Date: Mon, 2 Mar 1998 12:44:42 -0500
From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU
Subject: Re: Semantic distinc. betw. "crick" and "creek"?

At 11:32 AM 3/2/98 -0500, you wrote:
A correspondent wrote in about an alleged semantic distinction
between "crick" and "creek." This writer, who is from an unspecified
but "rural" part of the country, claims that he uses both pronunciations,
but that a "crick" was smaller than a "creek." He states that he has
had a long-running disagreement with his wife about this, and he recently
found someone else who makes this distinction. DARE doesn't show any
semantic distinction, and Joan Hall isn't otherwise aware of any.

Is this distinction familiar to anyone on the list?

Jesse Sheidlower
Random House Reference

I haven't ever heard such a distinction made in rural places where I've
spent time, which in itself means nothing. But prima facie I would wonder if
this distinction reflects well-established usage. Where there are two words
that obviously seem phonetically and/or semantically related, individuals
often try to rationalize the existence of both by positing improvised
distinctions. Since "crick" is seen as more uneducated or rural than
"creek," it would not be surprising that someone would decide that a "crick"
must be a smaller, more local, more rural stream than a creek. I.e., a
"possible folk-semantics" yellow-light is probably in order -- which, given
the skeptical but open-minded tone of the query, has already clicked on in
JS's mind.

Over the years, when the subject of religion comes up in some connection,
students in my classes seem to make very decided distinctions between
"religious" and "spiritual." But each of them seems to have made up a
somewhat different version of the distinction....

Maybe that guy's wife is right. And perhaps not for the first time! I bet
they also disagree about how to use the stick and clutch in a manual-tran

But then again, given people's propensity for "rationalizing," maybe a
crick/creek "distinction" has been independently created by more than one

FWIW, aside from DARE which is mentioned above, OED2 creek n.1 mentions
"creek" and "crick" as simply locally varying pronunciations, citing a
somewhat similar variation between peak and pike n.2, the latter as UK
"northern." I.e., the creek/crick sound and spelling variation maybe go back
to a point long before any (in this case, 20th-cent.) evidence for a
semantic distinction.

But, maybe there's more evidence out there....

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]