1 : Friends And Neighbours
The term bor is as useful and (was?)
as used as the Cockney term mate.
Both are mono-syllabic, and the Norfolk
version manages to avoid the t . . .gri(t) !
Both are applicable to all persons (either sex)
from close aquaintances to perfect strangers.
N.B. The equivalent female-only term, maw,
is much less used these days.
Starting a sentence with Wal, bor . . .
gives just that little more time to fashion a reply.
Another greeting, usually between men :
. . .Owl' Par(t)ner.
Skipper is greatly amused by residences
(abodes) entitled Mine; Yourn; (H)is etc.;
yet this is not so far removed from the modern
"My place or yours?" dilemma.
She hen'(t) bin-a moine all yare, 'cause
Translation of hard bits :-
Oi 'oon(t) goo round-a 'is toime Ar gal
I won't go to his house while her girl is at home.
The even more difficult ". . . go to Hers"
becomes (in Norwich) goo-a-rers.
"Friendly" rivalries often arose from the precept
that only Cleanliness comes anywhere nare
Godliness (& of course a Woman's Place is . . .
Sheer go(t)-a do suffin' abou(t)
Vigorous housework, esp. pre-Hoover days,
Ar plairce - thass loike a pigstoy,
do she 'oont navver 'ev noo
company come. Wal, would you, bor?!
would cause the dust to stive-up (verb
or noun); although the cloud of dust, that
Skipper calls stew, I fear is not a City term.
(Stew in Norwich is a state of panic or temper
i.e. heated = puckaterry)
I suspect stive, stew and stove have a
common origin (Dutch?) to do with upward
convection currents caused by warmth . . .
Wal, cen you do ba(tt)er, Master?
2 : Weather Lore
Norfolk is entirely at one, with all its English
brethren, in being obsessed by the weather.
So it is a pity that the term taters
(seein' as 'ow so many are grown
in ter par(t)s) is from Cockney rhyming slang!
Strangely (or not?) we are devoid of colourful
local sayings - outside the "Red sky at night" etc.
However, there is brutal truth in one saying :-
"As the days lengthen, so shall the
cold strengthen" - April being a vicious
month in Norfolk, and May not much better.
We do have (but not exclusively) the mobile
dwelling-place of Will's Mother. Any "looking
black" (or bad ) over her residence is a portent
of imminent wet weather; but, of course, she
has to move house through 180 degrees, if the
prevailing wind does the same - else the rain
is already fast clearing-up!
Heavy rain descends in the usual cat, dog or
stair-rod form, or comes teeming down; a
heavy fall being a floa(t)er or a reamer.
But at least we have our own variety of drizzle -
the smur (smear); also mizzle.
Thass a-smurin' a-rairn is bad news for
wearers of spectacles like me. (N.B. the prime
cause - the rain - is clearly, helpfully, identified).
Norfolk people (vide farmworkers) may shelter
from it : but they stand-up out of it. The rest
of the time they are bending over, toiling . . .
A drear, damp day is termed a
daggly owl' day. Dag is dew or mist.
(Daggly can also mean ragged).
Leasty is another term for damp or drizzly.
Showery is dingin'.
A coarse morning is the opposite of a fine one
(of course!), or is called rude (rough) weather.
In winter, ar(t)er tha(t) hev snew (snowed),
friz (frozen) and then a thow has set-in,
the snow woo(t) hev thew will turn to sluss.
This is the particular example of
"muddy, dirty water" which we all hate!.
The term slub (for mud itself) is not used
in the more well-drained urban areas
(except as builders' jargon).
We even have our own word for
mist (of a foggy nature) - rook (roke).
Rime frost drops the 'frost', in favour of
the plural - rimes. Thin ice with air bubbles
underneath is cats' ice.
Close, oppressive summer weather is called
thongy; and swallackin' (lack of swale
i.e. shade, no doubt?) is very hot (sweltering).
A gusty wind is, rather, gushy. The notorious
March winds are Winnol wather
Saint's Day being the 3rd March).
Certainly, my grandmother always referred to a
tempest, instead of a storm. She was also very
fond of the expression : Black as the (h)airkes
(hakes = fireplace pot-hooks);
which she would as often apply to me as to
the sky (when I was a sno(tt)y-noosed kid).
She didn't mention "bull's noon" (midnight),
but then she was early to bed . . .
3 : Labor Omnia . . .Hot weather (yes, sometimes, very) can
greatly discomfort the "labouring classes".
In a clear reference to another rurally-based
industry (where high temperatures are used),
the worker (or, indeed, toiling housewife
or husband) complains of being mal(t)ed.
Sweat is not something to be coy about
in Norfolk. We have seen the inverted form of
expression used in extremely cold weather;
the positive form uses the splendid regional
word muckwash, as in -
Oi'm all of a muckwash.
An ordinary wash involves running
clean water over the skin.
Now even a roughneck Norfolk labourer isn't
going to pretend that rivulets of perspiration
(sorry, sweat) comprise clean liquid. He is
also well aware that the sweat is likely to get
mixed-up with the dust and dirt (muck) inherent
in the working environment.
Not a pretty thought, but a typically honest one.
Sweating is also referred to as
having a bead on.
Washing a few clothes, in an ad-hoc fashion,
is puggin' 'em through. This expression is
from the pottery trades, using a "pug-mill".
Then you might hairze them.
(haze = put out in the sun to dry).
Country (farming etc.) tasks are listed by
Skipper in very large numbers, many of which
* could have sweaty effects;
* (bar troshin' ) are unknown to City folk.
Blast, E say, tha(t) in(t) moi fau't!
On the other hand, plenty of City workers
have had strenuous manual jobs, over the
years and centuries.
Like many industries, the "boot and shoe trade"
has markedly declined since WWII; having been,
for a long time, the predominant City industry.
A little of its jargon has crept into City speech.
Snobs (not cobblers ) is the generic term for
person sengaged in the shoe-making business.
I wonder what this tells us ! (Shall we need a
new word for local Hyacinth Buckets ??).
One of the most prestigious occupations
(special skills) in the trade was that of clicker -
so called because of the distinctive noise
made by their operations i.e. cutting patterns
from leather with extremely sharp knives.
An elite within an elite, perhaps?
A cotton-reel has the grander name
reel-a-bobbin, as in the weaving trade.
4 : Flora And Fauna
Being a City Boy also had a very stunting effect
on my vocabulary of animal and plant words,
i.e. those peculiar to our glorious County
(and the rest, in fact).
I knew about blackbirds (and that one of them
- the mummy one - isn't ); and even that the
thrush was called a mavish (my Dad said so).
Robins and sparrows (oh, seagulls, of course)
just about completed my impoverished list;
save the damned Metropolitan pigeons.
These days thrush is a fungal complaint and
wood-pigeons ( dows or ring-dows) are
more common than ever thought possible
(certainly more than thrushes).
As children, we were fascinated with snails,
which we gave three syllables : dodderman
(instead of dodman /hodmedod ); and with
the delightful bishy-barney-bees (ladybirds).
"Daddy Long Legs" were a familiar object;
but that fun name was held nationally, so
nothing to shout about.
Even canaries, with a proud local heritage,
were known in all parts by that same name.
The name long dog (greyhound) was so
prosaic that we didn't take any pride in it.
In Norwich we even called mice mice (!),
but were scared of wapsies.
Although we called woodlice sows [ pigs ],
we were much puzzled by it; as most of us
had seen the odd female pig - and noticed
very little in common.
Bishy, bishy, barney-bee
When will yer weddin' be?
If it be 'amara day,
Tairk your wings an' floi away!
5 : On The Hop
Frogs were/are often seen near Norwich rivers,
or even smallish ponds. We called them that
(and French people likewise - see Fluctuations).
It has been a surprise to learn that they are
also known as freshers (small ones) and "hopping-toads" - (arpintoods) or Jaircob(s);
[ everything except frogs !]
I doubt if I have ever seen more than
one (proper) toad, but am aware that
it rhymes with wood.
In the City we did not share any rural
superstitions in their regard. Nor did we
know anything about their 'country' names :
"crawling toads", paddocks or puddocks;
nor about the third definition of toad
i.e. "running toads" (natterjacks).
Dogs and cats, if they would let you, were
subjects for coaching
(this was coaxing,
At least, at home with the domestic animals,
you were likely to be
(have dry feet), instead of we(t)-shed
(after messing about in ponds!).
Shod - shed . . . why?
6 : Town & CountryWith such scant knowledge it is impossible for
this 24-carat Norriger, even at my age, to score
100% in the famous EDP survey (1993).
Whoi?. Our navver haad-a the
Nor, for that matter, harnser (heron)
poied wagtairl, le(t) aloon the
or ranny (shrew-mouse).
Maximum possible = 17/20; actual = 15 only.
(Oi tal a loi - I heard of the harnser via
Billa Shairkspare; roundabou(t), loike.)
Ignorance applied to a second (missel-) type
of thrush i.e. the fulfer; and to a sparrow
other than the house-variety.
Hedge-sparrow = dunnock, hedge Be(tt)y
or plain hedgeman.
I can confirm that a Norwich tabby cat is a
Cyprus cat. On the other hand, we called
ants ants - not pishamires; and earwigs (sic),
certainly not pishamire barneybees.
In Norwich, we were able to make fun of our own
accent, with its long-drawn-out vowel sounds.
But, as City Slickers, we rather turned the
following into an anti-rural thing.
Instead of -Quite a different slant, eh?!
All the wa-ay ter Swa-a-afham,
t'ree days tro-o-oshin,
an' all fer no-o-othin',
we would say:-
Oi come from Swa-a-afham an'
dorn(t) kno-ow no-o-othin.
7 : Nostaglia Rules
Boyhood reminiscences can be bad for one,
so I will try to cut it short.
The facts are clear : the whole nature of
childhood upbringing and existence has
changed drastically in the last 50 years.
So how can we expect the dialect to
soldier-on, as in previous generations?
We all wore pullovers (and caps) : the former
were then only rarely termed garnseys
(Jersey, Guernsey, any C.I. will do)
- how many are now?
Wesku(t)s (waistcoats) were already going
out of fashion ("three-pieces"); with less display
of tannups. (turnip) - described in the previous
If we tore our clothes we ren(t) them
(as in the Biblical "rent asunder").
Another meaning for latch is to catch (as in
clothes on a nail), or otherwise get tangled-up.
We were encouraged not to boss fellow
schoolkids around, by being biggo(t)y; or
we might be paid-out in kind - with a
good soling (= beating).
Also see Punch Lines.
Norfolk's bo(tt)y (though similar to bossy)
means, rather, self-important and stuck-up.
We were often accused of being fumble-fisted
in our lack of dexterity.
A really gormless child might be written-off as
not being much of a mucher - an expression
used (negatively) for anything regarded as
worthless or well below standard.
If parents were in a hurry, children would be
admonished for dawdling i.e. sarn(t)ering 
along ; likewise for stopping to stare (gaping) -
Woo(t) a-you a-gawpin' a(t)? -
 (Standard term = saunter)
come you on, do we'll be lair(t)!
8 : Name Of The GameAt play (remember play?) we would bop down
under obstacles or on bended knees; lig (lug)
heavy objects about [ lugs are on the head ];
and sometimes (accidentally, of course) cause
a dint (dent) to appear in a metal object
(not a car - there weren't any about).
Tha(t) Oi din(t)! . . . .
A dent or hole is also a doke. The other
Oo yis you did dint-a : look (h)air,
thass a gri(t) hool!
din(t) mentioned is, of course, didn't.
In Norwich we had see-saws and played
leap-frog; but unbeknowns (N. B. plural)
to us, these activities had different County
names i.e. ti(tt)ermator(t)er and huckabuck.
We all know what "high jinks" are, yes?.
Jinks (or jacks), in the County, is
a game of five-stones.
Game is, of course, gairm - by the way.
There were still a few carthorses in commercial
use, so the expressions hossin(g) abou(t)
(boisterous) or hossin'-along (hurrying) were
quite meaningful to us; as was the stately
opposite - lollopin' along. (cf. saunter )
Petty theft ( Oi be(t) you dussn(t)! ), from
orchards and gardens, was not unknown;
dignified (everywhere?) by the name "scrumping".
We did not call gooseberries by the Norfolk
fapes [ or thapes, thepes ], but used our
own variant : guzegogs.
Our country cousins, caught in the act,
might be chastised by their parents:-
Oi'll roightsoide [ rightside ] you,
The latter word = vermin (See Behaviour)
shows all of 3 changes, the most unexpected -
the added "t", albeit that it is not articulated.
9 : Adultery
Wal, as children, we thought that was just
being "grown-up". (Sex was always The Other).
We were more intrigued by adults' quarrels and
petty insults, than by their Other activities -
which they kept extremely quiet about.
A particular wife/husband/girlfriend might be
dismissed as - not much of a mucher
(see Para. 7 ); which tended to be the most
generous form of criticism (see mawther H.3).
Other forms are largely unprintable . . .
A duzzy ol' fule (dozey?) might also be
slarverin' : (dribbling, literally, with saliva) ;
or merely rabbiting-on (gorn' on) i.e. slarverin'-on.
Hack-slarverin' is to babble in an excited,
Snobbish persons were an abomination but,
with the term snob pre-empted, (see Para. 3 )
they were called "(h)alf-sixers".
Highly convivial folk (not a little odd) were -
as elsewhere - said to be a caution : a
term of approbation.
A short, but thick-set and squat person is,
still, termed stuggy (stocky?).
A person of any height, thick-set around the
hips and thighs, is said to be strong-docked.
Even in the City he/she may be wearing a slop :
an apron, rather than a full farmhand's uniform.
10 : Revelry
Public houses were the social focus in my youth,
and to an extent still are; but they were real
"locals" and there was an enormous
number of them.
They sold bare and stou(t) (when did you
last hearof stout?), with a popular mixture of
mild and bitter called twos.
When the pub was crowded you had to get the
others to hitch-up (move along) before you
could join the bench. Often the joanna
was playing, for a "good old sing-song".
My mother was a regular piano performer.
Getting "merry" or tipsy, in Norfolk,
was to get bosky.
A range of euphemisms seemed to be available
in the metropolis of Norwich, for over-indulgence,
including juiced, slewed and - my favourite -
kimmissed ( chemist, and powerful potions)
To join-in the fun, jollificairtions,
(or any collective activity) is to mow-in
Yuletide festivities have always included a
deal of imbibing. Sadly, there used to be much
more carol-singing (perhaps by peripatetic
I know that 31st December is Old Year's Night,
because it was my father's birthday.
The whole world celebrates, he would say.
High-spirits are not always greatly appreciated
by older onlookers; so several similar terms
can be employed - invariably prefaced by
"do you stop that . . . ."
annic(kin'); nonnickin' (horseplay); skywannickin'.
In addition to shanny, we have
shay-brained for a silly person.
Being in hearty good spirits is quite acceptable,
of course. Such a person is bruff.
11 : Parish Pump
Although, as ever, the Parish Church is to be
found next to the Village Pub (probably both
closed and redundant by now), Norfolk folk
don't have too much time for the Clergy.
They needed to have the banns read,
in earlier marriages. In Norfolk these were
sibbits or sibrits.
A doss (hassock) still makes it
easier on the knees!.
The church collection has always been grateful
for the Widow's Mite. This word (small amount)
is still in general use in Norfolk.
A smi(tt)ock is, possibly, even smaller.
Perhaps contributions would be sought,
on a "round-robin" basis, if there were
a death or other trouble in the community.
A collection paper, or a petition, is a brief.
The church door, or the Lytch gate, like many
other such items, will oft-times require to be
Some parish boundaries are an odd shape,
and a bit of one parish may jut-out into another.
This projection, like a medical hernia, is called a
herne; and sometimes occurs in place-names
e.g. Beeston Herne.
The Parish Lantern was credited to the Almighty,
being a term for the moon. It seems Parish
Councils have always been tight-fisted !.
A moon traversed by broken cloud, is
said to be muddled.
The parish where one was born is called one's
nair(t)ive (native = the place, not the person!).
After living all his life (so far . . .) in the same
village, it was said of him that -
E hen(t) navver left 'is nair(t)ive.
At the other extreme, a "gentleman of the road"
or tramp is called a Milestone Inspector.
As in the Dutch plein, an open space or square
in the village or town is known as a Plairn.
(Plain, as in Salisbury).
In a well-appointed town there may be a
pork-butcher (?), otherwise known as a kiderer.
In bad weather, there is bound to be
a pwidge (puddle) or two!.