What does the word ‘rames’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s words: rames and asperous….

Canadian novelist Michael Crummey writes with a colourful vocabulary. I think this is a result of his Newfoundland heritage, where the vernacular is both vivid and interesting — and quirky to many Canadian ears.

In his latest novel, The Innocents, he uses two somewhat unusual words in the very same sentence: rames and asperous. Here’s how he used them:

She wasn’t far off his height but thin as the rames, still a child in every respect but for her hands which had been put to adult work years since and looked like the asperous hands of a crone.

It turns out that rames is the perfect word for Oct. 30th, the day before Halloween. A dialectical term, said to be English (but perhaps used in Newfoundland, as well), it refers to the bones or the skeleton.

It is thought to come from the Middle Dutch word raem, meaning, “frame.”  Similar words are found in Middle Low German (rame) meaning “frame,” Old High German (rama) meaning “pillar,” and Old English (rima) meaningrim.”

The word asperous is an adjective meaning  “rough,” “rugged” or “uneven.” The word is Latin in origin, from asper meaning rough.

Reading the work of a Newfoundland writer is an excellent way to build one’s vocabulary. Last week, Crummey taught me the meaning of the word skerry.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Oct. 30/19.

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