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Norfolk Talk

Chapter L : Back To Earth

(Paras. 1 to 12)

2. Reflections :  3. Perversions :  4. Conversions
5. Inventions :  6. I Say, I Say :  7. Say Different
  8. More Insults :  9. Judgements
10. Where Ignorance . . . :  11. Gossip
12. Too True

1 : Diversions

There are ways of "getting back" at strangers,
or - less malevolently - pulling their legs a bit,
whilst keeping them at arm's length (a nice
anatomical mixed-metaphor).

An obvious one is to use the dialect, and its
unique vocabulary, as a weapon : to make
sure that the visitor is confused. One may
confuse him, by this means,  without  trying.

One source of potentially serious confusion
exists, which is quite unintentional.
So please  pay regard  to these examples :-

    (a) Today  is Monday 1st.
      The 4th is certainly the next Thursday to
      occur - but is termed "This Thursday".
      So  Next Thursday  is  11th.

    (b) Today  is Friday 1st.  Next Thursday is
          7th,  because it falls into next week.

The only problem with all this (or next) is
whether the week starts on Sunday or Monday.
Similarly :-
Today  is Friday 20th.
Last Wednesday  was 11th, not the 18th.

Also see  Yarn N.4  which may cast light on the
recording of Norfolk events, from week to week.

2 : Reflections

For all the comings and goings, the indigenous
mood [ attitude ] remains isolationist.
If there aren't many foreigners (and particularly
if you won't  pay noo regard-a  them), then
mistakes which creep into the language
(like  whereas  versus  whereby)  tend
never to be corrected.

This also points-up that they were
never properly taught in the first place.

Saving the best until last, we have the infamous
Norfolk equivalent of  certificate : sustifica(te)
(not  sustificairt : the last syllable is unaccented).
[ Is there also a hang-up about  matriculation ?]

Two other examples, noted by  Skipper,
but not crossing my path in the  Cii,  are :
damnified  (for  indemnified)  &  fisherair(t)e
(for  officiate).  Both very nice indeed!.
Totally outside my ken is  cubelow   (for cupola).
Though I have a fair idea what one is,
they are hardly everyday items!.

A splendid anglicisation (not really a mistake,
as such) is  dissables   (from the French
deshabille) = underwear.

It is not only Norfolk people who make mistakes
like "adamnant" for  adamant;  or "duberous"
for  dubious

Skipper reckons that "paying no regard",
when the  no  is omitted, gives rise to a
composite word thus :
Dorn'(t) peggar(t)er tha(t) lo(t).

3 : Perversions

Nothing serious, mind (Aylsham apart).
This is the only way to describe some of the
odd things done to words, which seem more
like acts of sabotage, rather than mistakes.

We have seen that  always  not only loses two
letters (W & Y) in becoming  ollust,  but  gains
a final letter  contrary  to all known predilections
(i.e. hatred of every letter  tesp.  final ones).

The same is true of  across  (nowadays often
misspelt  accross)  which becomes  acrorst,
which brings it into line with  lost, frost, tossed,
  etc. etc.
The general sound may be related to the
alternative (older?) words : athwart
[ as in  thwarted ] or  athwast.

A friend of mine, from nearby Easton, is very
fond of the longer version of  however  :
howsome-ever.  It seems to command
extra attention at the start of a sentence.

To  hamper,  in Norfolk, is to damage :
true, but a bit too specific?

I assert that a few words, which depart
capriciously from the standard, are "correct"
simply because they  pre-date  familiar ones.
This is certainly true of the past-tenses,
already noted in  D.3  (shew, writ  etc.).

The word  spread  is one that started this train
of thought, as I was well aware that - in this
County - it does not rhyme with  bread.
(But  head  doesn't help =  hid ).
Now that I think of it, I have heard  breed
for  bread;  but  spreed   is the one which is
much more common.

My point is that, centuries ago, the first vowel
was probably modified (hardened) by the
second (a). (Else why bother with the second? -
bread  and  bred  have very different contexts).

It may (unhelpfully) remind us of words like
bear  and  tear,  which go almost to the other
extreme;  but how about  teat ?,  which - as
all  Sun  readers will know - has followed
the  hid  (or vice versa); or  neat, treat, beat  etc.

Given the good old  d-to-t  "shift",
I rest my case.

If  spread  is too contentious, try the (obviously
Dutch) alternative which we learnt (learned?)
when making our glorious messes as children :
Splaar tha(t) all oover!.
Similarly,  slarred  is daubed.

4 : Conversions

Norfolk dialect practitioners will shoe-horn
a word, into an altogether different usage niche
when they -

(a)  feel like it OR
(b)  don't seem to have heard of the word

A good example of the latter is the non-use of
unless  and its replacement by  without
(which latter still retains its other purposes).
It's not a bad fit (even if the coat is) :-

    1). E 'oon(t) goo withou(t) 'is coo(t)
    2). E 'oon(t) goo withou(t)
         Oi giv'm 'is coo(t).
To attempt something is to  imatair(t)e
[ imitate ] to do it.
Is there a real or fictional person, who has
done such a thing many times before, and
who offers a good example?
Wal,  maybe there is and maybe there isn't.

Gain,  becoming an adjective, means
handy or advantageous.

Something funny is either -

  • Amusing  (sorry, no word here?!?) -
    so try  woo(t) mairk me laugh;
    and, for extremely funny,
    Oi ha(tt)a laugh, bor!
    Also see  golder  (H.4)
  • Suspicious,  for which we have a
    Rum One.  (Thass a rummun,  perhaps
    plus  whoolly - immediately after  Thass).
    A strange situation is summed-up as :-
    Thass a rum owl jarb, inta Booy?
    ( See  job  in I.6 )
Funny  itself is therefore freed-up to be
applied, rather like  master  &  masterpiece,
to remarkable objects or occurrences.
Funny-peculiar, without the
element of suspicion??.
    Thass a funny ow'd frorst ou(t) there!
Proper  has its meaning changed, to :-
obvious  or  undoubted,  as in
    Thass proper daft!  or
    Oi gan 'im a proper good hoidin.


5 : Inventions

Conversions give way to the odd invention.
A Norfolk agreement (not legal) can involve :-
    Wal, Oi say-a 'im, Oi say,
    Oi'm whoolly in agreeance with tha(t).
Norfolk also claims to have invented the
Goes Under  (guzunder) = the humble chamber-pot.

Did we invent  disimprove
i.e. to weaken or deteriorate?

A fascinating item is the  heater-piece  at a
Y-junction as noted by  Mardle
You and I would call it a (grass) triangle.
Apparently, triangular lump(s) of iron were
heated in the fire and, although therefore dirty,
enabled  ironing  of clothes  via  a hollow
(also iron) container.
The Victorian originals (esp. the containers)
are now museum-pieces.

On the subject of flat-irons, they were usually
called plain  flats  in Norwich. This is despite
that, everywhere else in the country, they are
places to live. Evidently, apart from bungalows,
it was virtually unknown - until quite recent
times - for houses  not  to have both stories,
or all three, devoted to one set of occupants
i.e. a family.

In  Niceties  we introduced one of Norfolk's
most famous inventions, the verb  tricalair(t).

    Yure tricalair(t)ed tha(t) up a trea(t),
    blarst if you hen'(t)!
One Mr. Bramah invented the water-powered
Bramah Press,  the might of which staggered
his contemporaries.
The Bramah long-remembered in Norwich is
more likely to have been Joe Bramah : water
engineer at New Mills and responsible for
the Chapelfield Reservoir, opened in 1883.

So, if; master   and  masterpiece
won't suffice, we say - Thass a Bramah !!

6 : I Say, I Say

There seems to be a paucity of interesting local
"sayings", for such a large and (hitherto)
heavily-populated area. Well, repeatable ones
- unlike those listed elsewhere. (See  Cloacal).

If I am typical of my breed
(Lawk's a-maassy!*),
it is because of a dire lack of any kind of
imagination; as in the prosaic Long Dog ! ( J.4 ).
On the other hand, it may simply be another
result of my being cut-off from rural life, and
pigs wallowing in harvest fields etc.

The above expression* of alarm
(Lord have Mercy),
is one of the items culled from my Gran's
days "in service" at a country mansion.
Her favourite dictum (which gains nothing
in translation) :-

    Make spare of plenty, and there'll
    never come a scarcity
A pity that most post-war ("featherbedded")
farmers seem to have forgotten it . . .

Her experience of rural life, with its manifold
uncertainties (usually weather-related) is
summed-up in the saying :
What is undone is very uncertain [1]

The many hardships life offered
were to be resolutely overcome with : -

    A li(tt)le pairtience an' wa(t)er-grurl.
I suspect a great proportion of the former;
and a high proportion of water in the gruel !.

A furious dispute between neighbours/friends
was often described as being
Hell over the baulk..  This refers to
actual  boundary  (baulk) disputes.
An indeterminate wait is
the best part of some time.

Most of the other expressions coming from
that source were earthy indeed. They were the
outward manifestation of what is known as a
cloacal  sense-of-humour.
See  Cloacal - if you dare !.

Her most common (both senses) was a phrase,
used around the U.K., concerning the dire
results of grasping the  wrong  end of the stick.

[1] This applies, for example, to Norwich City
F.C. - who concede a goal in the umpteenth
minute of "time added-on".
The Club's home ground is in  Carra Rud.
(Carrow Road - vide the "mid-u" sound).

7 : Say Different

Some re-working of sayings, from
other parts of the Country, does occur.
The, fowl and good red herring
saying would seem tailor-made for Norfolk;
yet we replace it with :-
    Nayther he, she, na yi(t) the ow'd woman.
Perhaps it's because we know that herring are
"silver darlings", NOT red!.
Sadly the  yi(t)  had gone, by the time I grew-up
in the City; and the sound of  nayther   replaced
by  neither.

Incidentally, it is not on this slim evidence,
alone, that I base my assertion that a
mawther  is a young or tolerably  youngish
woman  ( gal ).

Continued . . .

  7. (contd.)

We know a lot about barrels, hence -
Spare at the spigot and Waste at the bunghole
is a good alternative for
Penny wise and Pound foolish.

Make do and Mend,  though a whole
way of life in Norfolk, is replaced by :-

    If tha(t) 'oon(t) puddin' tha(t)'ll froise [ fry ].
"Two short planks" are omitted, in favour of -
(a)  wooden as a pump  OR  thick as a hedge;
also  (b)  like two boards clapped together
The latter case means a very thin person
(not a "thick" one).

Unkempt persons look as if they have been -
dragged through a hedge backwards;  but this
standard expression is modified in Norfolk to . . .
through a bush faggot.

Somebody who has been "conned", foolishly
parted from [ some of ] his money, is not further
humiliated by insults (to his face). Rather he is
referred-back to the dealer  (higgler)  who got
the best of the bargain :-

    Oi reckon he see [saw ] you a-comin',
    owl par(t)ner!
He may admit to his foolishness by saying :
En't Oi an ow'd sawney?!
Clearly he should have  higgled  (bargained
or argued, as in  haggle)  to more effect . . .

A dealer can also be a  huxter   or  huxterer.

Terse phrases abound in Norfolk which,
by our own standards of brevity, probably
qualify as "sayings" e.g.
Tha(t) all depend ; Lood-a squi(t) ;
Keep you a-troshin'; Hold you hard;
Moi haar(t) aloive!

A short, but mysterious phrase is :
Tha(t) goo ta show.
This is stated, after a certain event or discovery,
in a wise, meaningful and serious manner; but
what  it goes to show is very often left
totally unspecified.

8 : More Insults

Thin "outgrown" youths may be said to be :
run up-a legs.
The Norwich alternative -
Like a long string of pump-water  seems to be
derived from  part  of a rural expression :
Up and down straight, like a yard of pump-water.
- indicating  integrity.  (but quite unrelated . . .)

Slummockin' gri(t) mawthers
need no further comment; but a bald man
has a head - Like a bladder of lard.
With hair, he may be  Grey as a Dow [ dove ].

Political correctness is a new-fangled notion in
this County; so a person considered even more
stupid, than other available descriptions can
cater for, may . . .wan(t) gittin' oover agin.
(That is to say, needs begetting again, reborn).
He might also be described as  numb-chance,
(when appearing "lost" and vacantly inactive) :-

    Lookin' loike numb-chance in a saw-pi(t)  (dangerous!!)
He may  loike  [ enjoy ] 'is gairp-seed
(gape-seed) i.e. may spend long periods
standing and staring. Gape  itself is normally
pronounced  gawp.

A pompous speaker will be said to
Ha and hacker in his talk.
[ Note : not  speech - reserved for an oration ].
Mardle  also gives the variant hukker  for stutter.
No doubt theatrical pauses
give much the same effect . . .
Hukker  can also be used for complaining
(loudly?); similar to  heckle?.

If he/she merely lacks civility and culture, they
were : brought-up on the end of a hog-line.

The recipient of insults might complain :
He called me from a pig to a dog!.

The following dictum was intended to help
the rude and uncivil to mend their ways :-
You'll catch more flies with a spoonful of
honey than a gallon of vinegar
  (Say  winegar).

What  Skipper  calls  caghanded,  and  Mardle
- couch
  (left-handed or clumsy ) [1] was, in my
boyhood family (50% left-handed), called

Clumsiness seems always to have had a poor
reception, to judge by the available words.
Lummox   is a clumsy or ungainly person,
who may also be described as :
bumble-foo(t)ed, fumble-fisted, horflin(g)
(clumsy movement) and  ungain [  ungainly ].

A large and unwieldy object (a youth?!)
is  hudderin'  (adjective).
To  buffle   is to handle clumsily.
[1] definitely a non-PC term!.

9 : Judgements

Other, more full-blown, character
assessments (assassinations?) include:-
    Idleness : As oidle as Halls's dorg, woo(t)
    doid 'cause tha(t) wooz too lairzy ter ea(t).

    Over-eagerness : Loike Farmer Cubitt's
    calf, as tro(tt)ed t'ree moile-a suck a BULL.

    Thriftiness : Ea(t) their brown bread faast,
    and whoi(t) ar(t)erwards.

    Pretensions to holiness :

      Sunday Saint, Weekday Devil.
      (H)is religion is co-o-opyhowld
      [ copyhold ] an' (h)e hen'(t) tairken-a up.

    Morals : His conscience uz [ is ] maird-a
    stretchin' lather
    [ leather ].

    Stupidly thoughtless : Gastless.

Remarks made by a person for whom we have
little regard are taken "from whence they come";
the longer rural expression being :-
    Oi'll tairk tha(t) fr'm whence tha(t) come,
    as the booy say
    when the dickey kicked-um.
This is, of course, little short of
payin' noo regard!.

The dickey  (donkey) also features as an
add-on to the "short and sweet" cliche :
Short and sweet, like a dickey's gallop.
The opposite, rambling at length, is :-

    Gorn-on loike a pig in a harves(t) field!
When all the fun was over, my Gran would say -
Punch a-done dancin'

This is an obvious reference to kiddies'
entertainment, such as seen at the Village Fair
or gant.
Serious adults (like us!) should note the
sustained preference for the past tense of the
do  verb  (has done),  instead of  has finished.
Gran would have been to Mattishall Gant
in her young days . . .

If an outcome is judged to be disappointing,
the  do  verb is pressed into service yet again :-

    When (h)e towld me, Oi woon't 'arf done!
Which means I was very disappointed at
his news, and equally downcast as a result.
Minor setbacks can render one  - a bi(t) done!

10 : Where Ignorance Is . . .

Well,  not  appreciated. This is despite the
stereotype of a "thick" straw-sucking yokel;
based on the "village-idiot" syndrome
(which  did  exist, of course;
due to some in-breeding).

The reality is that of most local folk despising
ignorance and prizing learning, in much the
same way as they do in Scotland.
Some sayings which help to "prove" it :-

    Here [ He have ] go(t) noo more sense
    than a May goslin';

    He dorn'(t) know Gri(t) A
    fr'm the gairble-end;

    OR  . . . know B fr'm bull's foot.

Oddly, in Norwich we seem to have merged the
last two into . . . know A fr'm bull's foot.
Unfortunately it is only the reference to a
gable-end  that makes any sense to me !

Knowledge pretensions are jumped-upon
with the usual vigour:-

    E dorn'(t) know noo more abou(t) tha(t)
    then a crow do abou(t) a Sunda.

    Here go(t) noo more air [ ear ] for music
    then Balls's bull, as dossed the fiddler
    oover the fence.

Of course, we can always fall back on
the dismissive : E talk a lood-a ow'd squi(t)!.

General incompetence is also deprecated.
Muddle and confusion  (buffle again) gives us
buffle-headed  and  cafflin'   is hesitating;
wi(tt)ery   is weak.
To wander around aimlessly is  sammuckin',
  or to  shack; while to dawdle is to

11 : Gossip

Not the just rambling sort, this time.
Norfolk must have been hell for German spies
in WWII, as the locals (harking back to earlier
invasions) needed no telling that
Careless Talk Costs Lives.

It is a  rare job  to get any information out of
(or indeed into?) a Norfolk person, with
his/her naturally suspicious nature :
Woo(t) d'yer wan(t)-a know tha(t) for??.
See  Story A
A blunt refusal may follow :
Oi aren'(t) a-gorn-a tal you all moi know.
(N. B. 'know' = noun)

He may well have decided to keep it  squa(t)
(secret).  He may warn against passing secrets
to a talkative person :
A dorg woo(t)'ll fetch'll carry!

The benefit of the doubt is often allowed
to  women  given to much chattering
(men never do that, of course) :
A hen woo(t) dorn'(t) prair(t)e 'oon(t) lay.
In other words, a lively, talkative woman
is likely to be a better bet all-round.

This brings me back to my Grandmother's
roots; in a community where energy & vivacity
were not only appreciated, but needed. Her
expression  Still an' ill,  was for the opposite,
withdrawn, kind of "hen" (or cock).

This phrase (not widely heard in the City)
has all the hallmarks of a true Norfolk saying :
ultra-short, a bit poetic, but not at all sweet.
Indeed, it was  intended  to be hurtful.

On the other hand, to shout is to  sharm  or
spawle;  and to brairze ou(t)   (as in  brazen)
is to insist upon one's point-of-view.

12 : Too True

Norfolk has a nice line in stating the obvious.
Mardle  recites this perspective on history :-
    Then was then and now is now.
Not until I read his book did I realise that,
for most of my life, people had described
clean items (e.g. "Persil"-laundered sheets)
thus :- As white as white;  or
the threatening sky : As black as black.
A little matter of omitting the . . . can be??

Knowing a person by sight-only is to
know him to see to;
whilst your casual acquaintance is known
to speak to.
[ N.B. This is a long way removed from
any invitation to  come up ter moine. ]

The latter  to  (only) is pronounced normally :
tuh see tu.

As with many of Gran's sayings, some other
comparisons are less flattering. (See  Cloacal 4 )

I guess Norfolk has no monopoly on the
description of a mournful face :
As long as a wet week.
A nice anti-clerical jibe is :
As big as the parson's barn.

Marital strife and breakup is not an exclusively
modern phenomenon, but - being rarer - did
tend to invoke more doom-laden comment from
smug onlookers :-

    She'll suck sorra boi pairlfuls;
    Here swallered shairm an' drank ar(t)er-a.
Undue curiosity and unwanted interference
are taboo in Norfolk. Such a person will
have been described (in Gran's village) as
Wanting to know the "ins and outs"
of a duck's [ rectum ].
(Cloacal para. 4 again)

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