Tuesday, January 25, 2011

inelegant word

The small town of SopchoppyFlorida, holds an annual festival showcasing the art of worm grunting, a traditional method used to gather earthworms for use as bait. A thick stake of wood, less than three feet or so in length, is driven into the ground, and then a flatiron is drawn across the top of stick in such a way that the stick vibrates. The vibrations disturb the worms in the ground, and they wiggle up to the surface and are gathered by the pailful by the grunters. (The worms perhaps mistake the noise of the vibrating stake for the sounds made by a mole digging through the earth, so that they climb to the surface in order to escape being eaten.) The term that Florida worm grunters use to describe the tool of their trade, the wooden stake, is stob. This word dates from Middle English times and is related to the standard English word stub. In modern times, stob survives chiefly as a regionalism meaning a short piece of wood.” Professor Charles F. Smith of Vanderbilt University included the word in his 1883 work “On Southernisms”, a compilation of Southern regional terms. His account of the word reads as follows: Stob, a small post or stake or stump of a shrub, South, commonly so used in many, if not all, parts of the South. It is not elegant, however. Despite Smith’s low estimation of stob in 1883, the Florida worm grunters of today still find the word useful.

1 comment:

Terry said...

It is not elegant, however

Professor Smith was a stob snob.