4 October – Today I learned:

  • That the word “scran” is slang in some parts of the world (Scotland and northern England, mainly, but also Ireland – where it’s used in an imprecation cursing you with bad food, the midwest U.S., and in the military) for food, junk food, scrounged food, “food of an inferior quality,” cheap, tasty, and filling grub,” or just a large quantity of food. I saw someone use it on Instagram the other day as a verb, where in context I took it to be synonymous with scrounge, but it’s also used often as a noun.

    Etymologically, it’s unclear from whence the word derives. There are a number of theories: 1. scran is of North Germanic origin or a cognate with Old Norse skran, which means “rubbish” … or “marine stores”? Icelandic skran and Danish skrammel cognates both mean “junk,” or “odds and ends,” though the Oxford English Dictionary thinks these are accidental similarities (?). 2. scran means “a considerable amount of items to eat,” from the Dutch word schranzen, “to consume excessively.” A synonym is “munch.” 3. scran, originating in Scotland in the 19th century, means either “just food, or scraps of food gained by begging,” and it’s “frequently used by Edinburgh schoolchildren to mean “what can be scrounged,” as in “I’m on the scran for some money to go out.” 4. Originally (1725) scran meant a pub drinker’s bar tab. 5. It very likely does NOT come from “the Royal Navy practice of supplementing sailors’ diets with additional portions of Sultanas, Currants, Raisins and Nuts” and it’s probably not “derived from the Romany word satan which means to eat.” Sources: Dictionary of the Scots Language – fullest entry; World Wide Words – good discussion; Liverpool English Dictionary Google Books page; Wiktionary; EdinburghLive; The A to Z of Northern Slang.
  • That a group of unrelated squirrels or chipmunks is called a scurry. (A family group is a dray.)

  • What the inside of a friend’s house looks like, most of the first floor anyway. I’d never seen it in the 10 years I’ve known him but he hosted our poetry group today (outside in 58F mostly cloudy weather) and as we were helping bring serving plates and such inside afterward, some of us took a short tour. It’s a beautiful place, full of personality, art, colour, life, but I didn’t take any photos because it’s a private place.

    During the same poetry group, I also learned more about the building of the interstate through (or alongside) our town and others in the 1960s and heard the impassioned speech of one of the prominent men (a town doctor, the father of the man whose house we met at today) who was opposed to it. I came home and looked up more information about the highway building and decision-making behind it, as well as about the ski area in town that so many old-timers remember so nostalgically, which was also mentioned a few times during our meeting.

    Yes, we also read and heard poems, our own and others’ including by Jane Kenyon, Joy Harjo, Taha Muhammad Ali, Danusha Laméris, as we sat huddled fairly comfortably in fleece and down layers in an assortment of chairs that weren’t arranged quite in a circle or quite in an oval, with 12-year-old Cam, the chocolate lab, wandering off (he wasn’t the only one) and being brought home by a friendly neighbour and her friendly dog who both seemed to want to join us, and after that Cam taking his place apparently among us but easing on his sore haunches closer to the red oak that took your breath away every time you looked, its total involvement with fall, fluttering yellow and orange and never looking back, all of us fluttering really, all of us wandering in our minds, time travelling, the past so close, the sudden reawakening of losses raw and cruel and wrenchingly sweet, and the lightly held recognition of what remains, embodied, so tenuous, so essential, all of it shared in our smiles and the meeting of eyes right here and now, then and there, our feet and paws on the ground while in the air our breath mingling in this one unbounded space, this one exact time, now itself already half-forgotten but still felt, like a poem.

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