Lots of Lingo by Dr D A C McNeil
Please, just for a moment, pretend that you are from the planet Ugg, that miraculously you have a perfect command of English, and that your space ship lands in deepest Leicestershire some time before the present. How will your English stand up to Leicestershire speak?
I tried this when I had an odd hour to spare in the Loughborough library the other week. On a desk in front of me was a book labelled Leicestershire Words, Phrases and Proverbs, the work of A. and S. Evans and published by Trubner & Co. It contained some 200 pages; in the hour I had to spare I could only copy down a few, and I certainly would not dare to form a sentence with them. It was only when I got back to my desk and took out my notes that I realised that many of them were illegible, so good reader, in your earth-bound self, please forgive all the mistakes I have made and blame everything else on Evans and Evans. They were probably Welsh anyway.
I soon realised that the Leicestershire accent had a lot to do with the idea of Leicestershire words – most English accents seems to be based on the way that vowels are pronounced. It is easy, for example, to recognise a Somerset accent by the way ‘A’ and ‘O’ s sound. So that was one problem solved – I did not have to copy down any words which only differed from B.B.C. 1950’s English by the vowel sound. As soon as one becomes used to the vowels these words were self-explanatory. Then there was the way they were separated from each other. In your Ugg mode you may have difficulty with ‘acarnelpit’. So, break it down – ‘A Carn Elp It’, which becomes ‘I can’t help it’ – fairly obvious, do you not think? Yet the phrase ‘Jer go Wyggey’ does require local knowledge, which, when you have it, is again fairly self-explanatory – ‘Do you go to Wyggeston school?’ However there is another catch: in a sentence the word ‘at’ can replace the word ‘to’, which in turn can replace ‘for’.
Try the following for size: I admit that the sentences would not be said thus, but it illustrates the point I want to make –
According to ‘chelp’, the ‘bolled’ man, a ‘hidgelor’ and a ‘tiffler’ had had several ‘larrups’ that ‘safto’ and was feeling a bit ‘market’. He ‘toll’ed a girl at the bar and, after a few more larrups he ‘jump’ed her. At this point her ‘chip’ came in and ‘gorm’ed them. ‘Slap’ there was ‘moss’; “I ought to do you in,” he shouted, reaching for his ‘whittle’ which was ‘agew’ his hand and ‘fullock’ing the door. “I shall ‘mang’ you.”
The taffler’s face was ‘gashly’ as he ‘crib’ed the chip who was trying to ‘poult’ him and flew out the door. “You ‘Bosworth man’” roared the brother. He ran along the ‘black pad’, past the Blaby’wong’ and into the pub where his friend was ‘shack’ing by the ‘gloomy’ fire, and a small dog was ‘waffl’ing.
“Been working?” his friend ‘ax’ed. “You have not ‘poike’d the ‘ditch’ from your hands and they are all ‘crimple’y.” His friend momentarily turned his attention to his son. “there’s a ‘cut’ in your hair,”he announced, “and that ‘okey’ of yours is a ‘mom’.”
The ‘aunty’ lad ran off to find his mate, and the friend turned his attention back to the taffler.
“It was a ‘poking’ job really, a real ‘Bobby’s job.’ I had to get it done for old Fred before ‘crimbo’. Still, the weather looks a bit ‘asprous’; lets have a ‘branny’ pint.”
No joy? Let me try again.
According to idle chatter, the bald man, a petty dealer and odd-job man, had had several beers that afternoon and was feeling a bit drunk. He was attracted to a girl at the bar and, after a few more beers, he had sex with her. At this point her brother came in and stared at them. At once there was uproar.
“I ought to do you in,” he shouted, reaching for his clasp knife which was near his hand and kicking the door. “I shall pulverise you.”
The odd-job man’s face was ghastly as he dodged the brother who was trying to thump him and flew out the door. “You knave” roared the brother. He ran along the unmade road, past the Blabyfield and into the pub where his friend was idling by the glowing fire, and a small dog was yapping.
“Been working?” his friend asked. “You have not cleaned out the dirt grained into your hands and they are all wrinkly.” His friend momentarily turned his attention to his son. “There’s a tangle in you hair,” he announced, “and that ice-cream of yours is a sloppy mess.”
The spritely lad ran off to find his mate, and the friend turned
his attention back to the odd-job man.
“It was an insignificant job really, a real easy job. I had to get it done for old Fred before Xmas. Still, the weather looks a bit inclement; let’s have a new pint.”
This really is taking syntactical and grammatical liberties, but I hope it illustrates the point that the odd local word dropped in to an otherwise clear sentence can throw the listener. As it may have become clear ‘jump’ in Leicestershire means sex; in other parts of the British Isles it can mean ‘surprise’. There is a relation, I think. I also have a picture of Leicestershire folk of yore trying to make sense of jump-leads and jump-starts, not to mention high jumps (mile-high club?) and long jumps.
Let me also mention to the people of Bosworth (excluding knaves) that they in olden times would have referred to Hinckley men in the same context. There were a few words that I decided not to include – I was going to have the taffler in his excitement stung by a waps (guess), a dollup of ice-cream falling on an arrawig (earwig) and the friend holding a flitchet (pole cat). As for a ‘-wong’, it was commonly used as an ending to field names.
Lastly there were a few words and phrases which have passed into the national language. I have heard a Londoner refer to ‘crimble’ for Xmas, a one-time common farmland bird – the land rail – has taken on the local name of corncrake, and its not just Leicestershire folk who think, when they hear ‘Its black over Bill’s mothers’, who the hell Bill was!