- July 17, 2014
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
Still hunting for words to use to distinguish between a three-tined and a four-tined fork I was rewarded with a consolation prize. I have discovered the word for a dung fork is a yelve (a dung fork is used for clearing dung from stables or from cattle stalls). This word, sadly, has almost completely disappeared from English and has not been replaced with anything nearing its efficiency or elegance. The word is both noun and verb so it once was possible to yelve dung.
The current nouns that fulfill the role that yelve had, apart from dung fork, are manure fork or manure rake. A yelve is very similar in appearance to a hay fork and a stable rake is a close relative, if not another form of yelve.
Unlike the loss of yelve, we are blessed in that we can still call a spade a spade. Spade as a tool for digging, is a very old word in English coming from Germanic and proto-European languages. In originally meant a long flat piece of wood and is closely related to spoon which meant a chip of wood (and by the way a spade differs from a shovel in the form and thickness of the blade).
Calling a spade a spade is an old English expression meaning to use direct language to call something for what it is, that is, to speak frankly. The original expression, was mistranslated from the Greek, ten skaphen skaphen legein, to call a bowl a bowl (skathe for bowl was mistranslated as skaptein to dig). So, ironically, over time we have called a bowl a spade which is not in the spirit of things at all.
But back to the beginning, in contrast to a spade, we now call a yelve a dung fork, which is a bit of a pity.