Bittern 70 (2014)
Bird's-eye maple (bittern) and American black walnut (base)
29.5" x 14" x 44"
70 terms for the bittern from the Dictionary of American Regional English adorn this sculpture of the bird: barrel-maker, belcher-squelcher, biorque, bog bull, bog crane, bog hen, bog-pumper, bogtrotter, boompike, bottle-kachunk, bum cluck, butterbump, buttermunk, conk-onk, dunkadoo, flying fox, flying shit-house, fly-up-the-creek, fool fowl, full-pot, garde-soleil, goon, grass hen, green-legged crane, heath hen, hell-pumper, hit-log, Indian hen, Indian pullet, jack grindle, johnny gongle, lookup, marsh hen, meadow hen, mire drum, moonshine, mud hen, night hen, pile driver, plum pudding, plunket(t), poke, pond guinea, post driver, pumper, quack, quawk, scoggin, sedge hen, shad bird, shagpoke, shit-across-the-creek, shitepoke, sibitron, skygazer, slough-pumper, slugtoot, snake-eater, stake driver, stargazer, stump driver, sungazer, swamp-pumper, thunder bird, thunder pumper, walk-up-the-creek, water hen, water pump, wollerkertoot, wop.
Carrie: I enjoy the variety of names in this list, from the eloquent to the obscene—all these creative words and phrases offer glints of daily life, topography, human relationships to adored or abhorred fowl, the bird's diet, behavior, and even the audio, visual, and kinetic characteristics of the bird.
Julie: Is the bittern a thunder pumper or a bottle-kachunk? Depending on the angle from which you view this piece, you will see different folk names recorded in DARE for the bird most commonly known as the bittern. This reflects the nature of folk and regional speech in general. What is a thing called? It’s going to depend on whom you ask, when you ask, and where you ask. In other words, it all depends on where you’re standing.