Sunday, June 15, 2008


Spunhungan, Wangan Stick, Wambeck, etc.

Lew Dietz, The Allagash (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968; rpt. Camden: Down East Books, 2000), p. xvii:
Once the gear was unloaded, Bud went for dry wood, cutting and fetching in ten-foot lengths of sound dead trees. John arranged the cooking gear and Dave began axing up the logs into usable billets, enough for the night fire and the morning. The lug pole was set on forked sticks. This frame built over the cookfire is called by Allagash men the "spunhungan," or at least this is as close as my ear could ever catch it—I've never seen the word in print. Crotched green sticks are hung from the lug pole with a nail tacked at its end to hold the bailed teakettle. This is variously called a lug stick, pothook, or wangan stick. The pole driven into the ground at such an angle as to extend over the fire is a wambeck.
Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers and for Travelers in the Wilderness, 2 vols. in 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1917), I (Camping), 228, n.:
It is curious how many different names have been bestowed upon the hooks by which kettles are suspended over a fire. Our forefathers called them pot-hooks, trammels, hakes, hangers, pot-hangers, pot-claws, pot-crooks, gallows-crooks, pot-chips, pot-brakes, gibs or gib-crokes, rackan-crooks (a chain or bar on which to hang hooks was called a rackan or reckon), and I know not what else besides. Among Maine lumberman, such an implement is called a lug-stick, a hook for lifting kettles is a hook-stick, and a stick sharpened and driven into the ground at an angle so as to bend over the fire, to suspend a kettle from, is a wambeck or a spygelia — the Red Gods alone know why! The frame built over a cooking-fire is called by the Penobscots kitchi-plak-wagn, and the Micmacs call the lug-stick a chiplok-waugan, which the white guides have partially anglicized into waugan-stick. It is well to know, and heresy to disbelieve, that, after boiling the kettle, it brings bad luck to leave the waugan or spygelia standing.

If this catalogue does not suffice the amateur cook to express his ideas about such things, he may exercise his jaws with the Romany (gipsy) term for pot-hook, which is kekauviscoe saster.
For yet more additions to the catalogue, see Clive Upton et al., Survey of English Dialects: The Dictionary and Grammar (London: Routledge, 1994), s.vv. crane (p. 102) and hook (pp. 213-214), recording answers of informants who were asked, "What do you call that old-fashioned arrangement for hanging a kettle on to heat it over the fire?"

John Gould, Maine Lingo (Camden: Down East Magazine, 1975; rpt. 1980), p. 310, doesn't mention wangan stick in his discussion of wangan:
Found by Fr. Sebastien Râle in the St. Francis Indian language, this word meant the effects a brave carried on a wilderness journey. It remains today as the term for the gear and duffle of a canoe trip, and in general all the food and supplies needed for wilderness travel. It has come to mean the company store in a lumber camp, and also the traveling kitchen that accompanied river drivers down a stream. Besides the company store, it has also come to mean the account there, usually charged against wages, until a man will say he has to "pay his wangan." Maine woods people, to whom the word has long been second nature, tend to pronounce it wong-'n, with perhaps a little carryover of the g, thus: wong-g'n. Always remembering that Maine Indian terms came into our English through the French, we should perhaps note that French-Canadians, to whom the term is equally easy, give it a whang-g'n sound. The Minnesota embellishment of "wannigan" is sheer bosh; the word has only two syllables. The quickest definition of wangan is woods supplies; Maine canoeists have rope-handled wooden boxes for carrying their wangan, and these are wangan boxes.
But, pace Gould, the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary is the trisyllabic wanigan, with the following etymology:
Shortened from Montagnais Indian atawangan, f. atawan to buy or sell. Cf. Cree and Odjibwa atawâgan, 'ce dont on se sert pour acheter ou pour vendre' (Lacombe).

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