Yaffle
Posted: 16 April 2007 09:44 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough, the story of Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, the Barker gang, et al.

P.386 Negri wanted to get a doctor, but Nelson said no. Someone suggested they “yaffle”, or kidnap, a doctor. Dillinger and Nelson got into a heated argument.

OED has three verbs, to yaffle, none of them defined as to kidnap. I suppose the nearest is yaffle, v.3, to gather up in one’s arms, Newfoundland dialect, but that seems a bit of a stretch. (The other two yaffles are to eat greedily and to bark).

Any info on this?

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Posted: 16 April 2007 10:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I’ve never known “yaffle” as a verb; to me it’s a noun, an alternative name for the European green woodpecker, Picus viridis. But I can’t see any connection there, either!

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Posted: 16 April 2007 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I wonder if it’s a malformation of “snaffle”?  And here, some interesting speculation about yaffle.

Recently while browsing in a Russian dictionary I came upon ‘djatel’, woodpecker, which has cognates in some other Eastern European languages but not, as my European search showed, in Western ones. ‘Djatel’ was recorded as early as the 12th century in Czechoslovakia. A strong echo exists in Polish, which is where the Western penetration of Slavonic tongues ended. Where it came from before that, and how it got there, if it indeed did find its way to England, and if so by what means, I cannot say. I can suggest, however, the possibility of its being brought by ship from the Baltic countries to England.

In ‘Forests and Sea Power’, Robert Albion examines the timber problem of the Royal Navy from 1652-1862. Although well-supplied with oak, England grew no pine fit for making masts and spars; for almost the entire period of wooden warship construction, it relied on expensive imports from Baltic countries.

The pine logs often came to seaports down rivers that cut through great forests. Danzig, the old Hanse port at the mouth of the Vistula, Albion tells us, received log-rafts from as far away as Galicia. River transport was further extended by canals, taking the trade into Volhynia and the Ukraine on the Dnieper beyond Kiev.

It is possible then, that the name of the Russian woodpecker was brought to England by ships’ crews returning with cargoes of pine for masts and spars. Unaccustomed to the ‘d-ya’ sound, formed with the Russian D and what looks like a reversed R but which is in fact a soft vowel, ‘ya’, English seamen may have dropped the D and formed ‘yattle’, later softened to ‘yaffle’. Do we still hear ‘dyatel’ in the background music of yuffle, yoffle, hefful, hickle, eccle, Jack Eikle, icwell, yuckel .?

If all of this is at least plausible, who knows but that yaffle might be a surviving remnant of the long-sought Indo European language? It does not, however, seem to have come out of the Indian sub-continent, where so many Greek, Latin, European and Slavonic words are sourced. In Sanskrit the woodpecker was known as ‘Kastakut’, broadly, ‘woodcutter’; and in Hindi ‘kandhabhodva’ which translates as something like ‘throat’ and ‘great effort’.

link

Anyone else a Bagpuss fan?
_38039892_bagpuss.jpg

[ Edited: 16 April 2007 01:19 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 16 April 2007 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Most interesting. OED says simply ‘echoic of the laughing cry of the bird’. An odd sounding bird indeed if it sounds anything remotely like yaffle.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just found this citation of yaffled meaning, apparently, stacked.

At night they yaffled them up in piles.

A Plymouth Pilgrimage, New England Magazine, 1889.

… the vegetables have been “yaffled”.  Yaffle means “to appropriate without the consent of the owner”

Reminiscences of a Bungle, by one of the Bunglers 1983

sporting and gambling world, known to possess large sums of money, had not been “yaffled” or kidnapped and held until they had paid off ransom demands

Here’s to Crime - Page 64
by Courtney Ryley Cooper - 1937
[ Edited: 16 April 2007 02:15 PM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 16 April 2007 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well found, eliza! I wonder if it’s a derivative of the eat greedily sense?

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Posted: 19 April 2007 04:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Wonder if that sense is related (because of its sound similarity) to ‘snaffle’. First cite as cant for stealing from 1725 - and a word I used a lot as a teenager. (And I do remember Professor Yaffle in Bagpuss)

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