Word of the Week (246): BAWK (*new CSW15*) (probability 5320), by David Sutton

BAWK comes from the American list, and as usual OSPD is irritatingly vague in its definition, 'an Atlantic seabird'. Well, I know a fair bit about birds, and I never heard of a bawk, and there are an awful lot of birds that might be called Atlantic seabirds: albatross, gannet, petrel, auk, skua, kittiwake, guillemot, razorbill and numerous species of gull. I could just accept it as a useful front hook to AWK and move on, but curiosity impels me to investigate further.

BAWK, I find, is a Newfoundland name for the Greater Shearwater. It is to be found, for example, in a poem written in 1940 against a government ban on shooting seabirds in the summer:

'There's many men in summer who cannot buy salt meat,
They have to trust to sea-birds for something fresh to eat,
But if they keep this law that's passed, they will not get a taste
Of bawk or noddy, tinker, turr, and not a tickleace.'
Art Scammell from the 'Shooting of the Bawks'

The last line may need a little unpacking: a NODDY is a fulmar, a TINKER is a razorbill, a TICKLACE (imitative of the bird's cry) is a kittiwake, and a TURR (also new in CSW15) is a guillemot (also known as a MURR or MURRE).

Next week we'll look at a few more birds new in CSW15.


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