OLD LANCASHIRE DIALECT WORDS AND THEIR ORIGINS

This work was undertaken in 2003 and 2004 for my BA (Hons) in Linguistics. I went on to do a Masters Degree in Linguistics and currently work for the University of Manchester on a research project in the Linguistics department.

I have always been interested in etymology, the study of words and their historical development
The old, rural Lancashire dialect has always particularly interested me, as I grew up listening to my grandfather (Henry Cross Gardner, a farmer who lived in Catforth, Lancashire. This work was and is dedicated to him.) speak it. I was always aware that he used words and spoke in ways that I often didn’t understand, and when I began to study linguistics (after he had passed away) I started to think about it more.
Additionally, my inner-historian has always loved anything to do with the history of England, particularly the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, and I have also briefly studied Anglo-Saxon literature, grammar and culture.
It isn’t too much of a surprise, then, that for my undergraduate dissertation I chose to investigate the rural dialect words found in Lancashire, many of which are derived from Old English and Old Norse words.
I conducted a dialectal survey of 31 participants (most of whom my dad very kindly put me in touch with), the majority being of my grandfather’s generation, using phrases to elicit a series of words. I chose an agricultural theme as this is where most of the words exist. There have of course been dialect surveys conducted in the past, but there hadn’t been one for some time at this point. I wanted to do some up to date research on which words were still in use, and hoped to find some rare words that perhaps hadn’t been recorded.

After conducting the survey, I spent a long time researching the etymologies. I used online dictionaries of Old English and Old Norse, looked in previous dialect surveys as well as modern dictionaries of various languages, particularly Norwegian. This was fun. So much fun. When you are researching the origins of a word- a word that perhaps nobody has previously researched- and after days of trawling literature and dictionaries, you have your eureka moment…it’s brilliant. That this word can be traced back over 1000 years, and came from another country, how it has changed over the centuries, and the influences that have helped shape the word into what it is today…it’s like unearthing a little bit of history, living history that has lain unnoticed for a long time.

I don’t want to publish my entire dissertation, as first of all, it’s long, and full of information that you could probably find anywhere else on the internet, or in a library; for example, the history of the Fylde, some information on English etymology in general and a literature review of previous work. So, I have included a small bit on place name etymologies, just because I find it interesting, and then the dialect words I collected. You’ll notice some of them are just English slang, or standard words. Many are not. Some are REALLY cool. Oh, and the other reason I haven’t published the entire dissertation is because really, I think everyone is a little embarrassed by their academic work as an undergraduate.

A quick relevant bit of info: The Scandinavians who settled in Lancashire were Irish-Norse, migrated from Dublin, who had lived in Ireland long enough to have adopted Irish elements into their culture.

Notes: ON= Old Norse, OE= Old English, SE= Standard English, ME= Middle English

SOME NOTES ON LANCASTRIAN PLACE NAMES

Some geographical features of Old Norse origin are; ‘beck’ (brook); ‘Breck’, ‘brack’ or ‘brick’ (slope); ‘Slack’ (a shallow valley); ‘Thwaite’ (a clearing or paddock). These words are found in places of the Fylde such as Norbreck, Warbreck, Larbreck, David’s Slack (Blackpool) and Bassenthwaite. Other geographical names of Old Norse origin show how ill-drained and marshy the land used be. For example, ‘carr’ (ON kjarr) means wet land, often with scrub on it, and can be found in names such as Carr Hill and Carr Lane (both Kirkham). ‘Holme’ (ON holmr) means low lying land, but which is raised above the surrounding land, and was often used to build farms on.
‘Gate’ (ON gata) means ‘road’, but since the old meaning is no longer understood, extra, unnecessary words are added. For example, Crookgate Lane (Rawcliffe), which literally translates as ‘Crook road Lane’, and Waterygate Lane (Great Eccleston), which translates as ‘Watery road Lane’.
Names of places that end in ‘ham’ or ‘ton’ are of Anglo-Saxon origin, for example Freckleton (either OE Frecla, a personal name, or OE frecel, ‘wicked or dangerous’) and Warton (OE weard plus ton, ‘guard house’). There are also examples of place names which are of both Old English and Old Norse origin, for example Kirkham, which consists of ‘Kirk’ (ON kirke ‘church’) and ‘ham’ (OE, ‘village’). Kirkham was originally Anglo-Saxon Circeham, and was either partially changed by the Norse, i.e. Kirkham, or fully changed, i.e. Kirkheim. The latter contains a rare suffix, so all likelihood points to the case of the former.

THE DIALECT WORDS AND THEIR ETYMOLOGIES

Note: I have highlighted words I thought were of particular etymological interest, in bold. I have left the etymology section blank for cases where it is simply a dialectal pronunciation of an SE word, or regular English slang. The survey was mostly written (as well as some recorded), so I have spelled the words as they were spelled by the participants.

This was only my undergraduate research, and while I was thorough, I am very open to the fact that I might not be right on some of these etymologies, so feel free to offer alternative explanations, and to offer etymologies for those which I could not. Also if you would like to use my data for anything, please feel free to, although it would be nice to be cited, and contacted (I’d be interested in your work, no doubt!).

A side note: I conducted an interview with a man who discussed the social traditions of the Fylde, such as dances, and story-telling. He explained that story-telling was a social tradition, and certain people were called upon at social gatherings to tell stories as a form of entertainment. The stories were lengthy, and always had humour and a moral streak. The story-teller always had a captivating style and was genuinely entertaining. The man also described how, in the Fylde, few of the villages have centres; they consist of farms, which are spaced apart from each other, this independence being a characteristic of the rural Fylde. Each family had their own space away from their neighbours, not in an antisocial way, but rather as a way of having dignified independence.

This isn’t the only time I have encountered a dialectal lexicon that has been around for centuries experiencing a rapid decline. I think about how these words will have been spoken for hundreds of years, up to the point of my Grandad and his generation, and now two generations later, the majority of the words are lost in everyday speech.

If you are a speaker of this dialect, or know someone who is, and have any words you’d like to add to my collection, please email me, as I’d love to document more.

WORD WORDS ELICITED ETYMOLOGY, WHERE KNOWN
Cows coos, cows, sucklers, beasts, beyasts, beas, cattle, stock
Pig sty/pen pig sty, piggery, pig crewe, pig oyle, hole ‘Crewe’ is from the ON kro. ‘Oyle’ is a common pronunciation of ‘hole’ in the dialect.
Place to keep chickens hen cabin, coop, roost, ark, hen house, night ark, chuck oil ‘Oyle’ is a common pronunciation of ‘hole’ in the dialect.
Place where cattle are kept for fattening lowse box, lewse box, shippon, byre, barn, beef shed, pen, fattening shed, box ‘Lewse’- OE hleo (shelter and warm)
Trough, for cattle trough, ring-feeder, manger, piggin, crib, rack, bucket
Cess pit/septic tank drain, lagoon, slurry pit/tank, tank oyle, midden tank, down the group, septic tank ‘Midden’- Thought to be from the ON myki-dynga (cow dung + dung) which became mydding in ME.
Cow dung muck, shit, shite, cow pat, slurry, manure ON myki (cow dung)
What you clean up dung with muckfork, shovel, scraper, slurry tanker, tractor, fork ON myki (cow dung)
What you sweep up dung with brush, scraper, auto-scraper system, causa (on paved yard)
Wooden hammer mallett, mell, gavel
Dig delve, dig OE delfa. Although it is an SE word, SE speakers would not use the word in this context.
Weeding weeding, lowking, githering, scowping, crooking, hawing In Modern Norwegian, luke means ‘to weed’. This indicates the possibility of the dialect word ‘lowking’ (weeding) being of Old Norse origin
Carving knife carving knife, cleaver, knife, carver, whittle ‘Whittle’ is from SE, as in the verb ‘to whittle something down’, but only exists as a noun in the dialect,
Spitting/drizzling (rain) smizzling, drizzling, showery, spitting, damping, damp, mizzling
To physically strain thrutch, wrench, stretch, retch, shape thissen, give it some, pull, grunt, exercise
Tangled taffled, knotted, twisted, bird’s nest, fast, snagged, cottered, longerted/longarted
Donkey moke, donkey, Jenny/Jock, mule, ass, nurkey, newwy
Potatoes potatoes, spuds, tatties, praytas/praters/pratas, chats, tayties
Watering degging, watering/wattering, irrigating, spraying, hosing ON doegva, ‘to sprinkle’
Wet through soaked to the skin, soaked, drenched, witchett, sodden, weet
Houses houses, dwelling
Bridge brig, bridge, plank platt, plat ‘Brig’- ON briggja
Sparrows spadgers, spaddies
Too fat brosen/brossen, chubby, tubby, overweight, plump, boiler, boated, obese, heafty
Hay stack hay-moo, moo/mow, hay-rick, rick, stack ‘Moo’ derives from the OE muga , and ‘rick’ from OE hreac.  From Orton and Wright 1974, and from my interviewee for further clarification, it is clear that rather than being alternative words for the same concept, ‘moo’ and ‘rick’ are terms describing two different types of hay-stack. A ‘moo’ is a hay-stack which is inside a barn, and a ‘rick’ is a round hay-stack which is outside in a field.
Attic/loft garretts/garrett, attic, skaffets, loft
Worried/worrying moidered, moidering, worriting, fretting, bothered, stressed ‘Worrit’, meaning ‘to worry’, was a Standard English word used commonly in the nineteenth century, and can be found in the works of Charles Dickens.
Rabbit rabbit, rappet, rabbat
Hare hare, neddy
No nay, nope, no ON nei
Yes aye, ok, yeah, yep
Ditch/dyke dyke
Badger brock, badger The word ‘brock’ meaning badger, is from the Old Irish broc. This is likely to have been brought to the North West along with other Irish borrowings by the Norwegians.
Beak bill, beak, neb OE nebb
Stream beck, brook, stream, sike ‘Beck’- ON bekkr. ‘Sike’- possible Norse origin, as siki means ‘stream’ in modern Icelandic
Puddles puddles, pools, dubs
Fleas fleas, lops, bugs ‘Lops’- ON hioppa. ‘Loppe’ is ‘flea’ in modern Danish and Norwegian.
Ants pissmowers, pissmires, ants ON maurr means ‘ant’, and ‘pisse’ means ‘urine’ in modern Scandinavian languages as well as in English slang
Mole mowdy, moidie, mole, mowdywarp Very likely ON origin, as modern Norwegian for ‘mole’ is muldvarp
Door latch sneck, catch, latch, lock, bolt, bar, handle
Anything owt/ought
Nothing nowt/nought OE nawiht
Prong on gardening fork tine, grain, spike, splice ‘Tine’- OE tind, ‘Grain’- ON grein
Fork with two prongs pike fork, pitch fork, hay fork, reiching fork
Grassland for grazing cattle field, pasture/paster, meadow, croft, ley
Sheep dung droppings, triddlings/triddles/tiddles, muck, buttons, muck-buttons, currants, pellets ON myki (cow dung)
Raised parts in ploughed field furrows, ridges, riggs, headland, ream, ploughed earth
Young cow/bull stirk, calf, yearling, steer, heifer, bullock ‘Stirk’-OE stirc, ‘steer’-OE steor.
Young calf calf/colf/caulf/cofe/cove, suckler/suckling/sucky, whye, baby calf, stirk ‘Stirk’-OE stirc. ‘Whye’ is from ON kviga
Male mature pig booer, boar, stag
Female mature pig soo, sow, gilt ON gyltr
Toilet petty, privvy, loo , bog, lav/lavatory, shithouse, closet, rest room ‘Privvy’ is archaic English slang for ‘toilet’
Cup of tea brew, cup of tay
Wood across a dyke platt, plank platt, brig, stile, footbridge ‘Brig’- ON briggja
Me and you/us me and thee, thee and me, us, me and you, us two
A fool a fool, noddy, charlie, dumbo
Time when work stops knocking off time, neet, night, bait time, clocking off, rest, baggin time, going home time, leisure time ‘Bait’- ON beit (food)
Snack between meals baggin, snack, a bite and a brewing
Corona haze, shadow, dust haze, circle, ring, bore, halo, fairy ring
Mud clags, clart, mud, muck, slutch, clay, shit ‘Muck’- ON myki (cow dung)
Money money, brass
Something Something, summat Thought to be an abbreviated form of ‘somewhat’, OE sum plus hwæt.
Boys/girls lads/lasses (or lassies), boys/girls
Earned (his living) earned, addled, med/made
Anvil anvil, forge Forge is from SE, i.e. to forge metal, but only exists as a noun in the dialect
Busy busy, thronged, pown ‘Thronged’ (busy) is from the ON throngr, meaning ‘pressed to do something’. The SE word ‘throng’ means ‘a tightly packed crowd’; it seems likely that the standard word and the dialect word have the same origins, but the dialect word has remained semantically closer to the ON
Hearse borne, bier/bear, hearse/hurst It is quite likely that these variations are of ON origin, as the modern Norwegian word for ‘hearse’ is bare, pronounced ‘bore’
Scared/frightened/afraid frickened, frightened, afraid, scayrt, feart, frit
Smack/spank smack, spank, tan, larrup, belt, wallop, thrash, bray, skelp
Scream/cry bawk, cry, scream, skrike, yell, bawl, whimper, howl ‘Skrike’ is exactly the same in modern Norwegian, and comes from the ON skraekja, meaning to scream or cry out in anguish. It is closely related to ‘shriek’
Stupid/foolish/a fool oaf, dolt, crackers, gormless, a clown, funny, daft, goffy, thick, silly billy, twerp, molly, puddled, idiot, round the bend
Between between, in, in-between, betwixt, atwixt OE betwixt
Have/have got getten, gotten, gitten, have, have got The words ‘getten’, ‘gitten’ and ‘gotten’ preserve an old ‘–en’ form which no longer exists in SE for the word ‘got’. ‘Gotten’ does still exist, however, in American English.
I am I am, me, misell
She is oo/hoo is, she is, her is ‘Hoo’ is from the OE 3rd person pronoun heo (the ‘h’ is usually dropped by dialect speakers).
They are they are, them ‘uns is, them are
You are you are, thou are, thou art, thee, you, yourself ‘Thou’ and ‘thee’ and ‘art’ are archaic English
Wash wash, wesh, shower, bathe, ‘ave a swill
Himself hissen, hissel, himself
A bit/a little a bit, a little, a drop, a touch, a splain, a smidgen, a mickle, a mite ‘Mickle’- ON mikill
See/look See, look, ken, sken, watch ‘Sken’ (to look) is certainly of ON origin, as modern Swedish sken and modern Norwegian skinne mean ‘to glare’, ‘to look’ or ‘to peer
Maggots maggots, mawks ‘Mawks’, has the same origin as SE ‘maggots’; ON maðkr
Spoilt/throws tantrums spoiled, mard, soft, naughty, mollycoddled, brat, pampered
Eyes een, eyes ‘Een’ preserves the Old English plural form ‘-en’ which exists in SE in the forms ‘oxen’ and ‘children’.
Eaten eaten, etten
Right/other (way round) reet, right, other, tother/tuther
Going on about (something) harping, prattling, ranting, bragging, boasting, rattling, rabbiting, braggarting
Shoes shoon, shoes, boots, boits, wellies/wellingtons, clogs ‘Shoon’ preserves the Old English plural form ‘-en’ which exists in SE in the forms ‘oxen’ and ‘children’.
Cows crying out or making noises bawking (spoken data)
Crying/Sheep making noises blarted (spoken data)
Ploughing plooin (spoken data)
Where the ash drops in a fireplace esshoil (spoken data) ‘Oyle’ is a common pronunciation of ‘hole’ in the dialect, therefore ‘ash-hole’
To run chains across a field in spring, to loosen the surface scarify (spoken data)
To mock sombody skit (spoken data)
Must mun (spoken data) ON munu
In the process of agate (spoken data)
Old owd (spoken data)
Hold howd (spoken data)
Death deeoth (spoken data)
Break brek (spoken data)
On a lean kecked (e.g. the fence was kecked) (spoken data) ON keikr (bent backwards)
Maybe, perhaps happen (e.g. happen I will, happen I won’t), marry (e.g. aye, marry) (spoken data) ‘Happen’ is not to be confused with the SE verb ‘happen’. It is from the ON happ, which means ‘chance’ or ‘good luck’. The verb ‘happen’, and ‘perhaps’ and ‘happy’ also come from ON happ, but appeared much later (fourteenth century) than the original expression, which still exists in the dialect. ‘Marry’ is an archaic English word, used frequently in the works of Shakespeare
Ask aks (spoken data)
A surprising defeat capped (e.g. I was capped by him) (spoken data)
Wrong wrong (spoken data)
Left-handed cack-handed (spoken data) ON keikr (bent backwards), or OE cac from Latin (excrement)
A lot a deeol (spoken data)
Good, of its kind gradely (spoken data) ON greiðliga
Food bait (spoken data)
Move around, particularly to move house flit (spoken data)

REFERENCES

Bobbin, T. 1850 ‘Dialect of South Lancashire’. John Heywood, Printer, Heywood.
Cunliffe Shaw, R. 1949 ‘Kirkham in Amounderness’. Preston.
Fishwick, H.
1894 ‘History of Lancashire’. London: Elliot Stock.
Gabrielson, E.D.
1994 ‘Norwegian-English/English-Norwegian Concise Dictionary
Hippocrene Books, Inc.
Hadley, D.M. & J.D. Richards  (eds)
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Hall, J.R.C.
1916 ‘A Concise Anglo-Saxon Diactionary’. Cambridge University Press.
Harding, S.
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Hoad, T.S. (ed.)
1986 ‘A Concise Dictionary of English Etymology’. Oxford at the
Clarendon Press.
Hughes, A. & P. Trudgill
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Kaufman, T & S.G. Thomason
1992 ‘Language Contact, Creolization and Genetic
Linguistics’. University of California Press.
Orton, H. & W.J. Halliday
1963 ‘Survey of English Dialects: The Six Northern Counties and the Isle of Man’.  E.J. Arnold & Son Limited Leeds.
Orton, H. & N. Wright 1974 ‘A Word Geography of England’. Seminar Press.
Porter, J.  1968 ‘The History of the Fylde of Lancashire’. 2nd edition. Wakefield: S.R.
Publishers.
Simmelbauer, A.
1998 ‘The Dialect of Northunberland’. Universitatsverlag C. Winter
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Wakelin, M.F. (ed)
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www.viking.no/e/england/yorkshire_norse.htm
www.howlingdog.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/lancashire/lancs_dialect.htm

 

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