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Brexit mess must be the very definition of 'a load of ole squit'

PUBLISHED: 21:48 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 21:48 03 February 2019

Horses look on as men and boys tuck into their refreshments – an ideal stage for a few helpings of Norfolk squit!

Horses look on as men and boys tuck into their refreshments – an ideal stage for a few helpings of Norfolk squit!

Archant

There’s general acceptance that good old Norfolk squit is simply nonsense, light-hearted banter, an unlikely story. It sums up Brexit perfectly, says Keith Skipper

This interminable Brexit brouhaha must be on the cusp of being afforded Norfolk’s most coveted accolade … “a complete load of ole squit!”

However, some purists who know and care much more about Brockdish than Brussels could raise an important point of order and say they want no part in our most precious commodity being sullied on the back benches of capital chaos.

Those ordained to look after our affairs might then pretend they don’t know what squit is and carry on what they call debating, debunking, prognosticating, compromising or just a full and frank exchange of ideas with a three-line whip in a circus ring.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised at any hints of ignorance around Westminster. After all, there may be good solid voters in smaller seats of democracy like Wacton, Wendling and Winfarthing still mystified by one of our most delightful dialect words.

The derivation is obscure. Robert Forby’s precious Vocabulary of East Anglia, first published in 1830, five years after his death, says it’s a word of supreme contempt for a very diminutive person – “A paltry squit!”. (No offence Mr Bercow). Today’s Oxford Dictionary follows a similar track: “Small, insignificant person”. Easy to see why so many confuse it with “squirt”.

For all that, there’s general acceptance that good old Norfolk squit is simply nonsense, light-hearted banter, an unlikely story. Most pubs still have at least one learned exponent ready to turn on the tap. Locals may have heard it all before but that hardly diminishes their enjoyment, especially if it’s aimed at an unsuspecting stranger.

Invariably tied up with our dialect and inherent humour, it is dispensed largely without malice. The native can use squit as a territorial marker. It offers him a sense of amiable superiority on his own midden for he knows it will take even the brightest of newcomers some time to catch the drift.

I ought to underline the double-edged qualities of squit. It may emerge in a term of honest praise: “He allus give yer a fair bit o’ squit!” will ring around the banqueting hall in the wake of an entertaining after-dinner speech. But there’s also a derogatory side.

“Dunt yew tearke no notice o’ him cors he dew tork a lot of ole squit!” has been heard at the end of many a political gathering, after-match inquest at Carrow Road and parish council meeting.

Squit has no easily-defined barriers. Out in the open, I suppose it can inspire and injure, delight or deflate, but to be fair to true Norfolk artists, they can prick the balloon of pomposity without resorting to the javelin. They simply prefer to make their point with droll humour rather than hasty barbs.

When I wrote my first book on this subject well over 30 years ago I felt moved to include examples from various facets of local life as I experienced them – the farmyard, huneyycarts and little sheds down the yard, church and chapel chuckles and medical yarns from Bedpan Alley. My days as a boy helping out on the farm with what can most kindly be described as limited success made me a prime target for wise men of the fields.

“Go and fetch a pail o’ dry water … git me a left-handed hammer and a tin o’ striped paint …bring yer hoe, we’re a’gorn’ muckspreddin”. You took such earthy squit in your stride or suffered less subtle abuse. And if you should ask for an odd job, it came as no real surprise to be told to go and milk the bull.

Of course, some communities are stronger on squit than others. Villagers at Bodham near Holt, used to devote a whole concert to its glories, an annual rural eisteddfod with an off- the-cuff flavour. Newcomers were encouraged to join in as soon as they felt equipped to get their own back.

Better to build a cheerful bridge to peaceful co-existence than place all well-meaning “missionaries” in a pot heated over a bonfire of suspicion, intolerance and mean-spiritedness.

Norfolk’s example deserves far wider support. It’s time for Honourable Members to share a bit of squit during heated sessions in Parliament. How I’d love to hear one of them pass on this little gem composed by a village elder during my rural childhood:

“Mr Speaker. There are only three kinds of MP in this House .. those who can count – and those who can’t!”.

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