he found a reference to the bylaw in an 1869 book on Pittsfield’s history.
And there it is, at the top of pate 447: “…the exterior [of the meeting-house] was protected by a by-law forbidding ‘any game of wicket, cricket, base-ball, bat-ball, foot-ball, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball,’ within eighty yards of the precious structure.” Whatever they were playing in Pittsfield in 1791, however, it was certainly not the game of baseball as we know it, which was created (in primitive form) by Alexander Cartwright half a century later in Manhattan, true home of the game.