SNOOK.

A couple of years ago I posted about a South African fish called snoek, the subject of a New Yorker article by Calvin Trillin about a man’s obsession with it. That snoek is the Afrikaans descendent of Dutch snoek, which is the source of the English fish name snook, and oddly enough, the Oct. 30 New Yorker has an article (not online) by Ian Frazier on American snook and a man’s obsession with it. Frazier writes well, but I care little or nothing about fish and fishing, so I suspect the reason I kept reading was the word snook itself, so odd and such fun to say. But I was taken aback when I got to this, on page 59: “This time when seeking a guide, I asked around for one with credentials for snook (which people there [in Everglades City, Florida] pronounce to rhyme with ‘fluke’).” Well, how else would you pronounce it? Then it occurred to me it could perfectly well be rhymed with cook, and sure enough, when I checked my trusty Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate that was the first pronunciation given, though the one favored by me and Everglades City, Florida is also accepted—and is, indeed, the only one given in the OED. I suspect my assumed pronunciation (for I’ve never had any contact with the fish or those who love it) was based on the etymology; the Dutch say /snuk/, so I did too. My question, of course, is: if you are actually familiar with this denizen of the deep, how do you say it (and where do you hail from)? Fluke or cook?


Incidentally, his snook guy mentions catching a twelve-pound jewfish, then adds “You ain’t allowed to keep jewfish anymore, anywhere in the state of Florida… You’re not supposed to call ‘em jewfish no more, neither. Their new name is the Goliath grouper. I don’t want to offend nobody, so I try to remember. But I’m sixty years old and I been callin’ ‘em jewfish all my life, and I imagine I’ll continue to.” FishBase calls ‘em itajara (which I presume is it-uh-JAR-uh, though it’s not in any of my dictionaries and, as always, I welcome correction) and adds “Territorial near its refuge cave or wreck where it may show a threat display with open mouth and quivering body. Larger individuals have been known to stalk and attempt to eat divers.” Yikes.

Comments

  1. I don’t know how it’s normally said, but I was reading it a la cook, following “snooker”.

  2. Snook is a family name in Nova Scotia, where it rhymes with cook.

  3. To snoop for the snook in a snood, what bliss!

  4. But snook [snu:k] is already a familiar English word, as in cocking a at, and snooker has [u:] too, so naturally you use those as analogies. They are more complete matches than the contrary analogies with nook [nUk], shook et al.

  5. I visited Key West a few years back, and officialese practice (in museums, etc.) seems to be to say “Goliath grouper (formerly called jewfish)” or the like. I don’t think I saw a single reference to the Goliath grouper that didn’t mention that name change.

  6. stroopwafel says:

    wouldn’t the Dutch pronounce it to rhyme with english “woke”? (oo in Dutch is like oa in English, I think)

  7. As a Dane with a very spellingbiased pronunciation and little knowledge of fish (i.e. not at all what you were asking for) I pronounced “snook” it to rhyme with “cook” too. (Idly I think I may have used “snook” as the ppP of “to sneak” before, but I see now that that’s regularly, but with “snuck” as N.Amer. inf. — just goes to show that I should keep my mouth shut about matters of language.)
    Anyway, what little knowledge I have of Dutch is that “oe” is [u] while “u” is [œ] (and “ui” is [aʊ] and “ij” is [aɪ]), so I too was primed for the short vowel in that regard.

  8. But it’s not snook in Dutch, it’s snoek.

  9. I say snook, to rhyme with cook. I’m from upstate NY.

  10. zuzentsailea, I don’t think “snook” and “snooker” are that familiar in the US.

  11. I was brought up on this fish, and let me tell you as someone who was forced to endure its flavour for the first two decades of his life, that ‘snook’ should be pronounced ‘rubbish’.

  12. John Emerson says:

    I knew a guy in Oregon named Snook, which he rhymed with cook. But coming from Minnesota, that’s the only way I’d say it anyway.

  13. I was going to say that I pronounced it to rhyme with “cook”, as in the expression “cock a snook”, but apparently I was getting that one wrong too. B’oh!

  14. I was brought up on this fish, and let me tell you as someone who was forced to endure its flavour for the first two decades of his life, that ‘snook’ should be pronounced ‘rubbish’.
     
     
    Ha! ha! Aidhoss, I [see*] smell very well what you mean! Its unforgettable savour and its delicate scent have even become proverbial over here (Mauritius**), where most people pronounce it “sunuk” (not in English though). I presume it could very well act as a natural alternative to the contraceptive pill — if ingested more by men than by women, of course (and not “of interc…”).
    Language Hat may find it strange, if not funny, but some even write it with an umlaut. I wonder where this exotic diacritic comes from.
    Incidentally, I never imagined that this fish could be South African. In fact I never bothered to check where it came from — while in the article linked above it is said that it’s imported from New Zealand (like South Africa, a kind of Dutch country, isn’t it?).
    By the way, Aidhoss, have you ever tried “bomli”, a particularly ‘sipid’ fish also known, quite strangely, as “Bombay Duck”? (Or should I now say “Mumbai Duck”?) Rather unwisely, the European Union banned it for some time, on grounds of hygiene. But sooner or later they had to admit that without it life wasn’t quite the same.
     
     
     
    * why does the [strike] HTML element doesn’t produce any visible result?
    ** another kind of Dutch thing…

  15. michael farris says:

    I grew up in semi-rural SW Florida in a house next to a canal with snook in it (for a time, they disappeared as the canal grew less salty and more brackish).
    I rhyme it with ‘cook’ and never heard or imagined any other pronunciation existed. We never ate any either.
    “I visited Key West a few years back, and officialese practice (in museums, etc.) seems to be to say “Goliath grouper (formerly called jewfish)” or the like.”
    Jewfish =/= snook, they’re completely different critters.

  16. Dutch snoek rhymes more or less with English cook.

  17. As a native Afrikaans speaker from South Africa, I have grown up with this word, and it’s definitely pronounced to rhyme with cook.
    Oh and just for the record – as a New Zealand resident I can assure you that New Zealand was settled by the English, not the Dutch…

  18. Siganus Sutor says:

    as a New Zealand resident I can assure you that New Zealand was settled by the English, not the Dutch…
    Really? I thought that with a name like this one… (But it’s true that I had to speak another Germanic language — or at least try to — when I went to this new Netherlandic* province.)
     
     
    * is it the correct adjective to mean “related to the Netherlands”?

  19. Originally named “Staten Landt” by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, cartographers renamed it “Nova Zeelandia” in Latin, derived from the Dutch Nieuw Zeeland. James Cook later renamed it New Zealand.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_New_Zealand

  20. Siganus Sutor says:

    So, isn’t the Land of the Loung Cloud (if I remember it well) somewhat “Netherlandic”?
    And you even have snoek swimming around… (c.f. link in 01:50 AM comment).

  21. Land of the Long White Cloud is the literal translation of the Maori word for New Zealand, which is Aotearoa. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aotearoa
    Although it’s true that snoek is caught in NZ waters, you will be hard pressed to find a New Zealander who has heard of it. I have a suspicion that it is sold under a different name in New Zealand.

  22. Siganus Sutor says:

    I have a suspicion that it is sold under a different name in New Zealand.
    Under the name “Bombay Duck” — or “Manukau Duck” — by any chance?
     
     
    you will be hard pressed to find a New Zealander who has heard of it.
    Does it therefore mean that only young Aussies are being fed this delicacy during their first 20 years on earth? (c.f. Aidhoss’ comment above.)

  23. But cook and fluke have the same vowel (for me). PS when I lived in NZ, I was told that the “Land of the Long White Cloud is the literal translation of the Maori word for New Zealand, which is Aotearoa” business was romantic rubbish.

  24. Both in Flemish and Dutch the word ‘snoek’ indeed rhymes with ‘cook’.
    There are actually quite a few (not generally known) expressions with that word. Should someone want them…

  25. Where I was brought up, in the Lancashire part of the Lake District, UK, ‘fluke’ and ‘cook’ had precisely the same vowel (a long ‘u’). I remember snook being available occasionally in fishmongers at the end of WW2; it was regarded as rather inferior fare, another indication of the sad state of the times. Flookborough, near Cartmel, was a place where people used to go flooking – catching flatfish with a fork on a stick as one waded in the shallows. Whether the first syllable of that place had anything to do with the fish I do not know.

  26. John Atkinson says:

    Romantic rubbish?
    ao = cloud
    tea = white
    roa = long
    About a literal a translation as you’re likely to get. (But there’s no “land of” there.)

  27. Jewfish =/= snook, they’re completely different critters.
    Well, yeah, that’s why I said “Incidentally.” I just thought it was an interesting tidbit.

  28. This “fluke = cook” thing is distressing. I guess I should have said “do you say it with a long or short oo?”, as unscientific as that is.

  29. Siganus Sutor says:

    Short “oo” for me — but I guess I shouldn’t count.
    Incidentally, why jewfish?

  30. David Hardcastle says:

    fluke = cook (or not)
    I note that Lancastrian Gavin Wraith and dearieme (Scottish, by any chance?) both say the vowel sounds are the same for them, although I suspect they pronounce the sound differently from each other.
    As a lowland Scot, left to my own devices, they would be the same for me too. But due to assorted other influences/relatives, I do now distinguish them.
    I have had to work at “look at Luke” for the benefit of those around me.
    Conversely, I distinguish between poor, pour and paw, which a lot of british english do not.
    Along the same lines, I generally avoid talking about the black stuff that comes down the chimney!

  31. michael farris says:

    “that’s why I said “Incidentally.” I just thought it was an interesting tidbit.”
    Well (he said crossly) if I’d just learn to read we wouldn’t be having these problems, would we?

  32. 1) “poor, pour and paw”: another one is said to be ‘soared, sawed, sword and sod’, though I’m not entirely sure of that fourth one myself.
    2) The NZ thing: I was told of this in a lengthy account by a historian of the widespread (he said) errors and fantasies about the Maoris entertained by most Kiwis.

  33. why jewfish?
    An excellent question. The OED says “See quot. 1697,” which is as follows:
    1697 W. DAMPIER Voy. (1729) I. 249 The Jew-fish is a very good Fish, and I judge so called by the English, because it hath Scales and Fins, therefore a clean Fish, according to the Levitical Law.

  34. “Snoek” in Dutch is not pronounced as [snUk] (rhyming with cook) as reader Herman and bertil incorrectly stated. Rather, it is pronounced [snuk]. Note this is not the same [u] as in English, where it is generally pronounced rather a bit longer, i.e. as [u:].
    I agree it *might* be pronounced with a sound approximating an [U], but only so in some dialects. Even in dialects rendering the clear [u] sound a bit flatter it is highly unlikely the sound thus generated would seem anything like a typical English [U] sound.
    In response to Sili:
    = [u]
    = [Y] or [y]
    = [œy], in some regions: [œj]
    = [eI], in several regions: [aI]
    (whereby [e] is in fact a front open mid vowel)

  35. I’m sorry, seems like I’ve left out the written forms in my previous reply. I’ll do that again.
    So…
    Dutch “…” reads [...]
    “oe” = [u]
    “u” = [Y] or [y]
    “ui” = [œy], in some regions: [œj]
    “ij”/”ei” = [eI], in several regions: [aI] or sometimes [ej]
    (whereby [e] is in fact a front open mid vowel)

  36. Siganus Sutor says:

    Because it hath Scales and Fins? But doesn’t every fish — or nearly — have these attributes? Though kosher, it doesn’t turn them all into jewfish, does it?

  37. In New Zealand the snoek is called “barracuda”. We don’t use snook for the fish, and my instinct would be to rhyme it with book and cook. I’m familiar with the expression “cock a snook” but I’ve never heard anyone actually say it, until right just now, when I asked my partner. She says it like the first syllable in snooker too.

  38. But doesn’t every fish — or nearly — have these attributes? Though kosher, it doesn’t turn them all into jewfish, does it?
    Another excellent question, to which I do not have a ready answer. Perhaps it spoke Hebrew.

  39. The Jewfish is so called because it is circumcised, practices usury, poisons wells, and eats gefiltefish. It is not actually Jewish.

  40. Here in South Australia snook is often caught by anglers. I, and everyone I know, pronounce it [u:] – long u.
    Growing up in Western Australia ‘our’ jewfish was sometimes spelled dhufish. And it’s called butterfish in South Australia.

  41. Terry Collmann says:

    Could we get rid of that stupid ignorant racist last comment please? John Emerson is clearly an idiot – and can’t even write to a language site without mis-spelling “practise” the verb …

  42. I have a suspicion that it is sold under a different name in New Zealand.
    Not ‘baracuta’ by any chance? (As opposed to ‘baracuda’; the Australian/New Zealand tapping of alveolar stops renders these two perfect homophones).

  43. Calma, Terry, calma. John is just having his little joke, and we all know the best humor is edgy. No Jews were harmed in the making of his comment; besides, both spellings of “practic/se” are acceptable according to Merriam-Webster.

  44. Plenty of fish aren’t kosher. First off, whales and dolphins and such, while today considered mammals (since they’re much more closely related to land mammals than to fish), were not terribly long ago considered fish. Similarly with shellfish (various mollusks and arthropods). And then there are plenty of creatures that are still considered fish, but don’t have fins and scales, such as eels, catfish, and sharks.
    (That said, most everyday-food fish, at least in the U.S., are kosher.)

  45. is it the correct adjective to mean “related to the Netherlands”?
    Um… what about ‘Dutch’?

  46. “Netherlander” seems most correct. In English “Dutch” overlaps with German, and Netherlanders I’ve known say that “Holland” is only part of the Nehterlands. My Dutch ancestors called themselves Hollanders, possibly because of WWI when the Germans were Dutch.

  47. Plenty of fish aren’t kosher.
    While this is true, it is also true that the vast majority of fish are, especially since neither whales/dolphins nor shellfish come under the heading of “fish” in current English.

  48. That’s what you call “edgy humor”?
    You’re gotta get out more.
    Can someone introduce a Russian ю into English already? I’m tired of various transcriptions of same vowel and besides, am never quite sure how it sounds.
    Terry, emerson just being his stupid rambling self, don’t pay any attention to it.

  49. Siganus Sutor says:

    LH: While this is true, it is also true that the vast majority of fish are [kosher], especially since neither whales/dolphins nor shellfish come under the heading of “fish” in current English.
    It has always been baffling for a non-native ‘user’ of English to hear crustaceans and molluscs described as “fish”, seemingly just because they are sea creatures. It doesn’t fit the usual picture of a fish as a swimming cold-blooded animal with a head, a tail and gills. (If you ask a child to draw a fish, just a fish, without any other specification, it’s quite likely that it’ll look more or less like this.) According to this common-sense definition, almost every fish is kosher.
    I suppose the Levites were mostly afraid of eating a serpent-like eel or some other weird underwater creature linked to Satan. But they had certainly not tried a vindaye ourite (octopus vindaloo), otherwise they would never have enacted such a mitzvah!

  50. Melville says that whales are fish, and who would no better? Rabbits are poultry, and tomatoes are vegetables, and jellyfish is a salad green.

  51. And I am Marie of Roumania.

  52. Terry Collmann says:

    Hmmm … now more than ever, it seems, we need that typeface called Ironic Sans.
    On the subject of Dutch, the word in English indicated a German until Elizabethan times (see the works of Andrew Boorde, for example), while people from the Low Countries were named for whatever provice they came from – Hollander, Seelander (Zealander), Fleming and so on. My guess is that when they became the United Provinces, English needed a single word to describe people from that country, and co-opted “Dutch” rather than using the longer “Netherlanders”, bringing in “German” to describe the people to the south and east. But that’s just a blue-sky surmise with no evidence at all …

  53. In the US “Dutch” for “German” lasted into the XXc (“Dutch Schultz” was German).
    Steve, as Marie of Rumania did you know that you have a Stonehenge monument and a Rodin museum dedicated to you in Oregon?

  54. Thank you, Brecht. I lounge corrected — it shows that I have no ear for languages and just wanted to learn to pronounce “Henk Kuijpers” once upon a time.

  55. I may have missed it in this extensive tail of comments, but what is it exactly that makes a fish kosher?
    And going back to the original point, Snook rhymes with Cook and not the first syllable of Snooker, nor with Smoke. But it is irrelevant, because anyone with any sense of taste at all would avoid this… marine vertibrate like the plague.

  56. @Sili: If Henk Kuijpers is from Cuijk you’re in luck. In both cases the uij-bit will be pronounced as [y] by the locals.
    (Which makes Cuijk a rather funny place name for a Swede)

  57. michael farris says:

    “And going back to the original point, Snook rhymes with Cook and not the first syllable of Snooker,”
    uh… for me the first syllable of ‘snooker’ rhymes with cook (snooker, hooker, cooker and looker all rhyme for me).
    What does snooker rhyme with for you?

  58. Siganus Sutor says:

    John Emerson: « “Netherlander” seems most correct. In English “Dutch” overlaps with German, and Netherlanders I’ve known say that “Holland” is only part of the Nehterlands. »
    I was thinking more about the adjective than the people. You couldn’t talk of a “Netherlander province” or the “Netherlander flower industry”, could you?
    By the way, you apparently have an “American Association for Netherlandic Studies” — http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/aans/ — and the Encyclopedia Britannica has an entry at “Netherlandic language” — http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9055348/Netherlandic-language

  59. For me, the “snoo” in “snooker” is long and rhymes with “who”, and the “coo” in “cook” is short and rhymes with hook and look, but not with “who”.
    But in the North-West of England, hooker, cooker and looker might all have the same long oo, and I can’t remember ever hearing “snooker” pronounced any other way. I can imagine some Scots might pronounce all those words with the same short “u” I put in “cook”.
    I’d pronounce “snook” as in “cock a snook” with the long oo. I’ve never heard of the fish. (I’m more-or-less so-called standard English based on East Anglia and overlaid with Manchester and London in that order).

  60. –In the US “Dutch” for “German” lasted into the XXc (“Dutch Schultz” was German).
    Sure, but is that current usage in any English-speaking country now, aside from fossilised names like Pennsylvania Dutch? I would have thought “Dutch” was unambigously the adjective for things pertaining to the Netherlands in English everywhere.
    And to dearieme: “Aotearoa” is a recent coinage. Before European settlement Maori had names for the individual islands, but not for the group – just as they didn’t use the term “Maori”, which literally means “ordinary, usual” until they encountered other peoples. It is possible that the originator was one of the Pakeha (ie European) “scholars” such as Elsdon Best, who didn’t hesitate to alter the traditions they recorded the better to shoehorn them into their conceptions of New Zealand’s settlement and history. I suspect your historian friend mentioned Aoteroa in the context of a larger set of widespread untruths (the Great Fleet of Kupe, the Maori conquest of a Melanesian “Moriori”, and so on) which all stem from the same few colonial sources.
    At any rate Aoteroa has gained currency in modern Maori over the equally valid Niu Tirene. Popular usage reigns here too, no matter what your no doubt accurate historian friend said. As noted above, “Land of the Long White Cloud” is a poetical and non-literal translation. Quite possibly the “Land of” part of it stems from a misreading of a long-forgotten English original. I can just imagine some Victorian writing “They came to Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud” and readers assuming the latter was a direct translation of the former.

  61. @Siganus Sutor: In both cases Netherlandic refers to the Netherlands AND Belgium. They speak dutch there as well. Some would say they speak it better…

  62. Okay, SN, but here you specifically mean the language. My original concern was just to find a general-purpose adjective for “related to the Netherlands” (the country), to talk say of a “Netherlandic province”, the “Netherlandic economy”, etc. Of course we could say “Dutch” and everybody would understand it, but is it exactly the same?
    For example have a look at the French (or Russian?) equivalent of “Dutch”: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Dutch

  63. michael farris says:

    What’s wrong with Netherlandish? I’ve seen that used for the language.

  64. In English? In the last century? I don’t think I have.

  65. Maybe much earlier, at the time it split with Neanderthalish.

  66. @Siganus: Actually I didn’t mean just the language. To me, the english “Netherlandic” would refer to the historic Netherlands (NL+BE+ optionally LUX) rather than the current country.
    But I’m all for coining something to replace “Dutch”…

  67. In practice I say “Dutch”, but my “Dutch” ancestors (grandfather et al) objected to that and called themselves “Hollanders”, and the most recent “Hollanders” I met objected to that term and called themselves “Netherlanders” in English.

  68. Stephen Judd: thanks for your comments on NZ.

  69. “Snoek” is a Dutch name for “pike” (Esox lucius)and the Dutch settlers in South Africa called the South African fish “zee snoek”, meaning “sea pike”. The resemblence between the two species is superficial; they are both elongated predators. Snoek rhymes with book or cook (the “short oo” for one posters benefit). The “snook” fish referred to is of a different species; Thyrsites atun (“snoek”) is not distributed in North America. Americans hopefully can better elaborate on the pronunciation. In fact multiple species of fish are locally (in various countries) called either “snoek” or “snook”; unsurprisingly the countries will commonly have a history of Dutch or English settlement.

  70. Lloyd Snook says:

    When I was a child I read in some genealogy book — and I have had it confirmed by a scholar of such things — that the surname “Snook” is a contraction of “Sennock,” which is itself a contraction of “Seven Oaks,” a small town 25 miles south of London. I visited there about 27 years ago, and looked in the telephone book for Seven Oaks and Tunbridge Wells, and I saw about 30 “Snook” entries. I had never seen more than about 3 before.
    I don’t know about the fish, or about any Dutch derivation. But this is the root of the English surname.

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