Keith Briggs

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The Karnser in Stowmarket

The Karnser is a raised pavement in Station Road West, next to the church (TM04895870). This is the East Anglian dialect word caunsey, going back to at least c.1440; the Promptorium Parvulorum has Cawnce-way ‘Calcetum’ (Mayhew 1908: 72). It is a variant of “causey” with intrusive -n-, but the -r- was never pronounced; it was simply introduced into the spelling to indicate a long vowel. The word is recorded in Wright's English Dialect Dictionary under caunsey also in the spellings cansey, canser, and cancer (see image below). The word is very rare in place-names, but Coldham Hall Carnser in Surlingham in the Norfolk Broads is a fen causeway. A query by H. A. W. in East Anglian Notes and Queries 11 (1906), page 48, asks about two places called The Karnser or Chanser in Chattisham, but the editor's comment there is misdirected and should be disregarded. Mayhew (op. cit. 575) mentions that the word occurs in Wickham Market, and “is the usual word for a pavement in the country around Banbury”. Further examples from East Anglian vocabulary collections are cansey ‘causeway’ (Marshall 1787: ii.377); cansey (Moor (1823: 67): “A causeway, or foot path a little raised. The first syllable is much lengthened, and nasally drawled and modulated ”); and caunsey ‘a causey, a raised and paved way ‘ (Forby 1830: i.58). The form is also found in Cornwall.
  • Forby, Robert (1830), The vocabulary of East Anglia: an attempt to record the vulgar tongue of the twin sister counties, Norfolk and Suffolk, as it existed in the last twenty years of the eighteenth century, and still exists; with proof of its antiquity from etymology and authority, two volumes, London: J. B. Nichols and Son.
  • Marshall, William (1787), The rural economy of Norfolk: comprising the management of landed estates and the present practice of husbandry in that county, two volumes, London: Printed for T. Cadell.
  • Mayhew, A. L., ed. (1908), The Promptorium Parvulorum: the first English-Latin dictionary, Edited from the manuscript in the Chapter Library at Winchester, with introduction, notes, and glossaries, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. for the Early English Text Society.
  • Moor, Edward (1823), Suffolk words and phrases: or, an attempt to collect the lingual localisms of that county. Woodbridge: printed by J. Loder for R. Hunter.

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