David Gifford Photography


Photo: Shoormal

The sea meets the shore. The final image in my [Gulberwick during Lockdown series.

‘Shoormal’ is a Shetland dialect word, and a favourite of poets writing in Shetland dialect. I’ve seen it used and explained as meaning where the shore meets the sea (in this context I wonder if a synonym might be the more prosaic technical term ‘swash zone’?). In the Shetland Dictionary (John J. Graham, 1979) shoormal is defined as the “highwater mark on a beach; the water’s edge”. Jakob Jakobsen (1897) had it a bit different still, writing that ‘de shoormil’ is the ebb or fore-shore, with shoo derived from the general Norn word for sea (sjó-r), and mil for mark. So the literal translation according to Jakobsen is “sea mark”.

A similar word, which I think is excellent, is shoosamillyabakka. Jakobsen explains:

S(h)oosamillyabakka is an old, now obsolete, Unst expression, literally meaning “between sea and banks.” It was a fishermen’s phrase. A fisherman, coming from the limpet-ebb and asked where he had been, did not like to give a straightforward answer — it might prove unlucky — and therefore answered in the above-mentioned round-about way, that he had been between sea and banks (“shoo-” : sea, “amillya” : between, “bakka” : banks).

[Gulberwick during Lockdown collection - Image 80 of 80]


Image #1138