Moocher reflects language of the past

Danette Dooley
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Tom Dawe's latest work released

Newfoundland author Tom Dawe has released his third Newfoundland folk alphabet book, "Moocher in the Lun." Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Poetry lovers who feel nonsense verse is merely whimsical rhyme without educational value have yet to read Tom Dawe's "Moocher in the Lun" (Pennywell Books, 2008).
Moocher is Dawe's third Newfoundland folk alphabet book.
The words that spill onto the pages of his book are as colourful as the flowers and trees in Dawe's garden in Long Pond, CBS.
His home is tucked away on a beautiful spot of land less travelled that the main roads in the area.
It's where he's lived for over three decades, he says.
"Right here where I live now, we used to call this the woods garden. We used to come here with grandfather to his potato patch but out closer to the main road is where I grew up," Dawe says.
Many of the words, terms and phrases in Moocher were passed down to Dawe by his grandfather.
Dawe could be described as Newfoundland's Dr. Seuss.
Like Seuss's work, those who hear Dawe's words for the first time might think they are creations of the author's imagination.
However, Dawe has cleverly added a detailed glossary at the back of his book to explain the meaning behind such words as noggin, dally, gob, crousty, snarbuckle, and zosweet.
The glossary not only works to educate the young reader on the words that have faded into our past, it also inspires adults to think about how they may have heard the words used in the past.
When I was a young girl heading off to Presentation school, my mother always gave myself and my sister a hasty hug and kiss before shooing us out the door cautioning, "Now be good girls, and no skylarking."
I couldn't help but think of those days when reading the word skylarking in Dawe's book.
Moocher is as much about folklore as it is about Dawe having fun with the language he grew up with.
"This is completely different from my serious poetry and even from my light verse. It's just another thing I've dabbled with," he says downplaying the importance of his latest publication.
A retired university professor, as a writer, visual artist, editor and poet, Dawe has many accolades to his credit.
He's a founding member of Breakwater Books and "TickleAce" magazine and is an honourary member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador. He has also been inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Hall of Honour.
In many of his moocher verses, Dawe deals with much more than the featured letter.
He creates devilish characters such as a laddo named Nofty to help move each verse along.
One time he put squid juice
In teacher's black ink
And gleaned when her letters
All started to stink.
Whether you live in rural or urban Newfoundland, you'll likely relate to the story Dawe tells when highlighting the letter T.
T is for torch night,
The eve of Bonfire,
Your gob is all sotty,
Your spirits are higher.

It's November fourth,
You've got flame on a stick,
You stroll the dark road
With Harry and Dick.

You're saucy as crackies,
You're bold as the brass,
You'd face the Old Fellow
And not let him pass.

Then when the flame's douted,
You'll think it a joke
To dog Jack and Effie
Up Juniper Droke.
Dawe begins to laugh when asked about the term "to dog."
It means to follow people, he says.
"We used to follow a couple; my grandfather would say a courting couple. You're not courting yourself, you're too young. But you're learning a lot," Dawe laughs
It won't be lost to the reader that Dawe is indeed losing himself in recalling these childhood games.
In the line "You stroll the dark road with Harry and Dick," he is likely referring to himself: hence it's Tom, Dick and Harry who are up to no good on Bonfire night.
Now that Moocher has been put to bed, Dawe is looking forward to publishing a couple of collaborative project with his friend Gerry Squires - one of the province's most prolific visual artists.
C. Anne MacLeod illustrates Moocher. Her full page drawings cause the reader to stop and ponder on each page.
Although Moocher is touted and listed as a children's book to promote it as such is a disservice to the book, the author and the illustrator.
In a review of Moocher for the University of Manitoba's CM Magazine, Allison Mews (director of the curriculum materials centre in Memorial's Faculty of Education) highly recommends the book for all Newfoundland and Labrador schools and libraries, "and wherever interest in colloquial language and folklore exists."
Such interest exists in the hearts and minds of all those who call Newfoundland home, no matter where they hang their hats.

danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: CBS, Presentation school, Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Hall of Honour University of Manitoba

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Long Pond

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