Getting Down to the Nitty GRITty of Farm Terms


| 2/10/2009 5:05:41 PM


A view of Cindy's farm

I am fascinated by folklore. There’s European folklore, Medieval folklore, American folklore, Native American folklore … the list goes on and on, and I find it all very interesting. Plant lore is a personal favorite of mine. And then there’s word-lore.

Origins of words and phrases intrigue me. Have you ever wondered where some of the things we say almost on a daily basis came from? I thought it’d be kind of neat to get to the bottom of some the words, phrases, and colloquialisms that have a GRITty spirit to them.  

Take the word “farm,” for example. Do you know that it was the “farmer” who once did the tax collecting instead of government collecting taxes from the farmer? How’s that for role-reversal? Doesn’t it make you sometimes wish for the days of old? It’s not as good as it sounds, though. “Farm” comes to us through the French word ferme, which is derived from the Latin firmus, meaning fixed or settled. When the term was first used in France and England it referred to the fixed annual rent, tax or revenue payable by people, towns or counties to an overlord. The “farmer” was the person who collected those payments.  

Until Revolutionary times, the French general farmers, or the fermes generale, collected annual taxes (called farms), paid by individuals and towns to the royal treasury. Farmers, always an ingenious breed, kept a little aside for themselves to save for a rainy day. Rain must have been predicted often in France back in those days, because the farmers became excessively wealthy pocketing the difference between the amounts collected and the amount that was actually due.  



In England, land used for agricultural purposes was most often leased by a tenant who worked the land. A “farm” was the fixed annual rent paid by the tenant on that leased land. It was not until the 16th century that the word “farm” referred to the land itself, and not the taxes paid upon it.

Cindy Murphy
9/24/2009 6:51:59 AM

Hello, Clive. So many times the facts that are the basis of legends get blurred over time. Thanks for taking the time to stop in and set me straight regarding the legend of St. Oswald and the Bardney Abbey.


Clive Daubney
9/24/2009 2:11:16 AM

You have certainly written a pretty good article but factually incorrect when itr comes to Tupholme Abbey. The Abbey was built at Tupholme, NOT Bardney. There was a separate Abbey at Bardney and a further Abbey at Kirkstead. All three Abbeys were destroyed during mthe reformation. Certain legends abound including the one that all three Abbeys were connected by tunnels. It is the Abbey at Bardney that is linked with the story of leaving the door open and is centered around King Oswald, later Saint Oswald.


Michelle House
2/27/2009 6:13:57 PM

Very nice, I like folklore as well. The pictures were beautiful as well. Iggy :)