Perhaps I should not have included ‘Lingo’ in the title as I have since seen a repeat of Dad’s Army in which Captain Mannering rebuked one of his subordinates for using it. I think he thought it to be un-English.
Some years ago, when my wife and I listened frequently to the radio, one of our favourite programmes was presented by Hubert Gregg, previously an actor I believe. When he signed off he usually said ‘We will be together again in a Sennight’, that is in seven nights or a week. William Barnes wrote it as ‘Zennit’. Susie Dent writing in the Radio Times a few weeks ago said that around the 14th century ‘fourteen nights’ was shortened to a ‘Fortnight’. Also ‘Yestreen’ and ‘Yestermorn’ for yesterday evening and morning respectively and ‘Overmorrow’ meaning the day after tomorrow.
Time Team on TV once held a representation of an Anglo Saxon cremation with a eulogy read by archeologist Phil Harding, as his Wiltshire/Wessex accent was considered to be the nearest to the Anglo Saxon language. Time Team programmes are repeated on ‘Yesterday’ channel 19 around midday. Phil takes me back to my childhood with his ‘Ah’ or Aah’ and ‘Oh Ah’, the meaning changing with emphasis and number of ‘a’s’. Then there is ‘Ennit’ for ‘Is it not’ and the common ‘Yer’ for ‘Hear’. This is just what our local poet, teacher and minister William Barnes taught around a century ago. Listening carefully to Phil you can detect the words he has encountered more recently which are pronounced like ‘Oxford English’ among those of his childhood which are ‘Old English’. Some years ago I listened to Sir Bernard Lovell of Jodrell Bank fame on the radio and detected something similar between his technical words and his ordinary speech, which had a slight rural burr. He was born in Gloucestershire. This in no way detracts from their fame and achievements.
Back to my childhood I recall walking along the village street and encountering ‘Auntie’ Burh, who stopped us so that she could scrutinise my face and exclaim ‘Be y’en e a Amerr’ which being interpreted becomes ‘Isn’t he an Amor’, for our family likeness. ‘Amer’ being a common Wiltshire pronunciation of ‘Amor’. An American family historian told me of two Amor males who migrated to the USA, one was registered as ‘Amer’, the other correctly as ‘Amor’ and their lines have continued with the two separate names. ‘Auntie’ I may have mentioned previously as walking up and down the street saying ‘Anybuddyseed arr Annie annyof ee?’ as she had lost her wayward niece. ‘Auntie’ would also stop us in the street, saying ‘Don’ er Graaw’, that is ‘Doesn’t he grow’.
I recall when I was about five years old that my paternal Grandmother and associates would sometimes say ‘tis behopes’ it will not rain on washing day. I also remember ‘shrieved’ meaning shivering from the cold, when wet and not dried and ‘Shrammed’ meaning cold. This latter may be found in one of Thomas Hardy’s poems. Grandmother would also say ‘Lets have a Deck’ if she wanted a closer look at an object, or sometimes ‘Have a Deckoe’. My maternal Grandfather, a Dorset born gardener, would ask ‘Do you want a Hankercher?’ and showing plants would say ‘These’um’, but he would also say to his wife ‘Yes’um’! Flowers or nosegays were often ‘Tutties’.
Much of dialect is just abbreviation as ‘et’ in ‘I et it all up’ that is have eaten it all. Then ‘us’ instead of ‘or’, possibly a corruption of ‘else’ , e.g. ‘us it will die’. Other early interpolations came into the language, corrupted, from the army in India as in ‘Char’ for ‘tea’ and ‘charping’ for ‘sleeping’, from the Hindustani for bed.
Reverting certainly to earlier days people would say ‘Wur be gwain ?’, or ‘Wurst ‘gwain’ or even ‘Wurst be thee gwain’ meaning ‘Where are you going’. Also ‘N’arn o’ ye’ for ‘Not one of you’. ‘Ee’ can also be substituted for ‘Ye’. Occasionally I have heard ‘ook-um’ for job, or place as in ‘I don’t like this ook-um’. Also ‘caddle’ as in ‘I am in a bit of a caddle’ which William Barnes translated as ‘muddle’ but I wonder if it is a corruption of the phrase ‘A fine kettle of fish’ (kettle = caddle). The Wiltshire Regiment, now joined with another, previously had as its marching song ‘The vly be on the turmit’ that is ‘The fly is on the turnip’ which of course led to ‘Turmit o’in’ (hoeing).
As boys, if something was not working they would say ‘It won’t Ackle’ and my Mother would refer to a young girl as ‘laughing and Whickering’, a ‘Whicker’ being loud laughter, neighing. Ants were called ‘Emmits’ which is also William Barnes word for them.
Our local author, Sylvia Creed, in her book Dorset’s Western Vale also provides an extensive list of local words and phrases, some of which brought back memories, for example ‘Backalong’ for a while ago, ‘Bide quiet’ or ‘Bide quielt’ for be quiet, ‘Bide still’ for be still, ‘Bide yer’ for stay here. Also ‘Can’t be doin wie that’ for I can’t be bothered with that and ‘Crooped down’ or ‘Coopy down’ for crouched down. ‘Cuh’ for fancy that! Then, ‘Done up’ for ill, overtired and also ‘Don’t feel too special’ for I don’t feel well. ‘Well I’m blowed’ for well fancy that and ‘You’d better look sharp’ for hurry up. ‘Hapse up the gate or door’ for close or fasten. ‘Hummed and hawed’ for he couldn’t make up his mind. ‘Plimmed up’ when wood is swollen by water. ‘Skew whiff’ crooked or out of line. ‘Trig it up’ for prop up, e.g. a gate or door. ‘A month of Sundays’, meaning a long time. ‘A young heller’ for a mischevious child and ‘Weskit’ for waistcoat.
Under ‘Farming words and dialects’ Sylvia also reminded me of ‘Clinting’ for hammering over a long nail and ‘Faggot’ for a bundle of sticks for firewood. Also ‘Plush a hedge’ (or plesh) for cutting a hedge growth half way through, then laying the top growth lengthways parallel to the hedgerow. ‘Shooting’ for guttering on a building and ‘Trow’ for an animal feeding trough.
Also familiar were some ‘Weather Sayings’, such as ‘Mackerel sky—never long wet, never long dry’ as a white streaked sky with clouds means very changeable weather. Another saying may be useful ‘If it is fine on 21 June it will be set fair until 21 September’ and of course ‘When cows lie down it will rain’.
I recall from my early days reference to someone being ‘Sawney’ meaning having slow, drawling speech and possibly slow of thought. Also ‘Leery’ as being hungry, empty and ‘Na’r a’ for never a. Then ‘Sprack’ or ‘Spreck’ for well, active and ‘Withwind’ for bindweed, also ‘Stout’ or ‘Stoat’ for a cowfly. These last five are recorded by William Barnes, too. He has also recorded ‘Hangen’ for sloping ground, ‘Hazzle’ for hazel, ‘Heal’ for hide or cover, ‘Het’ for heat or hit, ‘Kecks’ for cowparsley stem, ‘Knap’ for hillock or knob, ‘Leaene’ for lane, ‘Mammet’ for scarecrow, ‘Nesh’ for soft, ‘Nitch’ for large faggot of wood, ‘Par’ for shut up or close, ‘Ratch’ for stretch, ‘Scram’ for distorted, ‘Send’ for shower, ‘Wont’ is a mole, and ‘Wops’ for wasp.
Sylvia Creed also quoted from a charter granted to Whitchurch in 1240 which includes an early name for Marshwood as ‘Capella de Mersewode’.
Bridport History Society does not meet in July and August, but we hope to see you all in September.
Cecil Amor, Hon President, Bridport History Society.