Heritage - 44: Yorkshire Dialect (3), Maister Class (Stick Wi' It Ahsumivver* It Goes!)
Bairns - and you thought that was Scottish?
Experts say the test of dialect strength is to listen to t' young wuns. Good news! Yorkshire dialect has a rosy future if you listen to talk in the playground at school, when 'skooil loises'. Most are bi-lingual, able to translate for visitors from outside. Again, most are happy to rattle on in the Yorksher Yammer. local speech makes converts amongst incomers from around the world. An eager young Bradford teacher went to great lengths to learn Urdu (Pakistan), but when she tried it out on her class her efforts were met with, "Yer-wha' Miss?"
Yorkshire bairns don't have it easy at 'skooil', where teachers try to 'larn 'em' to spell 'tayters' with a 'p', to start 'lectric' with an 'e' and so on. Infant (Early Primary) 'reeadin' books make it unnecessarily hard by refusing to apply the initial Yorkshire alphabet as follows:
"A for 'osses; B fer lamb; C for thissen; D fer an' deeper; E fer Adam; F fer ready; G fer police; H fer startin' work; I fer a fahn lass; J fer oranges; K fer mines; L fer leather; M fer sis; N fer eggs; O fer Yorksher pud; P fer Pudsey; Q fer nowt; R fer second; S fer esta?); T fer warchin; U fer getten; V fer victory; W fer a pahnd; X fer sale; Y fer kids; Z fer t' doctor.
Outsiders, non-Yorksher folk might need this explained (although if you say them out aloud they shouldn't need to be explained). Right, the translation: A (hay) for horses; B Beef or lamb; C (see) for yourself; D (Deeper) and deeper; E Eve or Adam; F (Ever) ready; G (chief of) police; H (age) for starting work; I (eye) for a fine lass; J (Jaffa) oranges; K (Kaffir) mines; L (Hell) for leather; M (empha) -sis; N (hen) for eggs; O (oh) for Yorkshire Pudding; P Pudsey (near Leeds); Q (queue) for nothing; R (half) a second; S (are/have) you?; T (teeth) are aching; U (you)-'ve forgotten; V (aye, we know) victory; W (double you) for a pound; X (eggs) for sale; Y (wife) or kids; Z (zend/send) for a doctor.
The county 'Eddication' Officer might consider the West Riding alphabet as an alternative:
"A is for Apple 'at Eve yarked off t' tree; K is for kids wi' sich owd buck an 'cheek. You feel you could poise 'em reight int' t' next week; L is for livin' at's nooan allus fun. But it's better nor deein' when all's said an' done; M is for muck, yo' can turn up yer nooases but it meks yer peys grow an' puts beauty i' t' rooases..."
'Ows about a bit o' ejucashun?
Food and Drink
Grub goes down a treat in White Rose Country. It goes down well with your hostess if you show you like it. You have to 'gollop' it though. 'Guzzle' your 'tey' that comes with it, 'gaunch', 'slubber', 'slowp', 'slotch', 'slop' or 'sozzle' your drink even though this shows you up as a 'sluther-guts'.
Tykes scoff at dieting, they'll turn their 'nooases' up at 'rabbit fooid' (salad), 'mahlstooan pud' with big gaps between currants, and 'flat-rib', a sort of cheap mild ale. Your Tyke hates 'Resurrection Day', when Sunday's leftovers are re-hashed, and he always looks forward to 'summat t' eyt'. It's not the nice arrangement or polite service he likes, but it 'does 'im good'. Second to nothing is 'Yorksher Pud'. 'Eyt it afoor t'main cooarse. When tha sarves it, say "Them 'at eyts mooast puddin' gets mooast meyt". So as when they're all 'stawed up (full) wi' pud they'll not mich else'.
When food was hard to come by, some put-offs were used when t' bairns asked what there was to eat, 'Tunes an' buttered haycocks', 'few broth', 'nowt warmed up'. When 'brass' (cash) was plentiful great dishes showed on the table, such as Simnel Cake for mothering Sunday, Spotted Dick after broth and dumplings, ''urrins' (ten a penny onceover) fried in oatmeal, home-made sly cake, pig's cheek, crab salad.., Many of these dishes have gone by the board.
Tykes have an abiding interest in football. A northern saying tells us, "Shaht dahn t'pit an' up'll come a footballer". "Watch tersens on t' causa (pavement or footpath, initially 'causeway') an' booard up yer shop winders if 'e's late for t' whistle at Elland Rooad (Leeds United FA ground), or if 'is team loises". It maddens the Tyke to see how many column inches are wasted on other teams when all the good ones are clustered east of the Pennines. He still gets wrapped up in silly civil wars, such as when 'Owls' (Sheffield Wednesday FC) play 'Blades' (Sheffield United FC). The Army is put on standby, all Police leave cancelled when 'Featherstone punch an' bensill Cas' (Castleford) in the filthy mud of the ground (Rugby League can be life-threatening, played without body armour - only sissies wear that stuff! - and it's like the trench raids carried out by British troops in WWI.
Cricket is considered every Tyke's passion, whether he watches football played with an egg-shaped ball. Down the years Ray Illingworth, 'Fiery' Freddie Truman (who's on record as saying Middlesbrough folk are Geordies, i.e them lot from Newcastle-upon-Tyne), Geoff Boycott, Darren Gough, Arnie Sidebottom and now Joe Root, have graced England's Test Teams overseas and at Lord's or the Oval. They've also brought the county to the crest of Division One in the County Cricket League.
Aside from football and cricket there's pigeon racing. For top results you put one of your best 'homers' out as a 'strag' - or stray - into someone else's 'strag-oil' (pigeon loft) where it turns friendly with the residents. You then 'clap yer bird 'ooam again and t' others come with it', enabling you to lock them in your own 'stragoil'. Another term has arisen from this process, beyond the bounds of 'spooartin' activities', as 'straggin' now also means 'pickin' up a lass' (likely someone else's).
Summat old, summat new...
Sayings and likenings
Here's where the Tyke comes into his own. He's quick to latch on to likening, rarely 'gob-smacked' (dumb-founded), he won't waste time repeating his wisdom on a dim listener. "'E's browt 'is pigs to a fine market!' is said of someone who's wrought his own downfall through drink, gambling, crime or womanising. Of a middle-aged woman got up in a thigh-length mini-dress he'll say she's "Mutton dressed as lamb", or "dressed up laik a dog's dinner". Someone who's tight-fisted will draw the comment, "'E's 'at tight, it's lahk gerrin' muck from a wooden 'oss!" Someone skilled with his hands but partial to drink is, "double-fisted but triple-throited". A few more comparisons: "straight as a loith" (spindle) means someone's very honest; "Awlus in t' field when 'e should be i' t' loin", is someone who's never ready when opportunity knocks. "Prick one an' they all bleed", means a community is very tight-knit. Advice to the wife, "Mak t' best o' things - even t' mester (the husband). .
The way of the world - to a Tyke
When a mother rocks an empty cradle, or if the pram is sold, another 'babby' will be on the way. To step over a crawling 'babby' is to stop it getting on in life; cut its fingernails too soon and you turn it into a thief.
Weddings: with a piece of wedding cake under her pillow, a woman will dream of her husband-to-be, "change the name and not the letter, you wed for wuss an' not the better".
Bad luck comes from 'booits on t' table' or 'an oppen brolly inside t' 'ouse'.
Death: folk die (from natural causes) always on the ebb-tide. Death portents are a clock stopping for no reason, 'robin tappin' at a winder' or fruit and flowers blossoming together on a tree.
'Ollerdies' - before going away, put a ten bob note (now 50p coin) under the mantelpiece clock to make sure there'll be enough 'brass' for when you get back (although a 50p won't get you much any more).
'Fooitins' - a party or excursion where all put in to 'fooit t' bill'. Folk in the past who had 'footin's' now go to classy restaurants or a local hotel. The lifestyle change is the real harbinger of social change to many dialect expressions, not the BBC or Standard English. When your social life changes old dialect words lose their meaning.
'KES', Barnsla dialect writ large
"Kes" was adapted by director Ken Loach from Barry Hines' book "A Kestrel for A Knave"
I remember this well. Lots of familiar faces from British TV and film and the newcomer, David Bradley. The lad's not doing well at school, he's picked on by his older brother and life after school doesn't look promising. Class teacher Colin Welland, (ex-BBC TV series 'Z-Cars') tries to help in a lost cause and takes interest when the lad tells him of training a kestrel that he's rescued after falling from its nest high up in a derelict tower. PT teacher Brian Glover (ex-wrestler-turned actor) is impatient with his lack of co-ordination in sports and elder brother gets nasty after learning of the lad's project. Dialogue is in dialect for most of the time, aside from school. Think you can get by without the sub-titles? I dare ya!
'A Kestrel For A Nave' by Barry Hines was the basis Ken Loach's film. Hines was born at Hoyland near Barnsley on the last day of June, 1939, and died in South Yorkshire mid-March, 2016. He was educated at Ecclesfield School, between Chapeltown and Sheffield. The book was loosely based on his younger brother Richard's experiences in taming a kestrel.
'Ow are we gettin' on, lads'n'lasses?
How do you think you've done so far?
Did you guess the word in the heading: 'Ahsumivver'? It's 'Howsoever' or 'however' in modern terms ('Any which way').
Tykes' ways of directing strangers should be treated cautiously. You might hear, "See yon choch past t' crossroads? Well it's not down there..." There'll be talk of demolished landmarks, like Atkins' Garage that was demolished by German bombs in WWII that are still real to your guide. He won't accept that they've gone. His sense of distance might also be askew, either because he thinks in 'Yorksher mahls' or your destination is in another Riding - let alone another county. Let's say you're in Bentham and you want to get to Hawes. That's from the West Riding to North. Getting to 'Lankyster' (Lancaster, Lancashire) is another matter altogether - it's 'lahk goin' abroad'!
Cure-alls and Remedies
Alcohol is the remedy 'for owt an' all'. From workmen to kings, faith persists about its effectiveness. 'Them wi' slipped discs', others with raging hangovers have downed brandy or port. The only sense came from the near-alcoholic who turned down whiskey for a heavy cold on the grounds that, "Not ruddy lahkly! Booze is mi pleasure!"
[Incidentally, there's a small settlement in Arkengarthdale - off Swaledale - called Booze, see TRAVEL NORTH - 2: SWALEDALE CIRCUIT...]
Here are a few 'hairy' solutions for everyday aches and pains:
Bad Back: wear a red flannel belt; Belly-warch (Belly ache) - drink cider-tay; Lug-warch (ear ache) - fasten half a roasted onion next t' lug wi' muffler (scarf); Warts - sell 'em t' someone else, tie 'em wi' 'oss-'air or bury in t' ground a piece o' steak' (as it decomposes the warts fade); Screwmatics (rheumatics) - wear a brass ring or put nutmeg - or tayter - in your weskit (waistcoat) pocket; Cramp at neet (night) - 'tek a tayter t' bed'.
Oddities (as if that wasn't odd enough already)
How's this for grace before a meal (skooil dinners, never seen as worthy dinin'): "Fatther, fill me mahth wi' worthwhile stuff, an' nudge me when Ah've etten enuff".
Tykes sometimes seem to contradict themselves, for example, "'E talks an' sez nowt" means he's not worth listening to; "thoo's mended it wahr (worse)" means darned a sock/shirt/under-shirt too roughly; "It's summat an' nowt" means it's not important; "'E can't see fer' lookin' - does that need an explanation? All right then, it means what he was looking for us under his nose.
West Winds - 'Speaking in Dialect'
'Owd maths' survives mainly in the memories of old Celtic sheep-scoring/counting numerals. There were several systems in the Dales, e.g.,
Airedale.............1: era... 2: tera...3: tethera...4: fethera... 5: pimps
Swaledale..........1: yan... 2: tean..3: tethera...4 methera. 5: mick
Nidderdale........ 1: yehn 2: tehn 3: edura... 4: pedura... 5: pips
Ribblehead........1: yah....2: twa... 3: thethera. 4: methera..5: pimp
Compare this with Keswick in the Lake District (part of the erstwhile Kingdom of the Strathclyde Britons): 1: yan, 2: twan, 3: tether, 4: mether, 5: pimp. In Welsh this is: un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump. Around Ribblehead the count went to 49: crackerbuck. The others finished at twenty.
Modern maths: multiply six pigs by eight - 'ger a booar'; 'if it weren't fer summat, there'd be nowt'; 'Umpteen is a gert lot!'; 'To fahnd rooits, dig up a tree!'; 'Twelve inch meks wun fooit, three fooit meks wun yard, three thahsend yards meks a Yorksher mahl'; 'Two minuses meks a plus, three on 'em meks a bigger plus - there's nivver nowt nooa surer!'
Yorksher's a physical county
Animals play a leading role in Yorkshire life
A hiker crossing a field approaches the gate where the farmer stands watching him. Before he's out of the field the hiker stops and asks, "Tell me, is that bull safe?" "Aye, 'e's a lot safer ner thee mate!"
Odd names abound, from creepy-crawlies to bulls. From small to large we've got t' arran, 'at spins its arran-web; a 'clock' is any kin of beetle; 'twitch-bell' is an earwig; for centipede read 'forty-leg'; flies are fleas in Yorkshire, and fleas become 'lops'.
Amongst the bird population we have the 'pyenot' (magpie), 'spuggy/spadger/Dicky dunnock' (humble sparrow), 'tewit/peewit' (lapwing), and 'shepsters/sheppies' (starlings),
Going on to our four-legged, furry friends we have sheep (them again, they outnumber us two-legged animals in Yorkshire by about 5-1), according to gender we have the 'tup', the 'teeap' or 'tewp' for rams, and 'yows', 'hogs', 'hoggits' or 'gimmers' for ewes. It's been said that when a Dalesman becomes a proud father the first question asked of him is, "Is it a tewp or a yow?" 'Osses' hog the Yorkshireman's vocabulary (pardon the mix). A grown horse is a stallion, a 'cowt' is a colt, sometimes a 'meear' is a mare and a 'foil' (pron. 'fowil' is often a foal. An 'oss, like Northern folk, has 'lugs' and 'wang-teeth' (molars). To start him/her you call out "Hey!", and to stop it's "Wey-ya!" An unbroken horse is a 'stag'. A 'dog-'oss' is one that turns awkward, a 'jibber' is one that won't start. They know Yorkshire dialect though. Shout 'Wummit!' and see what comes of that (this is where the phrase "'Old yer 'osses" comes in). Not for nothing do we have nine main racecourses in God's Country for the gambling Tyke (visitors allus welcome) to watch r' nags pass at close quarters in t' Silver Ring at Catt'rick Brig, Re'car, Ripon, Thrusk, Wetherby, Pomfret, Yoork, Bev and Donny (Catterick Bridge, Redcar, Ripon, Thirsk, Wetherby, Pontefract, York, Beverley and Doncaster).
I'd go further but I can see your eyes droop. Take a rest and look at the pictures (particularly the ones of book covers to see what's on the market). See what you remember in the morning. You might find yourself rattling it off while you're on the bus or train, with your fellow passengers looking your way, askance. The books you see illustrated on the page here should prove useful, the hard bit is the choice, but I'll add a short list at the end. I'll leave you with this bit of verse titled "I'm Yorkshire Too!" by a Tyke in olden times named Henry Carey, an ex-pat like me, in Lunnon Toon (London). Here goes:
"By t'side o' a brig, that stands ower a brook,
I was sent betimes to school;
I went wi' the stream, as I studied my book
An' was thought to be no small fool.
I never yet bowt a pig in a poke,
For, to give Awd Nick 'is due,
Tho' oft I've deaIt wi' Yorksher folk,
Yet I was Yorkshire too.
I was pretty well liked by each village maid,
At t' races, wake or fair,
For my father had addled a Vast in trade,
An' I were his son an' heir.
An' seein' that I didn't want for brass
Poor lasses came first to woo.
But tho' I delight in a Yorkshire lass,
Yet I was Yorkshire too!
To Lunnon by father I was sent,
Genteeler manners to see;
But fashion's so dear, I came back as I went,
And so they made nothin' o' me.
My kind relations would soon have found out
What was best wi' my money to do.
Says I, "My dear cousins, I thank ye for nowt,
But I'm not to be cozen'd by you,
For I am Yorkshire too!"
[brig = bridge; Awd Nick = Old Nick, or the Devil; wake = holiday; addled a Vast = earned/made a fortune in business]
Right then, that book list:
"Yorkshire's Yammer", Peter Wright, Dalesman, ISBN 1-85568-07-7 (1994, 1997, 1999);
"Yorkshire Dialect", John Waddington-Feather, Dalesman, ISBN 0-85206-390-3 (1970, 1980);
"Twixt Thee and Me", ed. Joan Pomfret, Gerrard Publications (1974);
"Discovering English Dialects", M F Wakelin, Shire Publications (1978)
"Sitha, tha's fettlin' Yorksher!"
© 2017 Alan R Lancaster