Bobs & Mallishags

By Alan R Phillips

BOB’ was a general term in use for an insect or worm, with ‘black bob’ or ‘straddle bob’ denoting a black beetle, and ‘chissel bob’ the wood-louse.

‘Mum’ was another word for a louse or any small insect. ‘Emmet’, or ant, is of course one of those few dialect words which have survived virtually to the present day, and more widely than just the Island; as a place-name it also survives in Emmethill near Kingston, with the obvious meaning ‘hill infested with ants’; there is also an Antils at Arreton. A most unusual dialect word was ‘eace’ or ‘eeas’, signifying the earthworm; by contrast, the ‘jarworm’ was an ‘ugly insect found in wet, marshy ground’; ‘glareworm’ was the Island take on glow-worm; and, delightfully, the ‘maayworm’ was a worm that breeds in the stomach. Leechmore Farm near Godshill was originally named from Leechmore Pond, ‘the pool where leeches are to be found’. And an earwig became a ‘pincherwig’: “I zay you, I left my clothes under hedge here, and now there’s dree or vour gurt pincherwigs craalen about in my dinner bag”.
Another well-known survival is ‘mallishag’, which strictly speaking originally referred to the caterpillar of the white butterfly but has come to denote caterpillars more generally: “I ben out in gearden to cut a cabbage or two vor dinner, but they be very near all spwiled, and vull o’ mallishags”. By contrast, the ‘gooseberry wife’ was a large caterpillar, or a bogey to deter children from picking the gooseberries: “If ye goes out in the gearden, the gooseberry wife’ll be sure t’ ketch ye”. A snail with its shell, or simply the shell alone, was known by the extraordinary dialect word ‘hodmandod’; more generally, it could refer to any strange animal.
‘Hoppers’ were small maggots which infected bacon or cheese:
“She hung the puddens up on a pin,
The fat run out and the hoppers got in.
I shall never forgit, wherever I be,
What lumps o’ pudden my mother gid me.”

(Taken from ‘Lumps o’ Pudden‘, perhaps the only song, or at least this version of it, which can lay claim to being unique to the Island, though it appears that no-one can remember the tune!) ‘Minty cheese’ was likewise cheese full of ‘mints’ or mites, and considered by some labourers to be a delicacy!

– Alan R Phillips