What does this word look like it might be? Some kind of foam, perhaps? An archaic typesetting of scream without the c? (Of course, those tall s’s weren’t f’s; they lacked the crossbars. But they do look like them to our eyes.) A full ream of paper? A disorderly frame? Or perhaps a misspelling of Frean, as in Peek Frean, that brand of cookies founded in 1857 in Bermondsey, London, by Messrs. Peek and Frean and, as it happens, operating a bakery in East York (now Toronto) since 1949 on Bermondsey Road (near where my mother-in-law lives)? Or maybe a kind of fudge cream – either cookie or ice cream?

Well, sorry to be a crashing bore, but no. Actually, why apologize for being a crashing bore? A crashing boar doesn’t apologize. In fact, a boar, as it crashes through the woods, especially if it has a good head of steam, is likely to fream.

That’s right. Horses neigh, cattle low, wolves howl, boars fream. Or, as James Puckly put it in 1711, “an hart bellows, a buck groyns, a roe bells, a goat rats, a boar freams, a hare tapps, a fox barks, a badger shrieks, an otter whines, a wolf howls, &c.” What is meant is the roaring or growling noise boars make when raging. I guess you could imitate it with fream – if you said it as loudly as possible while inhaling. It’s uncertain, though, where this word comes from – it’s not necessarily imitative; it could come from Latin fremere “roar” or from old Saxon hríeman “cry out”.

Not that there’s likely to be a lot of research done on it. It’s not much used anymore. Urban Dictionary has a definition for fream as 1950s slang for someone who doesn’t fit in, for what that’s worth (which is variable with Urban Dictionary), but that was the 1950s. And we don’t meet boars too often.

We do meet bores and similar misfits, though. And when one goes on a tear about some pet peeve, you can always sigh, “Free me from your freaming.”

One response to “fream

  1. I hope I don’t get all you supersensitive PC robots freaming, but in the back of my slang dictionary the owner took the time to add words. One of them was, you guessed it, Fream. He describes it as “Negro for homosex”
    So there you go. Defined at last.

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