Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Huxion Stew, Anyone?

Here is one from the weird and wonderful world of the world’s worst spellers. It was sent to me by Martha Hulshof.

“How about this one, huxion, found in an old 1956 cookbook from Downeast Yarmouth, Maine? My mother-in-law is from Holland and her mother used to cook like this, but she’s not sure what the word means. I looked on line and, remarkably enough, found refrence to the VERY SAME recipie but that author did not know the meaning of the word either! I wonder could you ascertain its origin and meaning.”

Hockshin stewI can’t prove this but I am so sure this is what happened. The stew is made from a hock (hough in Scotland, pronounced [hox]). The hock is that part of an animal’s hind leg just below the knee, thus located near the shin, so some people have used the word hockshin for a long time. It is still alive in parts of Northern England and Scotland, I believe; we have written documentation from as late as 1886. In some areas it has been reduced to ‘huxon’, only a letter away from huxion.

Now, what if we spelled hockshin by the Latin rules of spelling? Hoxion would certainly be a candidate and from hoxion to huxion is but a tiny skid. These types of spelling errors are common for words that are mostly heard and seldom seen in writing.

Further evidence is provided by preserved written examples of hox and huxen in the sense of “hamstring”. The examples are old and these words are clearly archaic but may well have been involved in the shift of CKS to X and the shift from O to U.

Bottom line, the spelling of the word hockshin has rambled all over the place in the past three centuries. That the spelling huxion was one of those places, doesn’t surprise me at all.

2 Responses to “Huxion Stew, Anyone?”

  1. Lee Holman Says:

    Thanks so much for this gem!
    I am drying my mother’s cookbooks after a flood and one, the 1952 Yarmouth (Maine) Village Improvement Society fundraiser cookbook has this same usage (if not the very same recipe). I looked elsewhere and found not a clue.

    Lee Holman
    Hartford, Maine.

  2. Wayne Mitchell Says:

    I grew up in Lisbon, Maine, ten miles north of Yarmouth. My parents grew up another ten or twelve miles north, in Litchfield and Sabbatus. The word “huxion” is very familiar to me — though when I asked my mother how to spell it she had no idea. Trying various possibilities in a ‘Net search brought me to this entry in your blog.

    For us, the meaning of the word has traveled a bit down the leg and refers more to the foot. For instance, someone sitting around the kitchen while the floor is being swept will be admonished to “move your big huxions;” or someone trying to cram a bit more into the trash bin will be advised to “put a huxion into it.”

    That the origin should be Scottish is entirely likely. We have a number of usages which are fairly local to this area which ultimately come from Scotland. Another that comes to mind is “take a scunner to,” meaning to react with immediate dislike.

    Wayne Mitchell
    Gray, Maine

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