ballicatter, frore

As one does on a cold evening in early winter, I have slid my copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, second edition, off the shelf, looking for some nice words from a worse climate to warm me up.

It has not disappointed. Look at this lovely sentence it adduces for a citation:

I wasn’t frost-burned. My mitts were frore onto my hands. My face was frore, my collars was frore an’ everything was ballicattered.

What is frore? Just ‘frozen’, frozen. English has a few instances where historically a fricative /z/ in the present corresponded with a liquid /r/ in the strong past form; we see a survival in lornas past of lose. The Oxford English Dictionary shows that frore and froren date all the way back to the earliest English – and are related to similar forms in other Germanic languages – and were in common use in some kinds of English through the 1700s. And, apparently, more recently than that, especially in Newfoundland, where usage was a bit more frozen in time for quite the while – though not without local innovations, of course. It is cold irony that the more frozen form should be the one with the liquid, /r/.

Is there something more to frore than frozen that it should be chosen? It does have echoes of hoar (as in frost) and perhaps a feeling of a telescoped frozen over. It also sounds like the roar when you open the door during a storm. It has no buzz, just icy breath.

But then there is the burly clatter of ballicattered (said, if you please, with the stress on the third syllable). According to the DNE, the verb ballicatter means ‘cover with a layer of ice’, but do please see the noun ballicatter, which names a fringe of ice on a shoreline. This, too, is findable in the OED, which identifies it as “A mass of ice along a shoreline, creating a barrier between the sea and the land.” So it starts as an ice fringe that keeps your boat from getting to shore, and from that extends to “Frozen moisture around the nose and mouth” (DNE) and spreads from there.

The source of ballicatter, says the OED, is barricade and the related barricado. Thus, while it names something that changes a liquid to a frozen solid, the word is not quite frozen in time; it swaps one liquid for another, /l/ for /r/. And it makes a ball for a flat crust.

And so we have two words, one short and soft and liquid yet frozen, the other longer and harder yet reliquefied, and both name ice from good old Newfoundland. And you can sit in your warm home by your glowing screen and be glad you don’t have to be out on the sea ice getting your mitts frore onto your hands and everything ballicattered.

One response to “ballicatter, frore

  1. Hi, Tim—-Winter fully described in two words (or less)—-Roy

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