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#105897 - 06/17/03 08:10 AM Nicked his stowe, and choused
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
From: Year of Wonder, by Geraldine Brooks

after Sam the miner dies, the narrator comments:

..but they nicked his stowe the day they brought his body out of the mine. ...Jonus has the seam now... he feels he has choused me... its hardly a swindle when the law here time is very plain that those who can not pull a dish of lead from a mine with three nicks may not keep it.


nick i know, (it mean to steal) but stowe and chouse(d) are new!

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#105898 - 06/17/03 08:13 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
wow Offline
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choused - stole a march on


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#105899 - 06/17/03 08:45 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
dxb Offline
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Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
nick i know, (it mean to steal)

Ok, that is a meaning of 'nick' and we still use it, but it doesn't seem to fit in with the last bit:

the law here time is very plain that those who can not pull a dish of lead from a mine with three nicks may not keep it.


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#105900 - 06/17/03 09:12 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
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Nicks also means to whack. It would appear to mean that if you can't get a small amount of lead with three whacks of your pick, you're no good as a miner.


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#105901 - 06/17/03 09:15 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
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Sam, the narrators husband, is a the miner has died in a cave in. the other miners help to dig him out, and at the same time, one has stolen ore (nick it). the law (english)is that if one person can steal three 'dishes'-a measure of ore- from a mine, he has, in fact, 'claimed the mine' a stowe is what in california/US west would call a claim.

Miner can stake a claim(US english!) by finding ore, and paying a tax in ore to the crown, and keep the mine as long as they can work it. but if someone else can steal three dishes of ore, and the 'owner' doesn't challenge (by producing his own ore dish,) the person can 'nick the stowe'.

the meaning of the words is often made clear by the narritive, but there are many words in the book that i have never encountered!

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#105902 - 06/17/03 09:15 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
dxb Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
The OED is very wordy and rather obscure (to me at least) about ‘stowe’. It could be the various parts of the frames that shored up the mine and that belonged to the individual miner, who moved them from place to place with him as he worked. But the stowe also acted, when set up on the surface, as an indication of the ownership of the mine (like staking your claim?). That seems to be what is referred to in the quotation.

There is an interesting and dreadful quote given in the OED dating from 1661:

“He that stealeth ore twice is fined, and the third time struck through the hand with a Knife unto the haft into the stowe and is there to stand until death, or loose himself by cutting off his hand.”

Ah, yes, just at the beginning of the reign of Charles II of course, that Merry Monarch!



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#105903 - 06/17/03 09:20 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
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RE: . It would appear to mean that if you can't get a small amount of lead with three whacks of your pick, you're no good as a miner.


to nick the stowe, you have produce 3 dishes of ore, and a dish is defined as the amount one man can carry out of a mine (later, defined as about 40 pounds) at time.

there is a local governing 'board'.. The Miners Board, that has the 'offical dish', and that monitors claims, and collects the taxes. its not just 3 swings of an pick ax!

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#105904 - 06/17/03 09:29 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Yes, this custom He that stealeth ore twice is fined, and the third time struck through the hand with a Knife unto the haft into the stowe and is there to stand until death, or loose himself by cutting off his hand.”
comes up in the course of the story.

the book is about a town that is suffering from the effects of an outbreak of plague, and one of the former miners becomes a gravedigger, who overcharges, after the sexton has died of plague.

at one point, he takes a man who has gotten the plague, but has actually survived, and feeling cheated, the miner buries him alive, and steals his fee for gravedigging!
the surviver escapes (the grave was shallow) and the gravedigger is hauled before the mining board, the only authority left in town (alive!) and his pushiment is as decribed..

the narrator claims that most often, a family members came after nightfall, and removed the knife, (but the miner would be left crippled by the events) and it was not really a death sentence.

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#105905 - 06/17/03 10:09 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
dxb Offline
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Registered: 03/06/02
Posts: 1692
Loc: UK
It sounds a cheerful little tale!


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#105906 - 06/17/03 11:22 AM Re: Nicked his stowe, and choused
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 10/17/00
Posts: 5400
Loc: rego park
Re:It sounds a cheerful little tale!


the book Year of Wonders takes it title from John Dryden's Annus Mirabilis as all the action takes place in 1666. it is based on the true story of Eyam, in Derbyshire, which had an isolated outbreak of plague the same year London did.

it is a very interesting time; the restoration of the throne, cromwell and the puritans, the great fire of london.. so many changes, so that even a small town in the remote country side, experience new and wonderous thing, (and the plague is not always seen by the villager as a punishment, but at an opportunity for purification..) it its a time of great change..


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