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Norfolk Talk

Chapter D : Rights and Wrongs

  (Paras. 1 to 11)

2. Optional? - Know! :  3. Do Different - Do Wrong
4. Double Negatives :  5. Do Something
6. The Arcane
  7. Doings :  8. Grammar 1 :  9. Grammar 0
10. Tautology :  11. Test Case

1 : Cosmopolitan (not the Mag.)

There has to be a down-side to being the
Centre of the Universe.
Especially since the creation of the
University of East Anglia,
there has been much immigration into the City.
This has been mirrored by influxes of
pensioners to the (mainly North) Norfolk area.

Very few of these newcomers are from
places like Newcastle, hence the demise of
"bo-ats"  and such.
Conversely, standardisation proceeds apace;
even some "Cockney" influence is detectable !.

    A belated definition :
    Cockney = south of Ipswich.
Yet we can scarcely complain when "foreigners"
import their own accents, even languages.
This masterpiece is being word-processed
precisely because regional accents (or
languages e.g. Cornish) are threatened
- to the point of extinction.

Standardisation, even globalisation,
has an inexorable momentum.
Since before my schooldays, teachers have
tried (largely unsuccessfully) to get their
pupils to  "speak proper".

Immigration and esp. the so-called "media"
(tally  and  rairdioo)  have had more impact.

2 : Optional? - KNOW!

Just one complaint, though :
don't try to change Norfolk  things !.
Presenters (what happened to announcers?)
on the said ( local ) media - shunning research -
usually decide for themselves how to
handle place-names.

The vagaries of Standard English are just as
wild and whacky as in the local dialect.
We have already noted that  do = due,
some = sum;  and that  look  and  pool
are very different . . .

The  boon   (as in  book)  of contention is OW.
The fact that  row  [or  bow, sow ] comprises
two different words; or that  low   does not
rhyme with  growl,  does not imply  optional
status. On the contrary, it is essential to stick
to what you mean or what you know, in any
given context.

Hence  Sprowston  and  Trowse,  to name
but two, must  not  be rendered with an open
vowel-sound; but with the sound of  low  or  grow.
End of Story.
Special cases (e.g. Haisbro, Wyndham, Stukey)
are there to be learnt (learned?) and mastered,
not  read parrot-fashion from a script, map
or road-sign. Ignorance is no excuse
so  shape-up  media-persons !!.

Mardle points out that various kinds of bowling,
in sport, are pronounced with the open sound;
hence (when plural) resembling the word
bowels  [but compressed into one syllable].

A gardener's  trowel  keeps that open sound,
but effectively losing the  w,  becomes  trarl.
My uncle could not possibly be the only person
to call a  towel  a  turl,  instead of the more
usual : tarl.  This has been confirmed
to me as a  Norwich  pronunciation.

3 : Do Different - Do Wrong

To even things up, let us admit to some of
Norfolk's errors. Sheer laziness over-abbreviates
a word like  difference  down to  diffus.
It is plainly wrong to use  whereby
to mean  whereas :
Oi (h)ad a green boik, whereby (h)e (h)ad
a red one - thass the diffus.

Nor is it particularly clever to ignore the simple
word  teach;  and force  learn  into a transitive
as well as intransitive mode : Tha'll larn 'im.

On the other hand, it is futile to poke fun at
differences which possess their own rationale.
There is nothing wrong with :
Oi shew (h)im (h)ow tha(t) grew;
or else you have  "I showed him how it growed".
You pays yer money . . .

Unique (archaic) past tenses are a feature,
not a fault, of the dialect. Norfolk people,
who have written something, say they  writ  it,
not  wrote  it. And why not, Barry?

Other examples are : brung (brought);
he(t)  (heated); rid   (rode); driv   (drove);
swum  (swam); sew   (pron. as  sue  = sowed);
hew  (hoed); ewe  (owed); gan or gonned
(gave);  seft  (saved); len(t)  (leaned); fri(t)
(frightened); skun(t)  (skinned)

This last word being much used,in my youth,
to denote an impecunious state
(skint,  in the South).

Some potential confusion surrounds  (see C.7)
the past-tense of  shut,  which is  she(t).

There's probably not too much wrong with
stressing the last, very unexpected  (see F.4 )
syllable in -

    They done-a accordin'lie
    (They did it accordingly);
But one cannot defend the dodgy grammar in -
Accordin'lie a-'im, thass . . .

The above examples [note the
successive meanings of  a = it  &  to  resp.],
whilst again involving changed vowel-sounds,
take our dialect survey to the thresholds of
syntax and grammar.  Hold you hard, Bor !.

4 : Double Negatives

We can deal with these quite expeditiously.
With so much of the Dutch influence on Norfolk
speech, these are  de rigeur.  The words  any
anything  are never used in a negative phrase :

Oi dorn(t) know naathin ;
Oi dorn(t) wan(t) noon ;
Oi in(t) navver
etc. etc.

It must be emphasised that this failing spreads
very much wider than our favourite County.
It is an endemic problem, remaining in the
hands of the teaching profession and the
National Curriculum.

Norfolk speech will pack-in more than 2
negatives, if any special emphasis is needed.
Mardle quotes the village postman, trying to
rid himself of a child's attentions :-

    Oi 'en(t) go(t) naathin' fer noobra,
    no(t) today Oi hen'(t).
    [score = 5]
Skipper, on a highly dissatisfied customer:
Thass the waast-a [worst of] this 'air plairce :
there en(t) navver noobaardy ter (h)alp
noobaardy wi' naathin' !!

5 : Do Something

The imperative form has 2 important features:-
    (a) The use and positioning of  you;
    (b) The dominance of the  do  verb.
Norfolk would regard as impersonal (&  brusque),
therefore rude, the command - "Go to the shop".
Amelioration is usually achieved by adding
"would you?";  but there is the modest
Norfolk alternative : Goo you-a the sho-o-op.

Under (b) the instruction gets tautological, with
the  you  moving to join the dominant verb -

    Do you goo-a the sho-o-op.
The latter form confuses outsiders beyond
all confusion, as they deem it to be a  question!.
Perhaps a more obvious command would be :
Do you tha(t) wo-o-oshin'-up;  but there is
no guarantee that an exasperated Norfolk
woman would not say :
Do you do tha(t) . . . washing-up.

Washed clothes - before tumble-driers, or
even outdoor "roundabouts" on a metal pole -
were pegged onto what was/is known as a
If at all long, this required a central, wooden
stick with a v-shaped notch. In Norfolk this is
a   promp, not a prop; and the line

Finally, it should be added that many
country folk prefer  yow   to the word you.
(A rare Midlands influence??).

6 : The Arcane

Norfolk people are traditionally active and
hard-working; therefore very fond of the
extrovert action-words : do  and  go  (goo).

On the other hand, only the syntax of the
expression could possibly help the outsider
to grasp the additional meaning of  do  in -

    Gi(t) you orff tha(t) gair(t),
    do Oi'll come ar(t)er you !.

    (Note : no  f  in  after).
The said outsider will be quick to point-out
that the threat will only be exercised :
  • if the culprit does not ( don't ) get off,
       rather than
  • if he does (do).
This has given rise to the longer form -
    Gi(t) you orff tha(t) gair(t), do you dorn(t)
    Oi'll come ar(t)er you !
Hence  do  is now  if - rather than
or  (was effectively  if not ). Got it??.

Continued . . .

  6. (contd.)

Redefining words, in that contextual way, is
quite different from having your own vocabulary -
the usual focus of attention for dialect students
(what's a "dwile", then?) - and much more
difficult to master.

Story N.2  gives an example of the more simple
use of the negative  (doon't  or  dorn't) : more
clearly equivalent to "if not".

English is not without duplication of the verb,
e.g.  "It doesn't do to . . ."  (see below*).
Such expressions are gleefully used
on a grander scale in Norfolk:-

    E do do tha(t) a trea(t), tha(t) E do !
        (where  do(1)  =  really, certainly,
          definitely etc.
    Do you moind woo(t) E do do !.
        (Careful what he gets up to !)
    Tha(t) in(t) done yi(t)?
    - do you dur(t), then !!
*Finally :
A fielder allowed the cricket-ball to
pass through his legs (and hands).
An onlooker remarked :-
E 'oon(t) navver do ter keep pigs !

7 : Doings

Active words must often yield tangible results,
even if they are vaguely described.

A what's-his-name (woosnairm) can also be
doings  (durns   pronounced minus the g)
or a  do-for  (pronounced  duefer) :

Giss tha(t) there durns oover there.
(Pass me yonder object).

Tha(t) wan(t) a duefer, tha(t) do.
(It needs a spare-part of some kind).

Durns   can be a  very  useful euphemism;
failing a colourful option, e.g. "honey-cart", "lavender-cart", "violet-wagon"
These are all terms for the night-soil collection
vehicle (like lavatory, itself a euphemism !).

Something in need of repair or general attention
wan(t) a good durn-to.  Norfolk shares, with
most of the country?, expressions such as
"a right (old) to-do" and "a jolly friendly do".

It might be a  chimney  in bad condition :
chimbley,  in Norfolk, or a  black-stalk.
Repairs might leave some brick-rubble  (colder).

A dithering and indecisive person is an
ow'd dardalum-do.  [or dardledumdo].

An expert in a particular field is a  dabster
or a  reemer;  but even he/she can meet
difficulties/complications - which are  dibles.
Nervous conditions include  thredickle
(unsettled, perhaps for the weather too);
pensy  (fretful, so not quite the same as
"pensive" - which  may  be the root).

A lad with special responsibilities to keep the
copper-boiler going (plus odd jobs) is known
as a  copper-jack.

8 : Grammar 1

I suppose we must use that posh term for
messing-about (rather, NOT messing-about)
with the declension of verbs.

Norfolk has no  truck  with plural verbs for
singular persons. If  we do,  he do.
Put it another way : if  he do,  conceivably we
(being plural)  does --- but  definitely  not v-v.
Hence Norfolk's contribution to easing
the burden of the teaching profession :-

    I do, you do, he do, we do, you do, they do.
    Any problem with that??
Waiting for somebody :
(H)ave E taaned up yi(t)?

We all know that the important verb
to be
  is classed as irregular.
Yes, it is. Oo, yis, tha(t) be.
And it can get very much so !.
But finding a missing pair of spectacles,
for example, yields a cry of triumph -
Hair they be !!!

Again, the problems are not unique to Norfolk.
Fashionable (Georgian?) Londoners invented
the multi-purpose word  "ain't";  which
sometimes does duty for  isn't  [even  am not ]
and sometimes for  haven't.

I ain't got one   is the present tense of the verb
to have,  not any past tense of another verb.
Similarly in Norwich :-
(a) Tha(t) tha(t) in(t)   "it definitely isn't" ; or
(b) Tha(t) Oi in(t)  answers to - either
            "are you cold?"  or  "have you got any?"

Rural speakers seem to show a clearer
(non-Metropolitan) understanding of what they
are saying; making the  supreme  effort of
NOT dropping the leading-h :-

  • "Are you cold?" - Oi in(t);
  • "Have you got any?" - Oi hin(t)
    [or  hen(t); hearn(t)  - short for  hevn't]

  • ^Top^

9 : Grammar 0

It is indeed hard to bring oneself to criticise
Norfolk grammar, when standards overall
have slipped so badly.

Yes, we say  different  when we mean
differently;  but your old Norfolk farmer
(Hev you spook ter one lair(t)ly?)  would never
( see F.5 ) say :  'tha(t) ploughboy, he done great'
- at least  Oi hoop no-o-o(t).

Aside from altering the meanings of words,
Norfolk is happy to amend the words
themselves; although I suspect our versions are
the earlier, and actually amended by others . . .

The words  before, between  and  behind
have the  'be'  replaced with an  'a',  giving :
afore, atwin, ahind.
Similarly the letter  'a'  replaces  'on'  in
on-end  (anend )  and  on-top  (atop ).

Conversely, we add  be  to the word  stow
(to store away, lay-up for the future).
As  bestow   seldom (now) means "giving to",
then I guess more humble words must suffice . . .

Perch  becomes  perk, as in birds; also as
a nickname for the topmost part of the
rood-screen in a church.
Wrap,  as in parcel, becomes  hap.
For  exactly,  zackly  is considered adequate.

A sharp probing implement, useful in much DIY
work, is a  prooger  ("mid-u"); derived from
proge  [hard-g] rather than  probe.
(Elsewhere prodger ??).

10 : Tautology

Norfolk speakers, always busy, are not given to
wasting words; their style being normally terse
to the point of surly incomprehension.
Folk free with tongue (or vocabulary) are soon
accused of "running-on":
    She dorn(t) (h)alf run-on!.
    (Ooh, be you quiet !)
Such a person may also be termed a  spuffler.

Strange, then, that tautology is not ruthlessly
excised; indeed, particularly in reported speech,
it runs riot! :-
She say-a me, she say, "Blast", she say,
"if tha(t) din(t) goo bang, tha(t) tha(t) did!",
she say.

There seems to be special excitement created
by the reciting of conversations : casting all
restraints aside.  Blast, he say!. See Story A.
Also it will not have gone unnoticed that all
past  conversations are brought into the
present (dramatic) tense.

There was a time when Norfolk had never heard
of the word  said - so was spared the bother of
its bizarre pronunciation as "sed".
Whoolly good!

A vital, but almost inexplicable, bit of tautology
occurs with  this  and  that.  An obsession with
spatial accuracy  may  account for the
obligatory : this 'air  and  tha(t) there.

Other Englishmen start a sentence, simply,
with  As  (e.g.  "As it's raining, we'll stay home" ),
but the dialect requires  Being as  - with the
'is'  factor  continuing  to be stated.
(Rather than  "It being raining . . .").

Being as (phonetically) the  'e'  follows
the  ai-rule, this gives us :-
Bairn uz thass a rairnin'. . .

11 : Test Case

Our vintage phrase Oi'm now a-gorn-a goo
arguably contains TWO tautologies; as against
(simply) "I'm going".

Firstly,  we would defend two instances
of  go  on the following grounds : -

    (a) consistency
         (e.g. with 'I'm going to polish the floor');
    (b) the overwhelming importance of the two
         action-words  do  and  go.
Secondly :
Logically, the  now  IS needed, because you
might be declaring an intention to polish the
floor tomorrow, or even next week.
Semantically, the  now  reflects the urgency
(as well as importance) attached to all forms
of effort (in the East Anglian  "do-culture").

Remember, it is that culture which tells its
brethren - Keep you a-troshin!.
Also, often, brevity rules in a busy life . . .
Wal, Oi'm orff.

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