The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Notes and Queries (June)


Terms used in Talking to Domestic Animals.—In controlling the movements of domestic animals by the voice, besides words of ordinary import, man uses a variety of peculiar terms, calls, and inarticulate sounds —not to include whistling—which vary in different localities. In driving yoked cattle and harnessed horses teamsters cry "get up," "click click" (tongue against teeth), "gee," "haw," "whoa," "whoosh," "back," etc., in English-speaking countries; "arre," "arri," "jiih," "gio," etc., in European countries. In the United States "gee" directs the animals away from the driver, hence to the right, but in England the same term has the opposite effect, because the driver walks on the right-hand side of his team. In Virginia mule-drivers gee the animals with the cry "hepyee-ee-a"; in Norfolk, England, "whoosh-wo "; in France, "hue" and "huhaut"; in Germany "hott" and "hotte"; in some parts of Russia "haitä" serves the same purpose. To direct animals to the left another series of terms is used.

In calling cattle in the field the following cries are used in the localities given: "boss, boss" (Conn.); "sake, sake" (Conn.); "coo, coo" ( Va.); "sook, sook," also "sookey" (Md.); "sookow" (Ala.); "tloñ, tloñ" (Russia); and for calling horses, "kope, kope " (Md. and Ala.); for calling sheep, "konanny" (Md.); for calling hogs "chee-oo-oo" (Va.)

The undersigned is desirous of collecting words and expressions (oaths excepted) used in addressing domesticated animals in all parts of the British Empire.

In particular he seeks information as to—

(1) The terms used to start, hasten, haw, gee, back and stop horses, oxen, camels, and other animals in harness;

(2) Terms used for calling in the field cattle, horses, mules, asses, camels, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, and other animals;

(3) Exclamations used in driving from the person domestic animals;

(4) Any expressions and inarticulate sounds used in addressing domestic animals for any purpose whatever (dogs and cats);

(5) References to information in works of travel and general literature will be very welcome.

Persons willing to collect and forward the above-mentioned data will confer great obligations on the writer; he is already indebted to many correspondents for kind replies to his appeal for the Counting-out Rhymes of Children, the results of which have been published in a volume with that title (Elliot Stock, London).

To indicate the value of vowels in English please use the vowel-signs of Webster's Unabridged, and in cases of difficulty spell phonetically.

All correspondence will be gratefully received, and materials used will be credited to the contributors.

University Club, New York City.

An old Ballad.—Has the following ballad ever been printed, and if so where? I heard it from a relative of Dr. Birkbeck Hill's, in whose family it is traditional. A young man on his way to the gallows appeals to his parents and brethren in the following terms:—

"Hold up, hold up your hands so high,
Hold up your hands so high.
For I think I see my own mother coming o'er yonder stile to me.
Oh mother hast thou any gold for me,
Any money to bay me free.
To save my body from the cold clay ground and my head from the gallows tree?"

Mother, father, and brethren all refuse him aid:—

"Oh no, I have no gold for thee,
No money to buy thee free,
For I have come to see thee hanged, and hanged thou shalt be."

But his sweetheart is kinder and buys him off. At the end of each verse is the refrain —

"Oh the briars, the prickly briars,
They prick my heart full sore.
If ever I get free
From the gallows tree
I never get there any more."

Selling by Inch of Candle.—In relation to a very curious custom which is annually observed in the little village of Tatworth, near Chard, it would be interesting to learn whether a similar practice is carried out in any other part of this country. It appears that there is in the village referred to a certain piece of land, measuring six acres and one perch, which has no legal owner, but the owners of certain properties in the vicinity are recognised as entitled to share the annual value of it, which value is, however, as a rule, very small. Those who claim a right by virtue of property they hold meet yearly at the village inn to let the land for one year, and appoint a steward, whose duty it is to see that the proceeds are divided among those who claim rights. The most curious part of the matter is the manner in which the field is let. The meeting is styled a court, and is strictly private, no one save those interested being admitted to the room. The steward presides over the court, and an inch of tallow-candle is placed on the mantel-piece and lighted. The candle is supposed to act as auctioneer; and, while it is burning, those who desire to rent the field bid in the same way as at an ordinary auction, and the last bidder before the candle goes out gets the field for the year ensuing at the price he has quoted. The steward pays each one interested his share of the rent of the field for the past year, and the rest of the evening is generally spent in conviviality. The letting took place the other evening, when the bidding was particularly spirited, and ultimately reached the high sum of 17l. 10s., at which sum Mr. J. B. Payne secured the field. Last year it was let for 7l. 10s., and the rent now given is said to be fabulous, as the land is very boggy and of very little value. This custom has been observed at Tatworth from time immemorial, and no one seems to know how it originated.

Another instance of a sale by half-inch of candle, viz. a plot of land and cottage near the village of Chedzoy, known as "Church Acre," which is sold every twenty-one years at the Crown Inn, Chedzoy, during the time half-an-inch of candle takes to burn. The proceeds are devoted to church purposes. The last sale was in 1884, and the sum realised was spent in putting a new clock in the church tower.

A. Hudd.

Turning of the Looking-Glass (ante, p. 77).—A somewhat similar custom to that commented upon by H. K. in The Folk-Lore Journal of January—March, 1888, came under my notice in one of our Midland counties some years ago.

When a young girl, I was taken up to the bedroom of an old maiden lady, a connection of my family, who was suffering from a slight attack of paralysis, brought on by a sudden fright, and from which she never entirely recovered, although she lived at least a year or two afterwards.

At the time of my visit she was in a state of semi-consciousness, and I remember being doubtful whether she recognized me. I fancy her attendants considered her then at the point of death. I was much struck by seeing the looking-glass on the toilet-table opposite the bed covered with a large towel, and on inquiring the reason I was told that it was deemed unlucky that a sick person should see their face in a glass—a custom which appears more reasonable than that the looking-glass should be turned round or covered as a corpse is in the house—though this would seem perhaps to indicate that the survivors are too absorbed in their grief to think of plaiting of hair or of adorning themselves.

In Naples, in Spain, and in the island of Corfu, the church clocks and the time-pieces in the houses are stopped during Passion Week, or at least during the latter portion of it. In Spain, wooden clappers on the summit of the church towers are used instead of bells to summon the worshippers, and in Naples a small machine like the old watchman's rattle is adopted at that period to assemble the family to meals in place of the ordinary dinner-bell.

H. G. M. Murray-Aynsley.

Bees.—Mr. B. recently bought a straw skep of bees of Mr. D., whose wife died lately, and a few days afterwards, when his other bees were at work, he observed that those he had bought were not at work, so he turned the skep up to see the cause, and found the bees were dead. Upon telling this to several old people they all said they died because the master of the house did not go and tap three times at the hive and tell them the mistress was dead. One who is a bee-keeper said they died of starvation, but we find that that was not the cause, as there was between five and six pounds of honey in the hive.—Hertfordshire Mercury, 11th Feb. 1888.