Sunday 14 December 2014

Summer Holiday

Nothing to do with Harry Webb's film and/or song, I had been plotting 2015's sojourns to the sun when I recalled a couple of words which I would be more than happy to answer to.

One of my favourite parts of the world to visit is the southwest of England, in particular the English Riviera. Indeed I have been so often I more often than not refer to the main touristy thoroughfare - with its succession of gift shops, take-aways, and cheap clothing outlets - just as the locals would know it, Grockle Alley.

For those who are unaware, the term 'grockle' is a less than complimentary term describing tourists. Locals continue to use it and a little research suggests it has recently been spreading along the south coast through Dorset, Hampshire and at least as far as Sussex. One source suggests this came from the The Dandy's strip known as Danny and his Grockle, the Grockle here being a dragon. The reason it is particularly associated with Devon is probably down to the 1960s film The System, the scriptwriter one Peter Draper, who had met Freddie Fly in Torquay and picked up ther term when the latter was working as a barman in the resort. Freddie had previously worked at the boating lake still found at Goodrington and heard it there. There are records of the term being used from the 1970s in the Isle of Man, in Ibiza and even in the former Rhodesia.

Yet dig a little deeper and we find the term did not originate in Devon but had been used in New Forest for centuries. Indeed the term is so old we have no notion as to its origins.

Further southwest we come to Cornwall where tourists are referred to as 'emmets'. This term is not Cornish, the Cornish for 'ant is moryonenn, but ironically a Cornish dialect loanword from Old English aemete or 'ant', a reference to how both seemingly mill around with no apparent destination or goal.

We can trace the origin of the Old English word back to a Proto-Indo-European ai mai which is literally describing an ant as 'the biter off'. Perhaps this should be taken into consideration when using a derogatory term for tourists whose money is the lifeblood of the region - although I quite like being a 'grockle'.

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