I went to my Saxish group today, and as usual the time flew past with so many interesting things talked about and discussed. Although we are mainly interested in the language the Saxon tribes spoke her in Somerset a millennium ago, we end up talking about all sorts of things, the beginning of language, the roots of common words, the movement of peoples, vowel shifts, pagan temples, mangelwurzels…
We had just had coffee when Bob, our group leader, suddenly asked if any of us knew what ‘thrang as Throp’s wife‘ meant… well I for one certainly didn’t! Others vaguely remembered hearing it said and there was a lot of laughter and discussion about it… but when I got home, I wasn’t sure we actually had a definitive answer but Bob did mention that Throp was sometimes Throop, Thrap or Thorp
I came across an article in the Spectator’s archive which was written in 1931 about this very saying, although sometimes it was ‘As flirting as Throp’s wife‘ – flirting here meaning to go from thing to thing rather than anything romantic (like flitting in fact). Whether it was thrang or flirting, the end of the saying was that she hanged herself either with a cloth or a garter – but the actual meaning of the complete saying was someone who busied herself but never actually got anything done… sounds like me! However, somewhere else thrang was explained as ‘being over-ears in work’ – I think we’d say ‘up to our necks in work’..
I explored some more and discovered that thrang or sometimes throng means very busy, so anyone can be thrang (I must remember this!)
I found a couple of examples from two different dialect poems from Yorkshire:
Wheer men grind their hearts to guineas,
An’ their mills are awlus thrang,
Turnin’ neet-time into day-time,
Niver stoppin’ th’ whole yeer lang.
(Where men grind their hearts to guines
And their mills are always thrang
Turning night-time into daytime
Never stopping the whole year long.)
Good wheat and wuts and barley-corns
My mill grinds all t’ day lang ;
Frae faave ‘o t’ morn while seven o’ t’ neet
My days are varra thrang.
(Good wheat and oats and barley-corns
My mill grinds all the day long;
From five in the morn until seven of the night
My days are very thrang)