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How to speak Norfolk – larn yew Norfolk

We Norfolk people get a little grumpy when people try to imitate our accent and end up talking like somebody from the South-West.

So if you’re coming here we’d advise you not to sound like a ‘furinner’ but instead to ‘larn yew Norfolk’.

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.

Norfolk Nelson's County

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?

Okay, let’s get started…

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

‘Oid 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 squit’ – ‘My man, what you say is a load of rubbish’

‘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 moi 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 fine specimen of the equine species’

‘Hev you gotta loight boi?’ – ‘Could I trouble you for a match to light my cigarette’. Famously, a hit pop tune in the Sixties from The Singing Postman, Allan Smethurst (for which he was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award… we kid you not!). Wouldn’t be allowed today!

‘Cor blarst me, oi watta be gittin on hum 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’ – ‘That’s odd! That large girl was jolly angry, having a tantrum, when she arrived. She really shouldn’t have behaved that way’

‘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. 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…


Dialect words and phrases
• abed (in bed)
• afore (before)
• afront (in front)
• agin (against, often when meaning ‘next to’ as in ‘he live agin the Kings Arms’)
• ahind (behind)
• ameant (meant, ought, supposed, or should)
• arst (ask/asked)
• atop (on top – this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians)
• a’smornun (this morning, as in ‘I saw her a’smornun’ also ‘a’sarternun’,and’a’sevenun’.)
• atwin (between, as in ‘He dornt know the difference atwin the two’, or ‘a rose atwin two thorns’)
• a-Friday, a-Wednesday etc. (on Friday, as in ‘I see him a-Friday’, meaning I saw him on Friday, or ‘I shall go to Carrer Rud a-Saturday).
• bare (beer)
• bare (bear)
• backards (backwards, ‘I hetter keep goin’ backards and forrards uppa Norwich)
• bishy (barney bee – ladybird, from Bishop Barnaby)
• blar (cry)
• bootiful (beautiful)
• bor (pronounced ‘buh’ in West Norfolk) (a term of address, boy or neighbour often used as ‘ah bor’, an exclamatory confirmation, such as in the following exchange Jimmur -‘Thas suffun hot today ent it’, Arnie – ‘Ah bor’.)
• charleypig/barneypig (wood louse)
• chimbley (chimney)
• craze (nag. e.g. he kept crazing me to buy him sweets, or I’d craze her and craze her)
• crockin (crying)
• deen (a ‘sound’, usually to emphasise that someone who was in pain did not cry out, as in ‘when she bumped her head, she never made a deen’.)
• dickey (donkey; however note that the word ‘donkey’ appears only to have been in use in English since the late 18th century. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes ‘dicky’ as one of the alternative slang terms for an ass)
• dodman/dundmun/doderman (snail)
• drant (drawl)
• drift (a lane)
• dudder (shiver or tremble. It is not unique to Norfolk. Appears in the OED as ‘dodder’.)
• dussent (dare not, as in ‘he dussent do it’)
• dwile (floor cloth, sometimes dishcloth, from the Dutch ‘dweil’ meaning floorcloth or cloth)
• forrards (forwards)
• fillum (film/movie)
• foo (few)
• fumble fisted (clumsy)
• gawp (look or stare ‘what you gawpin at?’)
• guzunder (goes-under – another word for chamber-pot)
• harnser – heron or more usually, a goose for which the Latin name is Anser)
• hant, hent, hint (have not)
• hare (here) hintut (Isn’t it, as either statement or question)
• hoddy-doddy (very small)
• hopp’n toad (frog)
• huh – wonky (as in ‘on the huh’)
• hull (throw – from ‘hurl’e.g. ‘Hull us that spanner’ meaning ‘Throw me that spanner’)
• jasper (wasp)
• jiffle (fidget)
• jip (feeling, sense of pain, as in ‘that give me jip’)
• jollificeartions (to have fun)
• kewter (money)
• larn (to learn, used in place of to teach: ‘he larned me owta roide a hoss’,)
• loke (alley; another word for lane)
• lollop (progress slowly)
• lug (ear) luggy (deaf, or lend us a lug)
• lummox (clumsy or ungainly person)
• mardle (to chat)
• mawkin (scarecrow)
• mawther (a young woman – usually derogatory)
• mine (my husband or wife, as in ‘I shall see mine when I get home’)
• mob (to tell off. e.g. ‘his missus mobbed him for going to the pub’, also to complain e.g. ‘he was always mobbun about suffun’. In Allan Smethurst’s song ‘Hae the bottum dropped out’ there are two lines that run ‘A fisherman’s life’s a rum ole job; the winter winds blow, and the women, they mob)
• pear (pier, as in Cruhmer Pear)
• pingle (to mess about with food, especially when talking to children – ‘stop pingling’)
• pishmire (ant)
• puckaterry (stress, panic)
• pootrud (putrid, meaning awful, terrible, useless, particularly when applied to the performance of a sports player such as a footballer; ‘the centre-forward was pootrud’ means he had an awful game. This particular meaning of ‘putrid’ is, according to the OED, available in standard English, but it is rarely heard, the term almost always being associated with decomposition of organic material)
• push (boil, pimple, spot, from the Dutch ‘puist’)
• queer (ill, but not unique to Norfolk)
• rubub, (rhubarb)
• rum (odd or unusual)
• shink (I should think so)
• slummockun (this is difficult to translate into standard English and exceedingly incorrect politically! It suggests someone who is overweight, and perhaps inclined to idleness e.g. ‘a slummockun gret mawther’.)
• slar (spread – usually meaning spread thickly or crudely, a shorter version of slather)
• squit (nonsense)
• stannicle (tadpole)
• stingey (mean)
• skew wiff (unlevel, not straight; not unique to Norfolk)
• skerrick (a morsel of food)
• suffun (something)
• terl (towel)
• thack (push hard or hit – as in ‘you betta thack it koz i’is a bit stiff’ – written on door of Fakenham post sorting office)
• titty-totty (very small)
• uhmtie-tumps (mole hills)
• whooge (huge)
• yesterdi – (yesterday – the same applies for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc)

Accented pronunciation

• diffus (difference)
• gret (great, big, or significant)
• loight (light – this was once common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians, though is rarely heard nowadays)
• ollust (always)
• occard (awkward)
• shud (shed)
• troshin (originally ‘threshing,’ now working in general)
• zackly (exactly)