Sunday, October 5, 2014

Word of the Day: “smickling”

The growing majesty of Wikipedia  continues to amaze.

Just stumbled across this:

“Huh?” (you grunt).   “Concealed shoes?? That’s a topic for an encyclopedia??”

Well, yes, if it is the Encyclopedia Galactica, which Wiki is striving to be.

Here is an excerpt from the article.  (Only the English Wiki covers the subject.)

Several theories have been advanced to account for the incorporation of shoes into the fabric of a building, one of which is that they served as some kind of fertility charm. There is a long-standing connection between shoes and fertility, perhaps exemplified by the nursery rhyme, "There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe", and the custom of casting a shoe after a bride as she leaves for her honeymoon or attaching shoes to the departing couple's car.  Archaeologist Ralph Merrifield has observed that in the English county of Lancashire females who wished to conceive might try on the shoes of a woman who had just given birth, a custom known as smickling.

Well, that’s enough fun for one Sunday;   back to more weighty pursuits.  But in the meantime,  Enjoy the autumn,  and -- Happy Smickling!

“O, wilt thou go a-smickling,
 a-smickling, a-smickling,
 wilt thou go a-smickling,
 a-smick-l-ing with me!”
And when y'all are done smickling, perhaps ye'd like to go on a skimmity ride !!

For more sweet courtship lore  from our Anglo-Saxon past,  click here:


  1. Google finds only 3,750 hits for "smickling". Many of them are sarcastic rhymes for "pickling", or someone's surname. Remarkably many of them seem to be related to the slang sense of "to pass on an infection". I didn't check every page, but those I did check had no references to "wearing the shoes of a person who just gave birth".

    In fact, googling for "lancashire smickling" seems to find mostly copies of that one story, unconfirmed. Plus there's false hits like this one, which mentions Lancashire dialect words and also mentions "smickling" (but in the pass-on-an-infection sense and the citation is for Yorkshire).

    1. Thank you, Comrade Pyesetz! Should the ‘shoe’ sense of “smickle” prove an illusion, we can always continue to use the word in that other sense, in relation to the ebola crisis.