OPINION: My A-Z guide to the Norfolk lingo

Jargon - what people in Norfolk do to keep fit

Jargon - what people in Norfolk do to keep fit - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My favourite month was hardly out of the blocks before an intriguing challenge came from a comparative newcomer to this fine old county. He quit the London rat-race for a far more civilised way of life in the late 1990s and clearly holds no regrets over such a bold decision.

His teasing request set me musing for several hours on how to justify claims for Norfolk to be awarded a “Capital of Culture” accolade. He asked for a handy alphabet to show some of his old friends still living and working in the capital when they asked for proof of Norfolk’s credentials.

He stipulated I should use a mixture of our dialect, folklore and humour in compiling this homely ABC as a crash course for newcomers and visitors and a timely reminder to gnarled, naïve and forgetful locals never to take Norfolk’s exceptional qualities for granted.

Of course, our precious brand of culture has been subjected to countless influences in recent times, not least by the number of lucky people who ignored lurid stories about the Road to Nowhere and moved in to live among us. Sadly, it has been impossible to ignore the Mummerzet brigades continuing to make a complete mockery of the Norfolk accent in drama productions on television and radio.

For some, the clipped tones heard in Burnham Upmarket and other fashionable fleshpots making up the glossy magazine invention of Chelsea-on-Sea are scarcely representative of the true Norfolk image or sound. Only a matter of time, perhaps, before Mayfair Mudflats, Islington Inglenooks and an Ooh,arr rest home in Holkham for retired rustic actors.


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Perhaps we need a brand new label for what’s on offer in “posh” and largely colonised coastal stretches where money and celebrity status talks. I offer “haughtyculture” for this fast-blossoming movement.

With the Norfolk battle-cry of “Dew Yew Keep A’troshin!” ringing in my ears, it dawned on me afresh just how this local corruption of threshing ,sorting out wheat from the chaff, underlines the importance of building on proper foundations.

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So to help reinforce the county’s firm commitment to dew diffrunt despite all pressures towards dull uniformity here is a handy ABC to help spread the true Norfolk gospel among those who would doubt or deny its right to a reputation for cultural excellence.

  • A is for “Are yew orryte, ole bewty?” - traditional greeting, even for strangers. Hardly needs a response .. friendly smile will do.
  • B is for Buskins- shiny leather gaiters, ideal for protection against enthusiastic newcomers to line dancing at the village hall.
  • C is for Coypu – beaver-like rodent introduced from South America for its fur. Eradicated after a long campaign – a clear warning to anyone or anything tempted into gnawing away a Norfolk’s much-vaunted spirit of independence.
  • D is for Dark over Will’s mother’s = signs of bad weather coming – Will’s mother is not confined to Norfolk
  • E is for Ent that a rum ‘un how that allus pick a wet day to rain -typical understatement as holidaymakers get soaked.
  • F is for Fair ter middlin’ - stock response to inquiries about state of health.
  • G is for Git late earlier – the nights are pulling in.
  • H is for Horkey – social gathering to mark end of harvest. Vicars often attend for the free beer.
  • I is for Iceni – they set a useful example when it came to sorting out invaders. Queen Boadicea patented the wheelie-bin with knives.
  • J is for Jargon- what healthy Norfolk natives do before breakfast.
  • K is for Knockin’ and Toppin – a futility rite invented by sugar-beet workers to renew vows with Mother Earth.
  • L is for Let’s hev some loight on the job - God at the Creation proving he likes the Norfolk dialect.
  • M is for Mardling gossiping – Norfolk’s favourite leisure pastime.
  • A coypu shows its teeth!

    A coypu shows its teeth - is it symbolic of Norfolk's attitude to visitors? - Credit: Archant


  • N is for Nonnicking – just fooling about, horseplay.
  • O is for Old Year’s Night – some call it New Year’s Eve.
  • P is for Puckaterry – muddle and confusion.
  • Q is for Quackle … as in ¬This here tight new collar fare ter quackle me!”.
  • R is for Rather of the ratherest – subtle pointer to someone intoxicated.
  • S is for Suffin gorn about – Norfolk’s most common ailment, often shared liberally.
  • T is for Tizzick – a troublesome cough
  • U is for Understrand – one of several lost villages along the Norfolk coast. This one was located between Overstrand and Sidestrand.
  • V is for Vacajees – wartime evacuees.
  • W is for Weskut - waistcoat Some Norfolk culture-lovers claim the garment is named after playwright RNIE Weskit who put the county on an international stage with Roots
  • X marks the spot where Norfolk patriots vote to do their own thing.
  • Y is for You can always tell a Norfolk man – but you can’t tell him much – a fervent line all newcomers and visitors would do well to take to heart.
  • Z is for Zackly – Norfolk for exactly -an’ thass Zackly ryte ter finish here!

Time to spotlight a few of my champions of Norfolk culture encountered over the past 60 year or so.

If you have a favourite character worthy of a similar honour – a writer, artist, comedian, poet, singer, musician or anyone who captures that truly authentic essence of Norfolk, send your nominations, and reasons for them, to the EDP letters page.

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