Coracle: Welsh Boat Word
At the Wording Desk
Quoted from The Coracle Society online: “The coracle - also known as the curach, bull boat, quffa, parasil - is a small, keel-less boat. Their main uses has always been as a means for fishing or transportation. Today, certainly within Europe, their main use tends to be recreational, although in Wales a number of licences exist to permit use as a fishing vessel.”
The coracle frame is woven, wickerwork over which is stretched some kind of watertight skin: cowhide or other leather. Ancient Britons used it to fish and still today, in some Welsh and Irish lakes and rivers, it serves as a piscatorial watercraft.
My own locus classicus of the word coracle appears in a comic song titled “Design for Living” by those British masters of light raillery, Michael Flanders (lyrics) and Donald Swann (music). It’s a witty ditty about keeping your arts & craftsy house up-to-date and contains this gem of nonsensical advice: “Why not take an ordinary Northumbrian spoke-shaver’s coracle and nail it to the living-room wall as a guitar-tidy?”
What a sweet satirical take by Michael Flanders on the oppressive coziness of British “home-making” magazines of the Sixties like House & Garden.
Etymology of Vessel’s Name
It’s a Welsh word corwgl, a probable diminutive of the Gaelic root current in modern Erse curach ‘boat,’ hence ‘little boat.’
On vacation in Wales once, I agreed to try paddling a coracle. The most problematic of the many nightmare stratagems attendant upon emboating in a coracle is embarkation, during which, because a coracle has no keel and is therefore a vessel of maximum tipiness, the novice coracler is apt to go ass-over-teakettle into the water, accompanied by gales of Welsh laughter. I can report that, before pushing off, my corduroys were moist. With the help of a professional coracler I did finally set sail, juttered to the middle currents of a river and then returned to be landed on a narrow jetty torpid as a docked carp.
Great Britain, naturally, would have a Coracle Society, featuring, on its website, tips on how to use a coracle. Do visit them online by clicking the link. https://www.coraclesociety.org.uk/
May 25, 2016
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Increase Your English Vocabulary with Rare Boat Names like Coracle