Maybe you can help, minnow ....

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Feb 14 12:29:13 EST 2004


Otter wrote:

>I'm in the middle of Michael Quinion's World Wide Words and he's
>discussing the word 'pinchbeck'.  It's an eponym.  The family name
>probably comes from a place in Lincolnshire.  He says this about
>it:
>
>"His name probably came from the place called Pinchbeck near
>Spalding in Lincolnshire; that name is from Old English words
>meaning either "minnow stream" or "finch ridge" (from which
>we may deduce the uncertain state of the study of English
>placenames)."
>
>Although, as a birder, I would prefer 'finch ridge', I realize that
>there is actually a minnow in this group who might have the
>authoritative word.

Well, speaking as a phoxinus phoxinus the word I generally say is "glop",
but "pinch" or "pink" or "penk" is certainly a dialect name for a minnow,
and since I have heard it in Yorkshire it's quite likely that a "pinch" is
a minnow in Lincolnshire too.

Evenhandedness leads me to mention that I can find no small streams on the
OS map at Pinchbeck, which is on the River Glen and in an area where
waterways tend to be carefully controlled -- but I don't have a
five-inch-to-the-mile for that particular bit of the country, and it might
be too small to be on the one-inch.  I have a feeling that if there were it
wouldn't be being called a beck anyway however much that may have come from
the ME, because that's more of a north-west dialect word, like a "burn"
being Scots, and I *think* that in the fens it would be more likely to be a
runnel or a dik or a dreen.  On the other hand there isn't any ridge much
more than a mole-hill high in that neck of the woods either, it being in
the bit near the Wash where if your hat were that flat it would fall off
the top of your head like a balanced sheet of cardboard, and given half a
chance the sea would come back in and reclaim large tracts of what is
dry(ish) land at the moment.

Maybe it means "minnow-ridge", as in a ridge so small it would only be
noticed by a minnow, like the ones in the wet sand after the tide has gone
out.

>[It doesn't have to be accurate, just authoritative.  ;-) ]

I'm not an authority on Lincolnshire minnows.  Mere connexions.  :-)  If
you like I could ask a friend of mine who lives just a bit north of there
whether she has any strong theory one way or the other, but I bet she
doesn't.

Isn't there anyone with webbed feet on the list?

Minnow


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