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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Random Strange Derivations (1)

There is a (somewhat revolting) expression for perspiring profusely, which is known as 'sweating cobs'. I'm not sure whether it's peculiar to my native county of Yorkshire, but that's where I heard it first. It was only when I was studying Old and Middle English that I learned that the word for spider is 'attecoppe' - meaning 'cup of poison' which is fairly self explanatory.
The word cob is sometimes used for spider in Yorkshire - hence 'sweating cobs' meaning that the droplets are running down, like little spiders! Strange or what?
When I was a child in Yorkshire, we also used to call those floating seeds that sail through the air in late summer 'hairy cobs'. We would blow on them and hope that they would float upwards, chanting 'hairy cob, hairy cob, bring me some luck' - or sometimes 'bring me some money'. I assume that these too were seen as 'hairy spiders'.
Not a lot of people know this! I didn't even know it back then, when I was using the word!

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