skerk / skrek

Discuss word origins and meanings.
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skerk / skrek

Post by dohle » Sun Oct 12, 2014 4:21 am

I was translating a story and met this word, which means the oxen are frightened and want to break loose and flee. I'm not sure whether it is an combination word or a word from other language (tried google translate but found no useful results).

Does anyone have any idea? Thanks.
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Re: skerk

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Oct 12, 2014 8:43 am

Could you supply the sentence — and preferably the paragraph — in which the word appears, and also identify the work and author? With zero context, you have given us extremely little to work with.

My only thought at this point is that 'skerk' sounds a bit like 'scared', but as yet I have no idea if there is any connection besides this superficial resemblance.
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Re: skerk

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:17 pm

I don't even want to think about this excuse for a meaning of skerk.

On the other hand, THIS is much more pleasurable!

I agree that we need the paragraph to make sense of your question Dohle.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: skerk

Post by dohle » Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:33 am

Sorry I have mistyped the word, it should be "skrek". (This word is so unmemorable...)

Here is the whole paragraph:
Presently the oxen, after standing still for a moment, suddenly winded the lion and did what I feared they would do—began to 'skrek,' that is, to try and break loose from the trektow to which they were tied, to rush off madly into the wilderness. Lions know of this habit on the part of oxen, which are, I do believe, the most foolish animals under the sun, a sheep being a very Solomon compared to them; and it is by no means uncommon for a lion to get in such a position that a herd or span of oxen may wind him, skrek, break their reims, and rush off into the bush. Of course, once there, they are helpless in the dark; and then the lion chooses the one that he loves best and eats him at his leisure.
It was from an adventure story called "A Tale of Three Lions", written by H. Rider Haggard. The story background was set in South Africa, in about the first half of 20th century.

(I went to that site and now I feel a strong desire of drinking some grape juice.)
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Re: skerk

Post by trolley » Tue Oct 14, 2014 6:56 pm

It could be a borrowed word from the Norwegian settlers in South Africa. "Skrekk" means fear, terror, or panic in Norwegian.
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Re: skerk

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Oct 14, 2014 7:16 pm

Similarly, it is schrik in both Dutch and Afrikaans (the variant of Dutch spoken in South Africa).
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Re: skerk

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:52 am

.. just an interesting aside that I found while looking for skerk >> here is how to say good-bye in 450 languages .. very edifying ..

WoZ departing
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: skerk

Post by dohle » Wed Oct 15, 2014 4:20 am

Thank you trolley, that makes sense.
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Re: skerk

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:58 am

Trolley's remark aroused my curiosity regarding the possible linguistic contribution of Norwegian to South African culture.

Alas, the Wikipedia article on Norwegians in South Africa indicates that immigration from Norway to SA was negligible, with the population of Norwegian origin rising to a maximum recorded total of just 651 by 1930. My cursory Web search for equivalent statistics for the other Scandinavian nationalities with languages similar to Norwegian was unfruitful.

From the evidence I have seen so far, I infer that if Rider Haggard was accurate in his description of the skrek phenomenon, the word entered the territory Haggard was focusing on through Dutch rather than one of the other Germanic languages (which include Danish, Norwegian and Swedish as well as the obvious chief member, German). Of course, that would also involve having to accept Haggard's tale at face value.

Additional historical evidence, including evidence based on demographic statistics, would be useful.
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Re: skerk

Post by Phil White » Thu Oct 16, 2014 6:23 pm

Yes, it's undoubtedly related to the various Germanic words for "spook" through Afrikaans.

My guess is that it is actually the Afrikaans word skrik, which all the dictionaries give as a "fright" or "scare".

It may be cognate with opskrik, the verb meaning to be startled or spooked (cf German "aufschrecken").

Whatever, all in the same ballpark.
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Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

End of topic.
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