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How to speak Norfolk – do diff’runt and larn yew Norfolk

The Norfolk accent is very hard to imitate, me ole bewties. It does help if you come from Norfolk to capture its many nuances naturally, but it’s not impossible to learn, even fur furriners, as long as you don’t end up speaking as if you’re from Zummerzet.

In a previous article, on pronouncing Norfolk place names, we taught you some of the basics and now, as part of your on-going education, we’ve compiled a further list of terms and phrases that will stand you in good stead when you’re having a mardle down The Smuckling Duck.

We do not say, in a jaunty manner, ‘Orl roite, moy 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

afred afraid

afore before

afront in front

agin against, often when meaning ‘next to’ as in ‘he live agin the Kings Arms’

ahind behind

alonga-me come with me

ameant meant, ought, supposed, or should

arst ask/asked

arta-noon afternoon

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

barney quarrel

backards backwards, as in ‘I hetter keep goin’ backards and forrards uppa Norwich’

bishy barney bee ladybird. Apocryphal or not, bishy barney bee is meant to be named after a Saint Barnabas, who wore the red cappa magna. Here we recite the lines: ‘Bishy, bishy barney-bee, When will your weddin’ be?,  If it be ‘amara day, Tairk your wings an’ floi away.’

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

chimley chimney

claggy sticky or moist

cor blarst me! well I say!

craze nag eg he kept crazing me to buy him sweets, or I’d craze her and craze her

crockin crying

dawg dog

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’

dew yew keep a troshin’ mind how you go

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

diffus difference

dint don’t

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’

duzzy stupid or silly

dwile floor cloth, sometimes dishcloth, from the Dutch ‘dweil’ meaning floorcloth or cloth

erriwiggle earwig

ewe owed, as in ‘e ewe me a pinta bear

fillum film/movie

finicky fussy

foo few

forrards forwards

friz froze

fumble-fisted clumsy

furriner someone not from Norfolk

gawp look or stare ‘what you gawpin at?’

guzunder goes-under – another word for chamber-pot

gret great, big, or significant

harnser heron or more usually, a goose for which the Latin name is Anser

hant, hent, hint have not

hare here

higgler someone who likes to bargain or argue over a price, like haggle

hintut isn’t it, as either statement or question

hetter had too

hint have not

hoddy-doddy very small

hold ya blarin’ stop crying

hold yew hard hang on a moment

hopp’n toad frog

howsomever however

huh wonky, as in ‘arfer pinta bear I wuz on the huh’

hull throw, from ‘hurl’ eg ‘hull us that spanna’ meaning ‘throw me that spanner’

hunnycart vehicle to collect ‘night soil’ – don’t ask!

I shink so I should think so

jasper wasp

jiffle fidget

jill-hooter owl

jip feeling, sense of pain, as in ‘mi leg’s givin’ me jip’

jollifercayshuns to have fun

kewter money

larn to learn, used in place of to teach: ‘he larned me owta roide a hoss’

lend us a lug listen

loada ole squit nonsense

loight light – this was once common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians, though is rarely heard nowadays

loke narrow lane or unmade road

lollop progress slowly in an ungainly manner

lug ear

luggy deaf, or lend us a lug

lummox clumsy or ungainly person

mardle idle chat or gossip

mawkin scarecrow

mawther a young woman – usually derogatory

million pumpkin

mine my husband or wife, as in ‘I shall see mine when I get home’

mob to tell off eg ‘his missus mobbed him for going to the pub’, also to complain eg ‘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’

muckwash dirty or sweaty

my har alive I’m surprised

nonicking horseplay

occard awkward

ollust always

pear pier, as in ‘Cruhmer Pear’

pightle enclosure or small field

pingle to mess about with food, especially when talking to children – ‘stop pingling’

pishmire ant

pollywiggle tadpole

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

puckaterry stress, panic

push boil, pimple, spot, from the Dutch ‘puist’

putting on parts misbehaving

quant to punt or pole a boat

queer ill or out of sorts

rare anything unusual

rubub rhubarb

rud road

rum odd or unusual

shew showed

shink I should think so

shud shed

slummockun this is difficult to translate into standard English and exceedingly politically incorrect! It suggests someone who is overweight, and perhaps inclined to idleness e.g. ‘a slummockun gret mawther’

slather spread thickly or crudely

smook smoke

snew snowed

sorft silly

squit nonsense

stannicle tadpole

stingey mean

skew wiff unlevel, not straight; not unique to Norfolk

skerrick a morsel of food

suffen something

teetermatorter see-saw

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

thas ryte tha is that’s correct

tizzock cough

titty-totty very small

troshin’ threshing but now any type of work

uhmtie-tumps mole hills

ul ding ya over I’ll hit you

um now agorn I’m leaving now

uppards upwards

useter used to

wark work

wholly very

wick nerves, as in ‘you get on moy wick’

whooge huge

yesterdi yesterday – the same applies for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc

yis yes

yisty yesterday

yu’ll larf you will laugh

zackley exactly

PS You may have come across Normal for Norfolk, a derogatory term devised by doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital to categorise some of their more ‘intellectually challenged’ patients (we actually think they may have come from Clenchbottom, in a neighbouring county). The term was then abbreviated to N.F.N. which could easily be added to case notes for the purposes of quick reference.

In some ways N.F.N. (or N.4.N) has been embraced as a term of endearment – and its popularity demonstrates clearly the admirable ability of ‘Norfolkers’ to laugh at ourselves. For example, Norfolk comedian Sidney Grapes, who used to appear on stage wearing a traditional smock, wropper and chummy hat – once said: ‘Yew can always tella Norfolk man, but yew can’t tell him much!’