Friday, January 16, 2009

An Old, Cool Word

One thing that is certain in being around books is that You Will Learn New Words. Sometimes you come across them in a book, at others they show up all on their own, and require a bit of digging to understand. The internet helps a great deal, and the ever-full OED is a superb tool to go digging with as well. If it is a good enough word, you make it yours.

One of my recent words is Wayzgoose. And it has a good story.

Wayzgoose has an interesting history, and I won't just rewrite what Wikipedia has said about it, which is a good start. Suffice it to say the term is a late medieval one, and associated with a feast for or by journeyman printers. The original form of the word is likely have been way-goose, as the OED states, and the "z" added later in the 19th century and eventually supplanting the original.

This is borne out a bit by a 1683 description of ancient printing traditions by Moxon in his MECHANIK EXERCISES, the first manual on printing in English. He describes a "Way Goose" being presented to the journeymen by the master printer when they replaced the old paper windows with new ones. This done around St. Bartholomew's Day in late August and markets a shortening of the days as summer ended.

The Master printer would entertain them in his own house, and give them money with which to go out and drink that evening. Other members of the establishment are invited to attend, with all of them adding in some funds to the drinking balance except for the Corrector. The Corrector is the only one of the other positions (founder, smith, joiner, inkmaker) who is not chosen by the journeyman, but instead by the Master Printer.

Today it seems the word is often for book- or medieval-related events, not just feasts. Being a traditionalist I think it is best that some large spread of food accompany any use of the word, even if not book related.

One current Wayzgoose event is on I would dearly love to visit is the annual Gasperau Press Wayzgoose held in october each year since 2000, which celebrates literature and the book arts. Authors and printers and fine presses come from across Canada for a busy weekend of socializing, presntations, and workshops.

So, if you want to have a book-themed party with lots of good hearty food, call it a wayzgoose and introduce your guest sto a great word and a bit of book history to boot.

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