Friday, 16 August 2013

Laden to the gunwales

It's a long story (which says little for my powers of concentration )

It started with the word starboard (I'm reviewing the latest chapters of #WVGTbook, -oa- being the first of them). To quote my soon-to-be-released note:
In common with several other words with maritime applications (other examples include mainsail, coxwain, boatswain [often spelt bosun]...). the unstressed vowel pair is reduced to /ə/. The 'star' part of the word has nothing to with 'navigating by the stars'. It is related to 'steer', and refers to a rudder let down over the right-hand gunwale (another word with schwa in the unstressed syllable), used for steering. The side of a boat was its bord.
This set me to thinking about gunwale  This nearly archaic word is preserved in current English in the phrase 'laden to the gunwales' (in which, reflecting its pronunciation, the g-word is often spelt "gunnels"). If a vessel is laden with people it is 'packed to the gunwales'. This gives rise to a less nautical phrase full to the gunwales, in which the notion of 'fullness leading to vertical displacement' is almost completeley lost:
Full to the brim; packed tight.
is all Phrase Finder says.

The 'gun' part of gunwale is not disguised. It is, like several other pieces of figurative language, related to firearms ( ''flash in the pan', 'give it to someone with both barrels', 'broadside' ... but I'll [ahem]  'keep my powder dry' on this one – as  it has the makings of a possible future post).†

But where does wale come from? It is related to current (though not very common) English 'weal' and – though with less obvious relevance – to wurzel.  Follow that link for the full SP. The last line of that dictionary entry brings us back to gunwale:
Wales "horizontal planks which extend along a ship's sides" is attested from late 13c.
So, in a ship of war, the guns were mounted on gunwales.

But this isn't getting V3.1 any closer to release (which it is – close, that is).

Update 2013.08.16.21:00 – Added this PS
I'll upload 3.1 tomorrow. Here's a brief taster, hot off the presses:

What have readers said about previous editions?

  • 'A guess becomes educated ...It will be invaluable to non-native teachers of EFL/ESOL as well as their learners.....  I wish that this resource had been available before I retired from life as a teacher trainer. I would have recommended it without hesitation.' (Read more here.)
  • 'A useful resource ...Complete and accurate. A very useful book.'  (Read more here.)
  • Members' reactions at
    • 'I would encourage learners to check it out.' (page 2)
    • 'I will be able to be more comprehensive in answering questions on the topic here. I liked the thoroughness of this guide.' (page 2)
    • 'From my personal teaching experience, I can only confirm the practical value of this book.' (page 3)

Thassall for tonight.

Update 3013.08.17.23:00 – Added this PPS:
†I've re-jigged this sentence entirely, and hope that it now makes more sense than it did yesterday (which is setting the bar pretty low ).

Update 2013.08.18.17:00 – Added this PPS
Here 's the latest.
Update: 2013.09.27.12:50

HeadFOOTer updated

Update 2013.10.08.19:40 – Added this PPPS 
Added a link to the 'possible future post'.

 Mammon (When Vowels Get Together V4.0: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs – AA-AU, EA-EU, and  IA-IU, and – new for V4.0 – OA-OU.  If you buy it, contact  @WVGTbook on Twitter and I'll alert you to free downloads of the forthcoming volumes; or click the Following button at the foot of this page.)
And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: nearly 32,400 views**,  and  4,400 downloads to date. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with 1570 views/700 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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