skift

Discuss word origins and meanings.

skift

Post by waterworks » Thu Mar 02, 2006 5:09 pm

I had never heard of this word until I moved to Missouri.
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Post by Debz » Thu Mar 02, 2006 5:40 pm

I looked in 3 of my dictionaries that I could locate at the moment, and "skift" is not in them. "Skiff" is the closest, and its definition is: "a light rowboat."

People around here say - "it's a skift of snow." when it snows a little.
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Post by waterworks » Thu Mar 02, 2006 5:42 pm

When it snows and is less than a quarter of an inch my husband calls it a "skift of snow"

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

GO TO:
http://www.kancoll.org/books/blair/blchapter03.htm
Hit your "ctrl" + "f" key and type "skift" in the blank. Then click "find next" button
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Post by Debz » Thu Mar 02, 2006 5:46 pm

Ok, but WHY is it called a "skift?"
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Post by waterworks » Thu Mar 02, 2006 6:01 pm

Ozarkian?? Now that I think of it I'm afeared that he haint nothing but a plumb hillbilly. And here is some more "Ozarkian" language.

http://www.rootsweb.com/~mobarry/slang.htm
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Post by Debz » Thu Mar 02, 2006 6:02 pm

We're veering off the subject. After going to that site, "I'm a wonderin' why I even bothered t' buy that thar book in th' first place!!
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Post by waterworks » Thu Mar 02, 2006 6:05 pm

Here you go little Viking.
skift, shift --to get out of the way, to get a move on ? Clearly associated with the Standard English shift (to move, to deviate), but the sk- element may suggest a regional variation derived from Old Norse.

.........and.......FROM:http://www.students.ncl.ac.uk/w.n.magui ... _words.htm
The following is a selection of words found in the dialect of the Fintona and Dromore area in south-west Tyrone.

skift a light fall of snow or rain--Often in A skift of snow, a skift of rain.
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Post by Debz » Thu Mar 02, 2006 6:37 pm

I do like the Norse part. I think Skiff is a Norse word too. Although I have never seen one, since I live about 700 miles or so from the nearest ocean.
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Post by kagriffy » Thu Mar 02, 2006 8:09 pm

Hope I'm not intruding on Debz' possibly schizophrenic dialogue, but my mother has always talked about a "skift" of snow (meaning a slight ground covering), and she's NOT from the Ozarks. She was raised (so was I) in South-Central Illinois. I used to use this expression, too, until I tried to find it in a dictionary once. When I couldn't find it, and no one else here in Central Illinois had ever heard the expression, I assumed it was some word my mother made up. (She has been known to do that occasionally.) My mother still uses this term; just a couple of weeks ago, she told me there was a skift of snow on the ground. I am glad to see someone else who actually recognizes this word, but I'm still unsure of how widespread its use is. South-Central Illinois (hey, my home town is a whole SEVEN MILES north of the alleged boundary of Southern Illinois!) is rural, but it's not the Ozarks by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps this word is simply used in rural parts of the Midwest. Any thoughts?
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Post by waterworks » Thu Mar 02, 2006 8:28 pm

I think you are right!!!!!
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Post by hsargent » Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:45 pm

So I did a search for skift and might have two clues.

One is an unpleasant scent. Possible but unlikely.

And then I got serveral foreign sites, I am guessing Norwegian. Is there a specific European immigrant group in your region that might be the source of the word?
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:12 pm

Barb (aka waterworks, Debz’s mom), According to the Dictionary of American Regional English the use of SKIFT is not peculiar to Missouri, the Ozarks, or Illinois and its use has been recorded throughout most of the U.S. with the exception of the Northeast, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. It also appears in Down in the Holler - A Gallery of Ozark Folk Speech by Randolph & Wilson as well as in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and in the Oxford English Dictionary. None of these sources, however, provide an ultimate origin for the word and so it seems that this is a case of the dreaded ‘origin uncertain.”
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Down in the Holler

SKIFT noun: The sled or sledge used in hauling stone, often called a stone boat. Sometimes skift means a light fall of snow.
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Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

SKIFT: A variant of SKIFF, which derives from the verb SKIFF: Dialect. Something that is light as a) a light fall of snow or rain b) wisp
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Oxford English Dictionary

SKIFT noun, U.S. dialect: 1) Variant of the noun SKIFF, meaning a slight gust of wind or shower of rain, etc. Also, a light flurry or cover of snow. The noun SKIFF derives from the verb SKIFF, which is perhaps a special use of the verb SKIFT, meaning to shift change or move something. It is also possible that SKIFF derives from the verb SCUFF, to touch lightly in passing; to strike with a slight glancing blow; to brush against (an object).
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Dictionary of American Regional English

SKIFT noun [Scottish National Dictionary 1) skift, 2) skiff “A slight or flying shower of rain or snow,” skiftin “A light fall or sprinkling of snow.”]: 1) Also often skiff, rarely skiffing, skiffling: A light fall of snow (or, rarely, rain); a thin layer of snow or frost on the ground, or of ice on water. 2) A wisp of clouds.
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Looking at all of the above, one (me) just wants to cry out, “You dummies. Don’t you see the obvious. ‘SKIFF’ means a small boat, so that the meanings of a SKIFF/SKIFT of swirling snow, or a small drift of snow, or a SKIFT of ice forming on a lake, probably derived from the resemblance to this small boat. But, since none of the sources I looked at ever said this, I guess it is not the case.
<1808 “May be call'd green Christmass: a small SKIFT of snow.”—‘Diary’ of B. Hunt in ‘Chester County (Pa) Historical Society Bulletin (1898), page 17>

<1834 “Last night we had a little SKIFT of snow.”—‘Tarheal Talk’ (1956) by Eliason, (North Carolina), page 294>

<1857 “Well, there was a little SKIFT of snow on the ground, . . . but nothing could I see of the sow, nor yet of her tracks.”—‘Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,’ 15.726, (northwest North Carolina)>

<1877 “The autumn leaves rustling under foot and flying off in sudden SKIFTS across the dry ruddy grass.”—‘Hon. Miss Ferrard’ by May Laffan, I. vii. page 191>

<1891 “Some little SKIFT o’ clouds’ll shet / the sun off now and then.”—“Swimmin’ Hole,” by Riley, page 76>

<1914 “SKIFT. A thin coat or layer, as of snow. Also skiff.”—‘Dialect Notes,’ 4.112, (central Kansas)>

<1927 “SKIFT OF SNOW, a small amount of snow.”—‘American Speech,’ Vol. 2, No. 8, May, page 364>

<1940 “Some months ago I made a note of Tom Alphin’s use if the word ‘SKIFF of snow’ or ‘SKIFF.’ . . . It is a form that snow takes on cold windy days. . . Little stretches of snow will form on the streets, which will blow along as the wind blows across them. These . . . are SKIFFS.”—‘Hench College,’ (Western Virginia)>.

<1947 “Farmers regard ‘a SKIFT o' rain’ as an adjunct to the fermentation of the natural juices in the semi-green corn blown into the [silo].”—‘Canadian Cattleman’ (Winnipeg), December, page 148>

<1953 “SKIFT, SKIFF. . . A slight flurry of snow, especially as it swirls and eddies over the ground. ‘There was a SKIFT of snow on the highway, but it wasn’t enough to make it slippery.’”—‘American Speech,’ Vol. 28, No. 4, December, page 254, (central southern Pennsylvania)>

<1970 “We had seen practically every rock, headland, light, SKIFT of sea birds rising, tree, and deserted beach cabin.”—“Meander to Alaska’ by I. Petite, iv. page 34>

<2000 “(The first thin coat of ice on a pond or lake), 2 informants, SKIFT of ice; 1 informant, SKIFF.”—‘The Idaho Dialect Project,’ Launspach, (southeastern Idaho)>
Ken G – March 3, 2006
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Post by Debz » Fri Mar 03, 2006 6:02 pm

kagriffy wrote: Hope I'm not intruding on Debz' possibly schizophrenic dialogue,

I'm not talking about the actual words themselves, I'm talking about word pronounciation. It is more pronounced in some people than others. Here's an example. My grandpa (he's not alive anymore, Andrew) used to say, "Whah! They ain't no sechy thang!" Which tranlsates to- "Why, there is no such thing!" Also, a lot of people say, th' for the, t' for to, barn for born, skeered for scared, winder for window, etc.
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Post by kagriffy » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:13 pm

Actually, Debz, the "schizophrenic dialogue" to which I was referring was the constant back-and-forth between you and waterworks, aka "Debz's mom." I was really beginning to think I was watching a conversation between Norman Bates and HIS mother! lol

If you want to talk pronunciation, I have some relatives (all of whom were also raised in South-Central Illinois) who could give your Ozarkian kinfolk a run for their money. My father used to say something was "a fur piece down the road." He'd just give me a blank look when I'd ask, "Mink or sable?" And, I remember my paternal grandmother once talk about a trip to "Cal-uh-FOR-knee" and "ARE-uh-ZOH-knee."
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Post by Debz » Fri Mar 03, 2006 10:43 pm

I told her to quit that chatting stuff. I had a great, great Aunt, that, when somebody would ask her "What fer?" would reply, "Cat fur to make kitten britches." I was born way after she had already passed away, but I remember my family talking about it.
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