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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: On elvers and clearing up 'Windum thing'


April 14. 2013 3:25PM

Talk in the newsroom the other night had to do with Elvis, or so I thought.

A guy from Candia had been cited in Maine, where authorities were going to make a ton of money by selling "Elvis" stuff they had seized from him.

Turns out, it was "elvers," a name I had never heard before. It means a baby eel. Why "baby eel" isn't good enough, I have no idea. But it might be because anything that slimy that is going for up to $2,000 a pound has to have a fancy name.

When they are born, in the ocean, they are called "glass eels." When they make it back to fresh water, they become "elvers." And those that make it up to the Lamprey River, where my father used to fish for them, at night, when he was not much more than an elver himself, are known as Lamprey eels.

I'm guessing that the river got its name because of all the eels.

Maine is one of two states that allow, by license, the taking of elvers. Our Candia man allegedly had no license. But with the Japanese, in particular, hungry for the apparent delicacy, no license was no object.

"Wow. $2,000 a pound?" one editor said. "You could get a ticket, online, to the Rolling Stones' Boston concert for that!"

Come to think of it, Mick Jagger's face does sort of look like an eel's, no offense intended to the eel. But I wouldn't pay $2,000 for either. If Elvis showed up, though...

Someone wrote in last week to question my pronunciation of Windham (as in Win-dum). Fellow said his family had been in New Hampshire since 1838 and had always pronounced it "Wind-HAM." He said I should get out and visit a few nursing homes where I may find a "native" to ask.

That's pretty remarkable. My family has been in New Hampshire since even further back and I have yet to find any sound recordings of them pronouncing anything.

Another reader was on my side, though.

"I'm glad you cleared up that Windum thing. I thought maybe it was just me who had it all wrong. Perhaps because I have lived my first 3/4 century on the right side of NH," he wrote. He's from Exeter, you see.

"Back when they had the floods over there on the left side I noticed those news talkers were calling Alstead Al-stead when over here on the saltwater side we always called it All-stead. However, after the recent police chase and shooting over there they interviewed a local who called it All-stead. To their credit those news talkers are quick learners because on the next broadcast they called it All-stead too and have ever since.

"Keep up the good work, Joe, we old natives are counting on you.

"I think I can call myself a native. My great, great, great, great (I don't know how many greats) grandfather was born in Concud NH in 1732 where he owned a tavern in East Concord from 1780 until he died in 1804. His father saw the light and came up here from Amesbury but they all lived on this side of the Merrimac since arriving in Salisbury in the 1620s."

Bet they ate elvers, too.

Write to Joe McQuaid at or via Twitter @deucecrew.

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