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dialect.

Norfolk dialect
Is Norfolk dialect worth preserving? What words and phrases do you treasure? Share your thoughts.

Add your comment

Do you know what a Bishy-barney-bee is? Try our Norfolk dialect quiz.


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

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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

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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

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What is the Norfolk definition of "Jargon"?

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

JOHN JOSLIN, WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Does this remind you of home?

THE SURGERY
by Bruther Will

That catch yare eye as yew go in
Large red letters "No Smokin",
Seems them fags got a lot o'tar in em.
Clog yare lungs, make a lot o'flem.

So oi sits down to wait me tarn,
Several others are in there as well,
You'ed think the way they look at yuh,
I'd cum tew dew 'em some harm.

They sits there wi' faces orl strait an glum, Daresay sum on'em are ill, else they woull'nt cum, Them ole gals in the corner, torkin in low tones About operations, an'harnias, an'broken bones.

Ole Garg hobble in wi'his sticks
Wi'owt him thuh sargery's incomplete
Bin cummin'here now this larst twenty year
'Yuh see doctor, it's me poor ole feet'.

How menny toimes hev he said it
Thuh poor doctor must know it by heart
But he'll greet im wi'a cheery word
An'say "Well Garg, yew haint fell apart".

Oi on'y cum for a prescription
Thass reddy now, so Oi'll go
Leavin sum on 'em torkin about their ills
An'others clutchin' them littl' boxeso' pills.

ISABEL COLGATE, BEDFORD, BEDS

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This isn't dialect but - has anybody got any traditional Norfolk recipes? I enjoy collecting recipes, and am particularly interested in a recipe for Norfolk eggs - a potato and cheese version of a Scotch egg.

JACKIE BLOOMFIELD, ATTLEBOROUGH, NORFOLK

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Does anybody still remember or use 'Do you don't do that!' or 'The sun's getting out'?

JACKIE, ATTLEBOROUGH

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Can you tell me what a "ranny" is? Is it a small mouse or shrew?

INGA BARRETT

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I'm from Norfolk originally and was brought up there. My mother used to use the word "spluttergut". This can be used either as a noun ("Don't be such a spluttergut") or a verb ("You don't want to go spluttergutting into that"). The word is used to refer to one who rushes into something without first considering all the implications. I have only ever heard this word used in Norfolk as other Norfolk people use it but outside the county it seems to carry no meaning whatsoever.

ANGUS, HEMEL HEMPSTEAD

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A clip around the lug was orlroight, but oil giv yew whahfor was sumthing yew jest new wus goin ter git it when yew got ome. Enough already!

Another word which comes to mind is jiffling - will yew stop yar jifflin or pingling. Now that's a lovely word used frequently when my children were small.

EILEEN TYRRELL, TRENTON, ONTARIO, CANADA

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My Favourite Norfolk expressions...  
"I'll get wrong!": translation - I'll get told off.
"My booty":   My beauty.  
"Hooooooooooge!"   huge!  
"I'll do it presently": it'll get done soon. (Normally,in Norfolk,it never happens!")  

KATY, 13, NORFOLK

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I was born in Norfolk and spent most of my life there, so I guess I have the dialect and obviously haven't lost it. I am now living in the USA and I am often told how much they love my "pretty accent." Even some Brits here can tell where I'm from. I also love to hear it. It reminds me of my great grandparents and other family members. I'm proud to be from Norfolk and I think everything should be done to preserve part of our heritage.

SHARON, USA

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Unfortunately on my last visit to Norfolk I managed to acquire a rather nasty cough that kept the relatives and myself up just about all night, finally my sister took me to the medical centre and she explained to the nurse there I was really "ruckling" now perhaps that's just a new Norfolk expression. Now how about "set ye here and mardle" or the old expression "Oh Ar" even "thas a rummun in't it? I am laughing over the Valentine's tradition also, Dad used to be the Valentine, dashing madly from the back door and around to the front, finally leaving the baby's pot as a gift for my mother.

EILEEN TYRRELL, CANADA

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Tha's a rum ol' doo, innit? Oi reckon tha' at least these wurds are goin' ter dissappare soon: 'loke' (a lane) and 'pismire' (an ant). Of cors, there's always thoose funny vowels that make 'pair', 'pear' and Croomer 'Pier' all sound the same.

Here in Connecticut, there is a town called Norwich which the Yanks pronounce "Knaw-witch". I think it's because if you explain that 'Norwich' should rhyme with 'porridge' they just can't see how to make N-O-R-W-I-C-H sound like 'oatmeal'!

NIGEL REES, USA

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If it is not retained by a majority, it would be so disappointing. I loved when visiting, to listen to the locals speak. Still I suppose with a changing world and people moving districts, it might one day die out, when all the oldies have gone. What a pity that would be.

MARJ BUSBY, AUSTRALIA

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I agree that Norfolk Dialeks should be preserved.

I grew up in the sixties and remember how scarey they were on Doctor Who.

They are part of our heritage and we should preserve them for our children to see. Maybe they should be put in the Castle Museum.

TIM STRENSALL, BECCLES

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I refer to Sheila's comments about the word luggy. I said to my seven-year-old daughter one day, after she kept saying "Pardon" to my request " Are ya luggy?" Her reply was, "Ooh luggy, what's luggy?" She found the expression quite amusing.

MANDIE, MATTISHALL

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The Norfolk dialect is fast disappearing round here - it sounds more like the East End,especially at weekends.

BERT, DISS

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I would like to make my own contribution to the Norfolk dialect project.  More years ago than I care to admit, I was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, and lived off-base in the small village of Northwold.  I was talking with my landlord one day when his gardener came up and started complaining about all the "uhmtie-tumps" (please excuse the spelling) that were cropping up. This gentleman was simply advised to let the barn cats take care of the problem.  My natural reaction was to ask, "What in the world is an....?"  I was informed that it was local language for a mole hill, the "tump" being the actual hill.  It is something that has stuck with me for more than 30 years.    The time I spent in Norfolk remains near and dear to me.  I have the licenCe plate from my MG "B" roadster and a picture of the house where I lived on the wall of my home.  Dinners at The Bell hotel in Thetford (particularly the Dover sole) remain tantalizing memories.  I was introduced to the glories of Irish coffee at a restaurant in King's Lynn well before it became known, and bastardized, here.  Good luck with your project.  I fear than much of American dialect is also rapidly disappearing. The advent of the "global" thing is rendering a lot of our language to the dust bin.  There's more I could say on this matter and a good small piece in this months National Geographic on the disappearance of native language is proof of point. Once lost, never recovered. Yours truly,

TIMOTHY L. HUTCHINSON, URBANA, OHIO

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I left Norfolk at the age of 15 to join the Navy after which Dr Beeching closed the railways down and my parents were forced to move as a consequence. But I have never lost my Norfolk speech even though I have only been back for a holiday ,or two. Anyone who meets me and has heard the Norfolk dialect knows exactly where I am from. Sadly,with all them foreigners about and TV I reckon you are fighting a losing battle.
It is a pity, but it is happening everywhere - Wales, Scotland, Cornwall to name a few,the French and the Germans even get their knickers in a twist over the same problem.  I went into a pub a couple of years ago and the chap behind the bar did not know what 'a pint of two's' was - all very sad. I doubt that you will succeed in your endeavours,but I hope you are recording as much as you can for posterity.  

KEN WATLING

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Of course it is worth the money to preserve the dialect. As a frequent visitor to Norfolk (tourist) I have found that it does not matter whether you engage in a natter at the pubs in Cromer, Horsey or on the Broads or for that matter when you go shopping, two things hit you straight away. A warm friendly welcome coupled with that unique dialect. The welcome and the dialect go hand in glove. Many of the old characters around Norfolk have a lot to teach we youngsters (Iam 60). I enjoy nothing more than to sit and listen and learn. Thank you Norfolk.

JOHN, LEICESTER

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I am so glad there are folks keeping the Norfolk Dialect going - thank goodness for the Lottery, it's done something good at last!! Our heritage is so important to true Norfolk folks, we must keep it going and also teach the youngsters to be proud of their tongue. So a big thank you to Keith Skipper - keep ur a going bore. Chary-oh.

ISABEL COLEGATE, BEDFORD

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Hi from chilly Australia. After moving to Perth in 1981 and taking six months to get a job I was asked why I co'n't speak English. I said, "I do - you waat me to tork Orstralian". I then pulled their leg and said that surely they knew that when the Queen is at Sandringham and the corgis are outside she yells "Ear dawgs, git innear." For a few seconds they believed me! My daughter was told to say house not ows. I went ballistic and said "She's seven years old, she'll pick up the Australian dialect in her own good time. How she speaks now is her heritage, you've no right to force her to change." She is now 26 and as "Dinky-Di" as they come but when she gets together with her great-aunt (who skips from American to German to Norfolk in a blink of an eye) in America and her aunts and uncle in Norwich and Ipswich she picks it up quite quickly. The funny thing is when my husband and I were in Norfolk I was considered the "posher" speaker and here my husband is supposed to have less of an accent - depends on the ear I s'pose. When I was at the Blyth I asked the drama teacher for elocution lessons and she refused saying "I'll help you correct grammatical errors but not help you get rid of your accent". I think we should try and get teachers of that calibre back into the classroom. Yours

KRISTEEN SIMPKIN, AUSTRALIA

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I think that ALL dialects are worth preserving. It is such a shame that whole languages are just disappearing and being wiped out. Who speaks Manx Gaelic, Irish Gaelic? What about the old language of Cornwall? My husband is Cajun. Only his older relatives - grandparents, great aunts/uncles etc. speak Cajun French. This too is a fast-dying language. I think dialects are wonderful. I love to hear different accents and I think we should fight to keep them. They are part of our heritage.

PAM, BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, USA

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It is about time the English stood up for themselves. Do you see yourselves as English and East Anglian? I sure hope so. I am originally from Essex and am currently researching Saxon/Angle/jute early English history. The English have a long history and it is actually making me quite angry that I was not taught in school in England. Any comments on that please e-mail: katg19@hotmail.com Keep fighting for your rights and all the best to you.

MARK ANDERSON, WARSAW, INDIANA, USA

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