Precious Fen dialect to be preserved in schools

Adam   Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:57 pm GMT

The Times March 23, 2006

'He'yer fa'got a dickey, bor?' isn't rude... in Norfolk
By Jonathan Richards

It's a precious Fen dialect to be preserved in schools

WHEN Norfolk schoolchildren are tussling in the playground, the shout will no longer be: “That girl’s teasing me!”

Instead, a victim might say: “I’m having a little bit of squit alonga the mawther.” To add extra spite, the bully would be called “slummican great mawther” — a fat young girl.

Tired of the misconceptions about the way people in Norfolk speak and concerned that their dialect — now spoken by only older members of the community — is slipping into oblivion, an action group called Friends of Norfolk Dialect (Fond) has successfully lobbied for schools to teach an appreciation of the local tongue.

The project, called Lost in Translation, which is supported by Norfolk County Council, has received £24,600 from the Local Heritage Initiative — an offshoot of National Heritage — and will be introduced in 11 schools from April.

Over the summer term, primary pupils aged 9-10 will interview and record local residents who speak the dialect and work with local theatre groups to develop performances to be staged at an exhibition in June. They will not have to learn to speak the dialect, but will be encouraged to develop an understanding of its heritage.

“We’ve been waiting for this special day for a very long time,” Norman Hart, the vice- chairman of Fond, said. “I spent 30-plus years teaching in Norfolk schools and every dialect — West Indian, Scottish, Welsh — was to be welcomed, except one: Norfolk. That’s just not good enough as far as we’re concerned.”

Keith Skipper, the Norfolk writer and broadcaster who co-founded Fond in 1999, said: “It’s critically important that youngsters are aware that there’s a wonderful, rich dialect that they need to use or lose. I wish there wasn’t the need for this project, and that there was still a strong rhythm of proper language coming from the heart of the community. It’s not something to be ashamed of.”

Tim Groves, a teacher at Sheringham Primary, said that most children would have had contact with the dialect only through their grandparents, but that with exposure, it was easy to understand.


Do we go play on the titty totty tittermatorter?
Let’s go and play on the very small see-saw

That angle is slantendicular/on the huh
That angle is not quite perpendicular/not straight

I’ve got suffin goin about. I’ve got the uppards and downards
I don’t feel well. I’ve got diarrhoea

I have a tizzick
I have a troublesome cough

He’yer fa’ got a dickey, bor?
A Norfolk greeting, literally: “Has your father got a donkey, boy?” The correct reply is . . .

Yis, an’he want a fule ter roid ’im,will yew cum?
Meaning “Yes, and he wants a fool to ride him, will you come?”
Fredrik from Norway   Thu Mar 23, 2006 7:09 pm GMT
The last donkey example just shows that it's useless to preserve dialects if they are still stuck in a pre-industrial era.
Guest   Thu Mar 23, 2006 7:35 pm GMT
I find the whole accents and dialects thing fascinating...even the English ones, Adam! :-)

As I was driving home from work this evening I was listening to TalkSport news and they reported on the attempts to preserve Fenland / Norfolk accents and this old bloke was blethering on in pure Norfolk, and I hardly understood a word of it. They want to promote the local Fenland and Norfolk and Suffolk accents among younger people as there is a very marked difference between the generations.

Here is a group of young people in Ely, Cambridgeshire (NB: Ely is pronounced "EE-lee"):

Here is a group of people working in a brewery in Wisbech, Camridgeshire
(NB: Wisbech is pronounced "WIZ-beech"):

Those guys are probably a wee bit older than the guys in Ely but if they have the old local accent I wouldn't know.... being a "foreigner"!

Now for some apparently true Norfolk accents...all members of the Norfolk Dialect Society, and living in Hingham, Norfolk:

They are definitely older people!

Back to the young people are students at an Agricultural College in Easton, Norfolk:

Individual voices this time round, but they sound a lot different from the older people in Hingham.

Now to Brandon, Suffolk..right on the border with Norfolk....all these people in the group came to Brandon from other parts of the UK and two came from the United States - James and Michele. Their observations are interesting:

The American guy, James, comments on his surprise at hearing so much slang used in the UK when he first came here.

The American lady, Michele, talks about the difference in traffic regulations here in the UK, especially the symbolic roadsigns and, hee hee!......the preponderance of roundabouts! Roundabouts are all allabouts over here......the Edinburgh City By-Pass/ Ring Road is just one roundaboout every kilometre or so :-)

Here is Michele, now turned into a leftie! (nothing to do with politics!):
Damian in Edinburgh   Thu Mar 23, 2006 7:36 pm GMT
Guest = Damian soz
Uriel   Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:28 am GMT
Not that I'm religious, but .... Roundabouts are the work of the devil, and you can keep those infernal things on your side of the puddle, Damian! ;)
Uriel   Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:35 am GMT
I've been to Lakenheath, by the way, Damian -- very pretty area -- but I don't know what the hell Michele's talking about with American signs all being "in English" -- well, sure they are, but they are also designed to be understood without reading them, since they come in different shapes and colors and usually have big graphic arrows and such on them -- plenty of non-English-speakers live in my area and they aren't crashing into things right and left!
Demonic Damian   Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:08 am GMT
***Roundabouts are the work of the devil***

Is that why I had a hellish journey to work this morning, Uriel? If I had a quid for every roundabout I had to negotiate I'd have enough to treat us both to a nice wee lunch later today. When I go home I'll look at my mileage guage to see if there are three 6s there.

The secret of roundabouts is to judge the right moment to filter your way into the traffic flow from the right...easy peasy...even if an endless stream of demons is bombing along towards you at one hell of a lick.

Now to do the work of the trite comments about my name please - I've heard it SO many times before.........cheers for noo!
Guest   Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:35 am GMT
Ha! James was surprised to find out that the British generally don't speak "proper" English.