Unfamiliar Words

(Photo by Pisit Heng | Unsplash)
Words are interesting things. Over the centuries their definitions can change. And certain words, once common, can fall out of favour, rendering them unfamiliar just a generation later.

The good news is that when researching The Haweaters, I discovered that most words in common usage on Manitoulin Island in the 19th century continue to flourish today. However, I did stumble across a few that are either completely unfamiliar to us now or whose definitions have changed. Here are a handful I came across, some of which made it into The Haweaters when I could find an appropriate place to insert them:

affray = fighting in public
buronmaster = mayor
cohen = priest
crowner = coroner
drover = cattle dealer
farrier = blacksmith
gaoler = jailer
haymonger = hay dealer
hayward = fence keeper
hooker = ship designed to haul lumber
joyner = skilled carpenter
lavender = washerwoman
tasker = reaper

Also worth noting is the way in which people spoke in the 19th century was not all that much different than how we speak today. I can remember watching movies set in the late 19th century in which people were depicted conversing in a florid -- almost poetic -- manner that made me think they'd ingested several volumes of Shakespeare for breakfast. Maybe some people did speak like that but, if they did, they don't seem to have made it to Manitoulin Island where most people seem to have spoken in plain language that's difficult to distinguish from how we speak today.


Based on the real-life 1877 killings of William and Charles Bryan by their neighbours, The Haweaters brings to life some of Manitoulin’s earliest European settlers as they struggle against nature, poverty, and each other in a collective quest to leave their dubious pasts behind them and attain prosperity in this rugged wilderness community. Learn more.