DOGE / dock

photo source: wikimedia

doge“, s.f., pronounced [dɔʊ̯g(:)] 🔊, is the Sarkese name for “curly dock” (Rumex crispus) and “bitter dock” (Rumex obtusifolius), as well as their shared hybrids, traditionally used as a remedy after nettle stings. The other, smaller subspecies of the Rumex family, known as “sorrel” in English, are called “suréle” in Sarkerse. The distinction between “doge” and “suréle”, however, isn’t, as in English, very clear, with “doge” being prefered as a generic name for any taller dock-sorrel plants, while “suréle” is used for their smaller cousins.

origin: Germanic (Old Norse?) / first recorded for Sarkese: 1970s (PB) / current status in the 21st century: preserved, in use

“doge” is a countable feminine noun (a she-word that may be counted), meaning that unlike with “suréle”, the so-called partitive is not used and we may say “une doge”, one dock, “trê doge”, three docks, or “dê doge”, some dockleaves etc.

On the origin

The word is directly related to the Jersey Norman forms “doque” and “dogue”, the Guernsey Norman “doque” and the Continental Norman “dogue”, “doque”, “doche” etc., all meaning dock or sorrel, although in Eastern Normandy (one of) the meaning is burdock. The English “dock”, the German “Dockenblätter” or even the Scottish Gaelic “dogha” and more, all share the common ancestor word.

Old Anglo-Saxon form “docce” in Bald’s Leechbook

The most generally accepted theory claims that the original word from which all the forms mentioned above are issued, was of Germanic origin which would mean that the word was introduced into Norman languages most probably either via Old Norse or Old Frankish.

One of the very first known mentions comes from the famous ancient medical book, “Bald’s Leechbook”, possibly written in the 9th century during the rule of king Alfred the Great, in which it appears under the Old Anglo-Saxon form of “docce”, where it is recommended as a remedy for several health complications, among which “water-elf dissease” was included.

Popular medicine – doge, man’s best friend when stung by nettles

photo source: wikimedia

Over the centuries, dock has been a popular herb on both sides of the Channel, in England as in Normandy. Even though “water-elves” are no longer a pest to the human kind of today, nettles can be a nuisance when weeding a garden in the 21st century Sark as in the 9th century England. Folk wisdom and popular medicine have it that dockleaves may be used to relieve pain from nettle burns, by rubbing it over burnt parts of the skin. Given that dockleaves do grow next to nettles, it may provide a fast and welcome remedy, especially if one gets a large sting. This practice is still quite popular in Sark and especially older generations use dockleaves when stung by nettles automatically even today. Many scientists do not agree, however, if dockleaves truly help or whether they provide a placebo only. Nevertheless, when in pain, even a placebo can help, so next time you get a sting from a nettle, you may try the centuries old advice and see for yourself if dockleaves help 🙂

“Si une órtŷ t’pike, tu mê dê fyełe d’doge sû la pičeúre.” (MT, 2021)

If a nettle gives you a sting, you put dockleaves on the stinging.


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

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