"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Sunday, 11 April 2010


A favourite of crossword compilers is the word ‘cran’. The clue is usually ‘a measure used for herring’. The cran of herring is now fixed by law at 37½gallons – approximately 750 fish.

This is a quarter cran herring basket with its maker - Terry Bensley - photo from this Dunbar Gardens site.

The word is first recorded in Scotland in 1797 and like its Gaelic counterpart ‘crann’ seems originally to have meant a lot or share – that is, the portion of the catch belonging to each person involved.

According to the Oxford Dictionary the cran is also a Scottish name applied to the crane or heron; a name also applied to the swift in S Scotland; and an iron instrument laid across the fire to support a pot.

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