A Cow's grass in heaven and other items

Peter Grund petergrund93 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Aug 14 21:54:54 UTC 2009

My previous message came out a little bit garbled, so I'll give it another try. 
Dear All, 
I and two colleagues (Merja Kyto and Terry Walker) have been working on an electronic edition of witness depositions from England covering the period 1560-1760. Our work is nearing completion, and we are trying to compile a glossary of some of the most interesting vocabulary in the depositions (there is plenty!). We have managed to trace most of the words using the OED, MED, Wright's Dialect Dictionary, and other sources. But there are a few that we have not been able to trace. This is why I turn to you. We would appreciate any help that you could give in pinning down the meaning of the four words/phrases below. Any lead is welcome! Naturally, the help will be acknowledged in the final publication. Below, I give the problematic word/phrase, some context, and a few comments. Just a warning: Some of the extracts carry an R-rating. 
All the best, 
Peter Grund 
NB: the brackets of various kinds represent our coding of words added above the line { } and unclear readings [ ]. 
"barrow" (Somerset 1707) 
on her oath saith that Barnabas Eiles of Chilthorne did on the 2 of ^{this Instant} January last about 10 of the Clock in the night come ^{into} her house ^{& broke[n] open the door of it being then barred with a Timbern barrow} and went to the beddside and vnbuttned his britches 
It could technically be a barrow in OED's sense of 'A utensil for the carrying of a load by two or more men; a stretcher, a bier; spec. a flat rectangular frame of transverse bars, having shafts or 'trams' before and behind, by which it is carried,' but perhaps there is also an extended meaning to a wooden structure (bar?) that would bar a door? The reading could also be "Carrow" (capital 'C' and 'b' being virtually indistinguishable in this particular hand), though this seems less likely as we cannot find such a word attested in any dictionaries with an appropriate meaning. 
"a Cowes grasse in heaven" (Oxford 1613) 
the said Steephens did say vnto the said MargaretES amonge manie angry wordES: Thow hast fuckd the mother & daughter to thow must haue a Cowes grasse in heaven, 
The phrase is used several times in a suite of depositions in the same case. It is also found elsewhere as a search of Google books reveals, but the meaning is unclear. 
"hops" (Norwich, 1706) 
he ^{(ye sd Munford)} presently acted himselfe Lame by throwing about his foot, & said Lett Justice Atkinson Kiss his arse, (and she too) And said he ^{(the sd Justice Atkinson} is hops [&] <1 word overstruck> And {she ye} said Deponant was, hops too 
Meaning unclear. Perhaps it is related to "mad as hops" noted by the OED from the 19th century. 
"pungitt" ('apron'?) (Colchester 1664) 
one of the two men put one of his hands into his pockett, & the other into his pungitt & tooke away from him, out of his pocketts & his apron about seauen powndes 
The text itself seems to indicate that it means 'apron' but we cannot find the word attested in dictionaries.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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