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HERITAGE - 43: YORKSHIRE DIALECT (2), How It Works... 'Summat Like It, Any Road'
White Rose Country - watch out for t' thorns
Yorkshire's Yammer'. This is it, the Hub-page you've waited for, how to talk like a Tyke - well any one of three kinds, choose how
Get away from dialect? You can't, it creeps in through gaps in the window frames, under the doors... Seriously, a lot of us think others talk dialect, not them. Even Standard English stems from a dialect. You'd know that already if you paid attention what you read in HERITAGE parts 1. and 2. Take the word 'Yammer', it's a simplified form of Old English 'geomerian' (As with Danish, pronounce the 'g' as 'y', and what with a vowel shift or two the 'o' became 'a', the '-erian' is swallowed into '-ering'.= 'geomer' becomes 'yammer'. Don't look at me n like that, I'm only the messenger).
Local dialect, as opposed to slang, is serious language limited to particular areas. If someone says, "'E's off 'is nut/rocker" you'll realise it's slang. However if they say "'E's off 'is eead (or 'yed' in some areas)", they're genuine dialect speakers. Got it? We're talking about bona fide dialect here, a language or tongue to itself. 'Antics of semantics', so to speak, are the joys of delving into meanings. Pronunciations and grammar ae tied in, of course. This isn't an exercisein slang, it's the real thing (forget about 'Coke').
Every area within every Riding of Yorkshire has its own dialect, the cities being a melting pot of dialects from surrounding districts and Standard English. Working class areas are more likely to 'harbour' dialect. The main boundaries between dialect areas ran between the north-west and south-east. North of this line the Northern dialects hold sway, and to the south arethe North Midland dialects. Take a look at this:-
Northern Dialect Areas
Standard English 1: N W Dales 2. Cleveland/Tees 3. East/Cent Yorks/Southern Moors
Spade ....................spyad............... speead..................... speead
Boots .................... beeats ............. beeats ..................... beeats
Speak .................. .speeak ............. speeak .....................speeak
Three..................... threr-ee ............three ........................three
Coal ....................... cooal ............... cooal ........................cooal
North Midland Dialect Areas
House .....................'ouse................ 'ahs...........................'ehs
Spade......................spehad............. spehad.................... spade
Boots.......................boots ................booits ......................booits
Three......................three................. three........................ three
Grammar changes between areas. In the Patrington area (East Riding) they do without 'the'. 'Into the cart' becomes 'into cart', without even a glottal stop (as elsewhere in t'). They're that independent minded in the Holderness area, east of Hull, there've been rumblings of secession from the rest of Yorkshire. You haven't heard the last of it. In Halifax and Huddersfield (southern West Riding) they say 'oo for she, as in South-east Lancashire. In Leeds, Bradford, Dewsbury and Keighley (pron. 'Keethla') in central West Riding they say 'shoo'. Words metamorphose as well. In different areas cows are kept in a 'coo-oos', 'cow-'ouse', 'byre', 'shuppin', 'shippon', 'cow-shed', 'leeath' (a 'laith' or barn and cow-house), 'mistle' and 'kah-oil'.
Left-handed Yorkshire folk are not common, but references to them abound: 'keggy', 'kaggy', 'gallock-' or 'doughy-'anded', 'cuddy-fisted', 'cuddy-whiffer', 'kay-pawed' and 'dolly-posh'. If a motorist ahead of you signals left and turns right why not rise to the occasion and call out "Tha girt, gaumless, giggish, glaikit, gainless gallock-'anded gawk!"
As the Danes overran Deira and gave it its name (the Kingdom of York, which later became a 'shire') Yorkshire, we have lots of deeply-rooted Old Norse words such as 'addle' (earn), 'laik' (pron. 'lark', play), 'ket' (rubbish), 'baitin' (pron. 'battin', smacking), 'luggin' a poke' (pulling a sack). Frisian or Dutch expressions came, such as 'ketch' (small fishing vessel) and 'skipper' (captain). From French we get 'creeam', 'fol-de-rols' (showy clothes) and 'reeasty' (testy or stubborn), Other sources gave us 'tay/tey' (tea), 'pobbies' (child's soft food).
An then we have uniquely Yorkshire mispronunciations like 'eether' and 'neether' (either/neither), repetitive sounding such as ' jubber-jubber' (idiotic talk), 'dollop' (shapeless), 'cawf-eead' (calf head, or soft in the head), 'clat-can' (gossip, as in "Yon clat-can's waar not a cluckin' 'en", i.e. "that gossip's worse than a clucking hen"), or there's 'clart-can' (mud-bucket). They sound funny, but they stem from early Aengle or Anglian dialect
A physical county
Place and personal names can be whimsical.
You get Pennine villages like Appletreewick, or the off-putting Swine (Hull area), Ugglebarnby (Whitby district), comical like Ugthorpe (also Whitby), Wetwang (Yorkshire Wolds, East Riding).
There are risky-sounding ones like Skidby or Wressle (East Riding), happy as in Skipton (North Yorkshire, erstwhile West Riding) or Skpsea (East Riding again). We have very short names like Heck, Hook, Shelf and Slack. Well-to-do areas have nice-sounding names now that were once not so, like Fulwood (Sheffield), from Foul Wood. What seems quaint now, Bugwood, originated from Buggi's Wood.
A travelling salesman lost near Helmsley (near the western edge of the North Yorkshire Moors) was told by a local, "Thoo's i' Airum" (rhymes with wear 'em). With images of scantily clad women in his mind, the traveller started thumbing through his road atlas. When asked, "How do you spell that?" the local grunted, "Thoo dussent spell it, thoo sez it!" The place was Harome, south-east of Helmsley on a back road.
Have a look at some more place names, and how they're said:
Appletreewick (Northern Dales) = Apptrick; Burstwick (nr Hedon, Hull) = Bostwig; Brighouse (nr Huddersfield, West Riding) = Brig ('as); Deighton (nr Selby) = Deeton; Elland (Huddersfield) = Yelland; Giggleswick (nr Settle, Skipton) = Gilswick; Hessle (nr Hull) = Ezzle; Hebden Bridge (nr Halifax, West Riding) = (Y) 'Ebdin Brig or T'Brig; Acombe (near York) = Yakkam; Chevin (Otley, West Riding) = Shivvan; Easingwold (nr Thirsk, North Yorks) = Eeasynud; Flamborough (nr Bridlington, East Riding) = Flehmbrer; Golcar (nr Huddersfield) = Go'car; Hipperholme (nr Halifax) - Ipram; Keighley (nr Bradford, West Riding) = Keethla/Keythla; Little Weighton (nr Hull) = Laatle Weeton; Old Malton (nr Malton, North Yorkshire) = Awd Mawton; Hawsker (nr Whitby) = Oscar; Todmorden (extreme West Riding - almost in Lancashire) = Tordmin; Ruswarp (nr Whitby) = Ruzzup
And so forth...
Fact: An Ordnance Survey employee (their head office is near Southampton, Hampshire) approached a wizened old farmer near Whitby and asked about the name of a handsome Georgian building in its own grounds. He was told "T' Owd Hall"... The location has appeared on Ordnance Survey maps ever since as 'Toad Hall'.
Tykes (the Yorkshire name for Yorkshire folk) look at things differently from most, such as dwelling places. Visitors who sought an elderly relative were told by the first man they met, "Nay, Ahs an off-cummed 'un". 'Where from?" they asked. "From away", came the answer. Logical really. An 'off-comer' is someone who wasn't born in the community they live in, no matter how long they've lived there. They asked another, "Have you lived here all your life?" "Not yit".Frazzled, they asked a third. "Nay", he shook his head sagely, "Ah were born i' Masham" (two miles off as the crow flies, but in another Riding). He added, "Ah wish Ah noo wheer Ah was t' dee, an' then Ah'd keep well clear o' there".
There are sayings linked to some locations that are not complimentary to their natives. "To come Yorksher ower somewun" means to cheat them. To "Give Scarborough warning" means to give none, and to "do a Shevvild" (Sheffield) is to run away. Many places mentioned come out badly in this rhyme,
"Uthersfield for show, Shevvild what's low, Leeds for dirt and vulgarity".
Some more to do with places - Great Ayton near Middlesbrough, known locally as 'Canny Yatton': "Yattoners wade ower t'beck to save t'brig" ('Canny' can mean great or clever; a brig is a bridge). Hackness in Forge Valley near Scarborough: "All of a sahd, like 'Ackniss Fair" (the fair ground takes up half the village area near the beck [a beck is a stream]; Halifax, West Riding: "From Halifax, Hell and Hull, Good Lord deliver us". (from the poem, 'A Dalesman's Litany'). The town comes out a bit better here: "Halifax is built of wax, Heptonstall on stooan; i' Halifax there's bonny lasses, i'Heptonstall there's nooan!"; Hallamshire (Sheffield, the Ridings were sub-divided into smaller shires): When all the world shall be aloft, then Hallamshire shall be God's croft" (as in Scotland, a 'croft' is a smallholding); Harrogate: "Said t'Devil when flyin' ower Harrogate Wells, 'I think I'm gettin' home by the smells'"; Ingleborough (not a town, nearby Ingleton is) one of three Yorkshire Pennine peaks: "Ingleborough, Pendle and Pen y Gent are the highest hills between Scotland and Trent" (factually not quite right, Great Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen y Gent are the highest); Kippax (near Leeds): "Wheer they put a wire fence rahnd it to keep t'fog aht"; Marsden (Huddersfield): Wheer they put t'pigs on t'wall to listen t'band"; Pontefract: "As sure as a louse in Pomfret". Pudsey (Leeds again): "Wheer ducks fly back'ards"; Roseberry Topping, a local landmark near Great Ayton: When Roseberry Topping wears a cap (cloud), let Cleveland then beware a clap" (thunderclap or downpour); York: "Lincoln was, London is, but Yoork shall be t'greatest city of the three".
It's still not too late for a 2017 calendar...
Par for the course
The tyke's characteristics don't come out rosy, either
If angered, Tykes will 'belt', 'bensill', 'bray', 'lace', leather', 'pawse' (kick) or 'skelp' you, or "mek thi' brains rattle".
On the other hand they make one another out as simple, as in 'daft as muck', 'as daft as a (coal) scuttle' or 'as fond as a turnip', 'as gawmless as a suckin' duck' or 'three sheets t'wind'. A little less foolish and you'll be spoken of as 'silly gobbins'.
Yorkshire folk don't want to come across as over-clever. Don't underestimate them, on the other hand you can take them on face value, A woman came home with wood for a new clothes prop for the washing line. She asked her 'mester' to cut the cleft in the top of the prop for her "Aye", he answered, 'wheer's t' prop?" "It's leeanin' up agen t' ahs wall", she indicated with her thumb to the back yard door. He says, "Then Ah'll borrer a stee" (ladder). She snorted in contempt, "Tha cracked fooil! What's wrang wi' sawin' it fra t' bedroom winder?"
Now, how about the 'lurry drahver' who was seen frantically trying to remove the stonework of a bridge arch, that his vehicle wouldn't pass under. "Why don't you let your tyres down a bit?" a passer-by suggested helpfully. "Nay", the daft driver answered, "it's t' lurry roof 'at waint go under, not t' wheels".
Typical Tykes can be defensive in shifting blame. A Wolds farmer riding his ''oss' with his wife trudging wearily after him. A field labourer asked, "Why ain't thi' missus ridin'?" The farmer pulled a face and retorted, "Shoo esn't nooa 'oss".
Further north, a man appeared before a magistrate who upbraided him, "You were brought in by two policemen, drunk I suppose". The accused answered endearingly, "Aye, yer reverence, they was".
Moreover, Tykes sensitive about the way they speak told a Cockney (local to Central London), "Any road (anyway), we say things proper, a cup o' tay or by its spellin' a cup o' teea, not 'a cap o' tie' like you's lot!" Bluntness is the hallmark of the Yorkshireman. A lady tourist stopped to speak to a farmer in Upper Wensleydale, "What an adorable view!" "Aye", the Dales farmer grunted, "but it weeant pay t' rent". His neighbour put in, "We've nobbut scenery, an 'thoo can't see that for t' 'ills".
There's a story about a farm labourer up to his neck in a deep mire, who cried out for help. A local passer-by asked, "What's thi name?" "Jack Robson, from Bielby's farm", the man cried in answer, "an' Ah can't hodd aht mich longer!" The passer-by ignored his plight and hurried to the farm. He asked the foreman there,"Dus'ta know Jack Robson's drahndin'?" "What abaht it?" the foreman asked. "Ah've come for 'is job"."Tha's ower late. We've gi'n (given) 'it to t'chap 'at chucked 'im in".
Some Yorkshire words cover different meanings,'fettle' being one. You can 'fettle' (mend) a wheel, or you can be 'i' fahn fettle' (condition). Or you can threaten someone with it, "If tha sez that again, Ah'll sooin fettle thi'!"
The word 'Nowt' gets grandstand treatment in Yorkshire,as well as 'Owt' : "'E talks an sez nowt","Nowt said needs no mendin'", and the famed West Riding commandment, "See all, hear all, say nowt; eyt all, sup all, pay nowt; an' if tha does owt for nowt, do it for thissen". [See all, hear all, say nothing; eat all, drink all, pay nothing; and if you do anything for nothing, do it for yourself]..
'Owt' literally translated is 'aught', the archaic form for anything, not to be confused with 'ought', meaning 'should'.
'Summat' is something, "Gie's summat t' eyt".
Then the Yorkshireman's 'Us': '"Get us a paper at t' corner shop" [Get me a paper...] "What're ye lookin' at us like that for?" It's nothing to do with delusions of grandeur, it goes back into Anglian history.
How fast does the Tyke talk? It's a question of how many words he can bung together before he has to stop to take a breath.
You have one extreme, of being sparing with words. "Aye" can cover a whole lot of meanings, "Nay!" "'Appen' (maybe). Let's see how two Tykes get through a conversation using as few words as necessary:
"Did tha?" "Aye". "Well Ah never! By!"
The other extreme gives us a machine gun round of words: "Shintin" = she isn't in (at home); "Ootellditim?" = who told him (it)?; "Aburrisabaht" = Oh, but he's with it/on the ball; "Thamungerritetten" = you must eat it (literally: get it eaten).
Something to get used to in Tyke-land is, in the West Riding when a complete stranger tells you, "Nah then", and maybe "'Ow then". Just answer with the same and all's well. They won't take it any further, it's just a greeting, like 'Hello" or "Hi". Where it gets tricky is when you're told he's seen 'a dead good 'un'. That's pretty much alive if he points to an animal (or a woman). Ossett and 'ossin' have nothing in common with 'osses' (horses). If you're 'pined' in West Yorkshire you're not suffering but feel hungry. When you're 'gegged' or 'clemmed' your mouth is wide open and you're thirsty. If you're 'off yer meyt' in the same area it's not just meat you don't want, it's any food. If a lass is 'starved' she's not ravenous, you should 'utch' up to her as she wants to be warmed.
Awkwardness with unfamiliar words brings on some hilarious combinations. We get 'caterpillar action' for capillary, or, "Ah've a Barnsla accident", meaning Barnsley accent. "Yon's t' 'ospital insultant", "Ah've joined t' Ysterical Society", or better, "We're workin' in collision" (collusion, as if I needed to say). Then there's "Wimmin's gettin' emaciated". How about the ambidextrous type who tells you he's 'ambiguous'?
Don't put on your 'Sat'da neet' voice to impress anyone. Leave out your 'aitches'. You get the poor flustered soul who tries to impress his betters with "Hi ham 'appy to hopen this 'ere hanniversary dinner". Don't try to get 'clahssy' or come 'lahst' as they do on t' telly. Being 'refayned' gets you nowhere north of Donny (Doncaster, the southernmost town in the county). All that 'thou' and 'thee' doesn't mean folk are 'churchy'. That goes a long way back, and in some parts of the county they wouldn't thank you for staring.
Watch out with saying 'Yersen' (yourself) north beyond Keighley (Worth Valley) or Grassington.(Upper Wharfedale) you say 'Yersel'. Around the 'border' you might get away with mixing them up once or twice, after that it's 'make your mind up time'. Use one or t' other.
A tribute to a great Dalesman, Bill Mitchell
Bill Mitchell was editor of 'The Dalesman' magazine (produced at Clapham in the top western corner of North Yorkshire) for over two decades. Born at Skipton in mid-January, 1928, then in the West Riding, W R 'Bill' Mitchell, MBE (Member of the British Empire*), carved out a corner of journalism that included the recording of what seemed then to be a dying tradition: Yorkshire dialect. He wrote over two hundred books on various Yorkshire themes including dialect, gave talks and actively sought to broaden knowledge of Yorkshire humour, tradition and dialect. He passed away on 7th October, 2015 at his home in Steeton with Eastburn, West Riding.
* It might seem pompous and outdated, yet signifies a high level of attainment in each member's profession
Editor W R 'Bill' Mitchell presents 'A Dalesman's Diary', a compendium of Dalesman's bone-dry wit, dialect, recipes and recollections from contributors around the region. Good bedside reading you won't want to put down... you'll wish you had at least three hands and two pairs of eyes. Enjoy!
A Dalesman's Diary
- Products Archive - Dalesman
Dalesman Magazine: Magazines, Books, Events, Steam Railways, Dialect and all things Yorkshire
'Wimmin' in God's Own County
- you saw the word 'wimmin' earlier - cook hefty meals as if they were frightened their menfolk would starve. They're forever 'fettlin' their 'ouses' and they speak their minds, pull no punches in letting you know what they think of you, your mates and your whole family (watch 'Last of the Summer Wine' for guidance, or to see how formidable they can be, especially Norah Batty, upstairs from 'Compo' Simmonite). When they're 'tarted up' they're 'bonny lasses' or 'fair stunners'. The county's not short of them.
'Cooartin' is the polite form of talking about the process of finding a woman. 'Ossin' abaht' (horsing about in the West Riding, now you know) ,might lead to 'chattin' 'er up', 'datin' 'er', 'bein' on t' arm' or 'walkin' er aht'. And then 'bein' on a promise (engaged) which leads to 'gerrin' wed' or 'gerrin' spliced'.
'The woman' is acceptable, as in "'E's got a woman over i' Barnsla'. Living in sin comes across as 'livin' over t' latch'. Yorkshiremen believe generally that although the 'missus' might be a dab hand at cooking and 'raisin' t' bairns', she's mechanically a non-starter. For example an unlucky lady driver stuck at the lights at the Headrow (Leeds) tried to get into any gear. A 'bobby' (policeman, named after founder and PM Sir Robert Peel) rapped on her Mini roof for attention and asked, "Nah, Madam, 'ev we no colour you do like?" In Bra'forth (Bradford, remember?) there was a driver that gawmless that when told her engine was missing she began to look for it under the car.
We'll have to leave it there for now, lads. Y'know, for safety's sake. Wouldn't want to give the wrong impression, like.
Think you've mastered it yet?
Would you say you're up to 'exam' standard?
It goes back a while, lads'n'lasses
That's all for now folks. There's another part in preparation. Keep thi een skinned for more to come on: Bairns, Food & Drink, Sport, Sayings & Likenings, Tykes' World, Directions, Cure-alls, Mathermaticks, Animals, Closing poem (trad.)
Lots to look forrard to in Part 3, Lads'n'lasses!