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A Erie Glossary: Or how to talk like a "canawler"

Aqueduct: a structure that carries a canal across another body of water. Basin: a wider, deeper section of the canal, where boats can be moored and cargo loaded or unloaded.

Berm, heelpath: the side opposite the towpath.

Canawl (canawler): pronounciation of canal; (those who worked on it.) Dutch or Irish derivation.

Durham: a big, clumsy, flat-bottomed boat used by early settlers. Not a Packet: a sleek passenger boat.

Fog-gang: workers who cleaned out the canal as an annual routine.

Foofoos: immigrant workers; foreigners.

Grog: a tankard of ale; rhymes with Prog: food.

Hoggee: a mule driver who was paid pitifully low wages.

Hoodledasher: a hook-up of two or more empty boats tied to a full-cargo boat, pulled by one team of mules.

Jigger-boss: a boy given the task of doling out half-gills of whiskey to each workman 16 times a day.

"Low bridge": The warning cry to hit the deck because the canal boat was about to pass under a bridge. Bridges were built low to save money.

Mule: the sterile offspring of a male donkey and a female horse; sometimes called a long-eared robin by canawlers or a hayburner .

Mudlarked: a boat grounded due to insufficient water level, frequently from a leak or break out.

Prism: the traditional shape of the canal ditch with a narrow bottom and angled sides.

Rhino: ready money, cash; a person with a great deal of ready money was rhino fat.

Runners & scalpers: Agents, often young boys, hired to secure passengers or cargo.

Shipshape macaroni: a sportily attired canal boat captain.

Trippers: long-haul workmen who traveled back and forth between Albany and Buffalo.


Adapted from "Low Bridge! Folklore and the Erie Canal" by Lionel Wyld. Syracuse University Press, 1962

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