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The foods that Nova Scotians or Bluenoses cherish most were brought to the “wharf of North America” by immigrants. The original inhabitants were a people speaking an Algonquian language, the Mi’kmaq, who arrived, based on archaeological evidence, at least 10,000 years ago. They’ve been in the neighbourhood quite a while then ― long enough even to make place names from some of their food words, for example, the Nova Scotia town of Shubenacadie.
The Nova Scotia town, lake and river of Shubenacadie is a French and English attempt at a Mi’kmaq phrase signifying the presence of sequbbun (groundnuts). The tasty groundnut, Apios americana, is a member of the pea family, and its dark-red or brown flowers resemble those of the sweet pea. They thrive in damp ground from Nova Scotia to Ontario and are found in much smaller, endangered stands as far west as Wisconsin.
Mi’kmaq people prize the sweet tubers of this plant which has a chestnut flavour and they call it sequbbun. Sequbbunakade is Mi’kmaq for ‘groundnut-place.’ Groundnut is also called Micmac potato, bog potato, Indian potato and travellers’ delight. The botanical genus name is Greek apios ‘a pair’ because the tubers on an individual rhizome seem to grow in pairs. One healthy plant may have ten or twelve tubers. Mi’kmaq people taught the first white settlers that these tubers were a good source of starch. As early as 1613, Biencourt and his followers at Port Royal went on foraging trips around the colony and along the nearby shores digging for groundnuts.
The flower of the groundnut displays the typical form of blossoms
of the pea family of plants.
The Mi’kmaq locative suffix -akadi,-akwadik shows up in other regional place names like Quoddy Harbour, from Mi’kmaq nooda-akwade ‘seal-hunting place,’ and Tracadie, from tul-akadik ‘camping place.’ A bit south, Maine’s Passamaquoddy Bay is from a Mi’kmaq phrase that means ‘pollock place,’ referring to a marine food fish called pollock in English.
Other Nova Scotia places indicating food location include Antigonish, from Mi’kmaq n’alegihooneech ‘broken-branches,’ a reference to a place where bears came to forage for beechnuts.
Baccaro, east of Cape Sable Island, is from a Basque word for codfish. Bakeapple Barren, named after the delicious little berries, is in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Bass River explains itself. The Canard River was just ducky for hunters of wildfowl. Framboise abounded in wild raspberries. Big clams lurked in tidal flats offshore at Grosses Coques. Ostrea Lake once had oyster beds. The Latin word for oyster and its zoological genus name is ostrea. Later and more layful English place names based on food words in Nova Scotia include Pickle Bay, The Beefsteak, and Cheese Factory Corner.
Later immigrants, who came long after the Mi’kmaq, included John Cabot who made landfall at Cape Breton Island in 1497, and more than a century later, de Monts and Champlain who founded Port Royal in 1605, the first farm settlement by Europeans on land that eventually became part of Canada. The French named it Acadia. In 1621, King James I granted Sir William Alexander land officially dubbed New Scotland or, in Latin, Nova Scotia.
Molly Muise, a Mi'kmaq woman in a mid-nineteenth-century photograph
Governor Cornwallis founded Halifax in 1749 and arranged an influx of German Protestants, more than 2,000 of whom were settled near Lunenburg. In the years that followed, pre-Loyalist New Englanders came to Nova Scotia, along with Irish and Yorkshiremen. Significantly, the first Scots reached Pictou in 1773. The outbreak of the American Revolution began a flow of more than 20,000 Loyalists. African-Americans came first as slaves of some Loyalists, as free people from Jamaica, and as free citizens after the war of 1812. Today, people from England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland make up 70 percent of the population of Nova Scotia, while roughly 8 percent are of Acadian and French origin. Ninety-four percent list their mother tongue as English, 3 percent as French. But all enjoy the local comestibles that comprise the bounty of Nova Scotia.
© 2012 copyright William Gordon Casselman
Reviews of my Book
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A Great New Review of My Latest Book!
October 26, 2011
Welcome to the Enchanted Forest
By WB Johnston
This review is about Bill Casselman’s latest e-book about words: Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A Word Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems (Kindle Edition)
“Wade Davis, lately of National Geographic, once described each living language as “an old-growth forest of the human spirit.” Once you decide to enter the kleptomaniacal woods of our mother tongue, what you need is more than a tour guide. This is no Disney-fied ‘keep-your-hands-inside-the-car-at all-times’, point A to point B, clear-cutting mining of language. You, here, are in the hands of Sir William of Cassel, a genuine shaman modestly posing as a simple lover of words.
Leave it on your desk at work and trust that someone will riffle through it when you are out at lunch. Shamans are magicians of the highest order. The work of their hands and hearts is game-changing. Or, hey, put it on your Kindle and just feel comforted that you can wander back out into the forest with Bill even in the middle of a boring lecture.
(Casselman replies: Thank you so much, Dr. J., for the kudos.)
Jenni French of San Francisco, California writes on her blog “My Corner of the Universe” for March 19, 2011:
Casselman, Bill. Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik: A World Lover’s Guide to the Weirdest, Wackiest, and Wonkiest Lexical Gems. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2010.
And the author has quite a way with words, so I have found myself rereading many sentences in this book and slowing my progress through it.
My current favorite sentence is found in a discussion of dog hybrid breed names: “What a revolting concatenation of cutesiness and smarmy nomenclatorial treacle parading under the name of canine hybrid breed names” (19).
I’m sure I’ll have another favorite sentence in a day or two.
This book is just that good and just that entertaining.”
(Author Bill Casselman replies: “Thanks, Jenni!” )
Just a reminder that this book contains my ALL-NEW word essays, none of which are available anywhere else in print or online.
Cindy Lapeña on her blog “Creativity Unlimited” of July 19 ,2011, writes:
Posted by mimrlith in 365 Things to Look Forward to.
19. Starting a book
To a certified bibliophile like me, a.k.a. bookworm, one of the most exciting things to look forward to is to start reading a new book. In fact, sometimes the prospect of starting to read a new book is so exciting that I have to hurry to finish the book I am currently reading, just so I can start a new one.
If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s a book, especially if it promises to be a good one. Of course there are certain books I just won’t touch or be seen with, but at the risk of being hung by my thumbs by fans of such literature, I will not mention any genres in particular. . .
Seeing a book with a title that totally captivates me, like Where a Dobdob meets a Dikdik (yes, that is a book title!) has me so worked up, I just can’t wait to dive in. I imagine all sorts of deliciously fancifully outrageous words with a title like that. Is it obvious? I just love books on words. You won’t believe how many dictionaries I own. Or books on lexical oddities and other lexical explorations. Yes, I am a logophile of sorts. I love the new words I pick up from new books. I relish finding out the meanings of all manner of words and phrases and expressions. What could be more fun?”
(Replies author Bill Casselman: Please scroll to bottom of page or click here to link to a free seven-page preview of my book, Where a Dobdob Meets a Dikdik.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Dear Mr. Casselman,
. . . I revisited the paraprosdokian page, and have finally quit laughing again at “Casselman’s Conclusion.” You were not unkind to the “profligate prof-lets.” During my years as an acquisitions editor, in rejection letters I often quoted Prof. Moses Hadas, classicist at Columbia University, who wrote a young scholar in response to having been sent the prof-let’s first book, “Thank you for sending me your book. I will waste no time reading it.”
I invite you to tour my site and select from the hundreds of word stories here.
To begin, click on the Word List banner below.
Then perhaps browse the site map with its links to every page of my website.
Summer 2007 - Bill Casselman's latest publication
is an essay in a new book entitled
Barry Callaghan: Essays on his Works
in the Writers Series published by Guernica Editions