Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dictionary Moment: Geoduck

Geoduck: "an edible clam of the Pacific coast that weighs as much as five pounds." 

I believe I have seen this word, and its definition, previously.  But I never gave it much thought, until Scoot's class gave their musical tour of Washington last week.  To represent a nearby town on the Hood Canal, they sang "The Geoduck Song," a lively pattering tune about harvesting the things.  What sent me to the dictionary was the pronunciation: "gooey duck." 

The SOED, replete as it may be with words only obscurely connected to the English language, is silent on geoducks.  So I turned to the good old red Webster's.  It confirmed Scoot's pronunciation, and revealed that the word comes from Chinook Jargon, the local mishmash of native and European tongues.  It also strengthens my theory that whoever wrote these words down wasn't a phoneticist.  There's a town around here named Puyallup, which I would assume to be pronounced "poo-yall-up."  But no, it is "pyoo-al-up."  Poulsbo, on the other hand, should be pronounced "paulz-bo."  The O was a misprint.

The moral of the story:  When you launch a great Voyage of Discovery, send along a linguist and a spellchecker.  Or at least a big shovel, if you dig geoducks.


  1. I think there was an episode of Dirty Jobs that featured the geoduck. Also, thank you for telling me how to pronounce Puyallup - my brother and sister in law lived there for almost 2 years and I never could figure it out!

  2. Oops I chose anonymous before I's just me. Your blog always makes me smile. :)

  3. Thanks, Laura! Keep smiling!