Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej Basalorum

I don’t think I’ve ever milked three articles from a single small town before. Earl Grey, a village in Saskatchewan struck the trifecta once I considered it’s origin though. I’d mentioned in the previous article that one source said, "the district was then known as Snorum." Did anyone else find that amusing? Snorum. It sounded like it must have been the most boring spot on the planet, so boring it put people into a snoring sleep.(¹) The unnamed Canadian Pacific Railroad official who suggested Earl Grey as a preferable name did the town a favor.

Earl Grey, formerly Snorum, Saskatchewan, Canada

That same source From Buffalo Grass to Wheat: a History of Long Lake District noted that Earl Grey settlers came from "… Austria, Germany, England and Scotland. Others came from Ireland, Norway, France, Sweden and eastern Canada." I never did discover the source of the original name, Snorum. I think the Swedish settlers may have been responsible. Let me explain.

Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej Basalorum

"Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej Basalorum" was a common Swedish children’s rhyme of the period, and may still be for all I could determine. I couldn’t find a literal Swedish translation for this nonsensical string of words. Apparently it wasn’t much more meaningful than all of the words happened to flow well together. It wouldn’t be any sillier than something the "Nanny nanny boo-boo" uttered by American schoolchildren. Kids are like that.

The chant derived from a Danish phrase, "Snip-snap snurre, basselurre." used similarly. The Danish version even appeared in a Hans Christian Andersen story, "Hørren" (the Flax). In it, the phrase appeared three times as the flax was harvested, turned to linen, used as an undergarment, cut to rags, turned into paper, and printed into a book. Each time it was reborn for a new purpose until it was burned finally at the very end of its long, productive lifespan.

I consulted a Danish dictionary and found a better explanation. Translation software provided an approximation of its original meaning. Life is a Snip, a Snap and a Snurre (to spin). Death is a Basselurre. The dictionary went on to explain that Basselurre was a meaningless word (et meningsløst ord) that simply completed the children’s rhyme of life and death. That seemed to be a pretty grim topic for a child’s chant — confrontation with one’s own mortality.

Snip, Snap, Snorum also became a card game at least as far back as the 18th Century and probably earlier.

The Villages of Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej and Basalorum

Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej Basalorum

Thanks for bearing with the tangent. I had to go through that elaborate explanation to tie the topic back to geography.

I uncovered a Swedish-language description of the towns of Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej and Basalorum, which I shall paraphrase as best I can. An iron ore mining company wished to open new facilities near Jörn in northern Sweden, in 1836. Few people lived there at the time, however, and the company wouldn’t have enough miners.

Hej14aug2010” by Enar NordvikOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Thus, Five villages were created, Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej and Basalorum, each named for a different word in the children’s rhyme. Mining in the adjacent area petered-out quickly and the settlements never amounted to much, although the mere fact that someone named them like this was fantastic. Most of the settlements were never more than a cluster of homes or farms. Hej was probably the only one that became a true village.

Now to search for towns in North America named Nanny-Nanny and Boo-Boo.

(¹) When I was young and whenever we happened to be driving in Virginia’s exurbs outside of Washington, DC, and spotted the control tower at Dulles International Airport, my dad would always say: "That’s the world’s most boring airport. Why? Because it’s the dullest (for the 12MC audience that doesn’t speak English natively, it’s a play on words). That, or he’d call it the "Golf Ball Hall of Fame" (look at the tower and you’ll understand why). I think it’s mandatory for all fathers to tell bad jokes.

2 Replies to “Snipp, Snapp, Snorum, Hej Basalorum”

  1. I remember my English mother (born 1915) saying “Snip Snap Snorum” to me when I was a kid in the 60s. As a way of hurrying me up to go to bed “Bed time , Snip Snap Snorum”

  2. I believe you’re right that it’s mandatory for fathers to tell bad jokes. I’ve certainly tried to do so for my children.

    I’m reminded of a time when I was a wee lad, riding in the car as we cruised near a local airport. My Dad, an amateur pilot, was pointing out a particular aircraft to the rest of us. When I finally got my eyes on the one he was indicating, I said, “Oh! I wasn’t looking at the right plane.”

    My dad immediately replied, “Of course not. The Wright plane is in the Smithsonian!”

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