“SNIG” A LEGITIMATE WORD (October 2/98)

I suggested in a column several weeks ago that it might have been coined by Nova Scotian woodsworkers, but this is incorrect; it appears that the lumbering expression, snig, is a legitimate word after all.

A note from a reader informed me that snig can be found in the Oxford Dictionary and it referred to wood-cutting activities. I found a volume of the Oxford English Dictionary at Acadia University and confirmed that snig is there; several definitions of the word were given and one – to drag a heavy load, especially timber, by means of ropes and chains – is the meaning commonly used here. The unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary also contains snig with one definition only, the wood-cutting activity.

Snig, by the way, also refers to a young or small eel, an avaricious person and it also means to steal. Its origin is obscure, says the Oxford Dictionary, noting that in Canada, Northern England, Australia and New Zealand it commonly refers to wood-cutting activities. It’s possible that snig originated first as a reference to eels; their sinuous movement in the water and a similar movement of logs being dragged on the ground may have been observed and applied to this activity.

Several readers told me that snig is (or was) an oft-used word, among them Fen Wood, a longtime mill operator in Coldbrook. I suspect that snig, in the sense that Nova Scotians use it, is one of those “dying words,” a victim of urbanization and education.

My thanks to the reader who steered me to the Oxford Dictionary; I’d mention the writer’s name but I couldn’t decipher the signature on the note.

A belated acknowledgment of a letter from Kimberley Chute, Washington. Ms. Chute wrote to comment on the June 26, July 3 columns on the old Benjamin Mill in White Rock. Ms. Chute is the proud possessor of a painting of the mill by Raleigh Eagles. The late Mr. Eagles, who grew up in the White Rock area when the mill was at the peak of its operation, was the source of my information for the columns. The columns were based on talks with Mr. Eagles in the 70s.

Ivan Smith, Canning writes via e-mail to comment on the recent column on Murrille Schofield. “As you know, he (Schofield) collected a great deal of historical information about the Nova Scotia Light & Power Company, and its predecessors and antecedents,” Mr. Smith noted. “Fortunately, that collection found its way into the Public Archives of NS (and) it appears to be complete and intact.”

Mr. Smith said he hopes that eventually the Public Archives will be persuaded to place Schofield’s material on the Internet so it will be available to everyone. “There’s a huge amount of historical material there,” Smith said. “(Schofield) did us a special service in collecting this stuff, much of which would by now have vanished without his intervention.”

Readers who may remember Kentville’s police chief of the 30s, Rupert Davis, are asked to share their recollections with us. As I mentioned here before, I would like to devote a column to Mr. Davis. However, information is difficult to come by. I have Mr. Davis’ obituary, the report on his tragic accident and the brief account Mabel Nichols used in her book, The Devil’s Half Acre. Surely there is more, such as personal remembrances. Readers who remember Chief Davis are asked to contact me. I can be reached by writing this paper or telephoning [902-]678-4591. My e-mail address is [edwingcoleman@gmail.com].

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