As a young child, growing up in Bay St. George on the west coast of Newfoundland, I quickly realized that somehow my family was associated with a word that did not seem very complimentary at the time. I recall that, upon meeting people, there was a need to identify my family. Once my linage was established, people would say, “Oh…..that’s a Picasse”. As I remember, most families, despite their ancestral and given names, carried an additional “nickname” . In most cases, the requirement for this “nickname” came as a result of the number of individuals in the community with the same name, e.g. six William Youngs.
My great-grandfather was William Young. He lived in the community of Bank Head on the south side of Bay St. George. At one time, there were as many as six William Youngs living in the bay. Consequently, a means to further identify each was needed. Attached to each William Young was a “nickname”. My great-grandfather was referred to as William “Picasse” or William “Picasse” Young.
Based on oral tradition, it would appear that my great-grandfather was known for his ability to fabricate anchors using readily available wood and stone. An appropriate sized and shaped stone would be encased in wood (likely spruce). The spruce would then be lashed together to securely contain the stone. These anchors were used mostly to anchor fishing nets but could also be used to anchor boats. William “Picasse” was easily identified as the William Young who made the picasse.
According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, a killick is “an anchor made up of an elongated stone encased in pliable sticks bound at the top and fixed in two curved cross-pieces, used in mooring nets and small boats.” In other words, it’s a homemade anchor.
Picasse: an anchor made of a stone enclosed in a wood framework, normally used to anchor fishing nets.
Source of photo: http://www.lapicasse.ca/la_picasse/index.cfm
In Acadian communities the word picasse (anchor) is not only a device to prevent a boat from drifting, it also means stability and protection.