Thursday, January 10, 2013

haymows and mowhays and hay hays

Molly's hay hay
hey hay hay Molly!
I was tagging an Instagram photo the other day (find me there as @gypsy_farmgirl) when it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea how to spell haymow... and then it occurred to me I also wasn't exactly sure how to pronounce the word, or even exactly what could be called a haymow (does it have to be a loft area of a barn?  Can it be the overhang on the back side of our machine shed full of hay?).

So I did what 99% of the world does today when in need of vital information such as the spelling and pronunciation and definitions of old Germanic and Norse words - I Googled it.

The result was this fascinating and entertaining explanation from The Word Detective.

And no wonder I was confused.  Not only are there two different versions of mow - one pronounced like "moe" and one like "cow," there are different ways to describe places to hold hay and other forages. 

Hay mow, mowhay, or hay hay?

Here's the quick and dirty run-down as per The Word Detective.  Feel free to visit the link above if none of this makes sense:

Mow - rhymes with moe - “to cut down grass or grain with a scythe or machine.”

Mow - rhymes with cow - “a heap or stack of hay, grain, corn, etc.” or “a place, especially a part of a barn, where hay or corn is heaped up and stored.”

So technically, haymow means any haystack. A haystack even still in the field is technically a "haymow."

A stack of round and square bales under the overhang of our machine shed is a "haymow."

{Whew! I've been calling it that for months!}

Trusty dusty all-purpose farmsled
Can you see Molly?
A hayloft, however, comes from an old Norse word meaning "air or sky" or "upper room."  By this definition, a hayloft may also be a haymow but not every haymow is a hayloft.

Clearly confused yet?

Which reminds me of my current favorite joke:

"A man walks into a bar completely wrapped in Saran wrap.  He asks the bartender, "Bartender, do you think I'm crazy?"  The bartender looks at his clothing and replies, "Sir, I can clearly see you're nuts."

But I digress.  Back to haymows.

I read on a bit further and discovered a word that's even more confusing - a "mowhay."

In this case, mow still means stack of hay, grain, etc. but "hay" means fence or hedge.  A stack of hay enclosed by a fence or hedge.

Substituting "mow" (heap of hay, grain, etc.) with "hay" in mowhay and we end up with a...

hay hay.

Or like I like to greet my friends and family, "Hey, hay hay!"

Now at least I finally know what I'm talking about when I say this.

Cheers -


jenlarson said...

Wow...I never knew these things or words existed. I guess I think in terms of haystack, hayloft, or well..just hay.
Molly must be your stray - very cute :)
It was fun visiting with your papa bear yesterday! We look forward to coming out to visit your farm sometime soon!

Victoria Strauser said...

Yay, I can't wait to see you guys! Yeah, I learned some new words myself!

Jess said...

Including that joke made this blog post at least twice as awesome.

Victoria Strauser said...

Jess - I'm glad you enjoyed the joke. It's my favorite. :)

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