Friday, October 28, 2005

Snaths, chines, hafts, nibs, and tangs

So far as I know, every blade that's set in a handle or haft of any kind has a tang, and most blades have a chine, but only a scythe has a snath. Scythes are to be seen in many depictions at this time of year, slung over the shoulder of the Grim Reaper. Yesterday I mentioned my maternal great-grandfathers; last night, Gramp C. was in my dreams, just as he appeared in life as I knew him. He was cutting knee-high grass with a scythe and finishing off clumps near trees with a sickle. It was the small field between the house and the cemetery. This was his most characteristic activity. To the end, he kept a cow and his last draft team, Dolly and Bess, on whose backs I can remember sitting. Every household I knew had at least one scythe and sickle, and used them. K. used one as a kid for cutting the grass. The frequently sharpened blade might be considered to be a dangerous instrument, I suppose, but a scythe presents no part of the hazards of the power tools of today, with the damage they cause to hearing and with the thrown objects and particulate matter. This site touts the virtues of a European scythe, and the handle does appear to be slimmer and lighter, but not so beautifully curved. I've never heard anyone pronounce this tool in any other way but as a homonym for "sigh." The verb, though, was spoken as "scything," to rhyme with "tithing." Two words that belong with "snath" are "swath" and "stook."


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