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How to learn yew Norfolk

Sign at Weybourne

When the BBC's Poldark came back on our TV screens a couple of years ago, we Norfolk people got a little bit grumpy. Look, if you try to imitate our accent, it shouldn't come out sounding like somebody from the South-West of England. 

We do not say, in a jaunty manner, ‘Orl roite, my luvver?’, but it’s fair to say we do have a unique lexicon in Norfolk, possibly affected by settlers from the Low Countries.

So if you’re coming here, and you'd be very welcome too, we’d advise you not to sound like a ‘furinner’ but instead to ‘learn yew Norfolk’.

Take for example the last command of Norfolk hero Nelson, ‘Do you anchor Hardy?’ which contains Norfolk dialect in as much as the ‘do’ is idiom for ‘now you must’.

‘Do’ has two other idiomatic meanings in Norfolk, ‘otherwise’ and ‘if’, as this story demonstrates: a young Norfolk mother is turning her son over to a cousin for a holiday in London and says to her cousin, ‘Do you make him do as you do, do he ‘on’t do as he ought to do. Do he do as he do do, do you let me know. And do he play you up, do you give him a doin’ to, I do our other two’.

That all make sense?

So, here's how it should be done. Cum alonga me...

Okay, let's get started...

Here are some words and phrases you might want to use when you’re here.

‘Oid rarely loike a bear’ – ‘I say good man, I wonder if you could pour me a pint of ale’

‘Oh dare, oi hit a dare’ – ‘Oh bother, my car appears to have had a collision with a deer’

‘Moy hart aloive! Slow yew down an’ holed you harhd’ – ‘Well I never! Please take things easy’

‘Dew yew keep a troshin. Moined ‘ow yer go’ – ‘Toodle pip! Take care of yourself’. From ‘Carry on with the threshing’

‘Bor, thassa lud a ole squit’ – ‘My man, what you say is a pile of piffle’

‘Afta a few bears I wuz on the huh. That’ll larn me’ – ‘My libations left me feeling slightly awry. I’ve been taught my lesson’

‘Ha yer fa got a dickey, bor?’ – ‘I say, has your father got a donkey, boy?’ To which the required response is: ‘Yis, an' he want a fule ter roid 'im, will yew cum?’ – ‘Yes, and he wants a fool to ride him, will you do it?’

‘I driv all way a Yarmouth, an on way back tha snew’ –‘ I drove my automobile all the way to Great Yarmouth and on the way back there was a snow flurry’

‘Come yew hair, I in't goin’ out no more’ – ‘Would you mind awfully coming to my abode’

‘Orm guhha roide muy boike dana Carra Ruhd’ – ‘I am going to ride my bicycle to Norwich City’s football stadium’. Also ‘He larned me owta roide a hoss’ – ‘He taught me how to ride a member of the equine species’

‘A’yer got a light boi?’ – ‘Could I trouble you for a match to light my cigarette?’

‘Cor blarst me, oi watta be gittin on huhm suhn!’ – ‘Goodness me, I’d like to return to my abode forthwith’

‘Do that rain, git yew under a tree’ – ‘If there is any precipitation, I’d advise you to shelter under a tree’

‘Ar ya reet bor? How you gewin?’ – ‘Good day!’

‘Thass a rum do! That slummocking gret mawther cum a-runnin’ an’ she wuz suffun savidge. She was puttin’ on ‘er parts. She dint ortera dun it. We had a roight ole barney. She ent too ferce now’ – ‘That’s odd! That large girl was jolly angry, having a tantrum, when she arrived. She really shouldn’t have behaved that way and I jolly well told her so! She's very contrite.’

‘Co ter heck, thass a rum ‘un’ – ‘My goodness! How odd!’

‘Wus up?’ – ‘I say, is everything okay?’ Later found in New England, an area settled by people from Norfolk. Yes, it was the origin of Budweiser’s ‘Wassup’, for which we apologise (see video below). Also, ‘Ill a bed an wus up’ – ‘I’m feeling very unwell’

‘You might as well have went in the beginning, ‘cause you had to go in the finish’ – we’ve no idea! Answers on a postcard please…

Keep yew a troshin'!

How to pronounce Norfolk place names

Fit in as a local

Norfolk ailments and illnesses

Friends of Norfolk Dialect

a word from the expert...

Peter Trudgill, Professor of Sociolinguistics at UEA and Honorary President of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND), gives us an insight into Norfolk’s distinctive way of speaking.

The Norfolk dialect is quite different from the other dialects of the south of England, such as the West Country and the Home Counties. Our accent, which we are very proud of, does not drop its h’s. And we don't pronounce our r’s in the West of England manner either. They say heart “aarrt”, we say “haaht”. And if some people think our accent sounds “rural”, well of course in the country areas it is. But we like to point out that the urban area of Norwich has a quarter of a million inhabitants. And that, like Norwich, our accent is modern and innovating too.

One innovation that most other people in the English-speaking world haven’t got round to yet is that we are very happy to pronounce fear and fair, really and rarely, here and hair the same. If a friendly Norfolk person calls you dare, you’ll know what they mean. And you might like a nice pint of bair in an ancient city centre Norwich pub, or sitting by a Broadland river – where it will help if you remember that boat may well sound like boot to you.

We are proud of our innovative grammar too. We no longer bother with that pointless verbal -s that encumbers other less streamlined dialects. We say He drive very fast; She write books; My friend like you. And we say that rather than it: That's wus cold las’night. On one of our hot summer days, we might ask Is that hot enough for you? And if we really, really like the fish and chips in Cromer, we are quite capable of saying That in’t too bad we are a polite people and our verbal style prefers under- to overstatement.

Another innovation is that we have re-introduced the distinction between singular and plural you, which was so carelessly lost elsewhere. You is singular, and you…together is plural. How are you getting on, together? does not mean the same thing as How are you getting on together?

Welcome to Norfolk. Do you have a good time, together.

Peter Trudgill is also the author of Author of The Norfolk Dialect (Poppyland Publishing)

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