Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Oi! A word in your shell-like...

My allotment rent is due for an intriguingly named 10 lug plot. Isn't our language wonderful? In the interests of research - and this Blog - I fished around in Google to see what I could find.

As well as the uses more familiar to me, I was presented with a plethora of tools websites offering me all kinds of nut and bolt type thingys. Shinynuts was my favourite of these - only because of its name, I'm not endorsing anything.

If I'm feeling rather geeky, I can join a Linus User Group, (though Library and Local User Groups also vied for my attention) or even look at their radio. I can also sound very knowledgeable at academic conferences by referring to my Linear Units of Grammar. I could even start to worship a Celtic god, should I ever wish to change my religion.
For entertainment, I can bop the night away to the lively Scottish band Skelpit Lug (apparently this means "thick ear", thus exposing the Scots origin of this usage) whilst wearing my rather lovely fashionable plimsolls, or some boots if the weather's really bad. The band's drummer will probably be using them as part of his kit too.

However, I had to lug the hefty tomes of the Oxford English Dictionary off the library shelves to finally find the meaning of my lug - or did I? There's two definitions that seem to apply in the allotment sense. The first is an unit of area equivalent to 1/160th of an acre. The second is a unit of length (aka rod, perch or pole) and it's here where the confusion lies as it can be a rather variable 15, 16.5, 18, 20 or 21 feet. In Wiltshire alone it was 15, 16.5 or 18 feet in 1811. Perhaps I'll stick to the unit of area for simplicity.

So there you have it, plotwise - I'm rather pleased that my allotment society is working hard to preserve some of the more obscure items from our imperial system of measurement. But I can't help wondering why go for 160th of an acre? It doesn't seem to make any sense. Perhaps it harks back to the times when most of us were serfs and it was the size of the strips of land the lord of the manor (tug your forelocks aka lugs please) allocated for us to tend on his behalf? Can anyone out there enlighten me further?

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