Thursday, January 25, 2018

Pondering a sitch or a skitch more

I was surprised by the Welsh word 'cwch' today, and its meaning - which is a comfortable cuddle or a hideaway spot or to stow something away in a hidden place.  It has several meanings, and it was odd to hear it in some of the sentences I was reading.  I was reading an article by David Jandrell about Welsh Valleys Speak at Parallel Cymru, a bilingual online newspaper where I've been doing some of my Welsh studies.

It is a little fitting with the multi-use word in Welsh though, and it makes me wonder if it has come from similar far back roots and if anyone else would know of it.

The word: 'skitch', or 'sitch'

It brought back to mind something that has passed down through my mother's family, a bit of  vernacular I always thought was British English, but could even be related to the word 'sich' in German.  But nothing I've found actually seems to fit with how the word was (and is) used.  I have seen the word 'skitch' meaning to scoot over, which might be close to the meaning I learned.

The meaning I grew up knowing meant a small quantity, or a small quantity more than what was given previously.  If the item given was not specified, it could also mean a quantity of time.  It translated best to somewhere between 'a bit' and 'a pinch'.. and I have no idea where it came from but it still pervades my speech now as an adult.  Not only do I not know anyone else that says it, I can't remember anyone outside of my own family as a child using it.  Google shows up nothing - it says it is a vernacular for 'situation'... which in this case, does not fit.

Examples :

'Give me a skitch more of that (flour, a length of something like a board, pipe or fabric etc..)'  If you needed a very tiny amount you would say 'Give me just a skitch more' and that would mean less than a skitch.

I definitely remember using it a lot in baking, but also in sewing.  It would be very unnatural to ask for a 'skitch of marbles' or a 'skitch of apples'... it was more used in something that normally would not have quantity until it was measured, such as flour, or water or a length of board, pipe or cloth.  You could knead the bread a skitch longer, or pound a nail a skitch deeper, or do something, anything, just a 'skitch' better than before.

You could also 'sit a sitch' or 'sit a skitch' to sit for a little while somewhere

Or you could 'drag/push/move that item a 'sitch further' or a 'sitch closer'.
You could skitch over to the side, as well, but I wouldn't say 'sitch over' unless I meant 'a sitch over that line' etc.

"Wait a skitch more" meant you wanted to do something just a moment later, like after finishing a task that you were involved with but not much later than that.  The 'now in a minute' in the article made me laugh and remember this, too.


Background and other bits:

I am thinking this must have come down in my Grandmother's family, as I did not hear it from anyone else and my Grandmother Vera had very few siblings or other relatives that I knew growing up.  She was adopted out of the Owatonna Children's home in Blue Earth Minnesota, and knew French and some German from the nuns there and from one of the families that had adopted her for a while.  From some of what I remember being told she went to a German family for a while but eventually went back and stayed at the orphanage until she married my Grandfather.  Her birth mother was part Ojibwe / Anishinnabe from the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation area in North Dakota, but I believe her father was of French and Russian descent.

I know there are records out there that one of my aunts had - but she said she was told not to give the information to anyone.  So, that is as much as I know.  The children were taken because their mother got sick and/or couldn't pay bills - there was some confusion on that part.  Their father was 'out' and couldn't be found - he apparently went away for long periods of time and then showed back up with money, as many men did at that time.  There were older sisters (Ava and Eva?) but they were married and their husbands wouldn't let the children come live with them.  So my grandmother, her sister, the baby girl and at least two of the younger brothers were transported a long distance to the Children's Home.

I know this is why I bawled so hard at the book 'Before We were Yours', because it matched some of the stories I did hear - of my grandmother being oldest of those that went to the home, not knowing where some of her younger siblings went, especially the baby, Phyllis.. and also about having to clean up after her younger sister Inez when she peed the bed so that the nuns wouldn't whip her for it in the morning.  That book hit home that I could see my grandmother as a young girl in the shoes of Rill/May.. and her doing everything she could but still not being able to keep them together.

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