Of Grockles and Groynes

We’ve been here for six months now. Long enough to fit in and feel at home. To think that we’ve managed to get to grips with much of the culture and quirks of the people. And of course, the language is familiar, so that shouldn’t cause any problems, right? We’ve picked up words like brummie and poorly, what more could there be?

But heading down to Devon for the weekend brings two new ones. A grockle is a tourist. The word is only used in the south of England, and refers to someone who doesn’t belong there – whether it’s a northerner, or a non-Brit. There is a sense of resentment involved, though. A wistful wishing that the offending party would just go home and leave them alone. Very much like Capetonians think of Vaalies in the summer. Except that it’s much more useful having a word that you can use to describe the irritating oaf in the room without him knowing that you’re being rude when he speaks the same language as you do. Almost enough to make you create an entirely new language just to be spoken in front of strangers.

And then there’s the groynes. These are built to combat longshore drift, which causes erosion of beaches, cliffs and dunes. As far as I’m aware, we don’t do this in South Africa. Firstly, we don’t have soft stone cliffs to worry about – ours are all the hard stuff. We also tend to use vegetation on the dunes to keep them from disappearing into the sea (with varying success, it must be said). I have a suspicion, though, that the thought of scarring our beautiful beaches with grotty groynes at regular intervals would not go down well. I can envision them on Noordhoek beach, or Muizenberg. Not a pleasant thought.

But then, the UK is rather small, and surrounded by water. And it’s predominantly made out of sedimentary rock, which is somewhat soft. And eroding. Quickly. Some places (such as Holderness) are getting washed away at up to 5 feet per year. That’s a fair bit of ground. Ok, the country isn’t going to be wiped out by the end of the century, but it’s enough to make you want to try and stop it.

Hence the groynes. Except that they have significant downsides, they are generally thought of as being about 50 years out of date, and in some places, they actually make things worse. Not to mention the first thing that comes to mind is the sheer otherworldly ugliness of the things. But I think I’m more interested in the word than the concept – I’ve done a bit of research since stumbling upon these monstrosities on the beaches of Devon, and I’m pretty close to finishing up on that. But it’s not every day you come across a word with a lot of wordplay potential which is completely new ground.

Except that no one will understand the puns.

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