gommy [gaumy — Forum Admin.]

Discuss word origins and meanings.

gommy [gaumy — Forum Admin.]

Post by Great Dane » Sun Jan 21, 2007 12:54 pm

OK, folks, here's another one from New England for you. Talking with a friend the other day, he'd mentioned that this was a term particular to Maine, specifically, the mid-coast area.

Being born and raised here, I know that the word means "not very coordinated". I tried the resource page to no avail. Have any of you heard this word outside of New England?
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Post by dalehileman » Sun Jan 21, 2007 3:52 pm

Dane, you might try Googling as follows: words origins gommy
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Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Jan 21, 2007 5:42 pm

In PA Greman it's "doppick".
That's doppick. Sorry, I had the p's transposed.
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gommy [gaumy — Forum Admin.]

Post by JANE DOErell » Sun Jan 21, 2007 6:48 pm

Dale, would you do the googling for me and let me know what you find? I find your suggestion gives me a suggestion to go do something else. Gommy by itself gives me several ghits.
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Post by dalehileman » Sun Jan 21, 2007 7:55 pm

Jane: I suppose you're being facetious, in which case however I forgive you because I am such an amiable fellow
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Post by JANE DOErell » Sun Jan 21, 2007 8:41 pm

Sorry, Dale. I went Googling for ~ words origins gommy ~ and it came back with ~ Did you mean: "words origins gummy" ~ and then went on to explain that no search terms with those words were found and then invited me to do some other things and then those other things resulted in some hits for gommy.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Jan 21, 2007 9:37 pm

.. in my neck of the woods you would be an unco ..

WoZ of Aus 22/01/07
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gommy [gaumy — Forum Admin.]

Post by nicktecky » Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:53 am

Interesting...
A UK Ghit gets to a definition in a site called the Urban Dictionary as the second hit. (After being invited to consider 'gummy' of course).
Are Google US and UK responding differently?
Urban Dictionary.com
1: To spin wildly on the spot until unable to stand
2: A stickey mess.(adj) (sic)
3: To be gommy is to be slow, geekish, four-eyed, lethargic and off the ball.
Not necessarily the most erudite of sources, but a starting point at least.

How about I guess that these are linked by the tendency for over-stirred batter to become gummy or gluey? Thus spoiling the cake. Someone who is absent-minded would commit such a heinous crime by stirring too long or indeed anyone could by stirring the mix too vigorously. The French for rubber is 'gomme' as far as I recall.
Now, is (or was) the mid-coast area of Maine famous for its cakes?

Hey, this etymology is fun without all that hard work research business! ;-)
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gommy [gaumy — Forum Admin.]

Post by Great Dane » Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:19 am

Thanks, all, so far...

Nicktecky, the mid-coast of Maine's major claim to fame was it's granite and limestone production. Shipbuilding and fishing not withstanding, of course.

I don't think cakes were ever a big item here, however, a Captain Gregory of what is now known as Glen Cove is credited with coming up with putting holes in doughnuts so that the cake could be eaten more easily by those manning the helm.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:21 pm

Dana, GOMMY / GAUMY has several meanings, two of which might fit your “not very coordinated.” However the second applies mostly to things (messy) and not people (awkward), and didn't appear to me to be particular to Maine (although the 1975 below, under the 2nd meaning implies it is with the GORMY spelling), so the first is probably the one you are looking for. Also, since I assume this is a word that you have heard and not seen written down, most likely you can’t be certain of the spelling, and thus the many alternative spellings below, with GAUMY seeming to the most commonly used (among the many I sifted through).
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GAUMY / GAWMY / GOMY / GORM(E)Y adjective: Awkward, clumsy, inept, stupid (Chiefly northern New England, especially Maine)

This form of the expression derives from the noun GOM (also GAM, GAUM, GAWM, GHOMEY, GOAMEY, GOMEY, GOMMOUGE, GORM) [mid 19th century and still in use] meaning a poor silly fellow; a painfully stupid, stupid-looking, or gullible person; a fool [originally Irish, ‘gamal’, a simpleton]; also called GOMMIE [(1960s and still in use] (South Africa)
<1834 “Do you think me sitch a GOM, all out, as to put me off wid four pence ha'pny.”—‘Legends and Stories of Ireland’ by S. Lover, 2nd Series, page 241>

<1870 “You were a GAUM before you went to travel, and you are a GAUM after it.”—in ‘English Dialect Dictionary,’ ‘Fireside Stories of Ireland’ by P. Kennedy, page 29>

<1879 “. . and if some GAWMY should ever ask you what kind of flipper [[hand]] the dame had, and where she placed it at the time, you could tell him right off.”—‘Chester Daily Times’ (Pennsylvania), 5 December, page 1>

<1892 “Nobody ever ate sinkers [[a biscuit-like things]] dry. Something must be drunk along with them to soften up the GAWMY mass.”—“Iowa Citizen,’ 3 June, page 6>

<1906 “The North American Indian isn’t what our dapple-back geographies made him out. He is a large, GAUMY, walnut-finish, walking appetite for food and rest . . . The Indian has acquired most that is worst in modern civilization . . .”—‘Washington Post,’ 12 August, page 42> [[Oy vey!]]

1928 “You big, thick-footed, herring-fed Southern GOM!”—‘Destiny Bay’ by D. Byrne, i. §2. page 11> [[memoirs of a childhood in Ireland]]

<1940-41 “GAUMY . . .awkward [said of a coat].”—‘Wisconsin Atlas’ by Cassidy>

<1941 “GAUMY (Awkward, clumsy)”—‘Linguistic Atlas of New England,’ map, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, page 463>

<1966 “GAUMY—clumsy.”—‘Dictionary of American Regional English,’ Fieldworker Additional, Maine>

<1970 “‘GOMY’ meaning the clumsy way that I was trying to help my father.”—‘Dictionary of American Regional English,’ Fieldworker Additional, Maine, page 78>

<1972 “When we’re awkward, we’re ‘GAWMY”—in ‘Dictionary of American Regional English,’ ‘New York Times,’ ‘Article Letter’ [from Maine]>

<1975 “Anybody who stumbles over his own feet is GORMY. The illustrative colloquy runs thus: ‘Ain’t he the boy broke your plow, smashed your cart, lost the 40-quart can down the well, and got your Edie in a family way?’ ‘Ayeh.’ ‘GORMY cuss, ain’t he?’”—‘Maine Lingo’ by Gould, page 114>

<1979 “GAWMY . . . clumsy, awkward. Also, GAWM . . . oafish person. This is an ubiquitous and essential downeast term. When Winston dropped the fishing trip’s supply of beer down the well, his brother called him a GAWMY bahstud, as he was.” [[spoken by a Mainer]]—‘How to Talk Yankee' by Lewis>

<2000 “GAUMY: Clumsy, stupid. ‘Of all the GAUMY cusses I know, you take the cake.’ also GAUMING”—‘Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms,' Yankee Talk, page 228>
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This second form of the adjective is not particularly of New England and is included mostly for folks who may be looking for this other meaning when doing a search:

GOMMY /GAUMY / GORMY (1881) Of the nature of a daub or smear; of painting: coarsely executed, dauby; sticky, smeared, dirty; messy, untidy, disorderly.

This form derives from the verb GAUM (1859): To smear with a sticky substance; to dirty, to daub (something sticky) on a surface (often as GAUM UP, smeared). Also used figuratively. The verb appears to derive from the obsolete noun ‘coom’ (1724) meaning the black stuff, composed of grease and dust, which works out from axles or bearings. The verb form GAUM UP/AROUND also came to mean to disarrange, mess up, confuse (hence gaumed up).
<1859 “Put the child’s apron on and don’t let her GAUM herself all over with molasses.”—in ‘Americanisms’ (1968) by Bartlett, page 168>

<1881 “GAUMY, gummy; sticky.”—‘Leicestershire Glossary’>

<1888 “It shows Wilkie designing with admirable vigour, but the execution is vicious and ‘GAUMY.’”—‘Athenæum,’ 25 February, page 250/3>

<1890 “The baby is all GAUMED UP up with molasses.”—‘Dialect Notes,’ Vol. 1, page 70>

<1892 “GAUMY: not neat.”[[Arkansas—‘Kentucky State University Quarterly,’ Vol. 1, page 96>

<1893 “‘N’ figs and reezins ev’rywhere / All waitin’ jes’ fer Fessler’s bees, / ‘N’ Fessler’s bees, with GAUMY wings, / A-gittin’ down and whoopin’ things!”—‘Poems Here at Home,’ by James Whitcomb Riley, page 77>

<1899 “GORMY . . . Smeary; sticky. GAUMY.”—‘Virginia Folk Speech’ by Green, page 202>

<1900 “They [[the children]] swarm over the cars, counting the miles by sticky and aromatic lunches, w which they distribute with GAUMY impartiality on the arms of the seats.”—‘Nebraska State Journal,’ 7 November, page 5>

<1913 “If the house be in disorder it is said to be all GORMED or GAUMED UP, or things are just in a mommick [[a mess]].”[[southern Appalachians]]—‘Highlanders’ by Kephart>

<1925 “It was a soft, GAUMY substance and not very pleasant to handle, but great claim is made for it as a fertilizer.”—‘Iowa Recorder,’ 9 September, page 4>

<1950 “GORMY, GAUMY, . . . Untidy; when a lady’s stockings wrinkle around the ankle she is said to have GORMY ankles.” [[South Carolina]]—‘Publication of the American Dialect Society,’ Vol.14, page 33>

<1954 “There, burned into the GOMMY-feeling sweatband . . was the brave;s handle: Churk Crafkin.”—‘Edwardsville Intelligencer’ (Illinois), 25 January, page 4>

<1956 “When we tell future generations about the summer of 1956, the revealing word in the description will be ‘GAUMY.’ This is a much-overlooked word that is useful to describe many things, including this summer’s climate. It means to be daubed with a sticky substance and is sometimes used to describe sticky thinking.”—‘Portsmouth Times’ (Ohio), 11 August, page 6>

<1966 “A lot of it is dialect . . . But I’ve been saying ‘GOMMY’ for years to describe a sticky mess and today I found GOMMY in the Dictionary—except it’s really spelled ‘GAUMY.’”—‘Lowell Sun’ (Massachusetts), 11 September, page 96>

<1973 “But how about those who came out night after night with nothing but the GAUMY taste of defeat stuck to the roofs of their mouths.”—‘Great Bend Tribune’ (Kansas), 2 October, page 6> [[this could also be the other adjective]]

<1975 “A recipe for red-flannel hash says ‘to mix it loose buy not GORMY.’” —‘Maine Lingo’ by Gould, page 114>
(Dictionary of American Regional English, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, and other sources)
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Ken G – January 22, 2007
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Post by Phil White » Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:40 pm

I wonder whether the first meaning has to do with the delightful Northern English word "gormless" (meaning stupid or dull)?
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:56 pm

Phil, I would think so even though literally GORMLESS would appear to imply smart [[since GORM in the above seemed like it might have been related to 'stupid']] but since when did dialect - or Standard English for that matter - have to make sense?

I just checked and found GORMLESS listed (without a derivation) in Partridge and the OED.
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A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge

GORMLESS: Stupid; slow-witted and lacking in common sense: adopted circa 1935 [[incorrect, see below]], from dialect, the predominant dialect form GAUMLESS being adapted. Yet in 1966, Cassius Clay [[Muhammad Ali]] was proclaiming himself to be precisely that.
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Oxford English Dictionary

GORMLESS also (dialect) GAUMLESS/GAWMLESS: Wanting sense, or discernment. Hence gormlessness, the quality of being gormless. Also adverb GORMLESSLY.
<cira 1746 “I steart like o Wilcat, on wur welly GAWMLESS.”—‘Tim Bobbin’(1862) by J. Colllier, page 55>
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<1845 “Did I ever look so stupid: so ‘GAUMLESS’ as Joseph calls it?”—‘Wurthering Hieghts’ by E. Brontë, xxi>

<1861 “Eh, thae greyt, GAWMBLESS foo! Wheer arto for up theer!”—‘Birtle Carter’s Tale,’ page 19>

<1881 “You lazy, idle, gaumless good-for-nowt!”—‘Love the Debt’ by Basil, iii>

<1883 “Parliament is such a far-off thing, that [they] . . . say that it is ‘gormless meddling with it,’”—‘My Apprenticeship’ (1926), iii. page 161>

<1925 “Cordelia is a ‘gumph’ or, as we say in Lancashire, ‘GORMLESS.’”—‘Contemporary Theatre 1924, page 44>

<1932 “She just went on pulling the [beer] handle and in a moment . . . the floor was swilling. ‘Mother!’ cried little Nellie sharply. ‘You are GORMLESS!’”—‘Magnolia Street’ by L. Golding, II. ii. page 304>

<1934 Ye'd better. He'll ferget the salt else, the gormless old lummocks!”—‘Coot Club’ by A. Ransome, xix, page 233>

<1940 “He looks at once genial and ‘GORMLESS.’”—“Illustrated London News,’ CXCVII, page 164/2>

<1951 “Pen's been running after a GORMLESS little twerp of a foreign school~master.”—‘Long Divorce’ by E. Crispin, viii. page 84>

<1958 “Mr. Danny Ross suffers terrific indignities as the youth and makes his GORMLESSNESS not only amusing but genuinely likeable.”—‘Times,’ 12 November, page 3/3>

<1959 “As a result of this unorthodox treatment Quince's GORMLESS Thespians emerge not as rough comics but as decent, sensible men.”—‘Punch,’ 17 June, page 813/2>

<1958 “Joe came back into the room smiling GORMLESSLY. He was far away.”—‘Dear Boys’ by L. Little, ix, page 167>

<1970 “That other skilled writer in the genre . . . depended on queers or GORMLESSNESS for two West End successes.”—‘Daily Telegraph,’ 4 September, page 11/2>

<1986 “His GORMLESSLY inept RADA audition (Macbeth's dagger speech) belongs to farce.”—‘Financial Times,’ 3 July, page 29/2>

<1990 “Ryder's attempts at decoration -- mirror frames, screens and so forth -- look naive and GAUMLESS compared with the more polished work of Tiffany or John La Farge.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 26 November, page>

<1999 “Words won her [[Annie Proulx ]] the Pulitzer for The Shipping News, no question. The novel itself doesn't really track. The main character is GAUMLESS in the first chapters and a functioning human male at the end, simply because the author has decreed a character transplant.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 17 May>
(Oxford English Dictionary and other sources)
_____________________

Ken – January 22, 2007
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Post by Great Dane » Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:45 pm

Thanks, Ken!
You were dead on about my never have seen the word in print.
I found the earlier references to Ireland interesting. The island of Vinalhaven, reportedly the origin of this word in the area, had a great influx of stonecutters from the British Isles back in the late 1820's to quarry the granite there. It seems quite plausible that they brought this term with them and it has mutated in the years since.
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Post by Phil White » Mon Jan 22, 2007 10:54 pm

I haven't done the research, but "gormless" goes back to "gaum", which had a positive connotation. That's from the new Collins. I'll check back when I get into the office again.
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Post by Phil White » Mon Jan 22, 2007 11:11 pm

Okay, a quick look at World Wide Words:

Gormless is now mainly an informal British English word that describes somebody foolish, lacking sense or initiative. This comes from a defunct term, usually spelt gaum, a dialect word meaning care or attention; in turn this derives from an Old Norse word gaumr. Though rarely recorded, at one time gaum-like was also around, for someone with an intelligent look about them. Curiously, the verb to gorm also existed, which meant to stare vacantly, implying almost the opposite; but this may be related to the Irish gom for a stupid-looking person and so may be unconnected with the other sense of gorm.
www.worldwidewords.org
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