10.1 C
Saturday, June 15, 2024
History & CommunityMind your language

Mind your language

I had thought that the local dialect (or as some used to say “lingo”) had disappeared until one day we were lunching in a local hostelry and a young lad, of about 8 or 9 years, entered looked around and said “Wheres our table to?” This is certainly not “East Enders” language learnt from the TV. Since then my ear must have become attuned for it, as I have frequently heard “Wheres it to?” since. If “gone” is inserted before “to” the phrase is perhaps improved?

Years ago I remember a song performed on the radio which from memory went “Wur be thick blackbird to? Fur I be atter ‘e”. This is all I can remember, except a suggestion that it was from Hampshire, but it could as easily have originated anywhere in the West Country. When we were in Sussex we had a regular caller, a poultry farmer who sold us eggs and his local speech could easily have passed for West Country.

John le Carre (David Cornwall) in his book The Pigeon Tunnel refers to his father Ronnie’s voice “when I was young it was still Dorset, with his “r’s” and long “a’s”. By the time I was an adolescent he was almost—but never quite—well spoken”. My son often asks me “how many “rr’s” did you say then?”, when he catches me in an unguarded moment. Even our top people have these, for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once reverted to what I assume was her native tongue when she rebuked an opponent as being “frightened” and then said “frit”. An elderly Yorkshireman once told me about people being badly “treated” as “tret”, which I assume is a similar part of speech.

In recent years we have had three west country musical groups. Acker Bilk MBE, came from Pensford, North Somerset and became nationally known with his Paramount Jazz Band and his own clarinet. You may remember his goatee beard, bowler hat and striped waistcoat, singing with a west country “burr”. He died in 2014. One of his tunes was That’s My Home which I find emotional, and his hit Stranger On The Shore which he called “strangler”. His nickname “Acker” is sometimes used in the west country for “mate” or “friend”.

Another Somerset group “The Wurzels”, was originated by Adge Cutler, who unfortunately died in a road accident. The group was reformed and has produced Drink Up Thy Zider and the Combine Harvester song. They also revived “Wur be thick blackbird to?” in 1976.

Our own Dorset group, “The Yetties” from Yetminster have recently retired, but Bonny Sartin, the lead singer has given solo performances locally, combining history and song. Their repertoire included Dorset Is Beautiful, “Buttercup Joe and the music of Thomas Hardy.

Over the border the Wiltshire Regiment marching song is The Vly Be On The Turmot (the fly is on the turnip).

Our two local writers, Thomas Hardy and William Barnes were familiar with much of our local dialect and used it particularly in their poetry. William Barnes’ Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect written in 1879 includes A List of Some Dorset Words, from which I have selected a few, as follows: Axan = ashes of a fire. Backbran’ = block of wood at the back of a fire.

Barton = stack or cow yard, probably familiar to most of us still.

Beae’nhan’ = maintain, e.g. an opinion—this recalls a friend of my father who occasionally visited to discuss a Parish Meeting he had attended and said once “them as don’t come to the Meeting should’nt criti-kise”, regularly emphasised by tapping his walking stick on the floor.

Bissen = thou bist not. I have often wondered if this is the same word as the German, in “Du bist”.

Bluevinny = blue mouldy, which we all recognise as the local cheese.

Caddle = a muddle, when one knows not what to do first.

Cassen = canst not. Charm = a noise of many voices.

Coossen = couldest not. Didden = did not.

Drong = narrow way. Duck, or Didden = dusk.

Dunch = dead nettle. Eltroot = cowparsley. Emmet  = ant.

Evet, or Eft = newt. Flag = water plant. Giddy Gander = meadow orchid.

Girt = great. Goodnow = good neighbour.

More for another time!

Bridport History Society meets on Tuesday April 11th at 2.30 pm in the Main Hall, The United Church, East Street to learn about “The Dorsets in 1917” from Chris Copson. All welcome, visitors fee £2-50.

Cecil Amor,  Hon. President Bridport History Society.


Previous article
Next article

Exclusive content

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article

More article

- Advertisement -spot_img