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'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)

GUEST,Santa 01 Nov 08 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Noreen 01 Nov 08 - 08:32 AM
Malcolm Douglas 01 Nov 08 - 08:33 AM
Maryrrf 01 Nov 08 - 08:59 AM
Santa 01 Nov 08 - 10:59 AM
John MacKenzie 01 Nov 08 - 11:15 AM
Santa 01 Nov 08 - 11:23 AM
Malcolm Douglas 01 Nov 08 - 11:36 AM
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Subject: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: GUEST,Santa
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 07:50 AM

I recently listened to Karine Polwart's Dowie Hills of Yarrow, and spotted the rhyme "marrow". It is suggesting that none could be the heroine's marrow, which I assume to mean equal. The DT brings up Janet Russell's verson, where the hero, faced with nine to one odds, declares that no marrow. Again, the meaning seems to be equal, or fair.

I'm familiar with the marrer, or marrow, meaning close working partner from North-Eastern English pit usage. Digging in Mudcat, I also find it in an NE sailing context (Amphitrite), apparently the same meaning, but I don't think that's a traditional song.

I can't find the word in the Concise Oxford, and can't/won't afford a subscription to the on-line full Oxford. Can anyone expound on the origin/usage/meanings of the word?


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: GUEST,Noreen
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 08:32 AM

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Retrieved from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marrow.

Among other expected definitions, the following:

>3. [OE. maru, maro; -- perh. a different word; cf. Gael. maraon together.] One of a pair; a match; a companion; an intimate associate. [Scot.]

Chopping and changing I can not commend, With thief or his marrow, for fear of ill end. --Tusser. <

This links the companion/pair idea to the match/equal, perhaps?


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 08:33 AM

You don't need the full Oxford for this; it isn't that uncommon a term, though sufficiently archaic be omitted from pocket dictionaries. Chambers, for example, provides 'n. a mate; a companion: a match, equal, like: one of a pair. — v.i. to be a marrow. — v.t. to be a marrow to: to couple. — adj. marrowless. [Origin unknown.]'

That about covers it, I'd say; but I may as well add, from the entry in Child's Glossary:

''(of man or woman) mate, husband, wife ... match, equal in rank, equal antagonist.'


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: Maryrrf
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 08:59 AM

I'm glad this question was asked. I'd wondered the same thing.


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: Santa
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 10:59 AM

Thanks.   This does perhaps change my interpretation of the line from there not being any girl quite her match, to there not being any man good enough for her.

I think I'd have to have big pockets to stick the Concise in, so I did try! It is interesting that it appears in Old English as well as Scots and Gaelic, as I'd rather assumed it went into English usage from the Scots. I don't recall any male-female pairing being implied in NE usage, has anyone else encountered this?

I've just read Stephen Oppenheimer's "The Origins of the British", and one of his main themes is the presence of Germanic speakers in southern and eastern Britain in pre-Roman and Roman times. This could put any adoption of the word a long way back in history - perhaps even to Indo-European roots. Hmm, anyone know if it appears in Sanskrit?


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 11:15 AM

Dowie Dens, surely?

JM


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: Santa
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 11:23 AM

Indeed it is "Dens". I've just done a search to try to spread the blame, but failed miserably.


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Subject: RE: 'marrow'? (Dowie Hills o'Yarrow)
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 01 Nov 08 - 11:36 AM

The etymologies in Webster are speculative in this case, I think, as is often unavoidable. Since 'marrow' in this usage is Northern British rather than solely Scots, I'd guess that OE is the more likely root; but that too is of course mere speculation. I don't have a sufficiently extensive OE glossary to locate either 'maro' or 'maru', and 'maraon' ('together, in concert; lit. as one') is in Dwelly but not MacBain. Whether there is any real connection between the OE and Gaelic words I am not in a position to say.

'Marrow' (as in bone marrow or vegetable marrow) appears in recognisable form in enough languages -including Sanskrit- to suggest an Indo-European root (likely 'fat', I gather) but there is really no way of knowing if the two words are anything more than just homophones.


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