My, what a lovely demi-dingle. (Huh?)
June 16, 2022 4:55 AM   Subscribe

What did "demi-dingle" mean in 1929? And also, where was this rotten link supposed to lead?

I was looking at a historical record for a house (on MACRIS, a database of the Massachusetts Historical Commission) and it said: "Jeremiah was the builder of the present house..., a structure which Brewer refers to as being 'a lovely demi-dingle...'"

I googled it and found the original text by the above-mentioned Brewer, written in 1929. The relevant bit says, "Down the curving slope to the old wooden bridge, perched high above the brook, the planks resounding under hurrying hoofs and wheels. Hemlock trees up and down beside the brook, as now, but just beyond at left was a lovely demi-dingle, tenanted by hemlocks [emphasis mine], the high hill beyond covered with mountain laurel. Fourteen years ago, Jeremiah Day cleared away many of the hemlock trees and built a cottage and later grubbed from the steep hill the laurel, to plant potatoes."

The past tense "was" and the fact that hemlocks were in the demi-dingle suggest to me that Brewer intended "demi-dingle" to describe some feature of the landscape, contrary to the MACRIS interpretation of it referring to the house. But what is a demi-dingle?

Also, on the site above, the words "slope to the old wooden bridge" are a link, but the link's destination is no longer relevant. (In fact, the whole site is kind of a puzzle -- I don't get what it is or why this Brewer text is on it.) But I'd love to know what that link was meant to lead to.

Since I haven't turned up any other references to this term, I wonder if the original was handwritten, and "demi-dingle" was a misreading. I found a longer version of the Brewer document here, but I admit that I haven't read much beyond the excerpt above.
posted by daisyace to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
Best answer: Well, a dingle is a little valley or dell, specifically a wooded valley; so I suppose a demi-dingle would be a small/half dingle? A not-quite-dell, a dinglet if you will? As I read it this was a little depression of some kind with hemlock trees in it.
posted by mskyle at 5:00 AM on June 16, 2022 [16 favorites]

I am also team demi is just a modifier of dingle and that the writer thought it sounded nice/clever/literary to phrase it like that.

(Not that there's anything wrong with a dinglet...)
posted by phunniemee at 5:02 AM on June 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately the Wayback Machine has not archived that site before, so there is no way (that I know of) to see an older version to find out if the link used to be different. Google's cached version also has the same link as now.

A dingle is "a small wooded valley", a type of dell, so a "demi-dingle" is probably equivalent to a copse of trees in a dip?
posted by underclocked at 5:18 AM on June 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oh but as to it describing the house, I think whoever wrote the MACRIS entry just misunderstood - if anything, it seems like the "demi-dingle" might have been *destroyed* in order to build the cottage.

That ininet website is fairly bewildering and just seems to be an aggregation of low-quality texts?
posted by mskyle at 5:20 AM on June 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok, I didn't even think to google it without the "demi," duh. So that part is solved - thanks! And sounds like the other part, regarding the broken link, is probably not solvable... but I'll wait to mark Resolved just in case.
posted by daisyace at 5:37 AM on June 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

I copied the text of the link and put it into the wayback machine, I don't think it's a relevant link, I think they just want you to click it for ad revenue.
posted by muddgirl at 6:37 AM on June 16, 2022

Best answer: As well, someone else can explain this better but Google used to prioritize search results that were linked to a lot so inserting links was a way to affect search engine results.
posted by muddgirl at 6:40 AM on June 16, 2022

OED on "dingle":
2. A small, deep valley or hollow; a dell; esp. one that is shaded or surrounded by trees. Also (chiefly English regional (northern)): a narrow, steep-sided ravine between hills; a clough (clough n. 1).Use specifically in reference to a valley or hollow which is shaded or surrounded by trees is common in poetic and literary contexts, perhaps influenced by Milton (see quot. 1637).
example semi-contemporary use:
1888 M. A. Green Springfield (Mass.) 1636–1886 126 About 1662, the old road along the brow of the hill..through the pines to the dingle, was laid out.
"Demi-" then would have had a similar-ish meaning to now ("half, half-sized, partial(ly), curtailed, inferior"), and the OED does have a few examples of it being used with other geometric/structural descriptors, e.g. "demi-canal", "demi-hill", "demi-dome".
posted by advil at 6:43 AM on June 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hemlock ravines (aka this dingle) are a generally rare but not unusual ecosystem in the Northeast. A really lovely place to walk through.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:28 AM on June 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would guess that a full dingle takes up both sides of the valley, but these trees are only beyond the brook, hence half a dingle.
posted by doiheartwentyone at 8:32 AM on June 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That is a Russian spam site that has hoovered up all sorts of random documents and then serves them surrounded by ads. The links are complete nonsense, if you scroll through the doc you'll also find other phrases that are meaningless links. Unfortunately this pirated doc comes up in Google ahead of the original, probably because of the ads.

The original can be found here at the Pelham Public Library. Look for The Valley Road and Silver Street. I linked to their history room since you might be interested in their other docs about the area. The original doc has no link on "slope to the old wooden bridge".
posted by steveminutillo at 8:56 AM on June 16, 2022 [7 favorites]

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