About Me
The Manifesto

Previous Posts

Rediscovering an idiom
The defensive obviously in Tricked
The trouble with hoax
Please, tell them I fought bravely
Wundergrammar: Auxilaration!
Corks and clear heads
Hoisted by someone else's pike
Good Stuff: 8/17/07
The apartment of the future
On Onboarding

Back to Main


My del.ic.ious site feed


Common Errors in English
Netvibes RSS Reader
Online Etymology Dictionary
Research and Documentation
The Phrase Finder
The Trouble with EM 'n EN

A Capital Idea
Arrant Pedantry
Bradshaw of the Future
Bremer Sprachblog
Dictionary Evangelist
Double-Tongued Dictionary
English, Jack
Futility Closet - Language
Language Hat
Language Log
Mighty Red Pen
Motivated Grammar
OUPblog - Lexicography
Style & Substance
The Editor's Desk
The Engine Room
Tenser, said the Tensor
Watch Yer Language
Word Spy
You Don't Say

Dan's Webpage

Website XML feed

Big Fish
Tuesday, September 4, 2007   12:48 PM

So I went up north this weekend (read: somewhere north of St. Cloud). The main event was probably the three hours I spent fishing with the family.

I don't fish very often at all, but my brother fishes constantly and is by all accounts an expert. His unselfconscious use of U.S. fisherman's slang is fascinating. Did you know that the American fishermen have over 500 words for lure?

Two words stood out. When my mom caught a large sunfish, my brother said, "Wow, that's a toad." An In-Fisherman search confirms that while this isn't too common in print, he's not the only one to use the term:

The toad jumped out of the water and thrashed back and forth, trying to throw the lure. Then my pole bent almost double as the brute raced into the thick submerged vegetation and broke off. [cite]

For obvious reasons, fishermen seem to have a lot of synonyms for big. My brother later referred to a walleye as a horse (and not a toad, because the body shape is different). Here's another example:

Of all the places to make that first cast at 12:01 a.m. on opening day, the shallow humps west of Kunz Island on Washburn County's Long Lake may be the best place to tie into a real horse in Wisconsin's northcountry. [cite]

There's also another, far more common sense of horse that isn't restricted to fishermen, but was new to me: "To haul or hoist energetically."

With mono line, chances are you aren't going to be able to horse the fish out of the weeds and tules. [cite]

(Imagine the opportunities for journalists covering fishing contests! "Dark horse horses horse!" And this when his boat only had a 10-horse engine.)

I'm probably too used to hearing fishermen speak fishermen-speak, but it seems to me that the vocabulary here isn't quite like the jargon of other specialist groups.

There are still plenty of specialist terms, of course, but since these people are enthusiasts and storytellers, there's also an amorphous secondary lexicon, concerned with variety instead of precision.

I'd love to read a good essay on U.S. fisherman slang, if anyone has found one. In the meantime, there's also my post on the plurals of Minnesota fish.

(I was skunked, by the way: some bites but nothing in the boat. In my dialect this fishing-related sense is always passivized and intransitive.)

Labels: ,

Leave a Comment

Think reactive, not reactionary