Pages 1141-1160 II
Bill Long 5/28/06
Starting with Shandygaff
I can't promise that I will move any quicker through the dictionary than last essay, but I will try. Let's begin with shandygaff. It is "a mixture of bitter ale or beer with ginger-beer (or ginger-ale). You can substitute various things for the bitter beer, such as porter or stout or lager-beer (as the Century tells us), but you wonder how far you can go and still have a shandygaff. But that is a the problem of definition in a nutshell for everything--how much can the "thing" be varied and still be the thing? Many scholars have received promotions trying to answer that question (i.e., searching out the nature of a definition), but I don't care about that today. Let's move to shawm.
This word brings us to a far different world from sfumato and shandygaff. A shawm is a medieval double-reed woodwind instrument. That is all the Collegiate gives us. But, of course, that really only begins our exploration. The OED tells us a little more--that it is an instrument of the oboe class, and the double reed was enclosed in a "globular mouthpiece." Then it refers to Coverdale's Bible translation (well before the KJV) which rendered Ps. 98:7 with the word "shawmes" instead of "trumpet" or "horn." This provides a rather fascinating insight into the nature of translation, doesn't it? How do you render properly the word for a Hebrew musical instrument which was only one of an array of Hebrew instruments which no longer existed in their ancient form in 16th century England when Coverdale was translating? Well, you use a term with which people are familiar in your own day. It is the same problem that gemologists run into when trying to understand the various stones in the High Priest's garments in Exodus 25-40; we sometimes just don't know precisely what another person in another era was talking about... The Latin language is not far wrong when the same word means both "translate" and "betray."
In any case, the shawm was a precursor to the oboe, and lasted about 400 years (ca. 1300-1700). The Wikipedia online article tells us that it was called the Schalmei in German, perhaps deriving from the Latin calamus meaning reed or stalk. Rather than try to describe it, let's see if I can pull up a photo of one.
It is big, but here it is. The shawm uses a cane reed and it could be put inside a pirouette, a funnel shaped mouthpiece. Then there are many finger holes. The round section below is called the fontanelle, and it is surrounded by two strips of copper. There is a crenellated metal band around the bell (bottom) which helps protect the instrument, as well as making it a potential weapon if other musicians are becoming unruly.Let this suffice for now.
Copyright © 2004-2007 William R. Long