loch-keeper... lock-keeper?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by lucylinguist, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. lucylinguist Senior Member

    Southern France
    English - England

    The following sentence is the heading of an article to which paying subscribers to 'The Connexion' can gain access:
    'How empty lock-keepers' cottages are being put to new varied use.'

    At first I assumed this was a spelling mistake for loch-keeper, but given the quality of this media I was surprised that they would make such a mistake, so I decided to check.

    In the Wordreference online dictionary, "lock" is not currently listed as an alternative spelling for "loch", so this seemed to confirm that "lock-keeper" was wrong.

    But in the Merriam Webster online dictionary, there is indeed an entry for "lockkeeper" (written without the hyphen), defined as "a person in charge of a lock (as on a canal)" and marked "First Known Use: 1762". However, on this same website when you search for "lock" no definition involving canals is given, and under "loch", no alternative spelling is given.

    I am now thoroughly confused! Is the Merriam Webster wrong too?! Can anyone help?
  2. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I don't have access to the text, but I find nothing unusual or surprising about "lock-keepers' cottages", possibly because I've walked along a few canals.
  3. lucylinguist Senior Member

    Southern France
    English - England
    I don't have access to the full article either (not being a paying subscriber).

    Regarding the spelling, I am aware that some people pronounce "loch" in the same way as "lock" (discussed in another thread, here) although I do not, so I suppose this may have given rise to a new alternative spelling... in which case, how official is this? Is it not seen as a spelling mistake?

    Or do some people perhaps consider that the keeper is actually guarding the "LOCK" (the part that they can open I suppose with some kind of key), as opposed to the "LOCH" (the stretch of water)?
  4. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Yes. The keeper is looking after the lock and its gates. On a canal, the stretch of water is not called a "loch".
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with sound shift. I'm very familiar with the canal-related term "lock-keeper". I don't think I've ever come across "loch-keeper".
  6. lucylinguist Senior Member

    Southern France
    English - England
    Ahhhh... that is a very good point. Many thanks sound shift for your help!

    In the meantime I was doing a google search for "loch keeper", which only turned up results for lock keeper (written as two separate words in Wikipedia): so I did indeed have it wrong all along. They are indeed guarding the actual LOCK!

    So now I just have to start pronouncing it properly. :oops:
  7. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    Lock-keepers still exist on some British canals. They don't guard locks, they operate them. They also exist on French canals, including those in the south of France, but they are, of course, not called "lock-keepers", because that's an English term. :)

    PS. The relevant meaning of lock should be in most dictionaries. It is in the Wordreference dictionary.

    PPS. The same definition of lock is in Merriam-Webster online. You don't appear to have read beyond the first few lines of the entry.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
  8. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
  9. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    As indicated in post 6, there's a Wiki article.
  10. kentix

    kentix Senior Member

    English - U.S.
    It's similar to the concept of a lighthouse keeper.

    A lighthouse keeper is the person responsible for tending and caring for a lighthouse, particularly the light and lens in the days when oil lamps and clockwork mechanisms were used.

    Lighthouse keeper - Wikipedia
  11. lucylinguist Senior Member

    Southern France
    English - England
    Many thanks indeed for all this advice.

    @ Andygc : You are right, I only saw the first three definitions on the Merriam Webster site : somehow I didn't realise that I could scroll down to see more sections.
    So now I see this definition: 'LOCK: an enclosure (as in a canal) with gates at each end used in raising or lowering boats as they pass from level to level.'

    @ RM1(SS) : Your Wikipedia link is helpful too with sentences such as the following:
    '"Turning" a lock can simply mean emptying a full lock, or filling an empty one'
    'If the lock has no water in it at all, perhaps for maintenance work, it might also be said to be empty, but it is more usually described as "drained" or "de-watered"'

    So now at last I have understood that the term LOCK refers neither to the stretch of water, nor to the closure mechanism alone, but to the entire chamber/enclosure into which the boat enters, whether drained or full.
  12. lucylinguist Senior Member

    Southern France
    English - England
    So in fact this usage is comparable to an AIRLOCK: 'an airtight chamber with regulated air pressure used to gain access to a space that has air under pressure'.
    (Source: Wordreference)

    Now I get it! :)
  13. kentix

    kentix Senior Member

    English - U.S.
    Yes, an airlock serves the same function. They are both enclosures with two openings that allow controlled transition from one state to another.

    high water -> low water
    high pressure -> low pressure (or no pressure, possibly)
  14. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Because canals and their locks were in existence long before there were any airlocks, I would strongly suspect that the word "airlock" was derived from the similar, existing concept of locks found on canals.

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