CRÉSON / watercress

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créson“, s.m., pronounced [krɛsɔ̃ʊ̯̃] 🔊, is the Sarkese name for “watercress” (Nasturtium officinale), an edible aquatic flowering plant that grows in the island’s streams, as well as for “fool’s watercress” (Apium nodiflorum), another aquatic edible plant, whose possible original Gallo-Romance name “bèle”/”bène” is now forgotten. Watercress once used to be an important source of green vegetables in Sark, together with “aléxandre“. Until the end of the 20th century, watercress was semi-cultivated by many Sarkese families in naturally wet places around brooklets, known as “sandrè” in Sarkese. With the regular import of fresh vegetables and even watercress itself from across the sea, watercress is unfortunatelly no longer commonly cultivated on the island. Untrained foragers should be aware of a possible interchangibility with a highly poisonous “pemfê d’yò“, hemlock-waterdropwort.

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

“créson” is an invariable uncountable masculine noun (a he-word that does not change). Unlike the rest of the names of flowers ending in ‘-on’ in Sarkese, “créson” is the only one which is uncountable, i.e. which cannot be counted. We therefore cannot say “one watercress”, “two watercresses”, but only “some watercress”, i.e. “du créson” with the so-called partitive. If we had to specify a number of watercresses, we could say “one piece of watercress” or “three flowers of watercress”, so “ûn mórsě d’créson”, “trê fłeur d’créson”, etc.

The pronunciation is regular, though it should be noted, that the ‘é’ in ‘créson’ is not prounced long, but strictly short, as [ɛ], as it is not related to the verb ‘á crêtre’, to grow, which gives forms such as ‘crêson’, “let’s grow”, with a long ‘ê’, [ɛ:].

On the origin

first mention for Sarkese from 1889

The Sarkese name “créson”, first recorded by E. Edmont in 1889, is directly related to the Jersey Norman “cresson” and the Guernsey Norman “kerson”, all meaning watercress, and all originating in the Old Frankish name for watercress, possibly “krasjô”, related to the English “cress” and the Germen “Kresse”.

Unlike in Sark, both the other two Norman languages still spoken in the Channel Islands conserved the distinction between “watercress” and “fool’s watercress” with the latter’s old Celto-Latin name “bêle”(Jer.)/”bête”(Guern.), issued from the Gaulish “berul-“. In Sarkerse the hypothetic “bèle”, or perhaps “bène”, has, however, never been recorded. It is most probably partially conserved though, in the Sark Norman name for hogweed, “bènárde”, see the SNDO entry “bènarde” to learn more.


Citation: NEUDÖRFL, Martin. créson/watercress. In: Sark Norman Dictionary Online [on-line].

Relevant SNDO Entries:

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