Sunday, June 22, 2008


I was looking for a book in my library today and stumbled upon a volume of poetry I don't believe I'd ever looked through. Not sure when or why I even bought it, but something about it must have appealed to me (aside from sharing a surname with the author and the possibility of being related).

The book is simply titled Poems, by Emma Mayhew Whiting, privately printed at San Francisco in 1948.

I thumbed through the pages and landed on a poem titled Pinkletinks. What the heck is a pinkletink? Too interesting a word to put the book back on the shelf. I had to go pinkletink googling.

From the Dictionary of American Regional English, edited by Joan Houston Hall, a pinkletink is defined as a small tree frog found on Martha's Vineyard. Also called a spring-peeper, it makes a sound that inspired the moniker pinkletink. I have found other theories that challenge that etymology. Maybe nobody knows for sure how such a strange name evolved, but it did.

Scouring the Internet, I think I found a photo of a pinkletink:

Interesting onomatopoeia (or not) aside, what was it about a pinkletink that would inspire a poem by Ms. Whiting? Well, the word pinkletink is only used on Martha's Vineyard. Ms. Whiting was from Martha's Vineyard and there seems to be quite a tradition through the generations on that island of listening each spring for the pinkletink chorus. These sounds signal an end to winter and the beginnings of spring. After a long winter, I guess it doesn't take much to get excited. Tickled pink for pinkletinks they are. And if I had a nickel for everytime pinkletink got transposed into tickled pink for a cheap laugh...

The pinkletink makes another appearance in Whiting's book--a poem titled Granny's, which is about the authors memories of visiting her grandmother's house "near a pond where pinkletinks trill."

But here's the one that bears the title that caught my eye:

Click on the image to enlarge it


  1. The word pinkletink also appears in Michael Palmer's poem "I Do Not." Though I have to say, I've never heard of it until today when I read the poem by palmer. What an unusual word/name for an animal.

  2. A quick, but not complete, Internet search just now yielded just one more poem with pinkletink(s) in it--Eben Wood, 1960 (title not given). Along with the two we discovered, that may very well exhuast the bibliography of poems referencing pinkletinks.

  3. This is interesting...I just spoke to Emma's neices' husband to ask him about this book. He said the book was published by someone in the Newhall (sp?) family for Emma. She was the aunt of Polly Mayhew Meinelt who unfortunately passed away a year ago. She and her husband Ted are dear friends of ours on Martha's Vineyard. Are you related
    I made my way to your site after searching for Pinkletink info. I'm an artist who shows on the island and have just finished a painting of a pinkletink for a show there this summer. Know their tiny spring peeps very well.
    I'm headed up there in a few weeks and Ted says he has a copy of that book as well. Will be interested to read her poems.
    Thanks for posting. You can check out the painting at

  4. Thanks Heather for visiting and your interesting comment. I feel a wordy reply coming on after having visited your sites, so will reply directly to you, but wanted to acknowledge your comment in case you check back here. -Chuck