"Last straw"/Clochandichter

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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by John Barton » Wed Mar 30, 2005 5:53 am

There seems to be some doubt whether 'the last straw' is the one that breaks the camel's back, or the penultimate one. Are there words in any language meaning this? - the last something before some event occurs?
The only one I can think of is the N.E. Scotland word CLOCHANDICHTER, to which I can find only one unhelpful Google hit. And it may be only a facetious word. The definition is said to be:"The last rock that can be put on a heap of rocks before the whole lot collapses". NOT the one that causes it to collapse, but the one before it.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Mar 30, 2005 7:41 am

John, Who is it that thinks that the ‘last straw’ is not the one that breaks the camels back, but is actually the ‘next to last straw’? That’s what the last straw means – the one that breaks the camels back! Do a search on ‘straw’ and you will find that this expression has been previously discussed. And as far as "The last rock that can be put on a heap of rocks before the whole lot collapses" – I’m having a hard time visualizing a heap of rocks collapsing when a final rock is added – what’s to collapse? And I would give the folks of N.E. Scotland more credit than to think they would make up as nonsensical thing as that. And as far the expression you are looking for, how about THE NEXT TO LAST STRAW? (<:)

Ken G – March 29, 2005
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Mar 30, 2005 7:43 am

John, my Chambers Concise Scots Dictionary contains neither the headwords 'clochandichter' nor 'clochan'. Nor could I find 'dichter'.

The headword 'dicht' (plus its variants 'dight', 'decht' etc.), the closest word I could find, is a verb with a number of specific connotations, most of which emphasise a general sense of arranging, cleaning, preparing, tidying, polishing, wiping, equipping, getting dressed or decorating -- in other words, it suggests the opposite of causing something to collapse. (Although I suppose we cannot exclude for now the possibility that 'clochan' might mean 'destroy/er//ing' or 'disarrange/r//ing', hence 'clochandichter' = 'disarranger of orderliness'; but I think that's a pretty long shot in the circumstances.)

I can think of one instance where the word 'dight' occurs in a modern Standard English setting, slightly modified, namely in Dorothy Parker's poem Rondeau Redouble (and scarcely worth the trouble, at that):

In cerements [i.e. wax-impregnated winding sheets] my spirit is bedight;
The same to me are sombre days and gay.

Anyhow, my initial investigation has produced no evidence to support either the legitimate existence or the purported meaning of 'clochandichter' that is mentioned in your posting.

Maybe if I had been less mean and had bought the Verbose Scots Dictionary...?
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Mar 30, 2005 8:11 pm

John, Ah ha! But if we are talking about a hollow heap of rocks, that’s a whole nother story. A COLCHAN appears to be a type of stone beehive-shaped hut of ancient Ireland – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clochan. This site (and I’m not a big fan of Wikipedia) says they had ‘corbelled’ roofs or sometimes thatched roofs. Looking at the definition and a picture of a ‘corbel’ in my dictionary tells me that, in this instance, it might mean 1) stones stepped inward toward the center of the hive or 2) the last step at the top which provides a ledge on which sits either a roof of wooden beams or perhaps a final stone slab. If the principle of the arch was being used, the last hunk of rock at the top could be acting as a keystone, but that’s questionable, from the looks of the picture.

Google gave a modern German translation for ‘dichter’ as ‘more closely.’ Thus, the only thing that I can make of the word ‘colchandichter’ that has anything to do with your purported definition, is that it might be a German reference to the last stone at the top of the colchan beehive where the stones come ‘closely’ together – which either 1) does act as a keystone and without which the roof might collapse, or more likely 2) just the last stone slab of the roof that sits on the ‘ledge’ provided by the stones that preceded it. If it is acting as a ‘keystone,’ rather than being the stone that broke the camels back, it would be the stone that prevented the camel’s back from breaking. Or it might just be that next to last level of stone on top of which the last roof stone was placed (as ‘corbel’ does suggest) and if the hut’s stone configuration was not built correctly, might result in the roof toppling down, in which case it would have some relevance to your reported definition.

The above is fairly wild speculation, and it might be worth more than a kick in the teeth – but maybe not! (<:)
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by John Barton » Thu Mar 31, 2005 12:03 am

This was just something I found on a scrap of paper that I had copied from somewhere years ago. I've found that there is Clochandichter Hill in Scotland, 545 feet, and tree-covered. And 'Place-Names of Scotland' gives various places in which 'cloch' is from 'rock': Cloch, Clochan, Clochnaben, Clochbane, Clochoderick, Clochmabanestane, and ?Clocksbriggs. But it may be in the category of Roald Dahl's footnote to 'stopple' ('a plug of clay used by bears to prevent ants entering their anus [ani] during hibernation')which is often accepoted verbatim.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by John Barton » Thu Mar 31, 2005 5:41 am

Well, I think I've stumped you lot on this, so I did some more research. On further thought, 'clochan' is a diminuative of 'cloch', a rock, which is the prefix of several Scottish place-names. So the real suffix is 'andericht'. Now there is a German verb 'anderichten' meaning to attribute or impute something to someone. Though how Gaelic and German got mixed is baffling - in Clochandericht Hill, a Scots place-name picked up by Altavista. I hope it's a real word, missed by all the dictionaries - could be useful.
Clochandericht angel - the last that can dance on the point of a pin.
~ atom - the last atom of plutonium before critical mass is reached.
~ point - the last point that can be removed from part of a circle before a hole appears.
~ integer - the largest integer below infinity
~ Dimension - the highest number of dimensions possible in space before geometry snaps from saturation.
~ division of time - the smallest division of time before an instant is reached.
~ ballast compartment number - the last one flooded before sinking of Titanic became inevitable.
If I was sure how to pronounce it, I'd use it on a few radio talk-backs and make it a buzz-word!
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Mar 31, 2005 6:41 am

John, Not sure how you went from ‘andichter’ to ‘andericht’ (the ‘real’ suffix). As far as know, ‘andericht’ means ‘an arrangement’ in German and ‘clochandericht,’ therefore, might mean an arrangement of rocks. But we are talking excessively obscure – which clearly is your specialty – since this does not pick up a single Google hit. This would be a nice definition for the above ‘clochandichter’ (why do I keep thinking ‘cloak and dagger’?) except that ‘andericht’ ain’t ‘andicthter,’ as far as I know – and I don’t know much German.

Ken G – March 30, 2005
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by John Barton » Thu Mar 31, 2005 10:03 am

.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by John Barton » Thu Mar 31, 2005 10:04 am

Sorry Ken - you're right, I'm all confused. Didn't notice the different spelling.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Phil White » Thu Mar 31, 2005 2:38 pm

Er... You guys have lost me. There is no German verb "anderichten". There is a German verb "andichten", meaning "to impute" (but no "er", so, having no other use for it, I put it at the beginning of this reply - and at the end for good measure). Also, there is no "andericht", and I can't think of anything remotely like it.

And John, I think the person who offered the definition is pulling your ...er... strings.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by haro » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:49 pm

I think what Ken calls 'andericht' is 'angerichtet' = 'arranged', but of course there is hardly a probability that words like 'angerichtet' or 'andichten' have managed to sneak into Scotland. To enhance the confusion even more, I might mention that the German word 'Dichter' (capitalized) means 'poet,' but it could also mean someone who seals / lutes / caulks / tightens something. And, by the way, 'dichter' not only means 'closer' but also 'denser' (forest), 'thicker' (fog), 'heavier' (traffic), tighter (gasket), more compact (style), etc.. So the German connection can be used to "prove" just about everything.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Mar 31, 2005 10:22 pm

This Dichter must be another of Mark Twain's chameleonic Schlags escaping by Zug.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Apr 04, 2005 12:34 pm

In the apocryphal "Checkered History of Bagpipeless Music", rarely ascribed to McCartney, it is not contested that "Rocks around the Cloch" is an arrangement of the Standing Stones, who evolved into a different group when the clochand passed the critical point.
And camels don't drink through straws.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Apr 04, 2005 2:14 pm

Nor, I believe, do they drink through bagpipes.
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"Last straw"/Clochandichter

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:50 pm

Another theory scotched.
Of course, it is indisputable that the large dromedary population of Merseyside derives from when the Camel Lairds from the North invaded Birkenhead and founded the ship-of-the-desert and Scouse Whisky industries.
They advanced along Formby Dunes, wisely avoiding the need to take Oldham, which would have been a mammoth task.
Ah well, back to my history revision.
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