Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Purple and Khaki, with a Surcee Discussion on the Side

Today's cards play up the purple and khaki color combo I used on this card. Basically, I experimented with different amounts of the colors. Perhaps you've heard of the gallon-pint-ounce proportional color scheme, where you have a lot of one color, some of another, and a hint of a third. Well, my versions are more gallon-cup-quarter-cup, but I like them anyway!

gallon river rock, cup white, quarter cup purple

gallon white, half-cup each of purple and river rock

Guess which is my favorite?

White really is my go-to gallon color, but I know a lot of you prefer kraft. Isn't it great we can all have what we want when it comes to color?

stamps: Hero Arts (sentiment), SU (border, Summer Silhouettes), PTI (leaves)
ink: VersaColor
paper: PTI white, SU river rock
accessories: label punch, oval punch, dimensionals, rhinestones, half pearls,

Surcee Discussion

Dixie and seralewis were the only readers who knew about surcees...or at least the only ones who commented about what they knew. Seralewis knew of a shop in North Carolina called Surcee that sells small gifts, and Dixie knew someone in North Carolina who referred to pet treats as surcees. I decided to google the term, and while google isn't yielding a peer-review etymological analysis of the word, I found lots of discussion of usage of the word in Charleston, South Carolina, and North Carolina as well. It's used consistently to refer to small gifts given for no particular reason. This explanation of its origins was perhaps the clearest:

"Surcee is a word, used in the South [United States], that is believed to have its origins in the Scotch and Irish who settled in the region. The Scottish word for "surprise" is pronounced much like 'surcee' and could be a phonetic form passed down from generation to generation. Another possible origin for the word is from the Irish term 'sussie' which means to care." Source

I checked my Oxford English Dictionary, and apparently the word hasn't appeared in print (at least before my edition was published). It also isn't in my giant Random House dictionary.

My mom's family settled in North Carolina several centuries ago (perhaps as early as the late 1600s), and they were, indeed, Scottish and Irish, as were many of the early settlers of the area. So instead of being a diminutive of "surprise," as many of us supposed, I think we can safely conclude (unless further evidence is brought before the Court of Language) that surcee is an oral remnant of the Scottish or Irish language influence, and my grandmother's use of the term arose from the rich tradition of generous and kind family and community.

As a language lover, I'm gratified with such an explanation. But even more so, I'm reminded of the importance of small things like surcees. Mother Teresa (neither Scot nor Irish) said, "We cannot all do great things, but we can all do small things with great love." My grandmother's family was not wealthy, but they did whatever small things they could with great love, and those small things were important enough that they preserved a word for them.

What a wonderful legacy!

[If you're curious about my grandmother, you can read the memorial I wrote for her that was read at her funeral. Perhaps she will inspire those of you drowning in the minutiae of motherhood to see things a bit differently. She did that for me.]


  1. Comet cleanser, indeed. ...and your cards are beautiful, by the way. :)

  2. Just popping in to say as an Ulsterwoman (Scot's Irish to you possibly) I've not heard of this word at all...makes me think it may have it's foundations in the Gaelic language...spoken in the West of Scotland and Ireland but not Northern Ireland.

  3. Both cards are just lovely - I think my favourite is the kraft - which surprised me!!

  4. Beautiful color combos - I especially love the kraft one. Thanks for teaching me a new word!

  5. Hi, Susan! Loved your discussion of surcee. In New Orleans (and across the Gulf Coast South) there's a similar term (slightly different meaning but thought you'd be interested.
    -- A lagniappe (LAN-yap) is a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase (such as a 13th doughnut when buying a dozen), or more broadly, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure.

  6. Wonderful memorial to your G'mother Ann. I was blessed with two amazing grandmothers. TFS the info you discovered about surcees. Very interesting. Nice cards. One of my fav color combos is purple/green on white or a/white on black (not a OLC unless I mask instead of layer.) Enjoy your day! :D

  7. Sorry I'm late to the party, but a friend and I tried to find this word in the dictionary some time ago. Being from SC we had used the term all of our lives, but had no idea of how it was spelled. The only reference I was able to find to the word was in a "slang" dictionary, and it was spelled "sursy." I think you can spell it however you want, though. What's important is that you make it a practice to GIVE them, right? :)

  8. I'm late to the discussion, too, but came across "surcee" in a college literature class many years . I love to find words I've never seen nor heard before, so I made note of it. I even used it a couple of times, but got funny looks, so just kept it as a private thought and word I thought might come up in a trivia game sometime. I'm glad you've resurrected it. I like the meaning of the word and the smooth way it rolls out of my mouth -- kind of like a gift of chocolate!


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