Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Kitties

Last November our household cat population suddenly tripled. My wife phoned from work to tell me that she had agreed to take a kitten that needed a home. Trixie would be arriving the next day.

But that very same night there was a big crash against the screen door. Once we got the dogs calmed down and under control, we ventured out to see what was happening. The sound of flapping wings and a growling noise suggested that murder was afoot. Indeed, it didn't take long to find the injured pigeon, and the flash light showed a pair of bright eyes staring out from under a bush. Pat took the pigeion into the house to see how badly it was injured, while I went after the cat. I say cat with hindsight, for at the time it was such a growling, hissing, skinny, stripey monster that it seemed more like a cross between weasel and raccoon, or even perhaps an alien species. It really didn't want to be caught, but when I put a bowl of food down and it came right over and started scoffing like it hadn't eaten in a week, so I scooped it up and secured it in the workshop.

Trixie arrived the next day as arranged. A funny looking kitten with it's white, black and tan fur going every-which-way. She was only four months old but had had a pretty bad life. Her mother had been killed on the road, and Trixie herself had been found in a shed where her siblings had starved to death around her. She had two other temporary homes before settling with us, but for all that she has turned out to be a really sweet and affectionate little cat.

We decided to call the other cat Bunny. She spent the first few days in a crate in my workshop while we tried to find her an owner, but to no avail. Once she had been checked out by the vet we introduced her to Trixie. The pair of them lived together in a bedroom for several weeks while we introduced them gradually to our three dogs and our cat, Ellen. They have formed a very close friendship and are often to be found snuggled up together or grooming one another, though Bunny seems to have taken on more of a mother role, often holding Trixie down while she washes her. Our dogs get on fine with them, and Bunny often tries to rub her head up against one of the dogs. In fact, just the other night, while Trixie was away at the vets for spaying, Bunny started grooming Hannah.

Sadly, the pigeon died the day after Bunny's noisy arrival at our back door.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Drang

Just across the road from my grandmother's house was a narrow footpath sandwiched between the cottage hospital and a residential area. My family always refered to this path as the drang. It was walled on both sides, and high enough to stop one seeing over, unless of course you were a small boy who liked climbing stone walls. There was another drang not too far away from my own home, this time between a cemetery and some houses, with wooden fencing on the side of the houses, and a thick hedge on the other.

I can't recall anyone outside of my own family referring to these paths as a drang, so I have often wondered whether it was a word they made up. I could never find it in a standard English dictionary. So recently I tried searching for a definition on the internet, and was surprised when I found it in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. This was interesting because I have a great great great granduncle who emigrated to Newfoundland, and his son returned to Somerset to live with my great great great grandfather in the 1890's.

Yesterday I finally remembered to stop by the reference library to see what I could find out about this word. The Oxford English Dictionary lists it as a variant of drong, and defines it as a narrow lane or passage. There are written references to it dating back to 1787, all coming from the west country counties of Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorset and Somerset. In 1863 the Dorset Glossary listed drong or drongway, a narrow way between two hedges or walls. Another reference in 1880-88 lists drang and drang-way.

Also in the library I found a copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. One reference from 1858, "'The new priest in Conception Bay' , quoted 'the constable passed the drung that led up to his forge and dwelling..". More recently in 1972 - "There are 'drungs' (lanes) and roads shooting off in all directions....." . The online version has some supplementary entries from the 1980's.

All of these references indicate that the word is dialect, and suggest that it is derived from throng or thring, meaning crowded or pressed. Certainly the drangs I know were barely wide enough for two pedestrians to pass.

So, I'm curious just how common a word it was, or indeed if it is still in common use today. If you are familiar with the words drang, drong or drung, do please leave a comment.

Thursday, January 13, 2005