BŮṠON / bush, shrub

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bůṡon“, m.s., pronounced [bʊ(ʂ/s)ɔ̃ʊ̯] 🔊, is the Sarkese generic word for “bush” or “shrub”, from which the Sark Norman word “bůṡůnẏre“, thicket, etc. is directely derived. It is possible, the word once had another form, “bìson”, which, though documented, is, however, inacceptable today, and is used only as a family name, “Bìson”, conserved in the name of one of the island’s commons, “l’Côtił d’Bìson“.

origin: Frankish / first recorded for Sarkese: 1889 (EE)* / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“bůṡon” is a masculine countable variable noun (a he-word that changes in plural). We say “ûn bůṡon”, a/one bush, “dê bůṡôn”, bushes. It should be noted though, that the word is rarely used, and the feminine form “bůṡůnẏre”, together with the active use of names for bushes and thickets of specific plants, such as “jhnêtẏre” or “jǎnẏre” etc. are prefered and much more common in normal speech.

The pronunciation is regular, though as with any dotted ‘ṡ’, the level of its final softness varies from one speaker to another, from a regular hard [s] to [ʂ].

On the origin

The Sarkese “bůṡon” is directly related to the Guernsey Norman “bisaon”, bush, and to the now lost Old Jersey Norman “bîsson”, which as f.e. the French “buisson”, all originate in the Frankish “busk”, bush.

The oldest known form ever recorded wasn’t, however, our “bůṡon” of today, but one closer to “bìṡon”, corresponding to the known forms in the other two Insular Norman languages. This form, recorded by E. Edmont already in 1889, was confirmed for Sarkese again by P. Brasseur almost a hundred years later. Suprisingly though, such a form is inacceptable today and only the form “bůṡon” is used. Similarly the derived form “bůṡůnẏre” is the only one known and used, with the “ů” and not with the expactable ‘ì’, which actually was documented again in the past.

This mystery surrounding such a strange “shift” in pronunciation has two possible explanations. The first at hand, if we accept the idea of a shift, is an external influence, which would provide, of course, English and the word “bush”. Nevertheless, such a direct influence on how we pronounce words in Sarkese hasn’t been documented, except for loan-words, which bůṡon and bůṡůnẏre certainly aren’t. Although we shouldn’t forget the basic rule – never say never – so, who knows 🙂

The other option is that Sarkese, on many levels one of the most archaic varieties of the Norman language, may have actually conserved an older evolutionary stage of the Norman word “buschoun” (“busschoun”, “bussun” etc.), the actual ancestor word of today’s Norman terms for bush. Since we know that in some cases, some Norman varieties within one supra-variety took different evolutionary paths even in the case of one particular word, whose different forms may still coexist today (take Old Jersey Norman or Guernsey Norman), it could be that the “busch-” in “buschoun” evolved instead of to “bìṡ-” rather into “bû̥ṡ-” and later to the short “bůṡ-” – which isn’t hard to imagine at all.

Given that Sarkese is extremely archaic, this second option seems more plausible. Moreover, the fact that the Jersey Norman equivalent “bîsson” actually isn’t a functional word anymore, conserved only in one saying according to F. le Maistre, indicates that we can’t dismiss the Sarkese form as some simple anglicisim, since it is actually a functional word.

On the other hand, it is noticable, that the word “bůṡon” is used much less often than the feminine form “bůṡůnẏre”. Nevertheless, again, it contains the sound “ů”-[ʊ], not ‘ì’-[ɪ(:)]. But again, the archaicity of the Sark Norman tongue has surprised us many times.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. bůṡon/bush. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line]. https://www.bonjhur.net/sndo-vocab-buson

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