By Gene Kira, April 26, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:
After years of cautious circumlocution in writing about Mexico fishing in the pages of Western Outdoor News, in last week’s column I risked using--for the very first time--the little five-letter word “ganion.”
And sure enough, several alert readers (thanks, Dave Barry, for that marvelously reverberant phrase) wrote in to complain about my lousy spelling.
As some pointed out, the proper spelling of this fishing word, used to describe any vertical Lucky Joe-type rig or rockcod rig with multiple hooks on it, is “ganglion.”
The trouble was that someone else said “gangion” is correct, and another vote even came in for “gangnion.”
Apparently, everybody who fishes in Mexico knows what this word means, but nobody knows how to spell it, except me, of course.
In truth, I did not just type the word “ganion” flippantly. I really did spend almost half an afternoon researching the subject and mulling over the consequences of the many spellings you see bandied about. (One might conclude from this that Mexico fishing columnists have no life. That is far, far from the truth.)
Anyway, after the careful consultation of a couple of dozen dictionaries, glossaries, books, and of course, Google, it became arguable that “ganion” is the probably best spelling for this word, through the following deductive process:
1. Several references, and no less an authority than the U.S. federal code, reserve the word “gangion” to mean the short leader that connects a fishhook to a commercial longline. (Horrors!)
There seems to be no etymological basis for this usage, except for the possible connection to “gang hooks,” or a possible connection to the obscure usage of the word “gange” to mean either snelling a hook or protecting a hook or leader by wrapping it with wire. In any case, except for the U.S. federal code, the word “gangion” is not found in any of the standard dictionaries that I consulted, including my 4,116-page edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language (OED), and its many citations for this family of words, going back to about 1856.
2. Although the spelling “ganglion” is widely used in fishing articles and even some glossaries, there doesn’t seem to be any etymological justification for it either. Moreover, all the various standard dictionaries I consulted define “ganglion” to mean a tumor, lymphatic gland, or perhaps a bit more closely, a “knot” on a nerve, or a junction where several things come together at a single point. But, no mention of anything resembling a Lucky Joe rig.
3. “Gangnion” seems to be a plain old misspelling of something else.
4. “Ganion,” the spelling used in last week’s column, is also quite widely found in fishing “literature,” although it doesn’t have any discernible etymological basis either, and neither is it found in any dictionary that I know of. Nevertheless, I went with it because it is the only commonly-used variant that clearly doesn’t mean anything else.
That is, “ganglion” can mean a tumor or nerve, and “gangion” legally means a short hook attachment on a commercial longline.
Disregarding the spurious “gangnion,” that leaves only “ganion” as a unique, commonly-used word, probably made up by us Mexico anglers, to mean a multiple-hook, Lucky Joe-type rig that is fished vertically in the water--and nothing else.
So “ganion” it is! Dictionaries be damned!
Although, as Mark Twain so wisely said, “I never trust a man who thinks there’s only one way to spell a word.”
(Related Mexico articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Mexico information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Mexico area in "Mexico Fishing News.")