Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/72

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

decadence save in the northern counties of England. Both vale and dale, however, survive as the terminations of many place-names in England and the United States. Valley seems to be equivalent to the lowland along a river's course, while vale and dale have to do with smaller streams, or more often with woodland hollows. In the following passage there is evidently this view in the writer's mind:

The Land higher up the Rivers throughout the whole country, is generally a level Ground, with shallow Vallies, full of Streams and pleasant Springs of clear water, having interspers'd here and there among the large Levels, some small Hills, and extensive Vales. (Beverley's 'Virginia.')

In the south, and to some extent in the western states, the word 'branch' is widely used for brook. Beverley, in his account of Virginia, speaks of 'Gravelly Branches of Chrystal Streams.' Freshet, now synonymous with the overflow or flooding of a stream, was formerly used in the same sense as brook, as in the line of Milton above quoted. The term is said to be locally in use in Maryland to-day. Once when fishing along a small stream in southern Nova Scotia, a young lad who accompanied me remarked that it was 'most too low a freshet for good fishing.' This was a new meaning of the word to one who always had associated it with floods, but it was without doubt a survival, in a slightly altered form, of its original sense. The Anglo-Saxon Fersc, from which the modern English 'fresh' is derived, meant 'on the move,' and was originally applied to 'running' or 'fresh' water. Run, synonymous with brook, is a survival in America of 'rine,' 'rindel' and 'runnel,' of old English dialects.

The word 'rabbit' perpetuates a surprising want of observation on the part of those who first gave this name to the American species. The so-called 'rabbits' of this country are hares, not rabbits. Yet one would argue himself unknown who was pedantic enough to speak of hare-shooting before the 'great unwashed democracy of America.' The true rabbit is an old world species, makes burrows for its habitations, and brings forth helpless, naked young, as every boy knows who has kept tame rabbits. The wild 'cotton-tail' of this country, and all its kin, never burrow, but make a 'form' like the true hares of Europe, and the young are lively, well furred little creatures from the moment of birth.

America has lost some pleasing words which the English heart still holds dear through many delightful associations. Copse and coppice are thus lost to us on this side of the Atlantic. I feel sure that many who live their lives in literature would be glad to call some beloved patch of underwoods a 'coppice,' just for the sake of literary associations. One can do so to himself if he likes, but it is best to say e thicket' to the world at large. And thicket is an old word and a good one too, even when shortened to i thick' as in provincial English. It savors of wilder places than coppice, which refers to underwoods that are annually cut for fuel and which put out fresh shoots each year,