Stacia Briggs’ guide to talking Norfolk
- Credit: Liz Murton
In the latest of her Norfolk Day columns, Stacia Briggs considers our wonderful dialect and accent.
Have I mentioned that I won't actually be in Norfolk for Norfolk Day yet? I think it may explain a lot about my dedication to plugging all things 'county' ahead of July 27: guilt.
I am Norfolk born and bred: I know who Jack Valentine is, where the mummified cat in the Castle Museum is, the best set of the Snails/Dodmans in Great Yarmouth and the best short cut to Wells. Try and out-Norfolk me at your peril.
I don't, however, have a broad Norfolk accent unless I put it on – but I still know that a pint of bare doesn't involve nakedness. With that in mind, this month let's take a look at the Norfolk dialect. Do you mark my words, together? Then we shall begin.
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1) There are few true Norfolk folk who wouldn't be able to tell you that a bishybarneybee is a ladybird, but can you tell your pishamires from your barneypigs? The latter infest log piles (woodlice) the former infest picnics (ants). A certain variety of Bishybarneybee, of course (STD-carrying Harlequin ladybirds, to be precise) threatened to overwhelm our native ladybirds with their rampant promiscuity last summer, but that's an entirely different story and not one that's suitable for a family newspaper.
2) On the subject of insects, a mingin is the Norfolk word for a gnat. Be warned however, if someone under the age of 25 calls you 'minging' it's unlikely they are comparing you to a gnat.
3) Titty-tottys generally enjoy a twizzle on a tittermartorter, although tend to get titchy if they fall and get thacked (children enjoy spinning on a roundabout, but tend to get annoyed if they fall off and thump to the ground).
4) 'Hold yew hard' isn't a call to grasp a coniferous shrub, it means 'hold on a moment' – in a certain corner of Britain, at least.
5) If something is described as being 'on the huh' in Norfolk, it means that the object in question isn't level, or is on a slant. Norwich Market is, by definition, 'on the huh' – so will you be if you have one two many gin and tonics.
6) The technical definition of 'jargon' is a hybrid language or dialect. The Norfolk definition of 'jargon' is something you'd do in a tracksuit: 'Here gorn jargon' (he's gone jogging).
7) In Norfolk, a scarecrow is a 'mawkin' while a woman is a 'mawther' – it would stand you in good stead not to confuse the two during a mardle with your Mother.
8) The age-old childhood practice of playing with one's food is, in Norfolk, referred to as 'pingling'. Children often jiffle – or fidget - as they pingle, at which point, in less politically correct households, they might get a clip around the lug (ear) causing them to blar (cry).
9) Venerable Norfolk dialect expert and exponent Keith Skipper once claimed that most TV dramas confused the Norfolk accent with the West Country accent: 'The best Norfolk accent I've heard on television was on Lark Rise to Candleford, and that's meant to be set in Oxfordshire,' he said. A stinging critique from the master of the dialect who last year released a list of 10 Norfolk words he'd like to hear back in usage: harnser (heron), puckaterry (in a muddle or a bit of a temper), mardle (see above), troshin' (to thresh, or to keep on going), jiffle (see above), dodman (snail), garp or gawp (to gape or stare at something, Keith offers up: 'that Missus Smith dew garp outta har net cartins'), muckwash (to sweat or get hot and bothered), squit (nonsense) and tricolate (to spruce up – Keith suggests: 'he tricolated the shud suffin masterous.').
10) Norfolk vowels dictate that a 'pair', a 'pear' and Cromer 'pier' all sound exactly the same. Eating a pair of pears on the pier may be taking your dedication to 'talking local' a step too far.