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water-horse n OED ~ 3 (Nfld: 1792); DC n 1, 2 Nfld (1777-; 1818-); Fisheries of U S 132. For derivation, see HORSE n 1, and OED horse 7 'frame or structure on which something is supported'; or possibly, from its shape, OED sea-horse 4 'hippopotamus' obs (1600-1759), water-horse 1 obs (1398-1642). A bulky oblong stack of split and salted cod-fish piled in layers to drain after immersion in brine; cp BULK n, PILE n; occas the 'washing vat' itself or RAM'S HORN; the fish so washed as they are placed on the drying 'flake.' Also attrib.
   [(1663) 1963 YONGE 57 The fish being salted, lies 3 or 4 days, sometimes (if bad weather) 8 or 10 days, and is then washed by the boys in salt or fresh water and laid in a pile skin upward on a platt of beach stones, which they call a horse.] [1777] 1792 CARTWRIGHT ii, 242 Fourteen quintals of fish were washed, the waterhorse was carried out, and the green fish were spread. 1792 ibid Gloss i, xvi ~ Newly washed codfish, which are laid upon each other to drain before they are spread to dry. [1810] 1971 ANSPACH 23 When green fish is put to dry on a beach, great care is requisite that the water horse (a singular name for the bulk of fish after washing) be spread before the sun has heated the stones. 1819 ANSPACH 446 The bulk of fish left to drain after being washed and previous to its being spread for drying, is called the water-horse, a name which sets at defiance all the penetration and learning of the deepest etymologist. [1856] 1975 WHITELEY 121 Fine day—carried out first waterhorse of fifty quintals of fish. 1866 WILSON 211 Waterhorse. The quantity of fish in the waterhorse is indefinite; it simply means one put or trip of fish, that had been washed from the salt the day before, and left to drain; sometimes it is not more than two or three quintals, sometimes it is ten or twelve. 1882 TALBOT 23 Here the fish is spread out to dry, after having been taken from the stage and washed in a large square wooden vessel or tub called the waterhorse. 1895 J A Folklore viii, 39 Waterhorse: a pile of fish after being washed, usually three or four feet wide, about the same height, and as long as may be. 1895 PROWSE 21 The splitting table, the trough, known as the water horse (for washing out the fish after salting), the flakes (stages raised on piles and covered with boughs), were all in general use from the very commencement of this great industry. [c1900] 1968 RLS 8, p. 24 ~ Fish washed out of the salt & ready to go on the flake to dry. 1924 ENGLAND 255 [proverb] The planter's eye spreads the water horse. (The boss of a fish room gets the fish quickly spread.) 1935 KEAN 100 In my early days I was never taught to spread waterhorse fish on lungers or rocks until it had first been spread on flakes for two or three days. 1936 SMITH 17 In horsing the fish up, any fish not perfectly clean would be washed over again, then put in the waterhorse, back-up, with a slight sprinkling of salt; it would then lie in the waterhorse for twenty-four hours. 1954 INNIS 426 After catching, splitting, and washing, the fish were put into three-quintal tubs along with two gallons of salt per draft. (A 'draft' and a half of fresh fish, or 238 pounds, made about one quintal of fish, or 108 pounds of dried.) On the first day fish were added to the pickle formed by the salt. After four or five days they were washed in the pickle, put into the 'water horse,' allowed to drain, were spread on the floor for six hours, and then put on the flakes or drying racks, with the flesh side up. T 36/8-64 Wash [the fish], throw it in another tub and wash the dirty water off it again, an' then they would put it in waterhorse—put it in the big bulk in the stage. T 43-64 You'd often hear a feller say, 'I got a big water horse to put out tomorrow!' That would be probably up to forty quintals o' fish that he'd have to spell out on the flake. 1973 BARBOUR 68 The fish lay in bulk for a few days, then were taken out, thoroughly washed, and were placed in what was called 'water hoss' which means laid face down on the floor of a store built over the salt water. The floor had space between lungers so that the pickle left in the fish could drain away. 1977 BURSEY 125 He had the reputation of making the best fish that was cured in St John's. Perhaps the credit for this should be given to his wife ... who kept an open eye on the fish from waterhorse to shipping.

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