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Norfolk Talk

Chapter H : The Lingo

(Paras. 1 to 10)

2. Sex :  3. Norfolk Broads :  4. Folklore
5. Going Dutch
  7. Crowded Out :  8. Stone Me
9. The Sound Of Silence :  10. All Squit

1 : Carry On

We have, earlier and metaphorically,
been asked what we are  a-doing ON.
What is going-on here??

Standard English merely asks -
What  we are doing, not  Of what.
In Norfolk the ancient form survives, perhaps
to distinguish from : with  what,  by  what etc.?.

We all (including Churchill) know that
a preposition is not something to
end a sentence with.
However, it is not guilt that modifies
the final preposition from  of  to   on.

The pronunciation of the former (using a   v
instead of  f )  may not appear strange in
Europe, but seems to be
anathema in our beloved County.

Not too often does  'of'  survive beyond the
contextual grunt (see  CONCATENATION);
yet even when it does, it  doesn't :-

    Our go(t) a lo(t) on 'em ;
    Our navver haad 
    [heard] on 'em.

    Some-a(re) glad onna(t) anorl
    (. . . glad of it too). (Werra wal pu(t)).

Mardle  describes the boy as
a-ridin' o' (h)is boike.
Using  of,  in that way, is certainly part of
older Norfolk speech; but - more surely -
cannot become a single O.
The sound, as ever, would be
some kind of grunt : a-ridin'-a

2 : Sex

No, not the usual attention-grabbing headline.
It is the French & Germans who are obsessed
with sex  within  their language construction.
Norfolk is content to distinguish male & female
persons,  but pernickerty about doing so :-
    Look you (h)are, Booy Ber(t) -
    tal Gal Ethel she . . .
It seems redundant, if not exactly tautological,
to separate Bert and Ethel so dramatically.
In particular, addressing Bert as a Boy is telling
him something he is well aware of (the same
mode of address lasts a whole lifetime).
It should also sound more like  Baa(t)
(or, indeed  Harbu(t)).

Is this, however, a case of Norfolk prescience,
going beyond 50 years?.
How useful, these days, to be able to address
Boy Kim or Gal Kim, as required !.

"Unisex" rules - but Norfolk can coop.

More plausibly, Boy Bert is the mirror-image of
Baat, E say. Titular respect for the humblest . . .
Note the even more complex construction in:-

Oi wooz a-gorn along, toime Oi see
the Gal Mary t'other soide-a the rood.

3 : Norfolk Broads

Bert is probably a good  blook;
Ethel may be a  mawther - not so good?.

She wouldn't be Ethel (Kelly perhaps?), as all
mawthers have a degree of youth (if nothing
else) on their side : right down to babyhood -
( The dare li(tt)le mawther ! ).

N.B. The term  maw  (female for  bor )  is
rapidly falling into disuse. See  Chapter J.1

It is my belief that the longer word was  not
normally applied to married &/or older women
(e.g.  Nayther he, she na yi(t) th'owl woman).

Yes,  mawther  can be a fairly pejorative term;
and a good match for the American  broad.

It must be the ultimate, in Norfolk perversity,
to use a word obviously derived from,  or
absurdly similar to,  mother - for a baby, child or
single girl !.
(Literally : no husband AND no children -
the word having originated when unmarried
girls were "always" thus . . .)

As ever, many were unmarried because they
were unpleasantly fat : the kind of figure which
lacks much semblance of shape or "control".
You've met 'em, but Political Correctness
won't let you say so !.

The standard insult or "put down" for
such unfortunates has always been :-
Slummockin' gri(t) mawther.

You have the picture that the adjective is
trying to paint; its spelling is a bit more vague.
I incline towards links with both  hummock
(lumpy shape) and  slum  (collapsing edifice?).

This line of thought rules out alternatives like
"slammicking", which  sound  wrong anyway.
Nor do I believe the word implies  slut  or any
kind of  dirt - which attributes could apply to
very thin people.

Great  surely rules out "super-models"
and indeed most young ladies.

    Look-a them couple-a mawthers
    a-gorn down the rood!.
    [sing.] they boo(ti)ful?!
Note : that couple  is not used.
Which is more correct?

4 : Folklore

Nothing about dialect appeals more than such
unique  words - "new" names for well-known
things. Like dialects themselves (but not
mawthers) many of these things are no longer
well-known; or even known at all.

Who does not lament the many and varied
references to "half-a-crown", or the passing
of the  farden?.

One of the most famous Norfolk  waads
is dwile   (a floorcloth). Nowadays the husband
or housewife uses a J-Cloth for most purposes,
and a fancy piece of apparatus (with a handle,
to save bending and kneeling) - not to mention
Flash - for the floor.

It's not that we don't know what a  dwile   is;
most younger people don't even know what
it was. And see  M.2.

We still find things to laugh about, sometimes.
Whether we  golder   as often, I can't say.
Nor am I sure that we ever  simply  'goldered',
because the word  laugh(ter)  is often  included :-

    Blast, E say, Oi goldered a-laughin'.
golder  of  may, in fact, be a volume (gale?) of.

Oi shruck a-laughin'  is a bit more extreme,
and a very fine example of the past-participle
(of shriek). To top that, we have the
Norfolk person who goes into complete
highstirrics   or  highstrikers.
Mere sniggering is  gimblin(g).

5 : Going Dutch

A truly dedicated researcher, preferably one
fluent in Dutch/Flemish, will find that most
"native" Norfolk words originated across
the North Sea.
Dwile  most certainly does  (dweil  in Dutch).

One that travelled further relates to gipsies,
who themselves travelled a heck of a long way!

Norfolk has, over the centuries,  tolerated
various influxes of (genuine) foreigners
i.e. refugees, from Jews to Huguenots.
But, like most folk, we harbour suspicions about
gipsies; and have uncomplimentary names for them.

At least, we think they are rude names; but
they usually turn-out to be neutral, even factual.

Totally by accident I once discovered the
Hungarian word for "from a long way off" : diddecor.
My forebears used to complain about the
diddecoys,  but (like gipsies) no real harm
seems to have been done(?).

If Hungarians don't know about the Travellers,
who does?!. They probably don't believe
the Egypt story, either.


6 : Nothing Special

We should not be frightened about all these
"unique" and unfamiliar words. Often  native
usage merely swaps, not creates, words.
The Americans never get angry - they get  mad.
Likewise the Norfolk person - who gets . . .
raw  or  savage.
[angry  means inflamed, as in a skin abrasion
or infection].

To be in a temper is to be  honky  (interestingly
a word found in the West Indies) or in a  passe
(passion). Or perhaps, colloquially, he gets
his 'rag out' (or some other euphemism).

    Blast, E din(t) arf mairke me raw -
    soo Oi give
    [gave] 'im a soidewoinder.
A bad-tempered person is a  snasty  one
(fair enough?).

Norfolk folk never get ill; at worst they say :
Oi'm feelin a bi(t) quare   or
Oi'm no(t) up ter much   (= up to  doing  much).
Mother's friend used to feel a bit  dingy = floppy?
- not pronounced as for a small boat, nor
as 'dinjy' (dull). Also see  Not Too Good.

Hence, there was a time, before the term  GAY
took over, when Norfolk illness was - potentially -
a minor embarrassment (odd, for a County
renowned for practising incest !?).

All strange persons are known as  queer  in
Yorkshire ( inter alia ). In most parts  cranks
are a sub-set of the (mentally) queer folk.
It is therefore an interesting parallel that  cranks
in Germany would simply be  ill  ( krank ) -
like our  quare  Norfolk person.

There are, of course, genuine
mental illnesses/deficiencies.
daft  person is described as  "soft"
[soft-headed]  E say "dorn(t) talk sorft".
N.B. : 'sorft'  has the hard-o  and  the
exceptional use of the final  t - but not  within
a phrase :- e.g.  E's a sorf bugger!.
(equivalent of a daft sod).

This duple insult will be the last reference
to Sodomy in this highly respectable treatise.

7 : Crowded Out

Medical matters seem to have cornered the
market in re-defined  words,  perhaps (often?)
because of a perceived need for euphemism.
In  Niceties  we note that the word  push  is now
in the medical arena; so we either make do with
shove,  its close relation  shuft  (shift), or the
other Norfolk word  hurch   (as a companion to  lurch).

Either is a mildly violent one-off event.
What about a steady propulsion, as with
a pram  (cooch)  or a  boike?..
Would you believe  crowd?

    Tha(t) ow'd gardner,
    E din(t) 'alf crowd 'is barrer!
The yet more improbable past tense of  crod.

Early bicycles were known by their frames,
rather than wheels. The local word for
frame being grid,  pushing a bike was
"crowding a grid".

A pig escaped, forcing its body under the gate :
Th'owd sow, she crod unean-a.
        [underneath it].
If, however, what had happened to the pig
didn't really matter too much, then the owner
would add:  . . . but tha(t) dorn(t) signify.

Re the latter expression of indifference :
certainly in Norwich we also use (perhaps
more so) the other, standard, word; but in the
plural :  Tha(t) dorn(t) ma(tt)ers ter me, bor!

We now need a term for crowding and crushing
things, and people, together. This is  scrouge,
pronounced like  gouge,  not as in Dickens.
To crowd voluntarily, i.e. to congregate
or throng is to  smore.

Something put in place of something else
is  [in] room  of it :-
Oi see Here go(t) a green(h)ouse rume-a
tha(t) shud woo(t) E go(t) rid-on.

8 : Stone Me

An allegedly (unique) Norfolk word is
pamments  (for floor-tiles). I have never heard
it used in real-life; and, most plausibly, it is a
corruption of  pavements.
Also, floor-tiles (brick, not plastic of course!)
are better known as "flag-stones" or simply

Did   pennants  become  pammants phonetically?

    (a)  the e-to-a shift is to be expected;
    (b)  the letter  'n'  is not popular
          (See  G.5  for  only  and  plenty).
Needless to say, except in the most favoured
houses, or public buildings, you will not find
genuine stone floors in Norfolk.

There is no indigenous stone, except flint -
which is not at all suitable for floors.
Small paving-bricks, set on edge, are  clinkers.

stonehouse   is not at all what it seems,
being a "stone" (pottery) beer-bottle.
po(t)che(t)  is a piece of boken pottery.

A perfectly genuine Norfolk term is :
on the sosh - as a single adjective, soshens).
This means slanting, askew  (scoowiff)  or
offset; as in  "a bit on the huh"  or, simply,  ahuh.
An alternative, but more contrived,
is slantendicular.

9 : The Sound Of Silence

More intriguing is the word  dean  (or  deen)
    as in - There hen(t) bin a dean -
    translates as "not the slightest sound heard".
Although almost certainly derived from  din
it means the exact opposite (by volume).

In louder circumstances, a howling child
may be told :- (H)owld your duller, booy, do!

This "Norfolk word" also needs a bit of
de-bunking; which is effortless. Just read
"dolour" (as  colour ). The dictionary
reveals no such  noun (!!); but the
adjective  dolorous  (mournful) says it all.

If more people knew the old-fashioned word,
would they call a child Dolores? (Indeed, why
do parents of blonde girls call them Melanie?)

I digress . . .
Norfolk people don't  bawl  but ( not  uniquely)
holler  as in  E's a-ollerin.

Sadly, there is little  diffus   between this
and  hollow  (both of which may have no  h,
of course); so when I holler it resembles
Oi (h)aller. (Ba(tt)er?)

Two fine onomatopoeic words to end with :
(a)  blar = to cry;
(b)  brork  or  brortch = to break wind  (belch),
     as in  'broach the subject'.

10 : All Squit

No, it isn't - it's true, I tell you. Please read-on . . .

It shouldn't be necessary to point-out that
Norfolk, the County of Nelson, with its enormous
length of coastline, is a  sea-faring  and hence
fishing county.

With so few fish left to catch, the problem of
squit   (squid) ought to be worse than ever.

When hauling-in a netful of "catch", there can
prove to be a poor ratio of the desired fish, to
all the other marine-life ensnared by accident
(may well include N. Sea squid in abundance).

Such a disappointing haul is always greeted
with the cry : "Jist a lood-a squi(t) !".

Hence the response to other outpourings of
useless nonsense; and why  squit  never
comes singly or in minute amounts.
E say "Dorn(t) talk squi(t)!!".

If you prefer a more obscure word,
for nonsensical rubbish, try
gammara(tt)le   or  popple.

We can still get herring ("silver darlings")
in the shops : goodness knows where  caught . . .
In the days of plenty, indeed glut, everyone
knew the  diffus   between  kippers
and  bloaters.  Not any more.

The former are dried, and probably smoked;
the latter ditto, but  salted  too (bad for you !).

A famous salt-water plant (found in a few
favoured N. Norfolk spots) is  samphire,  pronounced  sanfer.
This is so nice that I shouldn't have
betrayed a State Secret.

It is  far  too good for "foreigners".

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