or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Lost and Found

Today we decided to have lunch out after getting the groceries, and it was about a twenty-five-minute walk to where we were going to eat. (No, I'm not telling you where, because it's embarrassing*). On the way there, we were both pretty hungry (I'd had nothing all morning except a cup of tea, which won't get you very far), and one or the other of us--probably me, but possibly Jim, who has heard me say it many times--said, "I am gutfoundered!"

Isn't that a great expression? It's heard all the time in Newfoundland, which, you may be aware, is where I'm from, and which has a sizable vocabulary all its own. "Gutfoundered" didn't originate in Newfoundland, mind you; it's listed in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose, so it's been around for a couple hundred years for sure. But it's exactly the sort of word a horse-raising, seafaring people would use.

"To founder" has a couple of pertinent meanings here, and I confess I don't know which one is the relevant one: no search reveals anything of any use to me, and even the Dictionary of Newfoundland English declines an etymology. First, it means, of a boat, "to take on water and sink", so perhaps it means your stomach has sunk to the bottom of your being and has to be dragged back up again. Second, it means, of a horse, "to fall prey to laminitis (an illness afflicting the foot) and hence become lame", so maybe if your gut has foundered, it's crippled and needs to be nursed back to health with a proper meal.

Don't know which of these is correct. I expect one of them is, and since the horse meaning seems to be a metaphorical extension of the boat meaning, perhaps they both are. I do know that it's a vivid way of saying, "Damn, I'm hungry!"

If you're going to say it, you might as well pronounce it as a Newfoundlander would, and that means at the very least getting that first vowel correct. It's not "gut" to rhyme with "but" or "nut", with your lips stretched wise; the "-u-" sound is in fact halfway between a "-u-" and an "-o-", so try rounding your lips into a more or less perfect circle before essaying the word. And then you have to abbreviate the "-t-" so it's very quick and blunt--Newfoundland speech in general is very quick and blunt--and then swerve the diphthong "-ou-" so it sounds as if it were composed of the sounds "eh-ow", but run together very quickly....

On second thought, perhaps it's better to just leave it to the experts.**

"Founder" as a verb, by the way, comes from Latin "fundus", "bottom", because foundering sends a ship to the bottom of the ocean. (The noun "founder", "one who founds something", comes instead from Gothic "finthan", "to find".)

*Oh, very well. It was Taco Bell. Are you happy now?

**If Dame Judi Dench and Julianne Moore couldn't do a damned thing towards obtaining convincing Newfoundland accents in the lamentable movie version of "The Shipping News", then you probably won't be able to manage it, either, unless you are already from there, which, statistically speaking, you probably are not.


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