Smuggling English

Since Solo: A Star Wars Story is due in theaters soon, and the main character is considered an established expert in the smuggling trade, I’m wondering how many smuggling oriented words will be included in the movie.

tony-robinsonIt should be no surprise to the routine readers of this blog (thank you mom and dad) that I love words (I have a favorite lexicographer), fonts, and other things nerdy.  I was recently watching Sir Tony Robinson‘s series on Walking Through History where he walks across England and shares the history of the paths he travels on.  The show is rather well done and while I could spend the time talking about the interesting nuggets of history he discusses (like how the Bolin family were vying for political influence with Henry VIII) instead, I’d like to discuss a subject that was only tangentially introduced during the show.  Words related to smuggling!

Yes!  Tony spent an entire episode walking the terrain of England where smuggling was common place and when an activity is common place words often emerge to help people communicate about it.  After all, I don’t think we’d have ended up with such a lovely word as gongoozle if it hadn’t been for the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.  After all, you need canals in order to gongoozle and so it’s highly unlikely that a word like gongoozle would have emerged in an area where canals were few and far between.  The word is British in origin not Turkish–although feel free to ask me about the word zarf sometime.

The Coast Is Clear— this term came out of the smuggling trade as goods were transported between various parts of the world and would land on the English coast.  Whoever was the lookout, would see if any officers were in the area and if there were none, the call would go out that the coast is clear.

above-board— this is another term Tony mentioned in the show.  When smuggling something it was common practice to put the cargo below the boards of the ship’s deck.  Keeping things above-board meant that there was not hint of dishonesty in the practice.

Bootleg— in America small items were stored in the gap of a persons boot and America not only gave birth to a consolidated constitution, but also this term for transporting illicit items.

Rum-Running— while one might think of this word originating through the failed American experiment with prohibition, the term actually precedes that terrible experiment by several hundred years.  Rum-running first became a term in the 1600’s in response to policy of selective taxation passed through parliament.

Some of our words for illicit materials were themselves smuggled from other nations.

Contraband— was smuggled from Italian and Spanish Origins

Illicit— was stolen from Latin. And of course, you can’t smuggle things without having a means of transportation and for that one may want to use a

Corsair— (a fast ship used for piracy) which of course is a word with Latin and French roots.  As French words seem to give me the most trouble with pronunciation I’ll close the post here with a scowl as I remember how many times I forgot the ending -et in French words sounds like an -a.

So, this is a quick way for me to capitalize on the popularity of an upcoming movie and nerd out over a few words.  Thanks mom and dad for reading.  If anyone else happens to be here at this point and thinks any of these are in error feel free to comment, but beware I might label you a snoutband.


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