Folk-names for Marine Fishes

and Other Animals at Hastings

W. Ruskin Butterfield

Hastings and St. Leonards Observer August 1913


[82] The names by which the commoner marine fishes and other creatures are known to the Hastings fishermen are perhaps of sufficient interest to warrant a short notice in the pages of this

journal. I propose on the present occasion merely to give a list of such names as are known to me, without attempting to explain their origin or trace their descent. Very few of them appear to be of recent invention; they have for the most part, no doubt, been passed on in ordinary speech from the older to the younger men, though not perhaps precisely in their present guise, from time immemorial. They are rough-hewn, like all local names, but expressive, forcible and easy of utterance. There is, however, a decided tendency among the younger generation of fishermen to discard the picturesque and time-honoured local names in favour of the terms in more general use.

Beginning then with the fishes: large examples of the Smooth Hound (Mustelus vulgaris ) and of the Tope (Galeus canis ) are called "mackerel dogs"; small species of these two species are known as "sweet williams" or "rigs." The common Piked Dog-fish (Acanthias vulgaris ) is the "bone dog." The smaller Spotted Dog-fish (Syllium canicula ), a species often taken by the long-line fishermen in great abundance, is the "robin-huss"; while the larger spotted Dog-fish (S. catulus ) is the "bull-huss." The Angel-fish (Rhina squalina ) is mostly known here as the "fiddle fish." Immature Skates and Rays, "when jes big enough fer to eat," are called indiscriminately "maids" or "scribblings," the word Ray being always pronounced "rate." ….