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You are in: Norfolk » Have your say

Norfolk dialect: Have you got a loight boy?
Pic: man collects reed from marshes.

Is the Norfolk dialect worth preserving?

Is it a legacy to be treasured or should it be left to fade away?


Have you got any favourite words or phrases that you would like to share? Are there words from your childhood that you don't hear anymore? What is a bishy-barney-bee?

This is your space - so tell us your thoughts.

This Have Your Say page exists as an archive. If you would like to discuss this or other local topics or issues with visitors to the BBC Norfolk website, please go to our new message board.

Message Board

Latest messages posted: 11 March 2003 1626 GMT

Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND) is a group formed to conserve Norfolk's linguistic heritage. Listen to members speaking in dialect:

Hear why FOND chairman Keith Skipper finds his dwile so handy and why he is such a firm defender of his roots (Real 2'14")

Listen to young enthusiast Oliver Rideout recite verse in dialect learned from his grandfather (Real, 45")

"We're not having those posh people telling us what to say" (Real, 17")

Norfolk farmer Keith Loades translates from the dialect (Real, 1'15")

The Friends of Norfolk Dialect have a website with more information and contacts. www.norfolkdialect.com
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

All audio content is Real 56K. Use the BBC Webwise guide to downloading RealPlayer.

BBC NORFOLK WEBSITE

I would like to respond to the remarks made by Tracy from Kettering. I, like her, was brought up in Norfolk. I have sometimes been tempted to move away and try somewhere else, but when push comes to shove, I know I can't do it.

I love Norfolk and I am very proud to be a Norfolk native. I find it very offensive that some people might find the Norfolk accent 'slow'. Perhaps the sound is slow, but the mentality of Norfolk people certainly isn't.

Perhaps we do enjoy a slower way of life than in some parts of the country, but if Norfolk was so 'looked down on' can any of these people who run Norfolk down please explain to me why so many rich and famous people now move to our area?

We are very lucky to have many television personalities living in Norfolk now. I am very proud of my accent, and I know I will never lose it - and I never want to. That's all for now, my beauties.

SUSAN, WELLS

The Norfolk accent is one of the gentlest and loveliest in the country-and I have heard many.

The only one which comes close to it is genuine Northumbrian (and I do NOT mean Geordie!).

Be proud of your accent and your dialect; just because the world tries to homogenise us all into one bland mass dunt mean we hatta goo along with ut. Incidentally, "bor" is a corruption of "boss", not "boy" and was originally a token of respect, like "gaffer".

MIKE CLARKE, BIDEFORD, NORTH DEVON

I lived in 'Naarfuk' for 20 years, and now that I have moved away I still have my accent.

I feel that I must express how much I disagree with Mark from King's Lynn who says that it doesn't help you when you move away.

I have in fact found the exact opposite, even when meeting complete strangers at work, as soon as they hear me speak, they ask 'Which part of Norfolk are you from then?'

I have met a number of people who really like listening to the accent as it sounds warm and friendly.

Occasionally I have days where its not as noticeable, but in particular when I visit my parents who still live in Wells, it all comes flooding back!

I have two things to point out to Donna. Firstly that after your parents moved you to Norfolk 25 years ago, surely if you are that unhappy with it now you're actually old enough to move away if you so wish, and secondly I think you're talking a load of ol' squit!

Long live the Norfolk accent!!

TRACY, KETTERING

I find that the dialect is noticed less in Norwich. Most people have a more neutral accents - probably due to the university and people staying on (like myself). I used to work in the countryside of Norfolk, but now live and work in the city, and the difference is huge.

Are all the Norwichers being taken over by the rest of the UK as it is so nice here? The accent itself I find extreme (like all corners of england, myself coming from the home counties), but I have nothing against it. As long as I don't start speaking it I don't mind.

My accent is more towards the London way of speaking, which I love. Each to their own I say. I would expect that accents would become merged over the years as more people move around.

JON, NORWICH

Asking people in this region whether the accent/dialect is one which makes them sound simple or inbred is a bit like expecting turkeys to vote positively for Christmas!

It is not a wonder that locals like the accent - what choice did they have? The idea that accents are a way to segregate and differentiate groups is hardly new, but it is a strange desire to want to ensure that people from other areas or countries do not understand what you are saying.

Why bother saying anything at all if the intention is to slur and drawl your words in such a way as to ensure incomprehension? Bring back R.P. and proper elecution lessons as part of the National Curriculum!

Perhaps that would improve most people's ability to spell correctly - the low standards for which in this county continue to astound me - just walk through the city centre and have a laugh at the yokels' attempts at spelling - you will be amused and appalled at the same time - unless you are regionally proud, in which case you may not notice.

R. BUTCHER, NORWICH

Hello, I was born and raised in Wereham, Norfolk and having lived in United States of America, and now living in Australia I still retain my Norfolk accent.

People are very drawn to it and it has helped me to find new friends in all parts of the world, and at times I have heard the same accent on planes and discovered a Norfolk "broad" abroad. I am certainly looking forward to seeing "home girl" Pam (Ayers) on March 6th in Newcastle, N.S.W. Australia.

Cor... I'll talk proper ....you little ole mathers.....are yu aw right...

PAULINE PETTITT, CESSNOCK, AUSTRALIA

To awl yew furriners - Tony and Donna in particular.

I don't really think you can complain at the Norfolk accent, as there are plenty of other accents just as offensive as ours.

Londoners just sound common, and Yorkshire accents are just brash and nasty.

Perhaps if narrow minded idiots such as yourselves didn't stereotype the Norfolk folk the way we speak wouldn't sound as bad to you.

SCOTT, NORFOLK

Maybe if you hate it so much Donna moving away from Norfolk may be the best idea for you.

The accent is not an embarrassment and why should it bother you so, as you don't even come from the area. The whole point of an accent is that it is a particular spoken variation of the English language.

I don't think that many Norfolk people write the way that they speak and not many individuals speak exactly how they write!

There is not a difference between Norwich and Norfolk accents at all, only that some people have stronger dialects than others.

SANDRA, NORFOLK

Stand up for regionalism not globalisation!

Who wants to talk the same way as everyone else?!

Keep the charming Norfolk spirit alive!

DAVID HAYLETT, EAST ANGLIA

I moved away from Norfolk a few years ago having been brought up there (proper Norfolk dumpling!). I have to say that I think the Norfolk dialect is one of the nicest ones in the English Language.

It is soft and friendly, not coarse like Glaswegian, irritating like Birmingham, or harsh like Sussex. There is such a huge stigma attached to those blessed souls fortunate enough to have a strong Norfolk accent and I find it irritating.

The accent for me has such positive connotations - I was brought up on the North Norfolk coast where everything had an almost Spanish way of life - although instead of 'Manana, manana', it was always 'At's comin in Tooooosdy'. Fantastic.

Instead of seeing the connotations of the dialect (inferior intellect etc.) I really believe it's something that should be celebrated. Yes, it's a simple language for a simple way of life but where else in the country can you feel so welcomed, so comfortable, so part of a community?

Celebrate the dumplings! Embrace the dialect!

LAURA, BRIGHTON

Although I do not live in Norfolk I do spend several weeks per year there, and the Norfolk accent is part of the place.

You need to preserve it for future generations. The accent brings back memories of 'A' level chemistry lessons from an ex-Norfolk man.

STEVE, WORSKOP

I want to say a big thank you to Tom from London for his piece. Saying the words out loud I realised I was speaking 'proper' Norfolk and sounded like friends I grew up with, that and laughing my socks off, excellent.

I lived in Norfolk from the age of seven. Many things baffled me such as fill-um for film, ruf for roof, rud for road amongst others.

I left about 6 years ago and didn't think I had an accent until I moved away. I can't say I like it and outside of Norfolk it does sound a bit slow but I think many accents out of the area in which they originate sound odd.

I am now living in Essex and used to wince at some of the accents and pronounciations, but unfortunately I have picked some of them up. Again I don't think I have an accent until I talk to friends from different parts of the country and they take the mick out of my 'cockney'.

I don't see Norfolk dialect dying out and neither should it. I do have a soft spot for it as it reminds me of my childhood.


Liss nen turt - being attentive
He wur roight lurkin - do you think he fancies me?
sair-iously - really!
Naaridge - the city
Spro stun - Just oustside of Naaridge
Gorn tu Tescoos - off to get some groceries
Can yer durt? - need any help?
she's bootiful - easy on the eye
E's a rum 'un - funny fella

Read Tom's message

KATRINA, COLCHESTER

I attended the Blyth Grammar back in the 60's and felt that my mate and I were the only ones with a Norfolk accent. I approached the Drama teacher and asked about elocution lessons.

Thank God her reply was "I'll help you to speak grammatically correct but if you just want to lose your accent I won't help."

After 21 years here in Oz my daughter and son-in-law still laugh at my pronunciation of beer, road, and roofs to name but a few. I also get "the look" when I say both Darby and Derby when mentioning the town in the north of Western Australia, as I just can't remember which pronunciation is the Oz one when I'm talking. By the way they call it Derby!

KRISTEEN SIMPKIN, PERTH, AUSTRALIA

I'm a regular visitor to Norwich and occasionally to the rest of East Anglia. Trying to understand a local Norfolk person is like trying to comprehend what a hair-lipped geezer is saying while eating a steak and kidney pie at Carrow Road.

Possessing a Norfolk accent is like having a death sentence, so all you who say "ooh arr" best do something to radically change your dialect!!

TONY HANDBOTTOM, LEEDS

IT WASNT MY CHOICE TO MOVE HERE IT WAS MY PARENTS WHEN I WAS A CHILD!! THE ACCENT IS AN EMBARRASSMENT AND IT IS NOT PROPER ENGLISH. AND THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A NORWICH ACCENT AND A COUNTRY BUMPKIN NORFOLK ONE I KNOW!! THEY ARE BOTH A COMPLETE TURN OFF!!

DONNA, UK

We moved to Norfolk 9 years ago having lived for many years in London. Amongst our favourite bits of the local dialect are "I'm now cummin", "He frit me" and "She tret him badly".

However, it's the accent more than the vocabulary that has been the most interesting. Amongst our favourites are: "Hay ya got a pencil?", "Moozic" and "Cubbert" (cupboard).

Best of all, though, was in our first few weeks here when I was told that there had been a "coup" outside the building. Rather than armed militia storming the building it turned out just to be an orderly line of people!

ANDY, KING'S LYNN

I've only been living in norfolk for 5 years, and during this time I have had to learn to interpret the accent and dialect of norfolk. Not only this, i have started to pick up the accent and dialect as well! I have picked up the word 'ooge' instead of huge, the word 'thas' instead of that and 'jus' instead of just. I think that the dialect is an important part of Norfolk's history and we should keep it, and treasure it. Anyway, it's great fun to confuse people from Surrey and London with names like Wymondham!

ANDREW, NORWICH

I was born in Norfolk and lived there for 23 years oblivious to my own accent. It wasn't until I moved away from the area to a more prosperous job and affluent area that I became aware of how thick and backward I sounded. The Norfolk dialect is fine when kept in Norfolk... but outside of there, it doesn't do anybody any favours. When people speak to me about the Norfolk accent, there are three words that seem to keep popping up. "Thick", "Slow" & "Inbred". Needless to say I'm trying to lose my accent.

MARK, KING'S LYNN

Much of the decline in 'Broad Norfolk' is attributable to TV & radio. Even local radio presenters are regularly recruited from outside the area.

They should be given careful grounding of the area before they are let loose on the populace. They could at least be made to use the correct local pronunciation of place names.

The 'l' in Colney is silent, Heigham Road is pronounced Hey-am to rhyme with sleigh NOT High, Cley is Cly, Stiffkey is Stookie etc.

Unfortunately simply cracking Happisburgh and Wymondham does not make a good local presenter. We need whatever help we can to keep our dialect alive.

ALEK WELLESLEY, NORWICH

It's a shame that you think that way Donna. If it annoyed you so much maybe you should have thought twice about moving to Norwich.

Also, it's a Norfolk accent not just Norwich as you seem to believe.

KEVIN, NORFOLK

Hi, I'm originally from Norfolk and I'm glad to see someone is preserving the dialect, which my parents spoke and to some extent my brother (living in Norfolk) still does.

It's an accent you never quite recover from! You can always tell Norfolk people, even if they are now BBC announcers and many years from home - ask them to say "going up the road" or "roofs" or "that's all right" and you'll hear a trace of "goin up tha rowd" and "rufs" and "thass aww roight".

I think Norfolk people must have emigrated in droves to the States and Canada, because you invariably hear the word "rufs" for "rooves" in American interviews. I remember once looking for raincoats in a shop - a not very upper class one at that - but when I asked innocently, "is it waterpruf" she looked down her long nose and said icily "Do you mean, is it waterPROOF?"

I still find it difficult even after all these years (some 50+) to pronounce the difference between hair and hear, and slightly shudder if I know I have to say "did you hear about her hair there?" because I need to think before I say it.

The Norfolk tendency would be to flatten the ea into ee and say "did you heer about her heer theer?" And even today I have to remind myself to pronounce the "t" in the phrase "at home". I was entirely aware that I was dropping the t and saying "thass ut home" where the "ut" is more of an uh than anything. Only when the son of a friend mimicked me did I realise what I was saying and now I make a conscious effort with most people to say it the way they expect, although it's sad to be ashamed of one's heritage.

As to sayings, you probably have more than enough, but my mother would come out with "don't pingle" when as a child I toyed with my food and when in later life I asked a mother, with a young child who didn't seem to eat well "Is she pingly?" they looked at me blankly.

Of course, the famous phrase, often employed by my father, "Thass a lot o squit" must be well known to you by now, but he was actually a Cockney and learned to speak Naarfok later in life.

Thanks again for your defence of something that should be treasured.

TRICIA

Learn to speak the local lingo and make communication issues a thing of the past!

Narridge Yoonyun = major Norfolk employer.
Thang kyer = spoken at high speed, used by Norfolk shop assistants when accepting money.
How're yer gettin arn buh = Norfolk greeting.
Rup buh = variation on the above.
Hair = here.
Shicagooo's = nightspot on Prince of Wales Road. See club listings
Bare = sold by the pint in Shicagooo's.
Is that roight? = comment to show attention being paid to speaker. Ass a jouk = i'm just kidding.

Khazi = suburb on the western outskirts of Narridge (not Bowthorpe). Tross = pronounced like gross only beginning with a 'T' ,suburb in the southside of 'Narridge'.
Windam = small town south of 'Narridge' (sensible abbreviation of its proper name = Wymundimundimundum).
Loose-tarfed = east coast fishing port.
Card = traditionally eaten battered, with chips, might well have been caught off 'Loose-tarfed'.
Koodee = discount shop on St Stephens Street.
Hum base = DIY shop (various sites).
Fooze = electrical component on sale at 'hum base'.
Fool = petrol or diesel.
Gatoo = sticky chocolate cake.
Foo too = get these developed at local photo outlets.
Sproight = fizzy lemon drink.
Boost = to brag.
Jargon = like running, but a little slower.

TOM, LONDON

Ha' y ever bin out wi y Mawther a ridin on a Dickey, an sin a Hanser, a settin on a Mawkin, watchin a Bishy barnabee ride by on a Dodderman, while a Halcyon fly by wi' a Dwile in uts beak ?

PETER CALLAN, NORWICH

I recon that the Norfolk dialect is a nice way of keeping the history of Norfolk alive.

Thas a pity you dont hear it much any more, but thas nice when you do. Our postman have a right Norfolk accent and I do like to chat to him sometimes.

When I was in the tiny primary school that is in my village they used to not teach us any a that French she used to teach us all Norfolk words. The teacher who would do that had a Norfolk acent herself, and she liked it when we used what she had tought us.

KAIN MANSFIELD, CARLETON RODE

I think the Norwich accent is the worst one in the UK. Every one sounds thick and talks so slow. I was born in London and have parents from yorks but have lived here for 25 years. Unfortunately I have picked up a bit of the Norfolk dialect, and trying seriously to loose it!

DONNA, NORWICH

I am setting up small business/shop in West Runton, Norfolk. I want to encourage local Norfolk crafts and art. I would like to promote the Norfolk dialect as part of project. I would welcome some advice as to correct useage and also would like to give shop a dialect name.
Ideas very, very welcome. With thanks bor.
E-mail: klacrane@btopenworld.com

KAREN CRANE

My Dad came from Walcot Green, near Diss, and I got used to what he had left of the Norfolk dialect. When I went into the Royal Navy I got into trouble with "lootenant", "dooty" and "booty". I get all nostalgic when I go to the Temple and hear an Essex chap [obviously influenced by the East Anglian diction] say things like "it do harpen". I love going 'home' to Norfolk and hearing the locals speaking. Please keep it alive and let us less fortunate folk enjoy the warmth of speech among the REAL English people. I am a descendent of Murtons, farmers, Peakes, blacksmiths and Hubbards, farmers and cornchandlers, with a smattering of Coles, Boyces, Selfs, and Sands.

HEDLEY MURTON, CALCOT, BERKS

I work in a theatre in Ealing, London and we are trying to find a recording of a Norfolk accent. Would anybody be prepared to send us a tape/CD with a genuine! Norfolk accent?

S MILTON, EALING

I from spain. I find information about norfolk dialect, because I must do a study about norfolk dialect. I need information about every word, phrase and description.  

Soy de España. Estoy buscando informacion sobre el dialecto de norfolk. Debo de hacer un estudio de dicho dialecto, donde debo explicar cada letra o palabra y poner como es en el ingles tradicional y como es en el ingles de norfolk, ademas de la descripcion de cada una. Email: pipona@teleline.es

JOSE LUIS, SPAIN

i would like to add my bit of squit im a good old norridge boy lived here for 55 bladder years my granfar told me this ole saying hay ya far got a dicky bor answer yes an he can bladder ride it as well cheerio together

MICHAEL FINNEY

does anyone know what "botsy" means in Old Norfolk dialect?

JEANNETTE, BURGH ST MARGARET

I am very glad that I have found this sight, the articles on the Norfolk Dialect bring back a lot of fond memories and I love reading about the past.
Could anyone help me about a new book that's been printed recently about the Blitz? I have a very old book with pictures of all the bombed out buildings and would like to have a newer updated one.
E-mail: LNORNHOLD@paonline.com

SANDRA NORNHOLD, CAMPBELLTOWN, PA, USA

I was born in Norwich and lived in Mulbarton til I was eleven and your site was wonderful to read as my father had a particular love for the colour of the local dialects.
One of my fondest memories is of my grandmother reading 'the Dereham and Fakenham Times'. There was a column written in broad Norfolk and she could read it with style. My father would sit and laugh until he cried! One expression that no-one mentioned is to "stand up outer the rain" which always fascinated me as a child. Thanks for the memories and a good laugh

CHERYL, GEORGIA, USA

It is very difficult to see a future for Norfolk dialect, or any regional dialect in a world which is becoming more global by the day.
Modern education systems discourage the use of colloquial or slang terms - just look at the poor students who were marked down for using the language of text messages in the GCSE English exams. While it is a language with which they were familiar it does not conform to the standard so therefore it is wrong.
Norfolk dialect words are fast disappearing. Today's children do not know what a 'harnser' is, or what might be referred to as a 'dodman'. These words are becoming quickly obsolete.
As communication becomes more and more global, with technologies such as e-mail and text messaging becoming more commonplace, we all need to converse in a universally recognised language.
As a scientist it is heartening to know that the language of the international scientific community is English. However, if I was to speak to a scientist in another country about the population dynamics of the bishy-barney-bee I would probably be met with a puzzled look.
It is clear that whilst communication on a local level will still be conducted with a local accent - the dialect will soon disappear - that is unless the 'furriners' adopt our words as their universal language - highly unlikely - or is it?

C SMITH, CAISTER-ON-SEA

 

I was born in Norwich in "filthy dirty lane" (Philadelphia Lane) I now live in Peterborough and people are always commenting on the way I speak, they like to hear me say "a hard day's troshing in Swaffham far nothing" - that's something I've tried to spell it the way it's said (not very successfully!).

BARRY JONES, RAMSEY

 

I work mostly in the London area travelling to and from Norfolk every day. Without no word of a lie unless I talk slowly no-one understands a word I say.
The number of people I have come up to me in the course of a week and say "Where are you actually from?" is no one's guess. `Norfolk` is not just a dialect it is a Way Of Life. When I am standing in the middle of London it's a great feeling to be able to take Norfolk with you and say to yourself, "Blarst Me, oi watta be gittin on hum soon!"

PAUL, NORWICH

What is the Norfolk definition of "Jargon"?

How to keep fit in a tracksuit: "Here gorn Jargon".

JOHN JOSLIN, WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA

 

I lived in Gorleston-on-Sea when I was first married, back in the 50s. Coming from the Midlands I first of all found Norfolk very flat, and used to laugh at their idea of a hill - just a little slope. But I got to love the place, and have never forgotten the accent. I had a neighbour who always greeted me with "Hello my lil' ole mawther. 'Ow you now go'en? Come you in, and set you down...." and so forth. So friendly, and funny. It always irritates me to hear plays on television or radio which are set in Norfolk, and they have the locals speaking with a kind of West Country hybrid accent. Don't they ever listen to the real thing?

JOYCE HEAD, ROMSEY, HANTS

 

Can anyone tell me the meaning of the term 'reed and jot'? I saw it on a butcher's stall at Yarmouth market and some people were putting it in with their bag of chips. It was sliced and ready cooked. The only two meanings I've had so far are 'tripe' and 'boar's genitals'!

MIKE CULLUP

I am born and bred in Norfolk - mum from Norwich , dad from Downham - so have a mixture of Norwich and Norfolk accents - very broad so I am told. I would not want to lose that, as it gives me identity and pride, my children are having the accent taught out of them at school and I think that is wrong. They laughed when I said Bishy-barney-bee - they are Norfolk too , but will lose their accents. At work I am laughed at for being broad, but I don't care. We should preserve the accent, it is unique - Norfolk people dew diffrunt lets continue to do that for years to come.

G SOUTHWELL, NORWICH

 

I was born in Norwich and spent a lot of my boyhood days around the Trowse area. My grandfather was a farmer and possessed the most wonderful Norfolk dialect.
The one thing he used to say to us that was my favourite was " git yar gorn darn thet thar rood bor and dur thet thar bit a troshing, "harvesting". Another word us kids used to use was "chorren" or "chorring". We used to say "let's go and chorr some apples", so I presume the word means to steal.

NORRIE S. DAY, WIAROA, NEW ZEALAND

 

A friend here in the states gave me this web page. I used to live in Norfolk, Gooderstone to be exact. Thank you, I have down loaded the Norfolk dialect. Been here in the States for 34 years. It's so nice to hear the old way we used to talk. Memories, memories. Thanks again.

BRENDA, USA

 

I was born, brought up in and still live in Norfolk for roughly half of every year. It was not until I left to go to university that I realised that I had a Norfolk accent and that I did things that were traditionally only carried out in Norfolk! I often get the mickey taken for the way I talk but it the way I speak is normal to me. Does anyone else get stereotyped as being a farmer? The Jack Valentine episode always took place in my house, when I was younger and until now I thought that everyone did it! Does anyone else say that something is on the 'huh'? (Meaning that something isn't straight or that it is wonky.) I can also often be heard saying other words such as 'luggy'( deaf) and 'bor'( 'boy'-as an affectionate term). My Mum, who was herself born in Norfolk, always used to tell me not to 'pingle' (play) with my food when I was little! Even though I have been told that ny accent is quite distinct, I think that older people have the strongest accents. Brilliant to listen to!

SARAH, NORFOLK

Speaking with a Canadian friend I said one of my grandchildren came home blahring - right out of nowhere came part of the dialect I've not used for years as I've only been away in Canada 46 years! All of a sudden I am greeting the grandaughter with "Hello my woman". It seems the older I get the more Norfolk I have become, and it will never leave me - and thank God for that. Just don't lose those delightful turn of phrases, we ex-pats can't do without them.

EILEEN TYRRELL, CANADA


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