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Norfolk Talk

Chapter J : Abroad

(Paras. 1 to 11)

2. Weather Lore :  3. Labor Omnia . . .
4. Flora & Fauna :  5. On The Hop
  7. Nostalgia Rules :  8. Name Of The Game
9. Adultery :  10. Revelry :  11. Parish Pump

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  MineYourn(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
    Oi 'oon(t) goo round-a 'is toime Ar gal
    be atoom.
Translation of hard bits :-
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)
    Ar plairce - thass loike a pigstoy,
    do she 'oont navver 'ev noo
    company come. Wal, would you, bor?!
Vigorous housework, esp. pre-Hoover days,
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'.
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   (his
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);
"jumping-jacks";  "March-birds".
[ 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,
not training!).
At least, at home with the domestic animals,
you were likely to be   droi-shod
(have dry feet), instead of  we(t)-shed
(after messing about in ponds!).
Shod - shed . . . why?


6 : Town & Country

With 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
    poied wagtairl, le(t) aloon the
    Nanny Dishwaasher!
Nor, for that matter,  harnser  (heron)
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 -
    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.
Quite a different slant, eh?!

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 [1]
along ; likewise for stopping to stare (gaping) -

    Woo(t) a-you a-gawpin' a(t)? -
    come you on, do we'll be lair(t)!
[1] (Standard term = saunter)

8 : Name Of The Game

At 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
dint  (dent) to appear in a metal object
(not a car - there weren't any about).
    Tha(t) Oi din(t)! . . . .
    Oo yis you did dint-a : look (h)air,
    thass a gri(t) hool!
A dent or hole is also a  doke. The other
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,
    you warmin(t)!
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.
  is to babble in an excited,
stammering manner.

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
(from meadow-mowing?)

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.

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.
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
hanked-up  (fastened).

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
pwidge   (puddle) or two!.

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