Monday, January 24, 2005

Coldest Day Yet

Its cold here, but not quite as cold as it is in N Al and Mid Tenn. They got down into the teens on Sunday night (or so I'm told).

It snowed quite a bit here on Saturday, but was not cold enough to stick. In fact, it is very rare for snow to accumulate to depths over an inch here. It appears that England's island status keeps it climate mild, chilly but mild. I'm going to be real mad if they have snow in Moulton before we get snow here.

We expect our debit cars to arrive today, which will allow us to sign up for internet service at home. Let's hope...

I discovered today that a ubiquitous brand of car here, Vauxhall, is actually owned by GM. Chalk another one up to the yanks. What is annoying is that they don't sell many of the models in the States. My friend John Moxon gave me a ride to the Uni today from BCC and we rode in his Vauxhall. I can't recall the exact model, but it is smaller than a minivan (and better looking), and it gets 35MPG! And it has 3 rows and a high roof. Mary so wants a vehicle with 3 rows whenever we get rid of the Maxima. I wish this Vauxhall model were available in America.

I had an interesting conversation about the English alphabet with my students today. I was curious to know if they learned the song "A,B,C, D... Y and Z, now I've said...". They did know it. Some of them learned it as "Y and Zed" and others "Y and Z". The most interesting thing is that the kids learn the phonemes of the letters in order over here before they get the letter names in order. So they know "Ahh, Buh, Ceh..." in order. My student Jon noticed the difference having grown up watching Sesame Street.

We also discussed the word "toboggan" and its usage. I asked them if they knew the word, and they said it referred to a "sleigh", or sled. I told them that, in the South, it has the meaning of a stretchy winter cap. I happened to have one in my coat, so I showed them, and they laughed. I can't find anything on the origin of this Southern peculiarity, but I did find this humorous article which I've pasted below:

Please don't put a sled on your head
Consider the following e-mail of interest that I received this week:
"Dear Bob,
As a transplanted, retired Yankee (moved from Michigan in 1999) I really enjoy reading your column. I enjoy living in Asheboro and enjoy Southern terminology and accent. However, how in the world did the South ever come up with toboggan as a hat or cap? There is only one definition of toboggan and it is a long, narrow runner-less sled. I would love to hear an explanation of this?" The e-mail was from Richard Najera, who I talked to on the phone later and who turned out to be a really swell guy.
* * *
First, I checked to see if there was any recent scientific data on why we Southerners call a certain kind of cap a "toboggan." I couldn't find any - scientific data, that is - although maybe I can get a research grant to study it. Anyway, just as Richard Najera suggested, the only definition I could find for "toboggan" is "a long flat-bottomed light sled made, usually, of thin boards curved up at one end with, usually, handrails at the sides." Which doesn't sound much like a hat. But which also doesn't stop local folks from telling their kids to "put on your toboggan before you go 'cause it's really cold outside."
* * *
While we're looking into that, let's first address a sorta related subject. Which is that, when we are out riding a toboggan (sled), we do indeed usually wear a hat. A cold weather knit cap, in fact.
Which, as we've already established, is not really a toboggan. Even if we call it that. So, what is that little hat called, then? One answer came from a Canadian acquaintance of mine who tells me that such little knit caps do, indeed, have a name. At least in French, they do. A cold weather knit hat usually worn while out on a toboggan is a toque. Yes, a toque. Which, in English, I guess, would be pronounced "tuke."
* * *
Which gets me absolutely no closer to why we Southerners think a toboggan is a hat. Well ... probably not ... but maybe there is this one thing that might explain it. Perhaps the toboggan/hat quandary is my fault. Or at least I'm to blame for getting it started. Because I do seem to remember one winter back in 1958 when I was age 12 and with a bunch of local kids, who one snowy day, went sledding over on the Worth Street hill. Which is really steep. And, of course, we Southern (as opposed to Northern) kids don't know beans about riding sleds (i.e., toboggans.) So most of us crashed our sleds well before making it to the bottom of the Worth Street hill. Including me.
* * *
Yes, I seem to remember taking a really bad spill that day. And ending up in a crumpled heap. Up to my ears in a snow bank on the side of Worth Street. With my sled on top of my head. And, come to think of it, I do seem to recall at least one passerby pointing my way exclaiming, "Nice toboggan!" He was complimenting my sled, of course. Problem was, I thought he was talking about my toque.


At 7:49 AM, Blogger Mommy of Boys said...

I think I'm experiencing deja vu...I just read the same thing four times.



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