English Dialects From the Eighth Century to the Present Day
by Walter W. Skeat
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It is further remarkable that some Kentish forms seem to have established themselves in standard English, as when we use dent with the sense of dint (A.S. dynt). When we speak of the left hand, the form left is really Kentish, and occurs in the Ayenbite of Inwyt; the Midland form is properly lift, which is common enough in Middle English; see the New English Dictionary, s.v. Left, adj. Hemlock is certainly a Kentish form; cf. A.S. hymlice, and see the New English Dictionary. So also is kernel (A.S. cyrnel); knell (A.S. cnyllan, verb); merry (A.S. myrge, myrige); and perhaps stern, adj. (A.S. styrne).

There are some excellent remarks upon the vocalism of the Kentish dialect in Middle English by W. Heuser, in the German periodical entitled Anglia, vol XVII pp. 73-90.




The Mercian district lies between the Northern and Southern, occupying an irregular area which it is very difficult to define. On the east coast it reached from the mouth of the Humber to that of the Thames. On the western side it seems to have included a part of Lancashire, and extended from the mouth of the Lune to the Bristol Channel, exclusive of a great part of Wales.

There were two chief varieties of it which differed in many particulars, viz. the East Midland and the West Midland. The East Midland included, roughly speaking, the counties of Lincoln, Rutland, Northampton, and Buckingham, and all the counties (between the Thames and Humber) to the east of these, viz. Cambridge, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex. We must also certainly include, if not Oxfordshire, at any rate the city of Oxford. This is by far the most important group of counties, as it was the East Midland that finally prevailed over the rest, and was at last accepted as a standard, thus rising from the position of a dialect to be the language of the Empire. The Midland prevailed over the Northern and Southern dialects because it was intermediate between them, and so helped to interpret between North and South; and the East Midland prevailed over the Western because it contained within its area all three of the chief literary centres, namely, Oxford, Cambridge, and London. It follows from this that the Old Mercian dialect is of greater interest than either the Northumbrian or Anglo-Saxon.

Unfortunately, the amount of extant Old Mercian, before the Conquest, is not very large, and it is only of late years that the MSS. containing it have been rightly understood. Practically, the study of it dates only from 1885, when Dr Sweet published his Oldest English Texts.

But there is more Mercian to be found than was at first suspected; and it is desirable to consider this question.

An important discovery was that the language of the oldest Glossaries seems to be Mercian. We have extant no less than four Glossaries in MSS. of as early a date as the eighth century, named respectively, the Epinal, Erfurt, Corpus, and Leyden Glossaries. The first is now at Epinal, in France (in the department Vosges); the second, at Erfurt, near Weimar, in Germany; the third, in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge; and the fourth, at Leyden, in Holland. The Corpus MS. may be taken as typical of the rest. It contains an enumeration of a large number of difficult words, arranged, but imperfectly, in alphabetical order; and after each of these is written its gloss or interpretation. Thus the fifth folio begins as follows:

Abminiculum . adiutorium. Abelena . haeselhnutu. Abiecit . proiecit. Absida . sacrarium. Abies . etspe. Ab ineunte {ae}tate . infantia.

The chief interest of these Glossaries lies in the fact that a small proportion of the hard words is explained, not in Latin, but in Mercian English, of which there are two examples in the six glosses here quoted. Thus Abelena, which is another spelling of Abellana or Avellana, "a filbert," is explained as "haeselhnutu"; which is a perfectly familiar word when reduced to its modern form of "hazel-nut." And again, Abies, which usually means "a fir-tree," is here glossed by "etspe." But this is certainly a false spelling, as we see by comparing it with the following glosses in Epinal and Erfurt (Nos. 37, 1006):—"Abies. saeppae—s{ae}pae"; and "Tremulus. aespae—esp{ae}." This shows that the scribe ought to have explained Abies by "saeppae," meaning the tree full of sap, called in French sapin; but he confused it with another tree, the "trembling" tree, of which the Old Mercian name was "espe" or "esp{ae}," or "aespae," and he miswrote espe as etspe, inserting a needless t. This last tree is the one which Chaucer called the asp in l. 180 of his Parliament of Fowls, but in modern times the adjectival suffix -en (as in gold-en, wood-en) has been tacked on to it, and it is now the aspen.

The interpretation of these ancient glosses requires very great care, but they afford a considerable number of interesting results, and are therefore valuable, especially as they give us spellings of the eighth century, which are very scarce.

One of the oldest specimens of Old Mercian that affords intelligible sentences is known as the "Lorica Prayer," because it occurs in the same MS. (Ll. 1. 10 in the Cambridge University Library) as the "Lorica Glosses," or the glosses which accompany a long Latin prayer, really a charm, called "lorica" or "breast-plate," because it was recited thrice a day to protect the person who used it from all possible injury and accident. I give this Prayer as illustrating the state of our language about A.D. 850.

And the georne gebide gece and miltse fore alra his haligra gewyrhtum and ge-earningum and boenum be [hiwe]num, tha the domino deo gelicedon from fruman middan-geardes; thonne gehereth he thec thorh hiora thingunge. Do thonne fiorthan sithe thin hleor thriga to iorthan, fore alle Godes cirican, and sing thas fers: domini est salus, saluum fac populum tuum, domine, praetende misericordiam tuam. Sing thonne pater noster. Gebide thonne fore alle geleaffulle menn in mundo. Thonne bistu thone deg dael-niomende thorh Dryhtnes gefe alra theara goda the {ae}nig monn for his noman gedoeth, and thec alle soth-fest{ae} fore thingiath in caelo et in terra. Amen.{1}

{Footnote 1: I write hiwenum in l. 2 in place of an illegible word.}

That is:—

And earnestly pray for-thyself for help and mercy by-reason-of the deeds and merits and prayers of all his saints on-behalf-of the [households] that have pleased the Lord God from the beginning of the world; then will He hear thee because-of their intercession. Bow-down then, at the fourth time, thy face thrice to the earth before all God's church, and sing these verses: The Lord is my salvation, save Thy people, O Lord: show forth Thy mercy. Sing then a pater-noster. Pray then for all believing men in the world. Then shalt thou be, on that day, a partaker, by God's grace, of all the good things that any man doth for His name, and all true-men will intercede for thee in heaven and in earth. Amen.

Another discovery was the assignment of a correct description to the glosses found in a document known as the Vespasian Psalter; so called because it is an early Latin Psalter, or book of Psalms, contained in a Cotton MS. in the British Museum, marked with the class-mark "Vespasian, A. 1." This Psalter is accompanied throughout with glosses which were at first mistakenly thought to be in a Northumbrian dialect, and were published as such by the Surtees Society in 1843. They were next, in 1875, wrongly supposed to be Kentish; but since they were printed by Sweet in 1885 it has been shown that they are really Mercian. This set of glosses is very important for the study of Old Mercian, because they are rather extensive; they occupy 213 pages of the Oldest English Texts, and are followed by 20 more pages of similar glosses to certain Latin canticles and hymns that occur in the same MS.

There are also a few Charters extant in the Mercian dialect, but the earliest contain little else than old forms of the names of persons and places. There are, however, some later Charters, from 836 to 1058 in the Mercian dialect, which contain some boundaries of lands and afford other information. Most of these relate to Worcestershire.

But the most interesting Mercian glosses are those to be found in the Rushworth MS., which has already been mentioned as containing Northumbrian glosses of the Latin Gospels of St Mark, St Luke, and St John. For the Gospel of St Matthew was glossed by the scribe Farman, who was a priest of Harewood, situate on the river Wharfe, in the West Riding of Yorkshire; whose language, accordingly, was Mercian. In my Principles of English Etymology, First Series (second edition, 1892), p. 44, I gave a list of words selected from these glosses, in order to show how much nearer they stand, as a rule, to modern English than do the corresponding Anglo-Saxon forms. I here repeat this list, as it is very instructive. The references, such as "5. 15," are to the chapters and verses of St Matthew's Gospel, as printed in my edition of The Holy Gospels, in Anglo-Saxon, Northumbrian, and Old Mercian Versions, synoptically arranged (Cambridge, 1871-87). The first column below gives the Modern English form, the second the Old Mercian form (with references), and the third the Anglo-Saxon or Wessex form:

MODERN OLD MERCIAN WESSEX (A.S.) all all, 5. 15 eall are arun, 19. 28 (not used) betwixt betwix, 27. 56 betweox cheek c{-e}ke, 5. 39 c{-e}ace 5 cold cald, 10. 42 ceald eke {-e}k, 5. 39 {-e}ac eleven enlefan, 28. 16 endlufon eye {-e}ge, 5. 29 {-e}age falleth falleth, 10. 29 fealleth 10 fell, fellun, 7. 25 f{-e}ollon -fold -fald, 19. 29 -feald (in ten-fold) gall, sb. galla, 27. 34 gealla half, sb. half, 20. 23 healf halt, adj. halt, 11. 5 healt 15 heard, pt.t.s. (ge)h{-e}rde, 2. 3 (ge)h{-i}erde lie l{-i}gan, 5. 11 l{-e}ogan (tell lies) light, sb. l{-i}ht, 5. 16 l{-e}oht light, adj. liht, 11. 30 leoht narrow naru, 7. 14 nearu 20 old {'a}ld, 9. 16 eald sheep sc{-e}p, 25. 32 sc{-e}ap shoes sc{-o}as, 10. 10 sc{-e}os, sc{-y} silver sylfur, 10. 9 seolfor slept, sleptun, 13. 25 sl{-e}pon 25 sold, pp. sald, 10. 19 seald spit, vb. spittan, 27. 30 sp{-{ae}}tan wall wall, 21. 33 weall yard (rod) ierd, 10. 10 gyrd yare (ready) iara, 22. 4 gearo 30 yoke ioc, 11. 29 geoc youth iuguth, 19. 20 geoguth

In l.5, the scribe Farman miswrote caldas as galdas, in Matt. x 42; but it is a mere mistake. In l. 20, the accent over the a in {'a}ld is marked in the MS., though the vowel was not originally long.

Even a glance at this comparative table reveals a peculiarity of the Wessex dialect which properly belongs neither to Mercian nor to Modern English, viz. the use of the diphthong ea (in which each vowel was pronounced separately) instead of simple a, before the sounds denoted by l, r, h, especially when another consonant follows. We find accordingly such Wessex forms as eall, ceald, fealleth, -feald, gealla, healf, healt, nearu, eald, seald, weall, gearo, where the Old Mercian has simply all, cald, falleth, -fald, galla, half, halt, naru, ald, sald, wall, iara. Similarly, Wessex has the diphthongs {-e}a, {-e}o, in which the former element is long, where the Old Mercian has simply {-e} or {-i}. We find accordingly the Wessex c{-e}ace, {-e}ac, {-e}age, sc{-e}ap, as against the Mercian c{-e}ke, {-e}k, {-e}ge, sc{-e}p; and the Wessex l{-e}ogan, l{-e}oht, as against the Mercian l{-i}gan, l{-i}ht.

I have now mentioned nearly all the examples of Old Mercian to be found before the Conquest. After that event it was still the Southern dialect that prevailed, and there is scarcely any Mercian (or Midland) to be found except in the Laud MS. of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was written at Peterborough. See the extract, describing the miserable state of England during the reign of Stephen, in Specimens of Early English, Part I.

It was about the year 1200 that the remarkable work appeared that is known by the name of The Ormulum, written in the North-East Midland of Lincolnshire, which is the first clear example of the form which our literary language was destined to assume. It is an extremely long and dreary poem of about 10,000 long lines, written in a sadly monotonous unrimed metre; and it contains an introduction, paraphrases relating to the gospels read in the church during the year, and homilies upon the same. It was named Ormulum by the author after his own name, which was Orm; and the sole existing MS. is probably in the handwriting of Orm himself, who employed a phonetic spelling of his own invention which he strongly recommends. Owing to this circumstance and to the fact that his very regular metre leaves no doubt as to his grammatical forms, this otherwise uninviting poem has a high philological value. In my book entitled The Chaucer Canon, published at Oxford in 1900, I quote 78 long lines from the Ormulum, reduced to a simpler system of spelling, at pp. 9-14; and, at pp. 15-18, I give an analysis of the suffixes employed by Orm to mark grammatical inflexions. At pp. 30-41, I give an analysis of similar inflexions as employed by Chaucer, who likewise employed the East Midland dialect, but with such slight modifications of Orm's language as were due to his living in London instead of Lincolnshire, and to the fact that he wrote more than 150 years later. The agreement, as to grammatical usages, of these two authors is extremely close, allowing for lapse of time; and the comparison between them gives most indubitable and valuable results. There is no better way of learning Chaucer's grammar.

As East Midland was spread over a wide area, there are, as might be expected, some varieties of it. The dialects of Lincolnshire and of Norfolk were not quite the same, and both differed somewhat from that of Essex and Middlesex; but the general characteristics of all three sub-dialects are very much alike. As time went on, the speech of the students of Oxford and Cambridge was closely assimilated to that of the court as held in London; and this "educated" type was naturally that to which Caxton and the great writers of the sixteenth century endeavoured to conform.

We have one ancient specimen of the London dialect which is eminently authentic and valuable, and has the additional advantage of being exactly dated. This is the document known as "The only English Proclamation of Henry III," issued on Oct. 18, 1258. Its intention was to confirm to the people the "Provisions of Oxford," a charter of rights that had been wrested from the king, from which we may conclude that the Proclamation was issued by Henry rather by compulsion than by his own free will. There is a note at the end which tells us that a copy was sent to every shire in England and to Ireland. If every copy had been preserved, we should have a plentiful supply. As it is, only two copies have survived. One is the copy which found its way to Oxford; and the other is the original from which the copies were made, which has been carefully preserved for six centuries and a half in the Public Record Office in London. I here give the contents of the original, substituting y (at the beginning of a word) or gh (elsewhere) for the symbol {g}, and th for the symbol {th}, and v for u when between two vowels.

{P} Henri, thurgh Godes fultume king on Engleneloande, Lhoaverd on Yrloande, Duk on Norm(andi), on Aquitaine, and Eorl on Aniow, send igretinge to alle hise holde il{ae}rde and ileawede on Huntendoneschire: th{ae}t witen ye wel alle, th{ae}t we willen and unnen th{ae}t, th{ae}t ure r{ae}desmen alle, other the moare d{ae}l of heom th{ae}t beoth ichosen thurgh us and thurgh th{ae}t loandes folk on ure kuneriche, habbeth idon and schullen don in the worthnesse of Gode and on ure treowthe, for the freme of the loande, thurgh the besighte of than to-foren iseide redesmen, beo stedefaest and ilestinde in alle thinge, abuten {ae}nde.

And we hoaten alle ure treowe, in the treowthe th{ae}t heo us ogen, th{ae}t heo stedef{ae}stliche healden, and swerien to healden and to werien, tho isetnesses th{ae}t beon imakede and beon to makien, thurgh than to-foren iseide r{ae}desmen, other thurgh the moare d{ae}l of hem, alswo also hit is biforen iseid; And th{ae}t {ae}hc other helpe th{ae}t for to done bi than ilche othe, ayenes alle men, right for to done and to foangen. And noan ne nime of loande ne of eghte, wherthurgh this besighte mughe beon ilet other iwersed on onie wise.

And yif oni other onie cumen her onyenes, we willen and hoaten th{ae}t alle ure treowe heom healden deadliche ifoan. And for th{ae}t we willen th{ae}t this beo stedef{ae}st and lestinde, we senden yew this writ open, iseined with ure seel, to halden a-manges yew me hord.

Witnesse us selven {ae}t Lundene, thane eghtetenthe day on the monthe of Octobre, in the two and fowertighthe yeare of ure cruninge.

And this wes idon {ae}tforen ure isworene redesmen, Boneface archebischop on Kanterburi, Walter of Cantelow, bischop on Wirechestre, Simon of Muntfort, eorl on Leirchestre, Richard of Clare, eorl on Glowchestre and on Hurtforde, Roger Bigod, eorl on Northfolke and marescal on Engleneloande, Perres of Sauveye, Willelm of Fort, eorl on Aubemarle, Iohan of Pleisseiz, eorl on Warewike, Iohan Geffre{e}s sune, Perres of Muntfort, Richard of Grey, Roger of Mortemer, James of Aldithel; and {ae}tforen othre inoghe.

{P} And al on tho ilche worden is isend in-to {ae}vrihce othre shcire over al th{ae}re kuneriche on Engleneloande, and ek in-tel Irelonde.

This document presents at first sight many unfamiliar forms, but really differs from Modern English mainly in the spelling, which of course represents the pronunciation of that period. The grammar is perfectly intelligible, and this is the surest mark of similarity of language; we may, however, note the use of send as a contraction of sendeth, and of oni for "any man" in the singular, while onie, being plural, represents "any men."

The other chief variations are in the vocabulary or word-list, due to the fact that this Proclamation is older than the reigns of the first three Edwards, which was the period when so many words of Anglo-Norman origin entered our language, displacing many words of native origin that thus became obsolete; though some were exchanged for other native words. We may notice, for example, fultume, "assistance"; holde, "faithful"; il{ae}rde and ileawede, "learned and unlearned"; unnen, "grant"; r{ae}desmen, "councillors"; kuneriche, "kingdom"; and so on. I subjoin a closely literal translation, retaining awkward expressions.

{P} Henry, through God's assistance, king in England, Lord in Ireland, Duke in Normandy, in Aquitaine, and Earl in Anjou, sendeth greeting to all his faithful, learned and unlearned, in Huntingdonshire; that wit ye well all, that we will and grant that which our councillors all, or the more deal (part) of them, that be chosen through us and through the land's folk in our kingdom, have done and shall do in the worship of God and in our truth, for the benefit of the land, through the provision of the beforesaid councillors, be steadfast and lasting in all things without end. And we command all our true-men, in the truth that they us owe, that they steadfastly hold, and swear to hold and to defend, the statutes that be made and be to make, through the aforesaid councillors, or through the more deal of them, even as it is before said; and that each help other that for to do, by the same oath, against all men, right for to do and to receive. And (let) none take of land nor of property, wherethrough this provision may be let or worsened in any wise. And if any-man or any-men come here-against, we will and command that all our true-men hold them (as) deadly foes. And for that we will that thi bes steadfast and lasting, we send you this writ open, signed with our seal, to hold amongst you in hoard. Witness us-selves at London, the eighteenth day in the month of October, in the two and fortieth year of our crowning. And this was done before our sworen councillors, Boneface, archbishop of Canterbury, Walter of Cantelow, bishop of Worcester, Simon of Muntfort, earl of Leicester, ... and before others enough.

{P} And all in the same words is sent into every other shire over all the kingdom in England, and eke into Ireland.

In the year 1303, Robert Manning, of Bourn in Lincolnshire, translated a French poem entitled Manuel des Pechiez (Manual of Sins) into very fair East Midland verse, giving to his translation the title of Handling Synne. Many of the verses are easy and smooth, and the poem clearly shows us that the East Midland dialect was by this time at least the equal of the others, and that the language was good enough to be largely permanent. When we read such lines as:

Than seyd echone that sate and stode, Here comth Pers, that never dyd gode—

we have merely to modernise the spelling, and we at once have:

Then said each one that sat and stood, Here cometh Pierce, that never did good,

These are lines that could be written now.

An extract from Manning's Handlyng Synne is given in Specimens of Early English, Part II, most of which can be read with ease. The obsolete words are not very numerous, and we meet now and then with half a dozen consecutive lines that would puzzle no one. It is needless to pursue the history of this dialect further. It had, by this time, become almost the standard language, differing from Modern English chiefly in date, and consequently in pronunciation. We pass on from Manning to Chaucer, from Chaucer to Lydgate and Caxton, and from Caxton to Lord Surrey and Sackville and Spenser, without any real change in the actual dialect employed, but only in the form of it.


We have seen that there are two divisions of the Mercian dialect, into East and West Midland.

The West Midland does not greatly differ from the East Midland, but it approaches more nearly, in some respects, to the Northumbrian. The greatest distinction seems to be in the present and past participles of verbs. In the West Midland, the present participle frequently ends in -and, as in Northumbrian, especially in the Northern part of the Midland area. The East Midland usually employs -ende or -inge instead. In the West Midland, the prefix i- or y- is seldom used for the past participle, whilst the East Midland admits it more freely. In the third person singular of the present tense, the West Midland favours the Northern suffix -es or -is; whilst the East Midland favours the Southern suffix -eth. The suffix -us appears to be altogether peculiar to West Midland, in which it occurs occasionally; and the same is true of -ud for -ed in the preterite of a weak verb.

There is a rather early West Midland Prose Psalter, belonging to the former half of the fourteenth century, which was edited for the Early English Text Society by Dr Karl Bulbring in 1891.

The curious poem called William of Palerne (Palermo) or William and the Werwolf, written in alliterative verse about 1350-60, and edited by me for the E.E.T.S. in 1867, seems to be in a form of West Midland, and has been claimed for Shropshire; nothing is known as to its author.

The very remarkable poem called The Pearl, and three Alliterative Poems by the same author, were first edited by Dr Morris for the E.E.T.S. in 1864; with a preface in which the peculiarities of the dialect were discussed. Dr Morris showed that the grammatical forms are uniform and consistent throughout, and may be safely characterised as being West Midland. Moreover, they are frequently very like Northumbrian, and must belong to the Northern area of the West Midland dialect. "Much," says Dr Morris, "may be said in favour of their Lancashire origin."

The MS. which contains the above poems also contains the excellent alliterative romance-poem named Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight, evidently written by the same author; so that this poem also may be considered as a specimen of West Midland. For further particulars, see the "Grammatical Details" given in Dr Morris's preface to The Pearl, etc., pp. xxviii-xl. Sir Gawayne was likewise edited by Morris in 1864.

It would not be easy to trace the history of this dialect at a later date, and the task is hardly necessary. It was soon superseded in literary use by the East Midland, with which it had much in common.



There is a widely prevalent notion that the speakers of English Dialects employ none but native words; and it is not uncommon for writers who have more regard for picturesque effect than for accuracy to enlarge upon this theme, and to praise the dialects at the expense of the literary language. Of course there is a certain amount of truth in this, but it would be better to look into the matter a little more closely.

A very little reflection will show that dialect-speakers have always been in contact with some at least of those who employ words that belong rather, or once belonged, to foreign nations. Even shopkeepers are familiar with such words as beef, mutton, broccoli, soda, cork, sherry, brandy, tea, coffee, sugar, sago, and many more such words that are now quite familiar to every one. Yet beef and mutton are Norman; broccoli and soda are Italian; cork and sherry are Spanish; brandy is Dutch; tea is Chinese; coffee is Arabic; sugar is of Sanskrit origin; and sago is Malay. It must be evident that many similar words, having reference to very various useful things, have long ago drifted into the dialects from the literary language. Hence the purity of the dialects from contamination with foreign influences is merely comparative, not absolute.

Our modern language abounds with words borrowed from many foreign tongues; but a large number of them have come to us since 1500. Before that date the chief languages from which it was possible for us to borrow words were British or Gaelic, Irish, Latin, Greek (invariably through the medium of Latin), Hebrew (in a small degree, through the medium of Latin), Arabic (very slightly, and indirectly), Scandinavian, and French. A few words as to most of these are sufficient.

It is not long since a great parade was made of our borrowings from "Celtic"; it was very easy to give a wild guess that an obscure word was "Celtic"; and the hardihood of the guesser was often made to take the place of evidence. The fact is that there is no such language as "Celtic"; it is the name of a group of languages, including "British" or Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Manx, Gaelic, and Irish; and it is now incumbent on the etymologist to cite the exact forms in one or more of these on which he relies, so as to adduce some semblance of proof. The result has been an extraordinary shrinkage in the number of alleged Celtic words. The number, in fact, is extremely small, except in special cases. Thus we may expect to find a few Welsh words in the dialects of Cheshire, Shropshire, or Herefordshire, on the Welsh border; and a certain proportion of Gaelic words in Lowland Scotch; though we have no reliable lists of these, and it is remarkable that such words have usually been borrowed at no very early date, and sometimes quite recently. The legacy of words bequeathed to us by the ancient Britons is surprisingly small; indeed, it is very difficult to point to many clear cases. The question is considered in my Principles of English Etymology, Series I, pp. 443-452, to which I may refer the reader; and a list of words of (probably) Celtic origin is given in my larger Etymological Dictionary, ed. 1910, p. 765. It is also explained, in my Primer of English Etymology that, in the fifth century, the time of Hengist's invasion, "the common language of the more educated classes among the British was Latin, which was in use as a literary language and as the language of the British Christian Church. Hence, the Low German tribes [of invaders] found no great necessity for learning ancient British; and this explains the fact, which would otherwise be extraordinary, that modern English contains but a very small Celtic element." Of the Celts that remained within the English pale, it is certain that, in a very short time, they accepted the necessity of learning Anglian or Saxon, and lost their previous language altogether. Hence, in many dialects, as for example, in the East Midland district, the amount of words of "British" origin is practically nil. For further remarks on this subject, see Chapter V of Anglo-Saxon Britain, by Grant Allen, London, n.d.

I here give a tentative list of some Celtic words found in dialects. Their etymologies are discussed in my Etymological Dictionary (1910), as they are also found in literary use; and the words are fully explained in the English Dialect Dictionary, which gives all their senses, and enumerates the counties in which they are found. It is doubtless imperfect, as I give only words that are mostly well known, and can be found, indeed, in the New English Dictionary. I give only one sense of each, and mark it as N., M., or S. (Northern, Midland, or Southern), as the case may be. The symbol "gen." means "in general use"; and "Sc." means Lowland Scotch.

Art, or airt, Sc., a direction of the wind; banshee, Irish, a female spirit who warns families of a death; beltane, N., the first of May; bin, M., a receptacle; boggart, bogle, N., M., a hobgoblin; bragget, N., M., a drink made of honey and ale; brat, N., M., a cloth, clout; brock, gen., a badger; bug, N., a bogy; bugaboo, N., M., a hobgoblin; capercailyie, Sc., a bird; cateran, Sc., a Highland robber; char, N., a fish; clachan, Sc., a hamlet; clan, N., M., a class, set of people; claymore, Sc., a two-handed sword; colleen, Irish, a young girl; combe, gen., the head of a valley; coracle, M., a wicker boat; coronach, Sc., a dirge; corrie, Sc., a circular hollow in a hill-side; cosher, Irish, a feast; crag, craig, N., a rock; crowd, N., S., a fiddle; dulse, N., an edible sea-weed; dun, gen., brown, greyish; duniwassal, Sc., a gentleman of secondary rank; fillibeg, Sc., a short kilt; flummery, Sc., M., oatmeal boiled in water; gallowglass, Sc., Irish, an armed foot-soldier; galore, gen., in abundance; gillie, Sc., a man-servant; gull, a name of various birds; hubbub, hubbaboo, Irish, a confused clamour; inch, Sc., Irish, a small island; ingle, N., M., fire, fire-place; kelpie, Sc., a water-spirit; kibe, gen., a chilblain; linn, N., a pool; loch, N., lough, Irish, a lake; metheglin, M., S., beer made from honey; omadhaun, Irish, a simpleton; pose, gen. (but perhaps obsolete), a catarrh; rapparee, Sc., Irish, a vagabond; shillelagh, Irish, a cudgel; skain, skean, Sc., Irish, a knife, dagger; sowens, sowans, Sc., a dish made from oatmeal-husks steeped in water (from Gael, s{'u}ghan, the juice of sowens); spalpeen, Irish, a rascal; spleuchan, Sc., Irish, a pouch, a purse; strath, N., a valley; strathspey, Sc., a dance, named from the valley of the river Spey; tocher, N., a dowry; usquebaugh, Sc., Irish, whiskey; wheal, Cornish, a mine.

Latin is a language from which English has borrowed words in every century since the year 600. In my Principles of English Etymology, First Series, Chap. XXI, I give a list of Latin words imported into English before the Norman Conquest. Several of these must be familiar in our dialects; we can hardly suppose that country people do not know the meaning of ark, beet, box, candle, chalk, cheese, cook, coulter, cup, fennel, fever, font, fork, inch, kettle, kiln, kitchen, and the like. Indeed, ark is quite a favourite word in the North for a large wooden chest, used for many purposes; and Kersey explains it as "a country word for a large chest to put fruit or corn in." Candle is so common that it is frequently reduced to cannel; and it has given its name to "cannel coal." Every countryman is expected to be able to distinguish "between chalk and cheese." Coulter appears in ten dialect forms, and one of the most familiar agricultural implements is a pitch-fork. The influence of Latin requires no further illustration.

I also give a list of early words of Greek origin; some of which are likewise in familiar use. I may instance alms, angel, bishop, butter, capon, chest, church, clerk, copper, devil, dish, hemp, imp, martyr, paper (ultimately of Egyptian origin), plaster, plum, priest, rose, sack, school, silk, treacle, trout. Of course the poor old woman who says she is "a martyr to tooth-ache" is quite unconscious that she is talking Greek. Probably she is not without some smattering of Persian, and knows the sense of lilac, myrtle, orange, peach, and rice; of Sanskrit, whence pepper and sugar-candy; of Arabic, whence coffee, cotton, jar, mattress, senna, and sofa; and she will know enough Hebrew, partly from her Bible, to be quite familiar with a large number of biblical names, such as Adam and Abraham and Isaac, and very many more, not forgetting the very common John, Joseph, Matthew, and Thomas, and the still more familiar Jack and Jockey; and even with a few words of Hebrew origin, such as alleluia, balm, bedlam, camel, cider, and sabbath. The discovery of the New World has further familiarised us all with chocolate and tomato, which are Mexican; and with potato, which is probably old Caribbean. These facts have to be borne in mind when it is too rashly laid down that words in English dialects are of English origin.

Foreign words of this kind are, however, not very numerous, and can easily be allowed for. And, as has been said, our vocabulary admits also of a certain amount of Celtic. It remains to consider what other sources have helped to form our dialects. The two most prolific in this respect are Scandinavian and French, which require careful consideration.

It is notorious that the Northern dialect admits Scandinavian words freely; and the same is true, to a lesser degree, of East Midland. They are rare in Southern, and in the Southern part of West Midland. The constant invasions of the Danes, and the subjection of England under the rule of three Danish kings, Canute and his two successors, have very materially increased our vocabulary; and it is remarkable that they have perhaps done more for our dialects than for the standard language. The ascendancy of Danish rule was in the eleventh century; but (with a few exceptions) it was long before words which must really have been introduced at that time began to appear in our literature. They must certainly have been looked upon, at the first, as being rustic or dialectal. I have nowhere seen it remarked, and I therefore call attention to the fact, that a certain note of rustic origin still clings to many words of this class; and I would instance such as these: bawl, bloated, blunder, bungle, clog, clown, clumsy, to cow, to craze, dowdy, dregs, dump, and many more of a like character. I do not say that such words cannot be employed in serious literature; but they require skillful handling.

For further information, see the chapter on "The Scandinavian Element in English," in my Principles of English Etymology, Series I.

With regard to dialectal Scandinavian, see the List of English Words, as compared with Icelandic, in my Appendix to Cleasby and Vigfusson's Icelandic Dictionary. In this long list, filling 80 columns, the dialectal words are marked with a dagger {+*}. But the list of these is by no means exhaustive, and it will require a careful search through the pages of the English Dialect Dictionary to do justice to the wealth of this Old Norse element. There is an excellent article on this subject by Arnold Wall, entitled "A Contribution towards the Study of the Scandinavian element in the English Dialects," printed in the German periodical entitled Anglia, Neue Folge, Band VIII, 1897.

I now give a list, a mere selection, of some of the more remarkable words of Scandinavian origin that are known to our dialects. For their various uses and localities, see the English Dialect Dictionary; and for their etymologies, see my Index to Cleasby and Vigfusson. Many of these words are well approved and forcible, and may perhaps be employed hereafter to reinforce our literary language.

Addle, to earn; and (in Barbour, aynd) sb., breath; arder, a ploughing; arr, a scar; arval, a funeral repast; aund, fated, destined; bain, ready, convenient; bairns' lakings, children's playthings; beck, a stream; big, to build; bigg, barley; bing, a heap; birr, impetus; blaeberry, a bilberry; blather, blether, empty noisy talk; bouk, the trunk of the body; boun, ready; braid, to resemble, to take after; brandreth, an iron framework over a fire; brant, steep; bro, a foot-bridge with a single rail; bule, bool, the curved handle of a bucket; busk, to prepare oneself, dress; caller, fresh, said of fish, etc.; carle, a rustic, peasant; carr, moist ground; cleck, to hatch (as chickens); cleg, a horse-fly; coup, to exchange, to barter; dag, dew; daggle, to trail in the wet; dowf, dull, heavy, stupid; dump, a deep pool.

Elding, eliding, fuel; ettle, to intend, aim at; feal, to hide; fell, a hill; fey, doomed, fated to die; flake, a hurdle; force, a water-fall; gab, idle talk; gain, adj., convenient, suitable; gait, a hog; gar, to cause, to make; garn, yarn; garth, a field, a yard; gate, a way, street; ged, a pike; gilder, a snare, a fishing-line; gilt, a young sow; gimmer, a young ewe; gloppen, to scare, terrify; glare, to stare, to glow; goam, gaum, to stare idly, to gape, whence gomeril, a blockhead; gowk, a cuckoo, a clown; gowlan, gollan, a marigold; gowpen, a double handful; gradely, respectable; graithe, to prepare; grice, a young pig; haaf, the open sea; haver, oats; how, a hillock, mound; immer-goose, ember-goose, the great Northern diver; ing, a lowlying meadow; intake, a newly enclosed or reclaimed portion of land; keld, a spring of water; kenning, knowledge, experience; kilp, kelp, the iron hook in a chimney on which pots are hung; kip, to catch fish in a particular way; kittle, to tickle; lain, lane, to conceal; lair, a muddy place, a quick-sand; lait, to seek; lake, to play; lathe, a barn; lax, a salmon; lea, a scythe; leister, a fish-spear with prongs and barbs; lift, the air, sky; lig, to lie down; lispund, a variable weight; lit, to dye; loon, the Northern diver; lowe, a flame, a blaze.

Mense, respect, reverence, decency, sense; mickle, great; mirk, dark; morkin, a dead sheep; muck, dirt; mug, fog, mist, whence muggy, misty, close, dull; neif, neive, the fist; ouse, ouze, to empty out liquid, to bale out a boat; paddock, a frog, a toad; quey, a young heifer; rae, a sailyard; rag, hoarfrost, rime; raise, a cairn, a tumulus; ram, rammish, rank, rancid; rip, a basket; risp, to scratch; rit, to scratch slightly, to score; rawk, roke, a mist; roo, to pluck off the wool of sheep instead of shearing them; roose, to praise; roost, roust, a strong sea-current, a race.

Sark, a shirt; scarf, a cormorant; scopperil, a teetotum; score, a gangway down to the sea-shore; screes, rough stones on a steep mountain-side, really for screethes (the th being omitted as in clothes), from Old Norse skri{dh}a, a land-slip on a hill-side; scut, a rabbit's tail; seave, a rush; sike, a small rill, gutter; sile, a young herring; skeel, a wooden pail; skep, a basket, a measure; skift, to shift, remove, flit; skrike, to shriek; slocken, to slake, quench; slop, a loose outer garment; snag, a projecting end, a stump of a tree; soa, a large round tub; spae, to foretell, to prophesy; spean, a teat, (as a verb) to wean; spelk, a splinter, thin piece of wood; steg, a gander; storken, to congeal; swale, a shady place; tang, the prong of a fork, a tongue of land; tarn, a mountain pool; tath, manure, tathe, to manure; ted, to spread hay; theak, to thatch; thoft, a cross-bench in a boat; thrave, twenty-four sheaves, or a certain measure of corn; tit, a wren; titling, a sparrow; toft, a homestead, an old enclosure, low hill; udal, a particular tenure of land; ug, to loathe; wadmel, a species of coarse cloth; wake, a portion of open water in a frozen lake or stream; wale, to choose; wase, a wisp or small bundle of hay or straw; whauve, to cover over, especially with a dish turned upside down; wick, a creek, bay; wick, a corner, angle.

Another source of foreign supply to the vocabulary of the dialects is French; a circumstance which seems hitherto to have been almost entirely ignored. The opinion has, I think, been expressed more than once, that dialects are almost, if not altogether, free from French influence. Some, however, have called attention, perhaps too much attention, to the French words found in Lowland Scotch; and it is common to adduce always the same set of examples, such as ashet, a dish (F. assiette, a trencher, plate: Cotgrave), gigot, a leg of mutton, and petticoat-tails, certain cakes baked with butter (ingeniously altered from petits gastels, old form of petits gateaux), by way of illustration. Indeed, a whole book has been written on this subject; see A Critical Enquiry into the Scottish Language, by Francisque-Michel, 4to, Edinburgh, 1882. But the importance of the borrowings, chiefly in Scotland, from Parisian French, has been much exaggerated, as in the work just mentioned; and a far more important source has been ignored, viz. Anglo-French, which I here propose to consider.

By Anglo-French is meant the highly important form of French which is largely peculiar to England, and is of the highest value to the philologist. The earliest forms of it were Norman, but it was afterwards supplemented by words borrowed from other French dialects, such as those of Anjou and Poitou, as well as from the Central French of Paris. It was thus developed in a way of its own, and must always be considered, in preference to Old Continental French, when English etymologies are in question. It is true that it came to an end about 1400, when it ceased to be spoken; but at an earlier date it was alive and vigorous, and coined its own peculiar forms. A very simple example is our word duty, which certainly was not borrowed from the Old French devoir, but from the Anglo-French duetee, a word familiar in Old London, but absolutely unknown to every form of continental French.

The point which I have here to insist upon is that not only does our literary language abound with Anglo-French words, but that they are also common enough in our dialects; a point which, as far as I know, is almost invariably overlooked. Neither have our dialects escaped the influence of the Central French of Paris, and it would have been strange if they had; for the number of French words in English is really very large. It is not always possible to discriminate between the Old French of France and of England, and I shall here consider both sources together, though the Old Norman words can often be easily discerned by any one who is familiar with the Norman peculiarities. Of such peculiarities I will instance three, by way of example. Thus Anglo-French often employs ei or ey where Old French (i.e. of the continent) has oi or oy; and English has retained the old pronunciations of ch and j. Hence, whilst convoy is borrowed from French, convey is Anglo-French. Machine is French, because the ch is pronounced as sh; but chine, the backbone, is Anglo-French. Rouge is French, because of the peculiar pronunciation of the final ge; but rage is Anglo-French; and jaundice is Anglo-French, as it has the old j. See Chapters III-VI of my Principles of English Etymology, Second Series.

A good example of a dialect word is gantry or gauntree, a wooden stand for barrels, known in varying forms in many dialects. It is rightly derived, in the E.D.D., from gantier, which must have been an A.F. (Anglo-French) form, though now only preserved in the Rouchi dialect, spoken on the borders of France and Belgium, and nearly allied to Norman; in fact, M. Hecart, the author of the Dictionnaire Rouchi-Fran{c,}ais, says he had heard the word in Normandy, and he gives a quotation for it from Olivier Basselin, a poet who lived in Normandy at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The Parisian form is chantier, which Cotgrave explains as "a Gauntrey... for hogs-heads to stand on." Here is a clear example of a word which is of Norman, or A.F., origin; and there must be many more such of which the A.F. form is lost. There is no greater literary disgrace to England than the fact that there is no reasonable Dictionary in existence of Anglo-French, though it contains hundreds of highly important legal terms. It ought, in fact, to have been compiled before either the English Dialect Dictionary or the New English Dictionary, both of which have suffered from the lack of it.

It would indeed be tedious to enumerate the vast number of French words in our dialects. Many are literary words used in a peculiar sense, often in one that has otherwise been long obsolete; such as able, rich; access, an ague-fit; according, comparatively; to act, to show off, be ridiculous; afraid, conj., for fear that; agreeable, willing; aim, to intend; aisle, a central thoroughfare in a shop, etc.; alley, the aisle of a church; allow, to suppose; anatomy, a skeleton; ancient, an ensign, flag; anguish, inflammation; annoyance, damage; anointed, notoriously vicious; apron, the diaphragm of an animal; apt, sure; arbitrary, impatient of restraint; archangel, dead nettle; argue, to signify; arrant, downright; auction, an untidy place, a crowd; avise (for advise), to inform. It is needless to go through the rest of the alphabet.

Moreover, dialect-speakers are quite capable of devising new forms for themselves. It is sufficient to instance abundation, abundance; ablins, possibly (made from able); argle, argie-bargie, argle-bargle, argufy, all varieties of the verb to argue; and so on.

The most interesting words are those that have survived from Middle English or from Tudor English times. Examples are aigre, sour, tart, which is Shakespeare's eagre, Hamlet, I, v 69; ambry, aumbry, cupboard, spelt almarie in Piers the Plowman, B XIV 246; arain, a spider, spelt yreyn in Wyclif's translation of Psalm XC 10, which, after all, is less correct; arles, money paid on striking a bargain, a highly interesting word, spelt erles in the former half of the thirteenth century; arris, the angular edge of a cut block of stone, etc., from the O.F. areste, L. arista, which has been revived by our Swiss mountain-climbers in the form arete; a-sew, dry, said of cows that give no milk (cf. F. essuyer, to dry); assoilyie, to absolve, acquit, and assith, to compensate, both used by Sir W. Scott; astre, aistre, a hearth, a Norman word found in 1292; aunsel, a steelyard, of which the etymology is given in the E.D.D.; aunter, an adventure, from the A.F. aventure; aver, a beast of burden, horse, used by Burns, from the A.F. aveir, property, cattle; averous, A.F. averous, avaricious, in Wyclif's translation of 1 Cor. vi 10.

Here is ample proof of the survival of Anglo-French in our dialects. Indeed, their chief philological use consists in the great antiquity of many of the terms, which often preserve Old English and Anglo-French forms with much fidelity. The charge often brought against dialect speakers of using "corrupt" forms is only occasionally and exceptionally true. Much worse "corruptions" have been made by antiquaries, in order to suit their false etymologies.



With the ascendancy of East Midland, and its acceptance as the chief literary language, the other dialects practically ceased to be recorded, with the exception (noted above) of the Scottish Northumbrian. Of English Northumbrian, the sixteenth century tells us nothing beyond what we can glean from belated copies of Northern ballads or such traces of a Northern (apparently a Lancashire) dialect as appear in Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar. Fitzherbert's Boke of Husbandry (1534) was reprinted for the E.D.S. in 1882. It was written, not by Sir Anthony Fitzherbert, as I erroneously said in the Preface, but by his brother, John Fitzherbert, as has been subsequently shown. It contains a considerable number of dialectal words. Thomas Tusser (1525-1580), born in Essex, wrote A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie (1557), and Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie (1573); see the edition by Payne and Herrtage, E.D.S., 1878. He employs many country words, presumably Essex. The dialect assumed by Edgar in Shakespeare's King Lear is not to be taken as being very accurate; he talks somewhat like a Somersetshire peasant, but I suppose his speech to be in a conventional stage dialect, such as we find also in The London Prodigall, Act II, Sc. 4, where Olyver, "a Devonshire Clothier," uses similar expressions, viz. chill for Ich will, I will; and chy vor thee, I warn thee.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, the value of dialectal words as helping to explain our English vocabulary began to be recognised. Particular mention may be made of the Etymologicon Lingu{ae} Anglican{ae}, by Stephen Skinner, London, 1671; and it should be noted that this is the Dictionary upon which Dr Johnson relied for the etymology of native English words. At the same time, we must not forget to note two Dictionaries of a much earlier date, which are of high value. The former of these is the Promptorium Parvulorum, completed in 1440, published by the Camden Society in 1865; which contains a rather large proportion of East Anglian words. The second is the Catholicon Anglicum, dated 1483, ed. S.J. Herrtage, E.E.T.S., 1881, which is distinctly Northern (possibly of Yorkshire origin).

We find in Skinner occasional mention of Lincolnshire words, with which he was evidently familiar. Examples are: boggle-boe, a spectre; bratt, an apron; buffet-stool, a hassock; bulkar, explained by Peacock as "a wooden hutch in a workshop or a ship."

The study of modern English Dialects began with the year 1674, when the celebrated John Ray, Fellow of the Royal Society, botanist, zoologist, and collector of local words and proverbs, issued his Collection of English Words not generally used; of which a second edition appeared in 1691. See my reprint of these; E.D.S., 1874. This was the first general collection, and one of the best; and after this date (1674) many dialect words appeared in English Dictionaries, such as those of Elisha Coles (1676, and four subsequent editions); John Kersey (1708, etc.); Nathaniel Bailey (1721, etc.); N. Bailey's Dictionary, Part II, a distinct work (1727, etc.). The celebrated Dictionary by Dr Johnson, 2 vols., folio, London, 1755, owed much to Bailey. Later, we may notice the Dictionary by John Ash, London, 1775; and Todd's edition of Johnson, London, 1818. It is needless to mention later works; see the Complete List of Dictionaries, by H.B. Wheatley, reprinted in the E.D.S. Bibliographical List (1877), pp. 3-11; and the long List of Works which more particularly relate to English Dialects in the same, pp. 11-17. Among the latter may be mentioned A Provincial Glossary, by F. Grose, London, 1787, second edition 1790; Supplement to the same, by the late S. Pegge, F.S.A., London, 1814; and Glossary of Archaic and Provincial Words, by the late Rev. J. Boucher, ed. Hunter and Stevenson, 1832-3. The last of these was attempted on a large scale, but never got beyond the word Blade; so that it was practically a failure. The time for producing a real Dialect Dictionary had not yet come; but the valuable Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, by J. Jamieson, published at Edinburgh in 4 vols., 4to, in 1808-25, made an excellent beginning.

The nineteenth century not only accumulated for our use a rather large number of general works on Dialects, but also a considerable quantity of works illustrating them separately. I may instance those on the dialect of Bedfordshire, by T. Batchelor, 1809; of Berkshire, by Job Lousley, 1852; Cheshire, by R. Wilbraham, 1820, 1826; East Anglia, by R. Forby, 1830, and by Nall, 1866; Teesdale, co. Durham, by F.T. Dinsdale, 1849; Herefordshire, by G.C. Lewis, 1839; Lincolnshire, by J.E. Brogden, 1866; Northamptonshire, by Miss A.E. Baker, 2 vols., 1854; the North Country, by J.T. Brockett, 1825, 1846; Somersetshire, by J. Jennings, 1825, 1869; Suffolk, by E. Moor, 1823; Sussex, by W.D. Cooper, 1836, 1853; Wiltshire, by J.Y. Akerman, 1842; the Cleveland dialect (Yorks.), by J.C. Atkinson, 1868; the Craven dialect, by W. Carr, 1824; and many more of the older type that are still of value. We have also two fairly good general dictionaries of dialect words; that by T. Wright, 1857, 1869; and that by J.O. Halliwell, 2 vols., 1847, 11th ed., 1889. See the exhaustive Bibliographical List of all works connected with our dialects in the E.D.D., pp. 1-59, at the end of vol. VI.

In 1869 appeared Part I of Dr A.J. Ellis's great work on Early English Pronunciation, with especial reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer; followed by Part II of the same, on the Pronunciation of the thirteenth and previous centuries, of Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic, Old Norse, and Gothic. In 1871 appeared Part III of the same, on the Pronunciation of the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. Part IV was then planned to include the Pronunciation of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, including the Phonology of the Dialects; and for this purpose it was necessary to gain particulars such as could hardly be accomplished without special research. It was partly with this in view, and partly in order to collect material for a really comprehensive dictionary, that, in 1873, I founded the English Dialect Society, undertaking the duties of Secretary and Director. The Society was brought to an end in 1896, after producing 80 publications and collecting much material. Mr Nodal, of Manchester, was Secretary from 1876 to 1893; and from 1893 to 1896 the headquarters of the Society were in Oxford. Besides this, I raised a fund in 1886 for collecting additional material in manuscript, and thus obtained a considerable quantity, which the Rev. A. Smythe Palmer, D.D., in the course of two years and a half, arranged in fair order. But even in 1889 more was required, and the work was then taken in hand by Dr Joseph Wright, who gives the whole account of the means by which, in 1898, he was enabled to issue Vol. I of the English Dialect Dictionary. The sixth and concluding volume of this most valuable work was issued in 1905.

To this I refer the reader for all further information, which is there given in a very complete form. At the beginning is a Preface explaining the history of the book; followed by lists of voluntary readers, of unprinted MS. collections, and of correspondents consulted; whilst Vol. VI, besides a Supplement of 179 pages, gives a Bibliography of Books and MSS. quoted, with a full Index; to which is added the English Dialect Grammar.

This English Dialect Grammar was also published, in 1905, as a separate work, and contains a full account of the phonology of all the chief dialects, the very variable pronunciation of a large number of leading words being accurately indicated by the use of a special set of symbols; the Table of Vowel-sounds is given at p. 13. The Phonology is followed by an Accidence, which discusses the peculiarities of dialect grammar. Next follows a rather large collection of important words, that are differently pronounced in different counties; for example, more than thirty variations are recorded of the pronunciation of the word house. The fulness of the Vocabulary in the Dictionary, and the minuteness of the account of the phonology and accidence in the Grammar, leave nothing to desire. Certainly no other country can give so good an account of its Dialects.



It has been shown that, in the earliest period, we can distinguish three well-marked dialects besides the Kentish, viz. Northumbrian, Mercian, and Anglo-Saxon; and these, in the Middle English period, are known as Northern, Midland, and Southern. The modern dialects are very numerous, but can be arranged under five divisions, two of which may be called Northern and Southern, as before; whilst the other three arise from a division of the widely spread Midland into subdivisions. These may be called, respectively, West Midland, Mid Midland (or simply Midland), and East Midland; and it has been shown that similar subdivisions appear even in the Middle English period.

This arrangement of the modern dialects under five divisions is that adopted by Prof. Wright, who further simplifies the names by using Western in place of West Midland, and Eastern in place of East Midland. This gives us, as a final result, five divisions of English dialects, viz. Northern, Western, Midland, Eastern, and Southern; to which we must add the dialects of modern Scotland (originally Northern), and the dialects of Ireland, viz. of Ulster (a kind of Northern), Dublin, and Wexford (a kind of Southern).

No map of dialects is here given in illustration, because it is practically impossible to define their boundaries accurately. Such a map was once given by Dr Ellis, but it is only arbitrary; and Prof. Wright expressly says that, in his work also, the boundaries suggested are inexact; they are only given for convenience, as an approximation to the truth. He agrees with Dr Ellis in most of the particulars.

Many of the counties are divided between two, or even three, dialects; I somewhat simplify matters by omitting to mention some of them, so as to give merely a general idea of the chief dialectal localities. For fuller information, see the Dialect Grammar.

I. The dialects of Scotland may be subdivided into nine groups:

1. Shetland and Orkney. 2. Caithness. 3. Nairn, Elgin, Banff, Aberdeen. 4. E. Forfar, Kincardine. 5. W. Forfar, most of Perth, parts of Fife and Stirling. 6. S. Ayr, W. Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Wigton. 7. S.E. Argyle, N. Ayr, Renfrew, Lanark. 8. Kinross, Clackmannan, Linlithgow, Edinburgh, Haddington, Berwick, Peebles. 9. E. Dumfries, Selkirk, Roxburgh.

II. Ireland.—Ulster, Dublin, Wexford.

III. England and Wales, in five divisions: (a) Northern; (b) Midland; (c) Eastern; (d) Western; (e) Southern.

(a) Three groups: 1. Northumberland, N. Durham. 2. S. Durham; most of Cumberland, Westmoreland, N. Lancashire, hilly parts of W. Riding of Yorkshire. 3. N. and E. Ridings of Yorkshire.

(b) Ten groups: 1. Lincolnshire. 2. S.E. Lancashire, N.E. Cheshire, N.W. Derby. 3. S.W. Lancashire, S. of the Ribble. 4. Mid Lancashire, Isle of Man. 5. S. Yorkshire; to the S.W. of the Wharfe. 6. Most of Cheshire, N. Staffordshire. 7. Most of Derby. 8. Nottingham. 9. Flint, Denbigh. 10. E. Shropshire, S. Stafford, most of Warwickshire, S. Derby, Leicestershire.

(c) Five groups: 1. Cambridge, Rutland, N.E. Northampton. 2. Most of Essex and Hertford, Huntingdon, Bedford, Mid Northampton. 3. Norfolk and Suffolk. 4. Most of Buckingham. 5. Middlesex, S.E. Buckingham, S. Hertford, S.W. Essex.

N.B. S.W. Northampton is Southern; see (e), 4.

(d) Two groups: 1. W. and S. Shropshire (W. of Severn). 2. Hereford (except E.), Radnor, E. Brecknock.

(e) Ten groups. 1. Parts of Pembroke and Glamorgan. 2. Wiltshire, Dorset, N. and E. Somerset, most of Gloucester, S.W. Devon. 3. Most of Hampshire, Isle of Wight, most of Berkshire, S. Surrey, W. Sussex. 4. N. Gloucester, E. Hereford, Worcester, S. Warwick, N. Oxford, S.W. Northampton. 5. Most of Oxford. 6. N. Surrey, N.W. Kent. 7. Most of Kent, E. Sussex. 8. W. Somerset, N.E. Devon. 9. Most of Devon, E. Cornwall. 10. W. Cornwall.



There is a great wealth of modern dialect literature, as indicated by the lists in the E.D.D. Some of these dialect books are poor and inaccurate, and they are frequently spelt according to no intelligible phonetic principles. Yet it not unfrequently happens, as in the works of Sir Walter Scott and Charles Dickens, that the dialectal scraps indicate the pronunciation with tolerable fidelity, which is more than can be said of such portions of their works as are given in the normal spelling. It is curious to notice that writers in dialect are usually, from a phonetic point of view, more careful and consistent in their modes of indicating sounds than are the rest of us. Sometimes their spelling is, accordingly, very good. Those who are interested in this subject may follow up this hint with advantage.

It is impossible to mention even a tithe of the names of our better dialect writers. In Scotland alone there is a large number, some of the more recent bearing such well-known names as those of R.L. Stevenson, George Macdonald (Aberdeen), J.M. Barrie (Forfarshire), and S.R. Crockett (Galloway). Dean Ramsay's humorous Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character must not be passed over. For Ireland we have William Carleton's Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, and the novels by Lever and Lover. Cumberland has its delightful stories of Joe and the Geologist, and Bobby Banks' Bodderment. Cornwall has its Tales, by J.T. Tregellas. Devon can boast of R.D. Blackmore, Dorset of Hardy and Barnes, and Lincoln of Tennyson. The literature of Lancashire is vast; it suffices to mention John Collier (otherwise Tim Bobbin), author of Tummus and Meary, Ben Brierley, John Byrom, J.P. Morris, author of T' Lebby Beck Dobby, and Edwin Waugh, prose author and poet. Giles's Trip to London, and the other sketches by the same author, are highly characteristic of Norfolk. Northamptonshire has its poet, John Clare; and Suffolk can boast of Robert Bloomfield. According to her own statement, printed in the Preface (p. viii) to the E.D.S. Bibliographical List, George Eliot, when writing Adam Bede, had in mind "the talk of N. Staffordshire and the neighbouring part of Derbyshire"; whilst, in Silas Marner, "the district imagined is in N. Warwickshire." Southey wrote T' Terrible Knitters e' Dent in the Westmoreland dialect. Yorkshire, like Lancashire, has a large literature, to which the E.D.D. Booklist can alone do justice.


The following extract is from Chapter XVIII of Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk, by W. Alexander, LL.D., fifteenth edition, Edinburgh, 1908. One special peculiarity of the dialect is the use of f for wh, as in fat, what, fan, when. The extract describes how the speaker and his friends went to hear a bellman make a proclamation about the appointment of a new minister to a church.

It's a vera stiff brae, an' ere we wan up to the kirk, it was gyaun upon eleyven o'clock. "Hooever," says the mannie, "we'll be in braw time; it's twal ere the sattlement begin, an' I'se warran they sanna apen the kirk-doors till's till than." So we tak's a luik roun' for ony kent fowk. They war stannin' aboot a'gate roun' aboot the kirk, in scores an' hunners, fowk fae a' the pairis'es roun' aboot, an' some fae hyne awa' as far doon's Marnoch o' the tae han' an' Kintore o' the tither, aw believe; some war stampin' their feet an' slappin' their airms like the yauws o' a win'mill to keep them a-heat; puckles wus sittin' o' the kirk-yard dyke, smokin' an' gyaun on wi' a' kin' o' orra jaw aboot the minaisters, an' aye mair gedderin' in aboot—it was thocht there wus weel on to twa thoosan' there ere a' was deen. An' aye a bit fudder was comin' up fae the manse aboot fat the Presbytery was deein—they war chaumer't there, ye see, wi' the lawvyers an' so on. "Nyod, they maun be sattlin' 'im i' the manse," says ane, "we'll need a' gae doon an' see gin we can win in." "Na, na," says anither, "a bit mair bather aboot thair dissents an' appales bein' ta'en; muckle need they care, wi' sic a Presbytery, fat they try. But here's Johnny Florence, the bellman, at the lang length, I'se be at the boddom o' fat they're at noo." And wi' that he pints till a carlie comin' across the green, wi' a bit paper in's han', an' a gryte squad o' them 't hed been hingin' aboot the manse-door at's tail. "Oo, it's Johnny gyaun to read the edick," cries a gey stoot chap, an' twa three o' them gya a roar o' a lauch.... "Speek oot, min!" cries ane. "I think ye mith pronunce some better nor that, Johnny," says anither; an' they interrupit 'im fan he was tryin' to read wi' a' kin' of haivers, takin' the words oot o's mou, an' makin' the uncoest styte o't 't cud be.

Notes.—brae, hill; wan up, got up; gyaun upon, going close upon; braw, excellent; twal, twelve; sattlement, decision; I'se, I will (lit. I shall); sanna, will not; till's, for us; kent fowk, known people, acquaintances; a'gate, in all ways; hunners, hundreds; fae, from; hyne awa', hence away, as far off; the tae, the one; the tither, the other; yauws, sails; puckles, numbers, many; dyke, stone fence; orra jaw, various loud talk; mair gedderin', more gathering; on to, near; deen, done; bit fudder, bit of a rumour (lit. gust of wind); fae, from; fat, what; deein, doing; chaumer't, chambered, shut up; nyod, a disguised oath; we'll need, we must; gin, if; win in, get in: bather, bother; at the lang length, at last; carlie, churl; gryte squad, great crowd; gey stoot, rather stout; twa three, two or three; gya, gave; mith, might; nor that, than that; haivers, foolish talk; mou, mouth; uncoest, most uncouth, strangest; styte, nonsense.


The following lines are quoted from a well-known poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796).

The Twa Dogs (C{ae}sar and Luath).

C{ae}s. "I've notic'd, on our Laird's court-day, An' mony a time my heart's been wae, Poor tenant bodies, scant o' cash, How they maun thole a factor's snash He'll stamp an' threaten, curse an' swear, He'll apprehend them, poind their gear; While they maun stan', wi' aspect humble, An' hear it a', an' fear and tremble! I see how folk live that hae riches; But surely poor folk maun be wretches." Lu. "They're no sae wretched's are wad think; Tho' constantly on poortith's brink, They're sae accustom'd wi' the sight, The view o't gies them little fright.... The dearest comfort o' their lives, Their grushie weans an' faithfu' wives: The prattling things are just their pride, That sweetens a' their fire-side.... That merry day the year begins, They bar the door on frosty win's; The nappy reeks wi' mantling ream, An' sheds a heart-inspiring steam; The luntin' pipe an' sneeshin-mill Are handed round wi' right good will; The cantie auld folks crackin' crouse, The young anes ranting thro' the house— My heart has been sae fain to see them That I, for joy, hae barkit wi' them!"... By this, the sun was out o' sight, An' darker gloamin' brought the night: The bum-clock humm'd wi' lazy drone, The kye stood rowtin' i' the loan; When up they gat, an' shook their lugs, Rejoic'd they were na men but dogs; An' each took aff his several way, Resolv'd to meet some ither day.

Notes.—wae, sorrowful; maun thole, must endure, must put up with; factor's snash, agent's abuse; poind, seize upon, sequester; gear, property; hae, have; no sae, not so; wad, would; poortith, poverty; grushie, of thriving growth, well-grown; weans, children; win's, winds; nappy, foaming ale; reeks, smokes; ream, cream; luntin', smoking, emitting smoke; sneeshin-mill, snuff box; cantie, merry; crackin', conversing; crouse, with good spirits; ranting, running noisily; fain, glad; gloamin', twilight; bum-clock, beetle (that booms); kye, cows; rowtin', lowing; loan, milking-place; lugs, ears.


The following stanzas are from The Farmer's Ingle, a poem by Robert Fergusson (1750-1774), a native of Edinburgh.

Whan gloming grey out o'er the welkin keeks, Whan Batie ca's his owsen to the byre, Whan Thrasher John, sair dung, his barn-door steeks, And lusty lasses at the dighting tire: What bangs fu' leal the e'enings coming cauld, And gars snaw-tappit winter freeze in vain, Gars dowie mortals look baith blythe and bauld, Nor fley'd wi' a' the poortith o' the plain; Begin, my Muse, and chant in hamely strain.

Frae the big stack, weel-winnow't on the hill, Wi' divets theekit frae the weet and drift, Sods, peats, and heath'ry trufs the chimley fill, And gar their thick'ning smeek salute the lift; The gudeman, new come hame, is blythe to find, Whan he out o'er the halland flings his een, That ilka turn is handled to his mind, That a' his housie looks sae cosh and clean; For cleanly house lo'es he, tho' e'er sae mean.

Weel kens the gudewife that the pleughs require A heartsome meltith, and refreshing synd O' nappy liquor, o'er a bleezing fire; Sair wark and poortith downa weel be join'd. Wi' buttered bannocks now the girdle reeks; I' the far nook the bowie briskly reams; The readied kail stands by the chimley-cheeks, And hauds the riggin het wi' welcome streams; Whilk than the daintiest kitchen nicer seems....

Then a' the house for sleep begin to grien, Their joints to slack frae industry a while; The leaden god fa's heavy on their een, And hafflins steeks them frae their daily toil; The cruizy too can only blink and bleer, The restit ingle's done the maist it dow; Tackman and cottar eke to bed maun steer, Upo' the cod to clear their drumly pow, Till waukened by the dawning's ruddy glow.

Notes.—Ingle, chimney-corner. Gloming, twilight; keeks, peeps; ca's, drives (lit. calls); owsen, oxen; byre, cow-house; sair dung, sorely tired; steeks, shuts; dighting, winnowing; bangs fu' leal, defeats right well; gars, makes; -tappit, crested; dowie, melancholy; fley'd, frighted; poortith, poverty.

Divets, turfs; theekit, thatched; weet, wet; sods, peats, and heath'ry trufs, various turf fuels; chimley, fire-place; gar, make; smeek, smoke; lift, sky; halland, partition forming a screen; een, eyes; ilka, each; cosh, cosy; lo'es, loves.

Kens, knows; meltith, meal-tide, meal; synd, wash-down, draught; nappy, heady, strong; downa, cannot; bannocks, cakes; girdle, hot-plate; reeks, smokes; bowie, cask, beer-barrel; reams, foams; readied kail, (dish of) cooked greens; by, beside; hauds... het, keeps... hot; riggin, roof over the open hearth; whilk, which.

Grien, yearn, long; hafflins steeks, half shuts; cruizy, oil-lamp; bleer, bedim (the sight); restit ingle, made up fire; dow, can; tackman, lease-holder, farmer; cod, pillow; drumly pow, confused head.


The following extract is from a remarkable tract entitled A Bran New Wark, by William De Worfat; Kendal, 1785. The author was the Rev. William Hutton, Rector of Beetham in Westmoreland, 1762-1811, and head of a family seated at Overthwaite (here called Worfat) in that parish. It was edited by me for the E.D.S. in 1879.

Last Saturday sennet, abaut seun in the evening (twas lownd and fraaze hard) the stars twinkled, and the setting moon cast gigantic shadows. I was stalking hameward across Blackwater-mosses, and whistling as I tramp'd for want of thought, when a noise struck my ear, like the crumpling of frosty murgeon; it made me stop short, and I thought I saw a strange form before me: it vanished behint a windraw; and again thare was nought in view but dreary dykes, and dusky ling. An awful silence reigned araund; this was sean brokken by a skirling hullet; sure nivver did hullet, herrensue, or miredrum, mak sic a noise before. Your minister [himself] was freetned, the hairs of his head stood an end, his blead storkened, and the haggard creature moving slawly nearer, the mirkiness of the neet shew'd her as big again as she was... She stoup'd and drop'd a poak, and thus began with a whining tone. "Deary me! deary me! forgive me, good Sir, but this yance, I'll steal naa maar. This seek is elding to keep us fra starving!"... [The author visits the poor woman's cottage.] She sat on a three-legg'd steal, and a dim coal smook'd within the rim of a brandreth, oor which a seety rattencreak hung dangling fra a black randletree. The walls were plaister'd with dirt, and a stee, with hardly a rung, was rear'd into a loft. Araund the woman her lile ans sprawl'd on the hearth, some whiting speals, some snottering and crying, and ya ruddy-cheek'd lad threw on a bullen to make a loww, for its mother to find her loup. By this sweal I beheld this family's poverty.

Notes.—Sennet, seven nights, week; seun, seven; lownd, still, calm; murgeon, rubbish earth cut up and thrown aside in order to get peat; windraw, heap of dug earth; ling, kind of heather; skirling hullet, shrieking owlet; herrensue, young heron; miredrum, bittern; blead storkened, blood congealed; neet, night; poak, bag; yance, once; seck, sack, i.e. contents of this sack; elding, fuel; steal, stool; brandreth, iron frame over the fire; seaty, sooty; rattencreak, potcrook, pothook; randletree, a beam from which the pothook hangs; stee, ladder; loft, upper room; lile ans, little ones; whiting speals, whittling small sticks; snottering, sobbing; ya, one; bullen, hempstalk; loww, flame; loup, loop, stitch in knitting; sweal, blaze.


I here give a few quotations from the Glossary of Words used in the Wapentakes of Manley and Corringham, Lincolnshire, by E. Peacock, F.S.A.; 2nd ed., E.D.S., 1889. The illustrative sentences are very characteristic.

Beal, to bellow.—Th' bairn be{a}led oot that bad, I was cl{e}an scar'd, but it was at noht bud a battle-twig 'at hed crohl{e}d up'n hisairm. (Battle-twig, earwig; airm, arm.)

Cart, to get into, to get into a bad temper.—Na, noo, thoo ne{a}dn't get into th' cart, for I we{a}n't draw thee.

Cauf, a calf, silly fellow.—A gentleman was enlarging to a Winterton lad on the virtues of Spanish juice [liquorice water]. "Ah,then, ye'll ha' been to th' mines, whe{a}re thaay gets it," the boy exclaimed; whereupon the mother broke in with—"A gre{a}t cauf! Duz he think 'at thaay dig it oot o' th' grund, sa{a}me as thaay do sugar?"

Chess, a tier.—I've been tell'd that e' plaaces whe{a}re thaay graw silk-worms, thaay ke{a}ps 'em on traays, chess aboon chess, like cheney i' a cupboard. (E' in; cheney, china.)

Clammer, to climb.—Oor Uriah's clammered into th' parson's cherry-tree, muther, an' he is swalla'in on 'em aboon a bit. I shouldn't ha tell'd ye nobbut he we{a}nt chuck me ony doon. (Nobbut, only.)

Cottoner, something very striking.—Th' bairn hed been e' mischief all daay thrif; at last, when I was sidin' awaay th' te{a}-things, what duz he do but tum'le i'to th' well. So, says I, Well, this is a cottoner; we shall hev to send for Mr Iveson (the coroner) noo, I reckon. (Thrif, through; sidin' awaay, putting away.)

Ducks.—A girl said to the author, of a woman with whom she had been living for a short time as servant, "I'd raather be nibbled to de{a}d wi' ducks then live with Miss P. She's alus a natterin'." (De{a}d, death; alus, always; natterin', nagging.)

Good mind, strong intention.—She said she'd a good mind to hing her-sen, so{a} I ax'd if I mud send for Mr Holgate (the coroner), to be ready like. (Hing, hang; mud, might.)

Jaup, senseless talk.—Ho'd the jaup wi' th{(e}; dos't ta want ivery body to knaw how soft thoo is? (Ho'd, hold; soft, foolish.)


The following poem is from Poems and Songs by Edwin Waugh; 3rd ed., London, 1870.

Owd Pinder.

Owd Pinder were a rackless foo, An' spent his days i' spreein'; At th' end ov every drinkin-do, He're sure to crack o' deein'; "Go, sell my rags, an' sell my shoon, Aw's never live to trail 'em; My ballis-pipes are eawt o' tune, An' th' wynt begins to fail 'em!

Eawr Matty's very fresh an' yung;— 'T would any mon bewilder;— Hoo'll wed again afore it's lung, For th' lass is fond o' childer; My bit o' brass'll fly—yo'n see— When th' coffin-lid has screen'd me— It gwos again my pluck to dee, An' lev her wick beheend me.

Come, Matty, come, an' cool my yed; Aw'm finish'd, to my thinkin';" Hoo happed him nicely up, an' said, "Thae'st brought it on wi' drinkin'."— "Nay, nay," said he, "my fuddle's done, We're partin' tone fro tother; So promise me that, when aw'm gwon, Thea'll never wed another!"

"Th' owd tale," said hoo, an' laft her stoo; "It's rayly past believin'; Thee think o' th' world thea'rt goin' to, An' lev this world to th' livin'; What use to me can deeod folk be? Thae's kilt thisel' wi' spreein"; An' iv that's o' thae wants wi' me, Get forrud wi' thi deein'!"

Notes.—Owd, old; rackless foo, reckless fool; spreein', merry-making, drinking; -do, bout; He're, he would be; crack o' deein' , hint at dying; Aw's, I shall; trail, walk in; ballis-pipes, bellows-pipes, lungs; eawt, out; wynt, wind.

Eawr, our, my; Hoo, she; brass, money; yo'n, you will; lev, leave; wick, quick, i.e. alive.

Yed, head; happed, covered; fuddle, drinking-bout; tone fro tother, the one from the other.

Stoo, stool; Thee think, do thou think; deeod, dead; o', all; get forrud, get on, go on.


The following extract is from A. Bywater's Sheffield Dialect, 3rd ed, 1877; as quoted in S.O. Addy's Sheffield Glossary, E.D.S., 1888, p. xv.

Jerra Flatback. Hah, they'n better toimes on't nah, booath e heitin and clooas; we'n had menni a mess a nettle porridge an brawls on a Sunda mo'nin, for us brekfast... Samma, dusta remember hah menni names we had for sahwer wotcake?

Oud Samma Squarejoint. O kno'n't, lad; bur o think we'd foive or six. Let's see: Slammak wer won, an' Flat-dick wer anuther; an't tuther wor—a dear, mo memra fails ma—Flannel an' Jonta; an-an-an-an—bless me, wot a thing it is tubbe oud, mo memra gers war for ware, bur o kno heah's anuther; o'st think on enah.— A, Jerra, heah's menni a thahsand dogs nah days, at's better dun too nor we wor then; an them were t'golden days a Hallamshoir, they sen. An they happen wor, for't mesters. Hofe at prentis lads e them days wor lether'd whoile ther skin wor skoi-blue, and clam'd whoile ther booans wer bare, an work'd whoile they wor as knock-kneed as oud Nobbletistocks. Thah nivver sees nooa knock-kneed cutlers nah: nou, not sooa; they'n better mesters nah, an they'n better sooat a wark anole. They dooant mezher em we a stick, as oud Natta Hall did. But for all that, we'd none a yer wirligig polishin; nor Tom Dockin scales, wit bousters comin off; nor yer sham stag, nor sham revvits, an sich loik. T' noives wor better made then, Jerra.

Jerra: Hah, they wor better made; they made t' noives for yuse then, but they mayn em to sell nah.

Notes.—Observe 'n for han (plural), have; on't nah, of it now; e heitin, in eating; mess a, dish of, meal of; brawis, brose, porridge; hah, how; sahwer wotcake, leavened oatcake; bur o, but I; mo, my; ma, me; tubbe oud, to be old; gers, gets; war for ware, worse for wear; o'st, I shall; think on, remember; enah, presently; nah days, nowadays; at's, that are; dun too, treated; nor we, than we; Hallamshoir, Hallamshire, the district including Sheffield and the neighbourhood; sen, say; happen, perhaps; for't, for the; hofe at, half of the; e them, in those; lether'd, beaten; whoile, till; clam'd (for clamm'd), starved; sooat a, sort of; anole, and all; we, with; wirligig, machine; Tom Dockin scales, scales cut out of thin rolled iron instead of being forged; bousters, bolsters (a bolster is a lump of metal between the tang and the blade of a knife); stag, stag-horn handle (?); mayn, pl. make.


The following extract is from "Betty Bresskittle's Pattens, or Sanshum Fair," by J.C. Clough; printed with Holland's Cheshire Glossary, E.D.S. (1886), p. 466. Sanshum or Sanjem Fair is a fair held at Altrincham on St James's Day.

Jud sprung upo' th' stage leet as a buck an' bowd as a dandycock, an' th' mon what were playingk th' drum (only it wer'nt a gradely drum) gen him a pair o' gloves. Jud began a-sparringk, an' th' foaks shaouted, "Hooray! Go it, owd Jud! Tha'rt a gradely Cheshire mon!"

Th' black felly next gen Jud a wee bit o' a bang i' th' reet ee, an Jud git as weild as weild, an hit reet aht, but some hah he couldna git a gradely bang at th' black mon. At-aftur two or three minutes th' black felly knocked Jud dahn, an t'other chap coom and picked him up, an' touch'd Jud's faace wi' th' spunge everywheer wheer he'd getten a bang, but th' spunge had getten a gurt lot o' red ruddle on it, so that it made gurt red blotches upo' Jud's faace wheer it touched it; an th' foaks shaouted and shaouted, "Hooray, Jud! Owd mon! at em agen!" An Jud let floy a good un, an th' mon wi' th' spunge had to pick th' blackeymoor up this toime an put th' ruddle upo' his faace just at-under th'ee.

"Hooray, Jud! hooray, owd mon!" shaouted Jock Carter o' Runjer; "tha'rt game, if tha'rt owd!"

Just at that vary minit Jud's weife, bad as hoo were wi' th' rheumatic, pushed her roo{a}d through th' foaks, and stood i' th' frunt o' th' show.

"Go it agen, Jud! here's th' weife coom t'see hah gam tha art!" shaouted Jonas.

Jud turn'd rahnd an gurned at th' frunt o' th' show wi' his faace aw ruddle.

"Tha girt soo! I'll baste thi when aw get thi hwom, that aw will!" shaouted Betty Bresskittle; "aw wunder tha artna ashamed o' thisen, to stond theer a-feightingk th' deevil hissel!"

Notes.—Jud, for George; leet, light; bowd, bold; dandycock, Bantam cock; gradely, proper; gen, gave; owd, old; reet ee, right eye; git, got; as weild as weild, as wild as could be; aht, out; at-aftur, after; gurt, great; em, him; floy, fly; Runjer, Ringway; game (also gam), full of pluck; hoo, she; rooad, road, way; gurned, grinned; soo, sow (term of abuse); hwom, home; thisen, thyself.

EASTERN (Group 2): N. ESSEX.

The following extract is from John Noakes and Mary Styles, by Charles Clark, of Great Totham; London, 1839. Reprinted for the E.D.S., 1895. As Great Totham is to the North of Maldon, I take this specimen to belong to Prof. Wright's "Division 2" rather than to the S.W. Essex of "Division 5." The use of w for initial v occurs frequently, as in werry, very, etc.

At Tottum's Cock-a-Bevis Hill, A sput surpass'd by few, Where toddlers ollis haut to eye The proper pritty wiew,

Where people crake so ov the place, Leas-ways, so I've hard say; An' frum its top yow, sarteny, Can see a monsus way.

But no sense ov a place, some think, Is this here hill so high,— 'Cos there, full oft, 'tis nation coad, But that don't argufy.

As sum'dy, 'haps, when nigh the sput, May ha' a wish to see 't,— From Mauldon toun to Keldon 'tis, An' 'gin a four-releet.

At Cock-a Bevis Hill, too, the Wiseacres show a tree Which if you clamber up, besure, A precious way yow see.

I dorn't think I cud clime it now, Aldoe I uster cud; I shudn't warsley loike to troy, For gulch cum down I shud.

My head 'ood swim,—I 'oodn't do't Nut even fur a guinea; A naarbour ax'd me, t'other day; "Naa, naa," says I, "nut quinny."

Notes.—Sput, spot; toddlers, walkers; ollis, always; haut, halt; wiew, view. Crake, boast; leas(t)ways, at least; sarteny, certainly; monsus, monstrous, very long.

No sense ov a, poor, bad; coad, cold; argufy, prove (anything).

Sum'dy, somebody; from M., between Maldon and Kelvedon; 'gin, against, near; four-releet (originally four-e leet, lit. "ways of four," four-e being the genitive plural, hence) meeting of four roads.

Dorn't, don't; aldoe, although; uster cud (for us'd to could), used to be able; warsley, vastly, much; loike, like; gulch, heavily, with a bang.

'Ood, would; nut, not; ax'd, asked; naa, no; nut quinny, not quite, not at all.


The following extract from "A Norfolk Dialogue" is from a work entitled Erratics by a Sailor, printed anonymously at London in 1800, and written by the Rev. Joshua Larwood, rector of Swanton Morley, near East Dereham. Most of the words are quite familiar to me, as I was curate of East Dereham in 1861-2, and heard the dialect daily. The whole dialogue was reprinted in Nine Specimens of English Dialects; E.D.S., 1895.

The Dialogue was accompanied by "a translation," as here reprinted. It renders a glossary needless.

Original Vulgar Norfolk. Narbor Rabbin and Narbor Tibby.

Translation. Neighbour Robin and Neighbour Stephen.

R. Tibby, d'ye know how the knacker's mawther Nutty du?

R. Stephen, do you know how the collar-maker's daughter Ursula is?

T. Why, i' facks, Rabbin, she's nation cothy; by Goms, she is so snasty that I think she is will-led.

S. Why, in fact, Robin, she is extremely sick; by (obsolete), she is so snarlish, that I think she's out of her mind.

R. She's a fate mawther, but ollas in dibles wi' the knacker and thackster; she is ollas a-ating o' thapes and dodmans. The fogger sa, she ha the black sap; but the grosher sa, she have an ill dent.

R. She's a clever girl, but always in troubles with the collar-maker and thatcher; she is always eating gooseberries and snails. The man at the chandler's shop says she has a consumption: but the grocer says she's out of her senses.

T. Why, ah! tother da she fared stounded: she pluck'd the pur from the back-stock, and copped it agin the balk of the douw-pollar, and barnt it; and then she hulled [it] at the thackster, and hart his weeson, and huckle-bone. There was northing but cadders in the douw-pollar, and no douws: and so, arter she had barnt the balk, and the door-stall, and the plancher, she run into the par-yard, thru the pytle, and then swounded behinn'd a sight o' gotches o' beergood.

S. Why, aye! the other day she appeared struck mad: she snatched the poker from the back of the stove, and flung it against the beam of the pigeon-house, and burnt it; and then she throwed it at the thatcher, and hurt his throat and hip-bone. There were no pigeons in the pigeon-house, and nothing but jack-daws; and so, after she had burned the beam, and the door-frame and the floor, she ran into the cowyard, through the small field, and fainted behind several pitchers of yeast.

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