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29 October 2014

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The sound of Norfolk voices

Voices is the largest ever celebration of the way the British Isles speaks today - from Aberdeen to Truro, there is a rich range of words to describe the simplest things and Norfolk has many gems of its own.

There are many words used in the county, that could raise a befuddled look to the face of a visitor to Norfolk.

Ask them if they'd like a cuckoo at bedtime and they might well wonder if they'd be getting a warming chocolate nightcap, or a clock for the bedroom that would feature a small bud chirping away the hours!

What do you know of the local dialect? Here you can meet Colin, Robert, Wendy, Tony and James - who all have a passion for the sound of Norfolk. You can read raw transcripts from extracts of stories they've told to the BBC Voices project in Norfolk.


Colin Burleigh
Colin Burleigh

Colin was born in Norfolk in 1931.  He has lived in the area all his life and considers that he has a Norfolk accent, which is easily recognised.  A keen jazz musician, Colin in a member of Friends of the Norfolk Dialect (FOND) - a group formed in 1999 to conserve and record Norfolk's priceless linguistic and cultural heritage.

COLIN: If I did anything wrong my father had a leather belt which he kept hung on the kitchen door there and if I misbehaved and did anything wrong I felt a taste of the of his belt and a a lot of people say to me nowadays well... well... what did you feel about that.

Din't that in inbreed some sort of hatred of your rather for being punished and I said that never ever did. That taught me what was right and what was wrong. If he have me a bit of a twilting, as he used to call it with the old leather belt, I knew that I wasn't gonna do what I'd done again a second time 'cos I knew I was goin' ta get another taste a that.

But as far as hatred of my... my father for doing' it... it never entered my mind. If there's anybody in this world that I would like to have back here that would be my father because he taught me right from wrong.


Robert Lister
Robert Lister

Robert was born in Norfolk in 1927 and says that he has a distinct Norfolk accent.  He is now retired but enjoyed working on the farm.  He has never had any wish to change the way he speaks but says that whilst one of his children has a Norfolk accent, another has lost it.

ROBERT: Well my last year a school, I dint, I don't think I went more than three weeks. I dint play truant but I was working on the land and thas how it wuz durun the war. I mean all the others were called up 'n....thas what I dun.

The old truant officer would come round every now and agin and I'd go back ta school fa three or four days 'n... back on the land agin and thas how that went... my last year at school so I... I really finished school when I was thirteen.


Wendy Bowhill
Wendy Bowhill

Wendy was born in Norfolk in 1942. She married a sailor and at the age of 18, went to live in Australia with her husband and small child.  She loves travelling around the world and has met all sorts of people. Wendy still has a strong Norfolk accent of which she is proud.

WENDY: Had a toilet down the bottom of the garden ours was so far away my brother used to ride his bike (laughter) he knew when Ted was in the toilet cos his bike laid outside on the ground.

JIM: Well a course we all think back to those sort of days especially sort of during and after the war one of my jobs when I went to my grannys was ta rip the radio times up inta little squares and hang it up in the toilet

WENDY: Yeah we used ta

JIM: A course radio times was the sorftest paper what she had

WENDY: We dint call it a toilet though in them days that was always called a petta


Tony Clarke
Tony Clarke

Tony was born in Norfolk in 1937 and has lived in the area all his life. He attended a local grammar school and went on to work for the local press.  He has a slight Norfolk accent and has a great affection for the local dialect.  He is the secretary of Friends of the Norfolk Dialect.

TONY: We had an ole boy live next ta... next door to us in a little town not far from here called Attleborough and he said ta me one day.. he said 'do you know what yeah... thas my bathday tuday' and so I went indoors and said to me mother 'that ole boy next door is a datty ole devil, he only has one bath day a year' and she said 'don't talk so sorftboy. He mean barthday... not bath day'. And there is a difference you see.

BOB: Well there is a difference yeah

TONY: One day you get... one barthday you get a year older


Jim Graves
Jim Graves

Jim was born in Norfolk. He went to Thetford Grammar School and then trained as an engineer.  He now works as an energy and management consultant. 

Last year Jim went along to a school reunion and met up with lots of old school pals.  One commented that he was pleased to find that Jim, one of the bright boys in the class, hadn't felt the need to lose his Norfolk accent

JIM: The biggest handicap a left handed person at school had was the inkwell was always on the right hand side of the desk and when you put your dipper pen in there and wrote with your left hand you smudged it all over your paper

INTERVIEWER: What would you have called a left handed person?

JIM: I can't remember any particular name for a left handed person

KEN: We used to call them cack-handed

JIM: Well yeah, cack-handed, but that generally applied to anybody who fumbled things and dropped things

KEN: Did things awkwardly

JIM: Awkwardly yes they were cack handed

last updated: 29/01/05
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