Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/71

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

emptying into their tidal waters. The mouths of these are often deep enough to make a shelter for vessels, and they were undoubtedly so used by the early settlers. Hence the term 'creek' and its extension to the entire stream and to other similar streams far inland throughout a wide extent of country.

In portions of the middle Atlantic region the word 'cripple' was formerly used for dense, low-lying thickets, especially in wet ground. As a boy I occasionally heard it applied in this way, and it is quoted by Murray as occurring in the Penn-Logan Correspondence (1705). None of the dictionaries, however, attempt to trace it back to any dialectic source, nor is it given, with like meaning, in the vocabularies of provincial English. In the dialect of east England 'creeple' means to compress or squeeze, which might suggest the notion of a thicket. But words were not coined by the early settlers through mere suggestion; they had an ample supply for every-day use. This word 'cripple,' from its very local character, is undoubtedly a corruption of the Dutch word 'kreupelbosch,' signifying 'underwood,' the Anglicized form having been shortened by dropping the terminal 'bosch,' which means a wood or forest, and is allied to our now obsolete words, bosky and boscage. 'Kreupel' is an adjective meaning lame and suggests a creeping or halting mode of progression as in the common use of the English word. One who toils painfully through thickets with much inward, if not with outward, cursings will appreciate this most expressive word borrowed by our English settlers from their Dutch neighbors on the Hudson.

Swamp is more generally used in the United States than in England. It does not occur in the writings of either Shakespeare or Milton, though some of the minor poets make use of it and it is frequently found in the early descriptions of the colonies. The word implies wet, boggy ground in woods, with rank undergrowth, and is eminently characteristic of the wilder conditions of this country as compared with the more highly cultivated lands of Europe. The settlers, in this instance, had a keen sense of the fitness of the name. They early distinguished the treeless stretches of salt grass along the seacoast and river estuaries by the word marsh. Fen rarely if ever finds its way into American speech and writings, except when used in a poetical sense, as in Longfellow's 'fens of the Dismal Swamp.' Swale appears to have two meanings, a shady spot and a low rise of land. In provincial dialects it means both a vale and a shady place and in Northamptonshire e a gentle rising in the ground.' In the western United States it refers to a boggy depression in a generally level stretch of country, and as a local word in New England it signifies an interval (intervale) or hollow, an umbrageous spot—the haunt of woodcock and other wild folk. Valley has replaced the older 'vale,' which now is found only in the poets' verse, and 'dale' has likewise suffered a