Reef and Skerry.

I ran across the French word écueil, which was unfamiliar to me, and of course I looked it up. The English equivalent was allegedly reef, but I thought ‘reef’ was récif. Further investigation revealed that an écueil is actually a skerry, a small rocky island which may or may not be a reef. At any rate, it has an interesting etymology:

Empr. à l’a. prov. escueyll, attesté début XIVe s. au sens propre et au sens fig. […] qui, comme l’ital. scoglio (d’orig. ligure) et le cat. escull, remontent à un lat. vulg. *scŏclu, altération du class. scŏpŭlus « écueil » (du gr. σκόπελος), due, soit à une assimilation régressive du p au c, soit à une substitution du suff. –culus à la finale –pulus, moins fréquente […]. La forme fr. isolée scoigle […] est une adaptation de l’ital. scoglio (v. FEW, loc. cit.).

In other words, it’s from Provencal escueyll, which like Italian scoglio and Catalan escull are from a Vulgar Latin *scŏclu, from Latin scopulus, from Greek σκόπελος. (The Italian word scoglio always brings to my mind the great soprano aria from Così fan tutte [aria starts at 1:40].)


  1. Croatian škoj / školj also means (1) small island and (2) reef / rock [we don’t use the word skerry in Australia]. The Croatian Encyclopedic Dictionary gives the etymology as Venetian scogio and Italian scoglio.

  2. Well, we don’t really use the word skerry in America either; at least, I was unfamiliar with it. That’s presumably why French-English dictionaries define it as “reef” — not quite accurate, but comprehensible.

  3. It’s actually Gk. σκόπελος, with a kappa. Probably from σκέπτομαι ‘look about, view’, so, etymologically, an observation point.

  4. Fixed, thanks!

  5. I think of skerry as Scots only. If so, what is a Provençal word doing up there?

  6. The word skerry may be Scots, but the thing itself is all over, known even to Provencal-speakers.

  7. Meaning that the Romance words mean ‘skerry’, not that they are etymologically tied to it. M-W and AHD mark it as Scots, and the OED says it is from the Orkney dialect specifically: “Old Norse sker (Norwegian skjer, Swedish skär, Danish skær), whence also [Scots] Gaelic sgeir“. Most of the OED’s citations refer to Scottish islands specifically, making it a standard word for a regional feature, like bluff ‘cliff or headland with a precipitous face’, which is generally applied to American instances only.

    In any case, a skerry is exposed at low tide, and I wouldn’t call such a thing a reef, though undoubtedly others do (M-W and AHD back me up, saying “at or below the surface”). The Eddystone Rock, home of the famous lighthouse, is a skerry in every way except for not being in Scotland.

    I personally first met the word in Kingsley’s Water-Babies. The Allalonestone (which is obviously an English name, but with a suspiciously Norse flavor to it) is a rock in the ocean that Tom is directed to in his search which hosts the last surviving great auk, or gairfowl. She can’t help him, though, she just moans for her lost relatives and brags about her elevated social status. She tells him:

    A friend of mine and I came and settled on this rock when we were young, to be out of the way of low people. Once we were a great nation, and spread over all the Northern Isles. But men shot us so, and knocked us on the head, and took our eggs—why, if you will believe it, they say that on the coast of Labrador the sailors used to lay a plank from the rock on board the thing called their ship, and drive us along the plank by hundreds, till we tumbled down into the ship’s waist in heaps; and then, I suppose, they ate us, the nasty fellows! Well—but—what was I saying? At last, there were none of us left, except on the old Gairfowlskerry, just off the Iceland coast, up which no man could climb. Even there we had no peace; for one day, when I was quite a young girl, the land rocked, and the sea boiled, and the sky grew dark, and all the air was filled with smoke and dust, and down tumbled the old Gairfowlskerry into the sea. The dovekies and marrocks, of course, all flew away; but we were too proud to do that. Some of us were dashed to pieces, and some drowned; and those who were left got away to Eldey, and the dovekies tell me they are all dead now, and that another Gairfowlskerry has risen out of the sea close to the old one, but that it is such a poor flat place that it is not safe to live on: and so here I am left alone.”

    This was the Gairfowl’s story, and, strange as it may seem, it is every word of it true.

    Apparently the Gairfowlskerry is based on a real rock, the Geirfuglasker (if only Icelanders would palatalize like sensible people, we would all be speaking the same language!) near Reykjanes, Iceland. Great auks did live there until an 1830 eruption destroyed it, after which they moved to Eldey, a more accessible island, and were quickly wiped out by humans.

  8. While I am at it, I thought I would mention that Trinity House, the general lighthouse authority for England, Wales, the Channel Islands, and Gibraltar, is actually named “The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent”. It’s been around since 1514, when long titles were in fashion.

    And in case there happen to be any other Darkover fans among the Hattics, here’s the beginning of a classic filk:

    “O, my father was the keeper of the Arilinn Tower,
    He seduced a chieri with a kireseth flower,
    From this union there came three:
    Two were emmasca [or: Comyn] and the other was me.”

    This filk has actually been taken up into canon as a “scandalous ditty” sung by the daring on Darkover itself, though not usually around the Comyn.

  9. Zyxt: we don’t use the word skerry in Australia.

    Perhaps you don’t, but you have your own Skerries:

    A small, desolate rocky island may be called a szkier in Polish — a word used mostly by seamen and geologists. I have more often seen the adjective szkierowy, which describes the kind of coast one can see in the Åland Islands.

  10. Êcrého (Les Écréhous), one of the outlying reefs of the Bailiwick of Jersey, may derive its name from Norse sker=rock/reef; holmr=islet. In modern Jèrriais reef = êtchet

    Les Écréhous: a Toponymy

  11. Trond Engen says

    Of course, both ‘reef’ and ‘skerry’ are borrowed from Old Norse.

    To me, et rev is longer than et skjær, and somewhat more likely to be submerged. That might be coloured by tropical reefs like the prototypic atoll The Great Barrier Reef, since a search for toponyms come up with places like this

  12. Trond Engen says

    Does this work?

  13. Trond Engen says


  14. Trond Engen says

    Geraint Jennings: Thanks for the link! I made a comment that got lost in posting. I’ll try recreating it tomorrow. I know I should compose long(ish) comments in a separate editor, but I don’t always notice how they grow.

  15. For me an “écueil” is not a reef but a rock (isolated), a navigational danger — thus the more frequent use of the figurative meaning.

    And even if our island is largely surrounded by a coral reef (we tend to call it “brisant”, breaker), I’m not sure what the exact definition of “reef” (“récif”) is. Can it be sandy? Does it have to be elongated (as opposed to squarish or roundish)? Does it have to be submerged at a shallow depth or could it be fully out of the water?

    In any case, always be wary of the scary skerry. (The rock, was it Scylla or Charybde?)

  16. In Danish a skær is a small protrusion of bedrock that by default breaks the surface (otherwise it’s ‘blind’). Usually found in foreign parts like Sweden or Bornholm since Denmark proper is basically 3 miles of gravel over bedrock.

    A rev is any small submerged natural danger to navigation, and can consist of sand or loose rocks of any size, or indeed be a blindt skær. (Larger areas of shallow water out at sea will be banker). Near land it’s a rev if perpendicular to the coastline, a revle if parallel — both words contain the root of E ‘rib’.

  17. David Marjanović says

    compose long(ish) comments in a separate editor

    Or compose them here and hit Ctrl+A and Ctrl+C before posting. If it doesn’t get through, Ctrl+V will resurrect it.

    both words contain the root of E ‘rib’.

    *lightbulb moment*

  18. German has Schäre as a loan from Swedish, it’s basically only used when discussing Swedish geography.

  19. The rock, was it Scylla or Charybde?

    Scylla was the monster sitting on a rock that grabbed a few of your sailors. Charybdis was the whirlpool that wrecked your whole boat.

    “What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.”

  20. The seaside village of Skerries north of Dublin is named after some islands off its shore; although small, each is large enough to have a name and some green grass; two have Martello towers, and a third a ruined church.

  21. Trond Engen says

    Geraint Jennings: Êcrého (Les Écréhous), one of the outlying reefs of the Bailiwick of Jersey, may derive its name from Norse sker=rock/reef; holmr=islet. In modern Jèrriais reef = êtchet

    Les Écréhous: a Toponymy

    Thanks. I don’t particularly like sker- > écré-, though. May I instead suggest écré < skreið f. “movement; moving group; shoal of fish; (esp. dried) cod; the movement when using a whetting tool; a whetting tool; whetting”. In Norwegian coastal toponyms it’s used on its own for shallow banks (Skreia vel. sim.) and as the first element in names of small islands and skerries (Skreiskjeret etc.).

    14. L’Êtchièrviéthe Rocher fréquenté par les cormorans. Du vieux norse skarfr: cormoran. On le désigne aussi La Pièrre ès Femmes.

    Or skjerfr “something lousy; small amount of money; bare bedrock”. The latter meaning is common in toponyms.

    30. L’Êtchièriéthe Rocher fragmenté, un ‘êtchièr’ étant un fragment en normand.

    This toponym could actually be from ON sker. Or is Nourm. -iè- < Scand. -a- regular? That would make me reconsider borh of these.

    The “fragment” word, anyway, must be from skarð “shard, crack; canyon”.

    33. Frison Sans article. Je ne saurais signaler une origine pour ce nom. ‘Greune’ dangereuse.

    ON frjalsan f. “liberation, salvation”? Does this greune also break the dangerous waves and give protection?

    81. La Vraicque Rocher couvert de varech ou goémon à marée basse. On le nomme aussi La Greune à Tom Lé Scêlleux.


    99. Les Fièrcots Ce ne sont que des théories que j’ai pour le nom de ces trois rocques qui ne se voient qu’à marée basse.

    That -iè- again… ON farkostr “vessel, ship, boat” because of some similarity to sunken ships?

  22. Siganus Sutor says

    “Charybdis was the whirlpool that wrecked your whole boat.”

    Charybdis was also a monstrous deity, daughter of Poseidon and Gaia, sent by Zeus in an abyss in the dire strait of Messina (Larousse). I suppose the two monsters became identified with the physical objects, the maelstrom and the rock.

  23. Trond Engen: Thank you for those comments. Very interesting. I’ll share them with my petronymical colleagues. We have in Jèrriais verb êcreder (to scrape, scale) and noun êcrède (fish-scale) from skreið – so that sounds plausible as derivation of Êcrého. On the other hand, the name is attested in mediaeval text as Eskerho…

  24. Trond Engen says

    We have in Jèrriais verb êcreder (to scrape, scale) and noun êcrède (fish-scale) from skreið

    Very interesting. So much so that it has me wondering about the entanglement of the different meanings.

    the name is attested in mediaeval text as Eskerho

    That seems to nail it, though. Unless there’s reason to suspect a scribal error. But would the final cluster -lm have fallen without a trace that early?

  25. I’ve supposed for a long time that Les Écréhous was “The Screehowes.” (I’ve known about it for a long time because when I was a boy there was a news story about a hermit who lived there.)

  26. What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.

    The first of these questions, attributed by Suetonius to Tiberius, has a hattery thread already, but what about the second?

    Also I found the place in the Hydriotaphia now, it’s all on the futility of getting buried because finding your bones will not help anybody know who you were anyway. Thomas Browne should only have known what we can get from a few old dried remains now, paleogeneticists are lucky people didn’t follow his advice.

  27. Trond Engen says

    I’ve supposed for a long time that Les Écréhous was “The Screehowes.”

    I like that.

    ‘Scree’ < ON skriða “(place of) land- or rockslide, avalanche”.
    ‘Howe’ < ON haugr “mound, hillock”..
    Compound form and plural yields skriðuhaugar “mounds of debris(?)”.

    (But likely from more Southern forms. Old Danish may already have been reducing the unstressed vowel > skriðæ and monophtongizing > høgr. I don’t know how that played out in the compound.Skriðehøghær?)

    However… Norwegian toponyms with skre are mostly named for rockfalls or landfalls. Also landbound. Usages change with new conditions, but the Scandinavians had plenty of words for piles of rubble in the sea. ‘Denmark’ for one. And, anyway, les Écréhous as I see them in photos aren’t piles of debris, They are holmar or sker, surrounded by banks of aur, sand or sylt.

  28. In Jèrriais, ON haugr > hougue. We’ve got plenty of hougues, mostly burial mounds, in Jersey as well as some houdgettes (i.e. houguettes – small mounds). As it happens, I’m off to our biggest hougue, La Hougue Bie, this morning to perform some Jèrriais poetry for a festival

  29. Trond, I suppose the Brazilian city of Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco, is called Rev
    or Revet in Norway?

    (Oh, could “rev” be linked to French “rive” (shore) by any chance?)

  30. According to Danish lexicographers, rev is cognate to ‘rib’ or at least from the same root. (‘Rib’ is ribben in Danish, but revben in Swedish).

    And we don’t translate toponyms like that. Even ‘s-Gravenhage doesn’t get called Haven or otherwise get its article translated like in English or French, we stick with den Haag.

    (I’m assuming that Norwegian practice is the same as the Danish one, I’ve never encountered any surprises in that area at least. In general, names that are primarily encountered in Anglophone sources follow Anglophone practice, while Mediterranean and Central and East European toponyms used to follow German practice. That got old in 1940, so now we mostly use the official spelling according to the country currently owning the place and pronounce it as best we can.

    One exception is Lisbon which we still call Lissabon — writing Lisboa would leave us just as far from [liʒˈboɐ] as the current spelling. And why, if deriving from Olissiponam, isn’t it Lisbõa? As the loans into other languages show, there was a nasal there at one point).

  31. gwenllian says

    Croatian škoj / školj also means (1) small island

    For many speakers it just means island, regardless of size.

  32. In Portuguese, VnV became VV, the nasal consonant disappearing without trace rather than resolving into a nasal followed by an oral vowel, something that (I think) never happens in Portuguese. ‘Moon’, for example, is lua (after which the programming language Lua is named) rather than *lũa. Similarly, VnnV becomes VnV, as in ano ‘year’, cf. Spanish luna, año.

  33. JC: canem > cão and so forth. But nasality was lost unless the second vowel was more closed. (This from History of the Portuguese Language on English Wikipedia. Another article that I read earlier today only had examples with nasalization).

  34. Ah. Okay, thanks. “Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.” —J.B.S. Haldane

  35. David Marjanović says

    According to Danish lexicographers, rev is cognate to ‘rib’ or at least from the same root.

    Kluge’s law and a round of analogy to the rescue: rib, like German Rippe, is from a form with long *bb.

    Incidentally, Sylt is one of Germany’s two vacation islands, situated right next to Denmark. (The other is Mallorca, or what’s left of Mallorca.)

  36. January First-of-May says

    after which the programming language Lua is named

    I would never have guessed!

    Apparently the Russian cognate (and translation) of skerry appears to be шхеры, usually in the plural. Presumably a loan from (something similar to) Dutch scheer.

  37. Stephen C. Carlson says

    According to Danish lexicographers, rev is cognate to ‘rib’ or at least from the same root. (‘Rib’ is ribben in Danish, but revben in Swedish).
    I’ve assumed, but not checked, that the ‘-ben’ is “bone” as in ‘revben’ = ‘rib-bone’ (though ‘ben’ on its own is usually now for “leg”).

  38. Well, your leg bones are the longest bones, so they are the bones, and hey presto, metonymy. But ben is still the material as well, though individual anatomical bones are now knogler (but still ben in Swedish and bein in Norwegian).

  39. Kluge’s law and a round of analogy to the rescue: rib, like German Rippe, is from a form with long *bb.

    Kluge’s Law is not involved here. In West Germanic, the lengthening of all consonants except *r and (Vernerian) *z is regular between a short vowel and *j. Additionally, voiceless stops and *x were often lengthened before *r and *l if a vowel followed (with further complications — it would take too much space to go into them).

    Anyway, *h₁rebʰjo- > *riβja- > WGmc. *ribbja- > OE, OFris. rib(b), OSax. ribbi, Ger. Rippe etc. (the long allophone was automatically “hardened” into a voiced stop). In Old Norse and Icelandic rif as well as Norwegian and Faroese riv and Swedish rev(-) the fricative comes from ungeminated *β. The Modern Danish and Swedish ‘rib’ words are indeed compounds (‘rib-bone’).

  40. David Marjanović says

    Oh. I think I once knew that. Too bad there’s no way to guess the *j from the modern forms.

  41. There is. The raising of pre-Gmc. *e (cf. Slavic *rebro) is already a hint, and WGmc. gemination turns it into certainty. With non-high or back vowels, the *j leaves palatal umlaut as its fingerprint in those varieties that show it (plus gemination throughout WGmc. if the vowel is short). So something like OE cynn, MHG künne ‘kind, kin’ must reflect *kunja-. There are of course some classes of derivatives in which a suffix with *j can be predicted. For example, the Germanic converse of Sievers’ Law turned *-ija- into *-ja- after a light syllable. As a result, causative, iterative and denominative verbs with o-grade in the root and the *-ejo-/-eje- suffix evolved into “Class I” weak verbs with *a (to be umlauted) in the root and *-ja-/-ī- in the suffix. Hence umlaut in all their present-tense forms and consonant gemination in the 1sg. and 3pl. (where the *-ja allomorph occurred) in West Germanic unless the consonant is /r/ (whether pre-Gmc. or due to Verner’s Law and rhotacism):

    *sod-éje-/*sod-éjo- > *satiji-/*satija- > *satī-/*satja- > PWGmc. *satī-/*sattja- > OE 3sg. seteþ, pl. settaþ ‘set’ (originally the causative of ‘sit’). Gothic satjan shows the stage without gemination.

  42. Trond Engen: The Assize Roll of 1309 refers to Êcrého as “Eskerho”; Coates (The Ancient & Modern Names of the Channel Islands) notes that “the preponderant medieval forms with medial -re- suggest rather that the first element is in the genitive plural skerja… readily interpretable as ‘island distinguished by adjacent skerries’…” The name appears to have become commonly pluralised with “Les…” only post C17th

  43. marie-lucie says

    I ran across the French word écueil, which was unfamiliar to me, and of course I looked it up. The English equivalent was allegedly reef, but I thought ‘reef’ was récif. Further investigation revealed that an écueil is actually a skerry, a small rocky island which may or may not be a reef.

    A bit late perhaps, but here is my comment, from my own feeling and that of the TLFI:

    In my understanding of the word, un écueil is rather more treacherous than un récif, because a récif is normally at least partially visible but an écueil could be hidden at high tide. Unlike the récif, it does not have to be a rock, it could be a tree trunk, a wreck or a part of it, perhaps stuck in the sandy bottom or between submerged rocks.

    Unlike the word récif, which always straightforwardly refers to a rocky form seen emerging from the sea, écueil is often used metaphorically to mean an unsuspected, potentially dangerous obstacle suddenly showing up in the course of some undertaking, as in La carrière d’un politicien est semée d’écueils ‘A politician’s career is full of treacherous obstacles’, for instance.

  44. I had this terrible feeling of déjà vu when our good host mentioned reef and skerry in the same sentence. They were of course used in tandem in Kipling’s “Coastwise Lights”:

    From reef and rock and skerry — over headland, ness, and voe …

    Which reminds me that voe is a beatiful lexical fossil of Norn. The Orcadian capital of Kirkwall is a hypercorrection for Kirkwaa = Kirk-voe

  45. The OED says a voe is “a bay, creek, or inlet.”

  46. marie-lucie says

    What about “ness”? As in “Loch Ness”??

  47. m-l: They are the same, but indirectly so. The -ness ending in British place names is either from OE næss ‘headland, promontory’ or its ON cognate nes, depending on how far north it is. The regular reflex of næss would be *nass, as in glass < glæss, but the word was lost except in place names, where it took on a reduced form. Much later, ness was back-formed from these place names to become an independent word again. It is an etymological doublet of nose, a reasonable metaphor for a promontory.

    Loch Ness is named after its outflow, the River Ness, which runs into the sea at the town of Inverness ‘mouth of the Ness,’ an exception to the previous paragraph. Presumably the river is called that because its outflow is on a ness, though I can’t find a specific source saying so. In Scottish Gaelic the name is Nis [niʃ], presumably by folk etymology from nis ‘now’.

    None of this has anything to do with the equally Germanic suffix -ness, which forms abstract nouns from adjectives, and was nes ~ nis in OE.

  48. January First-of-May says

    It is an etymological doublet of nose, a reasonable metaphor for a promontory.

    Which also comes up, presumably independently, in some northern Russian dialects (as in Kanin Nos, the cape separating White Sea from Barents Sea).

    [As somewhat famously joked on in a Marshak poem:
    “Учитель задал нам вопрос:
    “Где расположен Канин Нос?”
    А я не знал, который Канин,
    И указал на свой и Ванин…”]

  49. David Marjanović says

    The raising of pre-Gmc. *e

    …Oh. Of course. In my defense, it has turned out I’m currently too ill for intellectual pursuits… it’s disconcerting in which way that manifests, though.

  50. Wiktionary says нос is a technical term for ‘promontory’ in Russian geology.

  51. Trond Engen says

    Kate B: Skerryguard must be a recent calque from Scandinavian. Is it a purely technical term?

    The Scandinavian word looks like a Romantic invention to me, but it has ON pedigree: skergarðr m. “row of skerries”. It can’t be the origin of les Écréhous, though, even if the archipelago does give the impression of the prototypical Scandinavian skjærgård.

    Answering my own question about the regularity of the loss of final -lm, I find Burhou off Alderney (< Búrholmr “Building Islet”?) and Brecqhou off Sark (< Brekk(u)holmr “steep hill islet” or Brekholmr “noisy or treasonous islet”? Probably the latter, since I gather from Google Earth that Brecqhou is the headquarter of a James Bond villain.)

  52. Trond Engen says

    Oh, there are Wikipedia articles for those! The Burhou one has the same etymology as I suggested, and the Brecqhou one the etymology without the HJames Bond Villain. There’s also a Jethou and a Lihou.

    … but more interestingly, there’s an article on the name element -hou:

    -hou and hou is a place-name element found commonly in the Norman toponymy of the Channel Islands and continental Normandy.

    Etymology and signification
    Its etymology and meaning are disputed, but most specialists think it comes from Saxon or Anglo-Saxon hōh “heel”, sometimes hō, then “heel-shaped promontory”, “rocky steep slope”, “steep shore”.[1][2][3] This toponymic appellative appears as a final -hou or associated with the Romance definite article le Hou. It can be found everywhere in Normandy, but more in the western part of it.

    The English toponymy uses this Saxon or Anglo-Saxon element the same way, but its result is phonetically -hoo or -hoe, sometimes -(h)ow or -ho e. g. : Northoo (Suffolk); Poddinghoo (Worcestershire); Millhoo (Essex); Fingringhoe (Essex); Rainow (Cheshire); Soho (London); etc.[4] As an independent element it is Hoe, Hoo, Hooe, Ho or the Hoe, e.g. the Hoe at Plymouth (Dorset) above the harbour.

    In Normandy, it may have sometimes mixed up with Old Norse hólmr, meaning a small island, and often found anglicised elsewhere as “holm”. It can still be found in modern Scandinavian languages, e.g. Stockholm. The normal evolution of hólmr in Normandy is -homme, -houme, even -onne at the end of a toponym and le Homme, le Houlme, le Hom with the article.

    The Norman toponym and diminutive hommet / houmet also derives from this element.

  53. Trond Engen says

    Oh, and David: Get well! The Internet is a poorer place without your intellectual pursuits.

  54. Trond Engen says

    Scottish Gaelic placenames for the moderation queue:


  55. Trond Engen says

    According to Gaelic Place-Names of Scotland, the river Ness owes its name to an unattested naming element *neas with obscure meaning. There must be philological reasons to prefer that to postulating an ON placename Nes near the mouth of the river.

  56. Oh, and David: Get well! The Internet is a poorer place without your intellectual pursuits.


  57. Now I know where Sutton Hoo (of burial fame) gets its surname.

  58. David Marjanović says

    I suppose that all mysteries of placenames in Scotland can be blamed on Pictish (obscurum per obscurius).

  59. Trond Engen says

    Yes, but the entry didn’t say Pictish, just obscure.

  60. David didn’t say it was Pictish, just that it could be blamed on the Picts. “Like Englishmen and Scots! Or Welshmen and Scots! Or Japanese and Scots! Or Scots and other Scots! Damned Scots! They ruined Scotland.”

    Kluge’s Law is not involved here.

    “Herr Durre,” Keith [21C American displaced in time] asked rather cautiously, a while later. “Did you say that the boss guy who authorizes these [Calvinist] church services is away from home?”


    “It looks to me like there’s a bunch of bully-boys in the road who think that going to a Calvinist church is the wrong idea.”

    Durre [17C German] looked. “Oh,” he said. “That has to be Georg Seyfried Koler von Neunhof. Or his men, to be more precise. It’s not likely that he’s with them. He’s a Lutheran, and the co-possessor of patronage rights over the churches in Beerbach and Neunhof. That means, he thinks that he ought to have the right to appoint a clergyman of his choice rather than the Geuders’ appointing a clergyman of their choice. He would not dare to try this if Frau Sabina were still alive.”

    “Do they normally duke these things out on the public roads?” Keith asked.

    There’s no duke involved here,” Durre said. “What’s important jurisdictionally is that these are imperial knights, directly subject to the emperor, with no intervening authority. That’s why the landlord of something that looks like an estate of a few hundred acres with a small village on it can exercise the cuius regio principle.”

    “Jurisdictionally,” Leopold Cavriani [17C Genevan] added, “they are independent of Grantville’s administrators in Franconia. Because the knights are mostly Protestant, this region near Nürnberg was not included in the king of Sweden’s assignment of authority, any more than Nürnberg itself or Ansbach and Bayreuth were.”

    Lambert Felser, who had garnered his English vocabulary on the floor of Ollie Reardon’s machine shop rather than from literary works or books on political theory, intervened with an explanation of the alternative meaning of “duke.” Once he had managed to convey the essential meaning of “duke it out,” Durre averred that they did indeed “duke it out” on the roads and in the streets. Unless, of course, they had resorted to lawsuits. Normally, however, people employed both methods.

    (end quote)

    This latter-day duke is of Romany origin: dukering is Angloromani for ‘fist-fighting’.

  61. Trond Engen says

    David didn’t say it was Pictish, just that it could be blamed on the Picts.

    I know! But the author missed it and didn’t blame anything on the Picts.

  62. That’s meritorious of him, certainly, but perhaps not politic. Given a choice between Goropism and professed ignorance, many will choose Goropism, or blatant Pictery.

  63. David Marjanović says

    I’m stealing “Pictery”.

  64. I’m not sure if I was Just Wrong to say that dukering is ‘fistfighting’ in Angloromani, but certainly one of its meanings is ‘fortune-telling’ < ‘palm-reading’.

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