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In an earlier post I refer to the claim that using an unfamiliar word can increase your brain power. If this is true, my IQ has suddenly shot through the roof. In an article in today's Times there are a number of words which must be unfamiliar to most of us outside Norfolk. (That is Norfolk, England, of course. Very flat, as they say.) Like the made-up words in Round the Horne, they sound a bit rude but aren't. Here's the story:
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.
That should put some colour back into the cheeks of the fond lover.
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...
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.
Well, I have been to Sheringham and one or two other places in Norfolk. It is, as they say, very flat. It is also cold, and appears to be in a time warp, but is none the worse for any of this. However, my trips would have been greatly enhanced by a knowledge of the local dialect. Here are a few handy phrases to help you get by in Norfolk:
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?”
"Slantendicular" is a wonderful word, slicing right through the formality of the Latin-derived model and making it English and homely. Use it today, please. But why "uppards", in the context above? And as for the first one, I believe we have a rival to "gruntfuttock", but this one is real.
On the subject of "handy" words and phrases, here is an extract from a review of Rough Guide phrase books which tittered my torter something rotten. The review is entitled, "The Postillion Has Been Struck By Lightning":
This phrase has entered the language as a verbal eccentricity, the rather odd opening entry in one of the first published foreign language phrasebooks in Regency times. Perhaps it’s not as ludicrous as at first it seems. Consider, if you were doing the Grand Tour in 1800, rattling through some little Alpine mountain village, and a dreadful storm broke out, you might well want to tell the indigenous populace if a bolt from above had finished off your coachman.
I have a wonderful collection of phrase books. My favourite has to be a French one from the 1920s, which contains such memorable phrases as:
Do not starch my cummerbund.
This wine cooler has grit in it. Bring me another.
Polish my dancing pumps.
(Note the autocratic omission of ‘please’.)
Another great one is an Italian phrase book given to my uncle when he was in the army in Italy in 1944, which has these gems:
Please direct me to the German tanks.
This weapon is not loaded. (Bet that was a lie, whichever weapon he meant.)
I do not wish to come with you. (Another lie too, no doubt, in some circumstances.)
I shall dig a latrine here. (Let’s hope this was never used in the Vatican or La Scala, Milan.)