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Norfolk Talk

Chapter C : Softly, softly

  (Paras. 1 to 12)

2. Oh Gard! :  3. Hard Gorn :  4. Oh, Really?
5. The Soft A :  6. Parthways
  8. Well, Well :  9. Keep You a-Troshin
10. A Burning Issue :  11. Throwaway Lines
12. Punch Lines

1 : Alive, Alive-O

The soft one, that is . . .
Usually it is at least doubled -
I prefer to say tripled (trebled?)
BUT (as per the so-called  drant ) only
in length :  Oi'm a-gorn' sho-o-opin'

Good examples occur in the  discussion  (D.4)
of (double) negatives:-
Nothing  has a (very long) soft-o sound in the
rural areas; where  none  is pronounced (per rule)
like  bone  i.e. with the  "mid-u"  sound.

The former can be written as  no-o-othin;
more conveniently (but less accurately) as  naarthin.

As is so depressingly often the case, Norwich
pronunciation has very nearly standardised on
a soft-u (in both words).

We may note that, in Norfolk, the nursery rhyme
re Old Mother Hubbard actually  does  rhyme.

A difficulty for mono-syllabic words (e.g.  shop),
is where the lengthening of sound is inhibited;
particularly so with the truncated words
spo(t), co(t)   etc.; which end-up sounding rather
like  spar / car.  (Also see  what  in 5. below).

A 3-syllable word, shortened in the dialect -
as so many are - to two, is  holiday.
Oi'm a-gorn on moi (h)o-o-oldies.
As the 'oldies' portion suggests entirely the
wrong sound, we are "forced" to write it as
(h)aarldies  (sing.  aarldy).

Either way, the point is that the first vowel
-sound takes up 75% of the word-length!.

2 : Oh Gard!

Again the parallel with the  USA  is very striking.
In that country the deity becomes  Gard;  with
lengthening and some modification of the
standard English sound.

Americans would also be happy with the
Norfolk dog =  dorg  (or dawg, but NOT darg);
although this seems another "one-off" case,
at variance with  fog, nog  etc. - but probably
repeated for  frog  - IF  that word  is ever used . . .

"One-off" should not be taken literally : different
spelling  patterns  have their own exception(s).
We have already seen the Royal treatment
given to  often  and  off  (which extends to  scoff).

Other words with a hardened soft-o include :
morth   (small butterfly),  frorst, sorft, corffee.
A similar thing sometimes happens to the soft-a,
where the standard  pronunciation  uses a soft-o;
a case in point being  warspe   rather than wasp.
All these vowel-hardenings save time and effort
i.e. by no lengthening of the sound.

3 : Hard Gorn

The coffee example just mentioned is a clear
case of "working backwards" : coffee being
(comparatively) new in this County & country.
It is taken from  cough  (coff); which is  corf
in Norfolk. Likewise  corffin,  for the action
OR the container.

"Foreigners" studying Norfolk speech cannot
meet higher hurdles than those confronting
actual foreigners (non-English speaking) who
feel compelled to join the English/USA gang.
I allude, of course, to words such as :
cough, tough, though, bough etc.

It may be silly, but it isn't crazy, to follow the
"tough" line where  toffee  is concerned (=  tuffy);
albeit that it is almost the same word as  corfy!.
Naturally,  toffs  are different (if we meet any)
Norfolk follows the  "though"  line for such words
as  enough  (enow - but not as in  now).

Few words  beginning  with the soft-o survive
unscathed by the Norfolk tongue  (odd  and  on
manage to escape).

    [What] are you a-durn on?
    Reply : Oi'm a-gorn-a the Poost Orffus.
N.B. Use a "mid-u" for  Postnot  as in  roost.
First we have a magnificent example of a
Norfolk dis-conjunction : where  on  replaces  of.

4 : Oh, Really?

We just noted that  doing  is not pronounced
like  going,  even in Norfolk.
So, how do we relate the local dialect
to standard English in these matters?.

If we are all supposed to say  nun  for  none,
why shouldn't Norfolk opt to line-up with the
foreigners (e.g. in Yorkshire) : in putting [1] the
letter  u  into the next category of hardness?.

Given that, why not -  boon   for  bone;
spook  for  spokealoon  for  alone etc. ?

Of course, the usual inconsistencies undermine
the argument :  some  and  done  are inviolate,
with no concession made to "Northern" speech;
gone  is  gon  is  gone. . . albeit drawn-out.

    Hev he jist go-o-on?
    (I slipped a modified soft-a AND soft-u
    in there, didn't I ?!).
But, then, who was ever daft enough to insist
that  bone, done and gone  are all pronounced
differently?

A few words which already have a double-o,
e.g.  spoon; roof - along with the ones listed
in red above - do, of course, use the
"mid-u"  sound.

[1] yes, putting . . . not a putting-green !

5 : The Soft "A"

Given the  standard  conversion of many a
soft-a to a soft-o, the same end-result can be
expected and usually found.
The vital word  what,  used as an expletive, OR
at the end of a phrase = war (but rhymes with
tar) - so be sure to give it the full triple length !.
But  see below*  (Wo-o-o??)

Intriguingly, but mainly in rural areas,
have  is pronounced  hev;
have not  becoming  hen(t).
It seems a rare departure; with  bad, glad  etc.
unaffected; and still sounding a little like sheep.

Also see Chapter E,  paras. 7 & 8
regarding  have  and the past tense.

Another rarity - not in usage terms - is the word
was.  This is pronounced with the  "mid-u"  and
so becomes  wooz,  as in  wood.
So, therefore,  woon'(t)  for  wasn't.

Blarst, E say, tha(t) woon(t) arf a
sharp frorst lars(t) noigh(t)!

Note the retention of the  t  in  frost;
and the dire similarity with  won't.

    E woon(t) there, bu(t) E 'oon(t) say whoi.
  • Won't  is dealt with in Chapter G,  : 6 & 7
  • The whole muddle is (attempted to be)
    sorted out in the  final Chapter
Can  has a surprising vowel-change (almost
an abbreviation; with an alternative available !) :-
    Woo(t) * kin [ken] yow mairk-a tha(t)?!.
    More rurally : mairk-a the(t) [as in hev].

* N.B. When not accented,  what  follows the
        sound of  was  (fair enough?) i.e.  woo(t).

6 : Parthways

English recognises varieties of vowel-sounds
more complex than simply "hard" and "soft".
[We have made much of the Northern
"mid-u" sound, for one.]

Where standard English does  not  convert the
soft-a to an  o,  the Norfolk  drant  can come
into play once more:-

    Our go(tt)a gi(t) some new
    ba-a-a(tt)eries fer moi lamp
N.B. the sound remains soft : hence is impossible
to lengthen, properly, in print; the long sound
(count 3) precisely parallels that in :
nothin(g), bo(tt)le   etc.

Also for the first alphabetical letter, we have said
that many words (e.g.  plate  ) do not have the
same  (see B.5)  hard sound as in Standard speech.
There are, of course, large-scale exceptions!.

Aside from the sound-length (greater again),
words like  play, say, way  do not change;
and retain the genuine hard-a sound.

Words like  last, past, path  also retain the harder
sound of Southern England. This latter sound is,
again, reinforced by lengthening; so is even
less like Northern speech:

    Blarrst, he say! - gi(t) orff tha(t) parrth!.

    ^Top^

 

7 : The Soft "E"

We have already noted  in A.7  that
get  becomes  gi(t),  similarly for  yet.

The  e  (now i ) effectively ends the word,
so it is tempting to think that is the reason.
But . . . nothing vowel-wise happens to  bet
(or  let, met, net  etc.) or to  mess, dress
(not so sure there. Ah, well . . . .)

To compensate(?), and  underlining  the use of
yis  and  noo,  the word  yesterday  becomes
yisty. Oo yis tha' do.
We will meet tomorrow later (as we always do)
- in Section  E.5  for the impatient . . .

Meadow  becomes  midder,  and the notable
word  head  conforms with the shift, as in the
customary warning : Moind yer hid, bor!.
The  h  is voiced, (except perhaps in Norwich,
thus - Mummy, E 'it me on the 'id!!)

An oddity beloved of gardeners is  shud,
for  shed  (but not for  bed, red, dead etc.).
Likewise a  shelf  becomes a   shulf.

Ready  and  already,  however, become
riddy  and  a'riddy;  and  instead  is  instid.

8 : Well, Well . . .

More pervasive is the  e-to-a  shift, notably in
words ending in  -ell. Of which, of course,
there are plenty.

Even that modern phenomenon of TV conforms,
as we watch the  tally.

Bells are less common than they were
(even in  phuns ),  whilst  dell  and  gell
are probably unknown in these parts.

On the other hand;  fell, Hell, sell, tell, well, yell
are all extremely common words.
They are all pronounced with a soft-a.

An easy  rule  at last? . . . wall, wall !
As ever, there is a horrible snag;
and there you had it : the conflict
with the "standard" rule (wall = "worl" ).
The best we can do to overcome same is
to use  fal, bal, sal etc.

    Mum, Oi fal oover!.
    Wal Oi navver! - now gi(t) you tha(t) there
    knee wo-o-oshed, do tha(t)ll tan narsty.
Words like  never, whether, weather, tether,
else, elbow
  all follow suit.
    Gi(v) you tha(t) [object to be scrubbed]
    some alba-grease . . .
"Well I never"  is a very popular expression of
alarm or amazement; being an abbreviation of
"Well, I never did, in all my born days"
- itself an incomplete statement!

9 : Keep You A-Troshin'

This is the reverse of  get = gi(t);  where
the soft-e is definitely upgraded instead.

The original (agricultural) word is  threshing.
This (apparently "one-off") example is of interest
(as well as fame), in respect of the Irish-style
unwillingness to handle the  th-combination.

I have also heard the word  adjricultural
(soft-g), but am not sure of its scale of adoption.

Admirably consistent, the Norfolk  threshold
becomes  troshel,  although a threshold has
another optional name : span(t)ry.

Norfolk accepts that the outside world
(i.e. London) can't pronounce the words
again  and  against  proper.
The dialect, having adopted  their  soft-e sound,
naturally feels free to impose its own "slant"
- hence  agin.

Aginst,  however, will only occur (if at all)
at the end of a sentence. Compare -

    Oi len(t) moi boik agin the wall.  [leaned]
When a Norfolk person is against a proposition
they - dorn(t) owld  [hold]  with-a.

10 : A Burning Issue

In the example in 8. above,  tan  does duty for
turn.  This is not nearly good enough;
maybe we could try  taan?

The sound is, once more, Scottish in origin.
Imagine a Scot speaking of his favourite stream
(or poet)  without  perceptibly "rolling" the  r,
but rejecting the alternative of  bern.

As for other examples,  yearn  probably
conforms, instead of becoming  yarn
(compare  learn  in  D.3 ).

This may be an important example, resulting
from a kind of intuitive or automatic avoidance-
strategy; because  yarn  is such a popular
Norfolk word. (We don't have stories).

By far the most important case, after  turn,
is  heard = haad,  NOT 'had' or 'hard'.

Standard English has obliterated the e-sound
in most  -ur-, -ir-  and even  -or-  portions of
words ("werds").  Soo (h)alp us!.
This means that the harder "Scottish A"
- which we seem to have stumbled across -
affects very many words e.g. :  burn, bird,
birth, girth, thirteen, word
  (the word) etc. etc.

    Bin-a the chaach sarvice, bor?
    Yis, Sar, moi waad the(t) Oi hev!

    ^Top^

11 : Throwaway Lines

The (usually) fairly neglected word  hurl
follows suit and becomes  haal  or
[as near as dammit]  hull.
This is important because, in Norfolk, it
completely replaces  throw  (as you might
expect, threshing-wise).

Completely, that is, apart from Norwich slang
chuck  and the Norfolk alternatives : cail
- a poor throw, wide of the mark;
and  doss  (toss,  via the d-to-t shift).

Mardle  recalls a  blook  telling the Chemist :
Oi waan(t) some pills woo(t)'ll hull
moi missus in(t)er a swea(t)!.

The same word suffixed by  -up  is a
coarse alternative to  vomit.

Another soft-a conversion appears in  can,
the result depending a bit on emphasis:-

    Cin you git-a? : Yis, Oi cen.
The latter shift goes for  catch;  but is not likely
to matter to the person on the receiving-end,
as he (hopefully)  cops (h)owld   of the missile -
and only has a  cetch   on his cupboard door.

Mardle says that  cop  also is a gentle throw :
transitive and intransitive usage, so to speak!.
To  fang-howld  of something is to grab
or seize it (as a wolf?).

The errant schoolboy (already implicated) may
cop  merely angry words; but (where corporal
punishment persists) he may get a
clip  or  ding   i.e. have his ears "boxed".

The only ears he would know about are found
on corn, as his own are invariably  lugs.

    Come you (h)air, do you'll gi(t)
    a clip-a the lug!

    [clip of : ONE lug]
    ^Top^

12 : Punch Lines

More serious fisticuffs might include a  custard,
a "sidewinder" (punch to the temple?), or a
resulting black-eye : a  Swarston Winder.

Although  winder  is pronounced
(in both cases) with a hard-i, the latter
is most probably a different type of winder
(in fact a  window ).

I concur with  Skipper  that the village of
Swardeston can hardly claim the monopoly,
as the German word  schwarz  (black) is
favourite : hence, 'blackened window'.

A blow of somewhat greater force than a ding
is a  clou(t)  (as in hammering broad-headed
nails) or a  cut :-

    Oi give 'im a cu(t)-a the skull!
Other words used to describe
a thorough beating are :
  • troshin(g)  (obvious workaday reference);
  • thackin(g)  (see Behaviour);
  • koishin(g);
  • solin(g)  (as in hammering repaired shoes?);
  • lardin(g);  and
  • twiltin(g).
Most intriguingly, a  sisserera.  Any guesses?!

Bombastic behaviour is usually verbal only,
but in Norfolk : a  bumbaste  is another word
used for fisticuffs.

A verb (which would sound too much like
lambing,  if used as a noun) is  lam   [slam?] :

    Oi din'(t) arf lam in(t)a 'im! -
    [in Norwich : in(t)erim   !]
Punishment of a different kind, a  whiplash,
is a  lanner;   whilst a  butt  is a  bun(t).
To kick somebody, or to trip him/her up,
is to  hock  them.

If all this violence makes the Norfolk person
scared to go  abroad  (out and about),
he may say - Oi dussn'(t) goo.

The ancient word  durst  nearly always
replaces  dare, certainly in negative form.
Positively, it is pronounced less like
dust - say  daast.
[as with  burst, first  etc. in 10. above]


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