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  • Paul Anthony Jones

Grandam gold

(n.) hoarded wealth

Quite a few bizarre and unexpected opportunities have come our way here at HHHQ over the years, ever since Haggard Hawks tweeted its first tweet back in 2013. But perhaps most unexpected of all was a message that arrived in February 2019 from the singer-songwriter Thea Gilmore.

Thea has been following HH on Twitter for several years now, and back in 2017 happened to catch a fairly unassuming tweet scroll past about a word from the seventeenth century—grandam gold.

Grandam gold, or grannum gold as it’s also known, is hoarded wealth. To Thea, this was a word “pretty resonant in the age of the 1%”—and from those humble beginnings on Twitter, it became the title of a song on her hugely acclaimed new album Small World Turning. (Out now in all those places you can buy music these days—but if you get a physical copy, you’ll see a lovely credit to Haggard Hawks in the liner notes.)

So where does the word grandam gold come from? It’s a fairly straightforward tale. A grandam is simply a “grand-dame”—or in other words, a grandmother. Grandam gold, ultimately, is inherited wealth, “supposed to have been inherited from the grandmaternal hoard”, as the Routledge Dictionary of Historical Slang puts it.

It’s a word that was memorably used by the poet John Dryden, and indeed the Oxford English Dictionary’s two records of this expression come from two of Dryden’s works (the earliest dating from 1669). It was likely in much wider use than that dearth of evidence might suggest, however, as Routledge points out the term remained current long into the eighteenth century before presumably falling out of use in the Victorian era.

And now, in the most unexpected way imaginable, it’s been hauled out of obscurity and into the twenty-first century—firstly onto Twitter, and then onto iTunes and Spotify. (Where you really should track down Thea’s album, it’s ridiculously good...)

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