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Title: Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore
Author: Wright, Elizabeth Mary
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber’s Note:

  In this text version of Rustic Speech and Folk-Lore:
     words in italics are marked with _underscores_
     words in small capitals are shown in UPPER CASE.
  In the “SELECT LIST OF WORKS CONSULTED” the names of authors were
     printed in bold.
  The original page headings are transcribed as [Sidenote: Page Heading]
  Other notes follow the text.






Under the heading of ‘The Varieties of English Speech’ an article of
mine appeared in _The Quarterly Review_ of July, 1907. The favourable
reception accorded to it at the time prompted me to embark forthwith on
a larger work dealing with the same subject.

Many books both scientific and popular have been written concerning
dialect speech and lore, but nearly all of them are special
investigations of some particular dialect. I have taken a bolder flight
than this. I have not given a detailed account of any one dialect, but I
have surveyed them all, and have gathered words, phrases, names,
superstitions, and popular customs, here and there, wherever I found
something that appealed to me, and that I felt would appeal to others as
well as myself. It was impossible to make any one category exhaustive,
for such was the mass of material open to me for selection, I might say
I was ‘fairly betwattled and baffounded’. The only thing to be done was
to make my selections fairly representative of the whole.

My aim in dealing with the linguistic side of my subject has been to
show that rules for pronunciation and syntax are not the monopoly of
educated people who have been taught to preach as well as practise them.
Dialect-speaking people obey sound-laws and grammatical rules even more
faithfully than we do, because theirs is a natural and unconscious
obedience. Some writers of literary English seem to enjoy flinging jibes
at dialect on the assumption that any deviation from the standard
speech must be due to ignorance, if not to vulgarity besides. Since I
wrote the last chapter of this book, I read in a criticism of Stanley
Houghton’s Play _Trust the People_, this sentence describing the
Lancashire ‘father an old mill-hand and the homely mother to match’:
‘They are both drawn, you feel, to the life, and talk with ease, not to
say gusto, that curious lingo which seems to an outsider mainly
distinguished by its contemptuous neglect of the definite article’, _The
Times_, Friday, Feb. 7, 1913. Now the definite article in north-west
Lancashire is _t_, in the south-west and south _t_, or _th_, and in mid
and south-east Lancashire _th_. When this _t_ stands before a consonant,
and more especially before a dental such as _t_, _d_, it is not by any
means easy for the uninitiated to detect the difference in sound between
the simple word and the same word preceded by the article, between, for
example, _table_ and _t table_, or _dog_ and _t dog_. But this is not
‘contemptuous neglect’ on the part of the Lancastrian! It would be
nearer the mark to say that the Lancashire dialect is characterized by
its retention of a form of the definite article very difficult to
pronounce in certain combinations.

Further, I have endeavoured to show by means of numerous
illustrations, how full the dialects are of words and phrases
remarkable not only for their force and clearness, but often also for
their subtle beauty, that satisfying beauty of the thing exactly fitted
to its purpose.

I have also drawn up lists showing the numbers of old words and
phrases once common in English literature, still existing in the
dialects. Occasionally writers of modern verse seek to restore some of
the words of this type to their former position in literary English,
thereby causing the reviewer to stumble dreadfully, though he thinketh
he standeth. I quote the following from a literary periodical dated
May 2, 1913: ‘He [the poet] debates if he shall make “a nest within a
reedy brake”, or, failing this delectable situation, offers himself a
quaint alternative,

    Or I shall see with quiet eye,
    The dappled paddock loping by.

We had always supposed in our ignorance that “paddock” was a term
applied to green fields or pastures. How Mr. ... could have seen a
paddock “lope” we do not know, and perhaps it would not be kind to ask
him to explain.’ The majority of educated people are familiar with the
word _paddock_, a toad, or a frog, from its occurrence in the opening
lines of _Macbeth_, and in Herrick’s _Child’s Grace_, but it will
probably never again take its former place in the standard speech,
though it may remain very common in the dialects.

In the chapters devoted to folk-lore I have not attempted to do more
than chronicle certain superstitions and popular beliefs, leaving to my
readers the fascinating pursuit of tracing superstitions to their
sources, and of bringing to light hidden grains of truth in apparently
silly beliefs. There is here plenty of scope both for scholarship and
imagination. I once happened to mention at a dinner-party the
superstition that it is a sure presage of a parting for an engaged
couple to stand as fellow sponsors at a baptism. My neighbour, who was a
clergyman, immediately explained the reason for this idea by telling me
that in pre-Reformation days godparents were not allowed to marry each
other. The Church recognized a sort of spiritual affinity between such
persons, which precluded lawful marriage. It is strange to think that
while joining in a Protestant service to-day, members of the Church of
England are still swayed by an old law they never heard of except as it
exists in the word ‘unlucky’.

In dealing with popular customs I have selected those that are less
well known, and others concerning which I have myself collected
information, and have omitted many which are readily accessible in
works such as Hone’s _Year Book_ and Chambers’s _Book of Days_.

I may mention that in collecting my material from very many
miscellaneous sources, printed and oral, I have not felt justified in
normalizing the orthography of the dialect quotations, especially where
these have been taken from glossaries. This accounts for a certain
amount of inconsistency in the orthography.

At the end of the table of contents will be found a select list of
the works which I have found most useful in writing this book.

                                              ELIZABETH MARY WRIGHT.

  _July, 1913_.



  INTRODUCTION                                                    xix


  Decay of pure Dialect                                             1
  Stories concerning Yorkshire people, &c.                        2-5


  Variety of terms for expressing one and the same idea; names
      for a fool, the smallest pig of a litter, the woodpecker,
      the foxglove, a stream of water, a girl                     6-9
  Forceful and descriptive dialect words difficult to translate
      into standard English                                     10-18
  Appropriate compound words                                    18-19
  Fine shades of meaning expressed by slightly different words  19-20


  Specimens of dialect sentences                                21-24
  Misunderstandings between dialect speakers and speakers of
      standard English                                             25
  An old Dame’s School                                          26-27


  Some apparent corruptions shown to be old forms                  28
  Corruptions of Latin and French phrases such as: _nolens
      volens_, _Pater noster_, _rendezvous_, &c.                29-30
  Standard English words used in the wrong places, e.g.
      sentiment for sediment, profligate for prolific, &c.      30-31
  Misplaced suffixes                                               32
  Popular etymologies                                           33-35
  Corruptions of standard English words                            35


  Old words from early literature surviving in the dialects     36-37
  Substantives                                                  37-43
  Adjectives                                                    43-46
  Verbs                                                         47-53
  Archaic words from the Authorized Version of the Bible        53-54
  Archaic words from Shakespeare                                54-61
  Dialect words in Johnson’s Dictionary                         61-67
  Dialect words supply meanings to difficult forms in Old and
      Middle English literature                                 67-71
  Old words and forms preserved in surnames                     72-76


  Old meanings of standard English words surviving in the
      dialects                                                  77-84
  Historical forms surviving in the dialects                    84-86
  Old grammatical distinctions preserved in the dialects        87-89
  Regular forms in the dialects compared with irregularities
      in standard English                                       90-91
  Doublets, such as: challenge beside the dialect form
      _callenge_, &c.                                           92-94
  Variants due to Scandinavian borrowings                       94-95


  French loan-words                                            96-102
  Scandinavian loan-words                                     103-104
  Celtic loan-words                                           105-106
  Latin, and Dutch loan-words                                 107-108
  Poetical and learned words in the dialects                  108-109


  Quotations illustrating the meanings given in the dialects
      to literary words                                       110-118
  Dialect words alike in form to existing literary words,
      but different in meaning and origin, e.g. _damsel_,
      a damson, &c.                                           118-120


  Alliterative compounds                                      121-122
  Phrases containing two synonymous verbs                     122-123
  Rhyming compounds and phrases                               124-125


  The classification of dialects                              126-127
  Characteristics of the various dialect groups               127-128
  Phonology of the dialects compared with standard English        129
  Vowels                                                      130-132
  Consonants                                                  132-140
  The Articles                                                140-141
  Nouns                                                       141-144
  Adjectives and numerals                                     145-146
  Pronouns                                                    146-152
  Verbs                                                       153-156
  Negation                                                    156-157


  Humorous similes                                            158-160
  Metaphorical and figurative phrases and sayings             160-170
  Proverbial sayings                                          171-174
  Phrases referring to death                                  175-176
  Answers to inquisitive questioners                              176
  Dialect forms of greeting                                   176-177
  Contemptuous and derisive expressions                           178
  Local similes                                               178-179
  Local nicknames and rhymes                                      180
  Local sayings and jibes                                     181-182
  Historical allusions                                        183-189
  Ethnological evidence afforded by the dialects                  190


  Belief in ghosts                                            191-192
  Boggarts                                                    192-195
  The Gabriel Ratchets                                            195
  The Devil and his Dandy-dogs; Tregeagle                         196
  The Seven Whistlers                                             197
  Imaginary monsters referred to in threats to children       198-199
  Mine-goblins                                                199-200
  Will o’ the wisp                                            200-201
  Hob                                                         201-202
  The Devil in dialect lore                                   203-206
  Fairies and pixies                                          207-210
  Witches, and white witches                                  211-213


  Death-portents                                              214-217
  Superstitions concerning magpies, cats, robins, &c.         217-219
  ‘Unlucky’ things                                            220-223
  Signs foretelling gifts and guests                          223-224
  ‘Lucky’ things                                              224-226
  Miscellaneous legends and popular beliefs                   227-229

  Devices for warding off witches                             230-235
  Superstitious remedies                                          236
  Dialect phrases describing states of health                 237-238
  Medicines for general debility                                  239
  Remedies for various diseases and other afflictions         240-254
  The seventh son, and the water-caster                       254-255
  Charms against cattle-diseases                              255-256


  Love-divination by means of plants, apple-pips, &c.         257-260
  The hempseed charm                                              261
  The dumb-cake charm                                             262
  Wedding-cake under the pillow                                   263
  St. Mark’s Eve customs, and divination by Bible and key         264


  New meanings grafted on to old practices                        265
  Superstitious customs at the birth of a child               266-267
  The birth-feast, and the special dainties prepared for it   267-268
  The christening                                                 269
  Concerning wedding customs                                  269-270
  Banns of marriage                                               271
  ‘Lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ days for a wedding                        272
  ‘Unlucky’ omens on the way to church                            273
  Ceremonies after the wedding                                    274
  Wedding sports                                                  275
  Riding the stang                                                276
  Customs and superstitions concerning death                  277-278
  Funeral customs                                             279-281
  Telling the bees                                            281-282


  The New Year                                                283-286
  Twelfth Day, and Plough Monday                              286-288
  Candlemas Day                                                   289
  Shrovetide                                                  290-291
  Sundays in Lent                                             291-292
  Good Friday                                                 292-293
  Easter                                                      293-296
  May-day                                                     296-297
  Rogation Days                                               297-298
  Whitsuntide                                                     298
  Rush-bearing                                                298-299
  Halloween                                                   299-300
  All Souls’ Day, and St. Clement’s Day                       300-301
  St. Thomas’ Day                                             301-302
  Christmas                                                   302-304
  Childermas Day                                                  304
  Feasts and fairs                                            305-306


  Historical importance of children’s games                       307
  Girls’ singing-games                                            308
  The game of marbles                                             309
  Children’s rhymes addressed to birds and insects            310-311


  The weather as a topic for conversation                     312-313
  Signs of rain and of fine weather                           314-317
  Prophecies concerning seasons and crops                     317-318
  Thomas Tusser and his ‘good husbandlie lessons’             318-320
  Decay of old farming customs                                    321
  Harvest customs                                             322-324
  Names for hay-cocks, labourers’ meals, &c.                      325
  Calls to animals                                                326
  Sheep-scoring numerals                                          327


  Varieties of weights and measures in the dialects           328-331


  Dialect plant names                                             332
  Biblical names                                              333-335
  Old English names                                               336
  Miscellaneous names                                         337-339
  Personal names for animals                                  339-341


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  Bible.--Wyclif, John.--The Holy Bible, containing the Old and
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  Blakeborough, Richard.--Wit, Character, Folk-lore, and Customs of
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  Burne, Charlotte Sophia.--Shropshire Folk-Lore: a sheaf of
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  Chamberlain, Mrs.--A Glossary of West Worcestershire Words. With
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  Coles, Elisha.--A Dictionary, English-Latin, and Latin-English;
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  Cope, William. H.--A Glossary of Hampshire Words and Phrases.
    E.D.S. 1883.

  Cotgrave, Randle.--A French and English Dictionary. London, 1673.
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  Couch, Thomas Q.--The History of Polperro, a fishing town on the
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    Jonathan Couch. Truro, 1871.

  Courtney, M. A. and Couch, Thomas Q.--Glossary of Words in use in
    Cornwall. West Cornwall by Miss M. A. Courtney. East Cornwall by
    Thomas Q. Couch. E.D.S. 1880.

  Cunliffe, Henry.--A Glossary of Rochdale, with Rossendale Words and
    Phrases. Manchester, 1886.

  Darlington, Thomas.--The Folk-Speech of South Cheshire. E.D.S. 1887.

  Dartnell, George Edward, and Goddard, Edward H.--A Glossary of
    Words used in the county of Wiltshire. E.D.S. 1893.

  Dickinson, W.--A Glossary of the words and phrases pertaining to
    the dialect of Cumberland. Re-arranged, illustrated, and augmented
    by quotations by E. W. Prevost, Ph.D., F.R.S.E. London, 1899.

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  Easther, Alfred.--A Glossary of the dialect of Almondbury and
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  Ellwood, T.--Lakeland and Iceland: being a glossary of words in
    the dialect of Cumberland, Westmoreland, and North Lancashire
    which seem allied to or identical with the Icelandic or Norse.
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  Elworthy, Frederic Thomas.--The West Somerset Word-book. A glossary
    of dialectal and archaic words and phrases used in the West of
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  English Dialect Dictionary, The. Edited by Joseph Wright. 1896-1905.

  Evans, Arthur B.--Leicestershire Words, Phrases, and Proverbs,
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  Ferguson, Robert.--The Dialect of Cumberland, with a chapter on its
    place-names. London, 1873.

  Five Original Glossaries. Series C. English Dialect Society.
    Edited by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat, M.A. London, 1876.

  Five Original Glossaries. Series C. English Dialect Society.
    London, 1881.

  Fletcher, J. S.--Recollections of a Yorkshire Village. London, 1910.

  Friend, Hilderic.--A Glossary of Devonshire Plant Names. E.D.S.

  Gibson, Alexander Craig.--The Folk-Speech of Cumberland and some
    districts adjacent. London, 1869.

  Godefroy, F.--Dictionnaire de l’ancienne langue française et de
    tous ses dialectes du IXᵉ au XVᵉ siècle. 1881- .

  Gomme, Alice Bertha.--The traditional Games of England,
    Scotland, and Ireland, collected and annotated by Alice Bertha
    Gomme. London, 1894.

  Gregor, Walter.--Notes on the Folk-Lore of the North-East of
    Scotland. Folk-Lore Soc. vii. 1881.

  ---- The Dialect of Banffshire: with a glossary of words not in
    Jamieson’s Scottish Dictionary. Trans. Phil. Soc. London, 1866.

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  Harland, John.--A Glossary of Words used in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
    E.D.S. 1873

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  Heslop, R. O.--Northumberland Words. A Glossary of Words used in
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  Hewitt, Sarah.--Nummits and Crummits, Devonshire customs,
    characteristics, and folk-lore. London, 1900.

  ---- The Peasant Speech of Devon. And other matters connected
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  Holland, Robert.--A Glossary of Words used in the County of Chester.
    E.D.S. 1886.

  Inwards, Richard.--Weather Lore; a collection of proverbs,
    sayings, and rules concerning the weather. London, 1893.

  Jackson, Georgina F.--Shropshire Folk-Lore, edited by Charlotte
    Sophia Burne from the Collections of Georgina F. Jackson. London,
    1883. See Burne.

  ---- Shropshire Word-book, a glossary of archaic and provincial
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    sentences in the North Westmoreland dialect. Kendal, 1898.

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  Bck.   = Bucks.
  Bdf.   = Bedford.
  Bnff.  = Banff.
  Brks.  = Berks.
  Chs.   = Cheshire.
  Cmb.   = Cambridge.
  Cor.   = Cornwall.
  Cth.   = Carmarthen.
  Cum.   = Cumberland.
  Cy.    = country.
  Der.   = Derby.
  Dev.   = Devon.
  Dnb.   = Denbigh.
  Dor.   = Dorset.
  Dur.   = Durham.
  e.An.  = East Anglia.
  Ess.   = Essex.
  Glo.   = Gloucester.
  Hmp.   = Hampshire.
  Hnt.   = Huntingdon.
  Hrf.   = Hereford.
  Hrt.   = Hertford.
  I.Ma.  = Isle of Man.
  Irel.  = Ireland.
  I.W.   = Isle of Wight.
  Ken.   = Kent.
  Lakel. = Lakeland.
  Lan.   = Lancashire.
  Lei.   = Leicester.
  Lin.   = Lincoln.
  lit.   = literary.
  M.E.   = Middle English.
  Mid.   = Middlesex.
  Midl.  = Midlands.
  Nhb.   = Northumberland.
  Nhp.   = Northampton.
  Not.   = Nottingham.
  Nrf.   = Norfolk.
  O.E.   = Old English.
  O.N.   = Old Norse.
  Or.I.  = Orkney Isles.
  Oxf.   = Oxford.
  Pem.   = Pembroke.
  Rut.   = Rutland.
  Sc.    = Scotland.
  Sh.I.  = Shetland Isles.
  Shr.   = Shropshire.
  Som.   = Somerset.
  Stf.   = Stafford.
  Suf.   = Suffolk.
  Sur.   = Surrey.
  Sus.   = Sussex.
  Wal.   = Wales.
  War.   = Warwick.
  Wil.   = Wiltshire.
  Wm.    = Westmorland.
  Wor.   = Worcester.
  Yks.   = Yorks.

  The asterisk * prefixed to a word denotes a theoretical form.


Among common errors still persisting in the minds of educated people,
one error which dies very hard is the theory that a dialect is an
arbitrary distortion of the mother tongue, a wilful mispronunciation of
the sounds, and disregard of the syntax of a standard language. Only
quite recently--May 5, 1910--in reviewing a book called _The Anglo-Irish
Language_, a writer in the _Times Literary Supplement_ says: ‘The
Anglo-Irish dialect is a passably good name for it ..., but it is
something more than a dialect, more than an affair of Pidgin English,
bad spelling, provincialisms, and preposterous grammar.’ Here we have a
very good modern instance of the old error. A dialect, we are to
understand, consists of ‘Pidgin English, bad spelling, provincialisms,
and preposterous grammar’. This comes of reading dialect stories by
authors who have no personal knowledge of any dialect whatever, and who
have never studied any language scientifically. All they have done,
perhaps, is to have purchased the Dialect Glossary of some district, or
maybe they have asked a friend to supply a little local colouring. A
lady once wrote to the Secretary of the English Dialect Society as
follows: ‘Dear Sir, a friend of mine intends writing a novel, the scene
of which is to be laid in Essex in the sixteenth century. Will you
kindly give her a few hints as to the local dialect of that period?’
Authors of this type put into the mouths of their dialect-speaking
characters a kind of doggerel which the above definition aptly
describes, their readers then run away with the idea that this
hotch-potch is the ‘spit and image’ of a real, living, English dialect.
As a matter of fact, our English dialects exemplify so well the
sound-laws of living speech, and the historical development of an
originally inflected language, that the Neuphilologen in Germany are
calling for Dialect Reading Books for German students studying English.
A Professor in the University of Giessen has just bought fifty copies of
Wright’s _Grammar of the English Dialects_ for his Seminar. Now and then
a solitary German student is sent over to England to encamp in a remote
country village and write a learned Dissertation on the characteristic
vowel-sounds of the district; an arduous task for a young foreigner
whose knowledge of literary English as she is spoke is an uncertain
quantity. But the field of English dialects offers other allurements
besides those which attract the philologist and the grammarian. The
language-specialist merely digs and quarries, as it were, in the bare
soil and rock, where he finds rich ores amply sufficient to repay his
pains and toil, but there remains plenty of room for the rest of us who
are less laboriously inclined, and at every turn are enticing paths. The
real charm lies in the fact that it is a ‘faire felde ful of folke’,
natural, homely, witty folk. If this book succeeds in pointing out a few
of the many ways in which the study of our English dialects may not only
contribute to the advancement of knowledge, but also give us a clearer
insight into the life and character of the British peasant and artisan,
it will have achieved the aim and object of its existence.

     ‘_Countryman._ We old men are old chronicles, and when our tongues
     go they are not clocks to tell only the time present, but large
     books unclasped; and our speeches, like leaves turned over and
     over, discover wonders that are long since past.’
         The Great Frost of January, 1608. _Social England Illustrated,
               A Collection of XVIIth Century Tracts_, p. 166.



[Sidenote: _Insignificance of London_]

With the spread of education, and the ever-increasing means of rapid
locomotion throughout the length and breadth of the land, the area
where pure dialects are spoken is lessening year by year. It used to
be Mam and Dad and Porridge, and then ’twas Father and Mother and
Broth, but now ’tis Pa and Ma and Soup, is a saying concerning farmers’
children in the Midlands. In the words of an old North-country woman:
T’young ’uns dizn’t talk noo leyke what they did when ah wer a lass;
there’s ower mich o’ this knackin’ [affected talk] noo; bud, as ah
tells ’em, fooaks spoils thersens sadly wi’ knackin’. An’ then there’s
another thing, when deean, they can mak nowt bud mashelshon [mixed
corn] on’t. There is a very old proverb in Cheshire, applied to any
one who goes out of the country for improvement, and returns without
having gained much; such a one is said to have ‘been at London to learn
to call a streea a straw’. It is not often now that one could hear it
said: Ah deean’t gan bauboskin’ [straying away] aboot leyke sum on
’em, ah sticks ti t’heeaf. The place where a mountain or fell sheep is
born, and where it continues to live and pasture, is called its _heaf_,
and the word is often in the Northern counties thus picturesquely used
in a figurative sense. When one looks at the placards announcing in
large letters the extraordinarily cheap day trips offered by the Great
Western or the Midland Railway, or sees hoardings decorated with garish
posters portraying the arid sands and cloudless skies of Blackpool
or Morecambe, how dim and distant seem those past days when in their
stead he who runs might read an advertisement such as this: ‘The York
four-days Stage Coach begins on Friday the 12th of April. All that are
desirous to pass from London to York, or from York to London, or any
other place on that road, let them repair to the Black Swan in Holborn,
or to the Black Swan in Conney Street in York, at both which places
they may be received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and
Friday, which performs the whole journey in four days (if God permits),
and sets forth at five in the morning.’ Small wonder if people then
stuck to their heaf, and dialects remained pure and unadulterated. But
even to-day one can still find country places where our great cities
are known only by name. The inhabitants may ask us casually: Hoo’s
traade doon London waay?--but you feel, in so doing, they merely wish
to make polite conversation. Two or three years ago we lunched at a
small village inn not far from Skipton in Yorkshire, and before leaving
the landlord asked us to write our names in his visitors’ book. When
we had finished, he read over the entry, and said, ‘Ah, you come from
Oxford, perhaps you know London?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ we said, ‘we go to London
sometimes.’ ‘Then you’ll happen know my brother,’ was the confident
rejoinder. This last summer we stayed at a most primitive inn--with a
courtesy title of Hotel--on the moors under the shadow of Penyghent.
The landlord fetched us and our luggage from the station, and as he
was uncording a box of books he observed, ‘You come from Oxford then.’
‘Yes,’ said I, feeling proud of my connexion with that ancient Seat
of Learning. ‘Oh!’ said mine host of the Golden Lion, ‘How’s hay down

[Sidenote: _The Yorkshire Bite_
           _A Yorkshire Inn_]

To gain the full benefit and enjoyment of a sojourn in a country
village, it is an immense advantage to be able to speak the dialect
yourself, or at any rate to be able to understand and respect it.
That is why we prefer the West Riding of Yorkshire to any other
part of England, for there we are at home with the native, and are
not looked upon as ‘foreigners’. The name Yorkshire has become a
synonym for acuteness not unmixed with a touch of unscrupulousness.
In Lincolnshire, for example, when anything is done which is very
clever, sharp, or unscrupulous, they say: That’s real Yerksheer. To put
Yorkshire on a person means in Lancashire to cheat, trick, or overreach
him; in Lancashire and Lincolnshire a sharp overreaching person is
called a Yorkshire bite. Even in his own country the Yorkshireman has
this reputation. It was a native who told us the following story. Two
Yorkshiremen, whom we will call A. and B., were accustomed to send
their horses to the same Show. A.’s horse always won prizes, and B.’s
never did. One day B. complained to A. ‘I can’t think why Mr. So-and-so
(the judge) never gives me a First Prize; my horse is every bit as
good as yours.’ ‘Well,’ said A., ‘I tell you what you had better do
before the next Show; you send Mr. So-and-so a good big ham.’ The day
came, and this time it was B.’s horse that won the First Prize. A. was
both angry and astonished. He went to B. and asked: ‘Did you send that
ham?’ ‘Yes,’ said B., ‘but I sent it in your name, not mine.’ Another
Yorkshireman on his death-bed found satisfaction in the thought that
he had outwitted an Insurance Company. ‘Ah’ve dun ’em, Joe, ah’ve dun
’em. T’doctor says ah’m bahn [I am going] to dee, an’ ah wor nobbud
insiured six munths sin,’ he boasted to a sympathizing friend. It
would, however, be grossly unfair to judge the Yorkshireman on the
strength of this proverbial characteristic. He has very many other
qualities equally characteristic and much more desirable, but which
become famed in phrase and story only when found in an exaggerated
form, as for instance the tenacity of purpose shown by that celebrated
_Yorkshire Oddity_ William Sharp, popularly known as Old Three Laps,
who died in the year 1856. When a young man of thirty he became engaged
to be married. The wedding-day was fixed, but when the appointed hour
came, only the bridegroom appeared in church. At the last moment the
bride’s father, dissatisfied about the marriage settlements, refused
to allow his daughter to marry the man of her choice. The disappointed
bridegroom returned to his home, went to bed, and vowed he would stay
there, and never speak again to any one. He kept his word up to the
time of his death, forty-nine years later, when he is said to have
exclaimed shortly before his end, ‘Poor Bill! poor Bill! poor Bill
Sharp!’ A Yorkshireman has a very strong sense of his own dignity, and
some ‘South-country’ people mistake his attitude of independence for
impertinence, and because he will not brook a condescending manner or
a dictatorial speech, and because he says exactly what he means, they
style him rude. Many stories are told of a certain grocer in Settle
noted for his treatment of impertinent customers. A lady one day walked
into his shop and inquired very abruptly: ‘What are eggs to-day?’
‘Eggs,’ was the prompt reply. At Kettlewell once a man and his wife,
evidently on a cycling tour from ‘down South’, came into the inn, and
demanded tea in such peremptory tones, that the landlady turned her
back on them, and we heard them muttering: ‘She’s bound to give us
something.’ If you want to be well served at a Yorkshire inn, the first
thing to do is to take note of the name over the door before you cross
the threshold; then you can address the landlady as ‘Mrs. Atkinson’
(pronounced _Atkisson_), for you will need her name constantly, if you
wish your conversation to be agreeable to her. ‘Down South’ we are very
chary in our use of proper names in conversation; we can talk to an
acquaintance or a friend by the hour addressing him only as ‘you’. In
the North, we should intersperse our remarks freely with ‘Mr. Brown’ if
he is an acquaintance, or ‘John’ if he is a friend. It is a noticeable
fact that in the North men call each other by their Christian names,
where in the South they would use the surname without the formal Mr.
But to return to inns. Having duly passed the time of day with the
landlady, you will next have to converse with her serving-maid, whose
name has yet to be discovered. We have adopted a plan of addressing
her always as ‘Mary’, till she gives us better information. The last
damsel we thus met told us her name was Dinah, and further, that she
was ‘a Lancashire lass’. In Yorkshire if you ask a person his or her
name you must say: ‘What do they call you?’ You might not be understood
if you said: ‘What is your name?’ The first question in the Catechism
has often met with no response other than a vacant stare from children
in Sunday Schools. A story is told of a clergyman near Whitby who went
one day into the village school, and seeing a new face among the boys,
said: ‘Well, my lad, and who are you?’ Boy: ‘Aw, ah’s middlin’; hoo’s

[Sidenote: _Tea in the Parlour_]

The Kettlewell landlady was so charmed by our greeting, and our use
of her name and her dialect, that on our very first visit she treated
us to her old family silver tea-spoons, and on the next occasion we not
only had the tea-spoons, but we had a real old Queen Anne silver teapot
as well, and a perfect feast of cakes, laid out in the private parlour
where the foot of the tripper never trod. We came upon an inn full of
trippers once, and though we were shown to a seat at a table, we could
get no further attention, for nobody seemed to have time to fetch us
any lunch. At last we secured the ear of the daughter of the house,
and we pleaded our cause in her native tongue, whereupon she quickly
fetched her parents, and the table was laid, and spread with ample fare
in the twinkling of an eye.

In a seventeenth-century Tract--_Of Recreations_--in which are put
forth the delights of ‘riding with a good horse and a good companion,
in the spring or summer season, into the country’, the author goes on
to tell us: ‘And if you happen, as often it falleth out, to converse
with countrymen of the place; you shall find them, for the most part,
understanding enough to give you satisfaction: and sometimes country
maids and market wenches will give as unhappy answers as they be asked
knavish and uncivil questions. Others there be, who, out of their
rustical simplicity, will afford you matter of mirth, if you stay to
talk with them.’



It is generally supposed that the vocabulary of dialect-speaking
people is very small; indeed, it has been stated as a scientific fact
that the common rustic uses scarcely more than 300 words. The most
cursory glance at the _English Dialect Dictionary_, however, will
suffice to convince anybody that this statement is incorrect. The
six volumes of this Dictionary contain in all over 5,000 pages, and
the number of simple and compound words in the first volume (A-C) is
17,519; and from the careful statistics given of the contents of this
volume, it may safely be inferred that the whole Dictionary contains
over 100,000 words.

As may be expected, we find in this vocabulary an immense variety of
terms or phrases for expressing one and the same idea. For instance,
there are approximately 1,350 words meaning to give a person a
thrashing, and an almost innumerable quantity meaning to die, and to get
drunk. There are some 1,300 ways of telling a person he is a fool. A few
names taken at random are: chuffin head, coof, gapus, gauvison,
goostrumnoodle, Jerry pattick, mee-maw, ning-nang, nornigig,
rockey-codlin, Sammy-suck-egg, snool, stooky, Tom-coddy, yawney,
yonnack. A fine cumulative effect is produced by a few introductory
adjectives, with or without a final pronoun, in such personal remarks
as: Thoo goffeny goavey, it’s thoo at’s daft Watty; You drumble-drone,
dunder-headed slinpole; Thah gert, gawmless, sackless, headed fooil
thah. There are about 1,050 terms for a slattern, such as: daffock,
dawps, drazzle-drozzle, flammakin, hagmahush, lirrox, mad Moll o’ the
woods, mawkin, moggy, rubbacrock, slammock or slommocks, trail-tengs,
trash-mire, wally-draigle.

[Sidenote: _Names for the Smallest Pig_]

Among animals possessing a large variety of names the smallest pig of
a litter holds a very prominent place with over 120 titles to
distinction, such as: Anthony-pig, cadme, Daniel, dilling (a very old
word for _darling_, occurring in Cotgrave’s _Dictionary_ and Burton’s
_Anatomy of Melancholy_), greck, little Josey, Nicholas, nisgal,
pedman, ritling, runt, squab, treseltrype, wrenock. That handsome
bird the hickwall, or green woodpecker, _Gecinus viridis_, figures
under almost every letter of the alphabet; whilst the sparrow and the
stickleback also rank high on the list. Among flowers, the ox-eye
daisy and the foxglove have the largest number of different names.
The foxglove is called: fairy fingers, fairy glove, fairy petticoats,
fairy thimbles, witches’ thimbles, bloody man’s fingers, dead man’s
bells, flop-a-dock, poppy-dock, pop-guns, &c., &c. One would fain find
in Thormantle, or Thor’s-mantle, a trace of ancient mythology, but the
most probable explanation of the term is that it is a corruption of
_tormentil_ from _Potentilla Tormentilla_, a flower which shares with
the foxglove the name Thor’s-mantle.

[Sidenote: _Names for a Brook_]

It would be an interesting experiment to try and trace out
geographically the use of the various words denoting a stream of water:
beck, burn, dike, sike, strype, water, &c., &c. The _New English
Dictionary_ tells us that _beck_ is ‘the ordinary name in those parts of
England from Lincolnshire to Cumberland which were occupied by the Danes
and Norwegians’. Another authority, Mr. Oliver Heslop, says: ‘This term,
which is found in Danish and Norwegian settlements in England, occurs
about sixty-three times in the county of Durham. In Northumberland it is
represented in the solitary case of the River Wansbeck, and in this it
is questionable whether the second syllable is originally beck,’ and
further: ‘The line dividing the more northern burn from the s.Dur. and
Yks. beck is a sharp one. It runs along the ridge between Wear and Tees
from Burnhope Seat eastwards to Paw Law Pike. The tributaries to the
Wear, on the _n._ side of this ridge, are burns, and the similar
affluents to the Tees, on its _s._ side, are becks.’ In Kettlethorpe
church, in Lincolnshire, is an epitaph on a former Rector of the parish,
the Rev. John Becke, who died in 1597:

    I am a Becke, or river as you know,
      And wat’red here yᵉ Church, yᵉ schole, yᵉ pore,
    While God did make my springes here for to flow;
      But now my fountain stopt, it runs no more.

_Beck_ is a Norse word, O.N. _bekkr_, a brook, occurring already in
Middle English, as, for instance, in Hampole’s _Psalter_, c. 1330: ‘Do
til thaim as till iabin in the bek of cyson,’ Ps. lxxxii. 8. _Burn_ is
an English word, O.E. _burna_, _burne_, a brook, and is found in Sc.
Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Yks. Stf. _Sike_ is also a native word, O.E. _sīc_,
a watercourse, which comes down further south to Lei. and Nhp. _Strype_
is a purely Scotch name. Jamieson thus defines it: ‘A strype is
distinguished from a burn. The gradation seems to be: watter, a river;
burn, a brook; burnie, a small brook; strype, a rill of the smallest
kind.’ Though a _water_ means a river in Scotland, in England it more
usually denotes a smaller stream. The term is found in Dur. Yks. and
Lan., and is common in Som. and Dev. An amusing incident once occurred
at a Village Penny Reading entertainment where one of the songs on the
programme was the well-known ballad poem, _On the Banks of Allan Water_.
The pathetic notes of the last lines:

    On the banks of Allan Water
      There a corse lay she.

had hardly died away when the audience burst into a roar of laughter.
They had understood the climax to be some kind of practical joke played
by the miller’s daughter: ‘There o’ corse [of course] lay she!’

[Sidenote: _Names for a Girl_]

Attempts have been made to show the geographical distribution of the
words for girl, or young woman. Ellis states it roughly thus: ‘_mauther_
in Norfolk, _maid_ in the South, _wench_ in no bad sense in the
Midlands, and _lass_ generally in the North, _girl_,’ he adds, ‘is
rather an educated word.’ The word _mawther_ occurs in the _Promptorium
Parvulorum_ (circa 1440), the compiler of which was a Norfolk man. Sir
Thomas Browne (1605-82) mentions it as one of the words ‘of common use
in Norfolk, or peculiar to the East Angle countries’. It occurs in Ben
Jonson’s _Alchymist_, 1610; and Tusser, who was an Essex man, uses it
two or three times in his _Fiue Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie_,

    No sooner a sowing, but out by and by,
      with mother or boy that Alarum can cry:
    And let them be armed with sling or with bowe,
      to skare away piggen, the rooke and the crowe.

The word is used in Glo. Hrt. and Wil. besides East Anglia. At a trial
once in Norfolk the Judge inquired who could give evidence of what
had just been stated; the reply was: A mawther playing on a planchard
[a girl playing on the floor]. The Judge, not being a native, was
completely mystified. _Maid_ is the equivalent used in Dor. Som. Dev.
Cor. When a new baby arrives, the question as to its sex is always put
thus: Is it a boy or a maid? A similar use is found in the Bible, cp.
‘If she bear a maid child,’ _Leviticus_ xii. 5. In the sense of young
woman, or girl, the word _maid_ occurs frequently in the Authorized
Version of the Bible, whereas the word _girl_ only occurs twice; e.g.
‘The maid [Esther] was fair and beautiful,’ _Esther_ ii. 7; ‘Can a
maid forget her ornaments?’ _Jeremiah_ ii. 32. The daughter of Jairus,
aged twelve, is in St. Matthew ix. 24 ‘the maid’, though in St. Mark
she is ‘the damsel’. Wyclif termed her ‘the wenche’, a term which
occurs in the Authorized Version in 2 _Samuel_ xvii. 17, ‘And a wench
went and told them.’ In Yorkshire and Lancashire _wench_ is a term
of endearment; in Cheshire it is simply the feminine of _lad_; in
Oxfordshire they summon cows with the cry: Come, wench, come, wench; in
Gloucestershire the well-known rhyme runs:

    A wickering [giggling] wench and a crowing hen,
    Is neither good to God nor men.

It is to Gloucestershire also that belongs the story of the local
preacher who declaimed with terrific fervour: There you go, you chaps
and wenches, head over heels to hell, like zhip [sheep] drow a glat [a
gap in a hedge]. The North-country _lass_ may be of any age, though
commonly she is a young girl. The word is often used as a term of
address, e.g.

    Owd lass, says I, tha’rt heigh i’ boan
    An’ rayther low i’ beef.--_Natterin’ Nan._

[Sidenote: _The East Anglian Bor_]

One of the most comprehensive terms of familiar address is the East
Anglian _bor_, applied to persons of either sex and of all ages, e.g.
Hullo, bor! where be you a’goin? The plural is _together_, e.g. Well,
together, how are ye all? _Bor_ is an old native word, O.E. _būr_, which
we have in the literary language as the second element in _neighbour_.
How convenient it would be if we could adopt _bor_ into the upper
circles of the spoken language, for use at those awkward moments when,
after a lapse of years, we unexpectedly find ourselves face to face with
an old acquaintance, whose name has slipped from our memories. How
openly cordial we could be, and at the same time so comfortably
ambiguous: And is it really you, bor? How glad I am to see you again!
But if we were to attempt to lay a plundering hand on the dialects with
intent to enrich our standard speech by handy and convenient dialect
words, we should be embarrassed by the wealth before us. What literary
word, for instance, conveys the full meaning of the common dialect term
_feckless_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. War.), the lineal
descendant of Shakespeare’s _effectless_? It means: incapable,
incompetent, without resource, shiftless, helpless, and a great deal
more besides, all in a handy nutshell. There are scores of adjectives,
the forceful individuality of which we instinctively feel, and yet find
very hard to convey in the terms of a verbal definition. We are driven
to string together inadequate synonyms, or pile up pedantic phrases. _A
feckless body_ we define as: a person incapable of any effective effort;
_waughy_ (n.Cy.), we say, is used in illness, nearly always during
convalescence, to express the feebleness, shakiness, and
light-headedness after confinement to bed. It also means weak in body,
especially when accompanied by a tendency to faint, e.g. I felt that
waffy, I should hev siled doon upo’ th’floor, if missis hedn’t gen me
sum brandy. _Chuff_ (n.Cy. n.Midl. Midl.) is proud, pleased, denoting a
combination of fussiness and serene self-satisfaction. We certainly have
here much meaning in little room, as Dr. Johnson found in the word
_shrew_, which he defines as: ‘A peevish, malignant, clamorous,
spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman.’

[Sidenote: _A gradely Lass_
           _The Parson’s Pig_]

A few words such as _canny_, _dour_, _pawky_, have gained a recognized
position in the standard speech, through having been introduced by
educated Scotchmen. Some of the meanings of _canny_ are expressed in
the adjective _gradely_, a word generally quoted as characteristic of
the Lancashire dialect, in the phrase _a gradely lass_. It belongs,
however, also to Cum. Wm. Yks. Chs. Stf. Der. Shr. In origin it is
a form of _graithly_, a Scandinavian word, O.N. _greiðligr_, ready,
prompt, and it can mean: (1) respectable, honest, (2) handsome,
comely, (3) friendly, kind, (4) clever, (5) having full possession of
one’s senses, (6) genuine, good, (7) considerable, big. A similarly
compact word in general dialect use throughout Scotland and England
is _jannock_, or _jonnock_; like _gradely_, also of Scandinavian
origin, cp. Norw. dial. _jamn_, even, level, of which _jannock_ is
apparently a derivative form. The commonest meaning is fair, honest,
straight-forward: Yü may trist she. I tellee ’er’s jonnick tü tha
back-bone (Dev.). Another attractive adjective in general dialect
use is _peart_, a delightful word, which positively sounds: brisk,
lively, spirited, cheerful, in good health, sharp, and intelligent.
It has nothing to do with _pert_ either in form or meaning. It is
used specially of persons just recovered from an illness, e.g. Pretty
peart again now--but it may also be used of animals and plants. We
may remark: Them onions look peart, in contemplating the onion-bed.
A common proverbial saying in Cheshire is: Poor and peart like the
parson’s pig, whereby hangs a tale. The proverb is traced back to
the days when the parson had to take some at least of his tithe in
kind, when the pig reserved for him was wont to be a small and thin
one, and consequently specially brisk and active compared with the
pigs that went to market. More obvious similes are: as peart as a lop
[flea]; as peart as a pyet [magpie]; as peart as a cock-robin; and
with a figurative touch: as peart as a spoon. Closely connected with
the literary _uncouth_, is the widespread dialect adjective _unkid_.
It looks at first sight like the poor relation from the country, clad
in rough rustic garb, but as a matter of fact it is historically a
perfectly correct form, cp. M.E. _unkid_, not made known, _-kid_ =
O.E. _cȳðed_, p.p. of _cȳðan_, to make known. Indeed our _uncouth_ is
less regularly developed in pronunciation. _Unkid_ may be found in all
the dialects in England and Ireland, meaning: (1) strange, unusual;
(2) untidy, e.g. The missis took a dill a paayns uv our Becca, but ’er
couldna larn ’er to be tidy. ’Er sims reg’lar unkid, ’er do (Wor.); (3)
uncanny, horrid; (4) lonely, depressed; (5) cross, sulky; (6) stormy;
(7) of the weather: close, sultry. Some of the terms for describing
persons of sullen, ill-tempered, or peevish dispositions are worth
quoting: e.g. cappernishious, crumpsy, frabby, glumpy--If he’s glumpy,
let him glump--muggaty, perjinkety, snippety. To address a cantankerous
person engaged in a quarrelsome discussion as ‘You nasty brabagious
creature’ must give the speaker a pleasant sense of having said the
right thing at the right moment.

[Sidenote: _An ugsome Sair_]

Other very expressive adjectives are: _dowly_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm.
Yks. Lan. Lin.), lonely, melancholy; of places: retired, lonesome, e.g.
A desput dowly, deeathly spot t’won [live] in, an old word found in
Middle English, cp. ‘He fell to þe ground All dowly, for dole, in a dede
swone,’ _Destruction of Troy_, c. 1400; _gaumless_ (Yks. Nhb. Wm. Lan.),
stupid, senseless, vacant, ignorant, without judgment, e.g. Well, if I
ever did see annyb’dy so gaumless! Seems as if yo’d noo notion o’ nowt,
cp. O.N. _gaumr_, heed, attention; _perky_, sharp, saucy, impudent, e.g.
Sabina’s Bill is perkier then ony uther lad as I iver clapt eyes on; I
sent him wo’d he wasn’t to mislest that theäre maggit nest e’ my
plantin’, an’ I gets wo’d back fra him as he’d consither it, bud if I’d
send him sixpence he was sewer he wodn’t; _skiddley_ (Som.), small,
diminutive, used generally with little, to intensify or to add contempt,
e.g. Her ax me nif I’d like vor to take ort; an’ I zaid, thanky mum,
s’I; an’ then if her didn bring me out a little skiddley bit o’ bird’n
cheese, ’bout ’nough to put in a rabin’s eye; _ugsome_ (Sc. n.Cy.),
frightful, horrible, a derivative of O.N. _ugga_, to fear, e.g. a
ghastly wound is: an ugsome sair, and a savage bull may be said to have
‘leuk’t at us varry ugsomely’; _wairsh_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Midl. Dev.),
tasteless, insipid, cp. ‘A kiss and a drink of water is but a wersh
disjune,’ Ramsay, _Proverbs_, 1737, and ‘werysshe as meate that is nat
well tastye, _mal savouré_’, Palsgrave, _Lesclarcissement de la langue
francoyse_, 1530; _wambly_ (Sc. Lan. Wil. Dev. Cor.), insecure,

[Sidenote: _T’onest Triuth_]

Some forceful adjectives have resulted from the simple addition of an
ordinary suffix to an ordinary standard English word, e.g. _dateless_
(Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lin.), stupified, foolish, disordered in mind,
having the faculties failing through age, insensible, as from a blow,
literally, without a date, unconscious of time; _deedy_ (Sc. Yks. Midl.
Hmp. Sus. Wil. Dor.), full of activity, industrious, painstaking,
earnest, e.g. a deedy body, a practical person, an industrious worker.
It was once a literary word, cp. ‘In a messenger sent is required ...
that he be speedy, that he be heedy, and, as we say, that he be deedy,’
Adams, _Lycanthropy_, 1615; _eyeable_ (Chs. n.Midl. Midl. Cor.),
pleasing to the eye, sightly, as the man who was selling ready-made
clothes in the market said of his stock-in-trade: There’s a many things
that’s eyeable, but isn’t tryable, or buyable, but theäse things is
eyeable, an’ tryable, an’ buyable an’ all; _hurryful_ (Shr.), quick,
hasty, hurried, e.g. It inna the ’urriful sort o’ folk as bringen the
most to pass, for they runnen about athout thar yed ŏŏth ’em; _easyful_
(w.Yks. Shr.), _knowful_ (Yks.), _yonderly_ (Lakel. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs.),
are good, homely substitutes for indolent, well-informed,
absent-minded, literary adjectives, which by comparison with the
dialect ones sound prosaic and harsh. Indeed, _yonderly_ in particular,
when applied to persons, is an untranslatable epithet, and yet one which
exactly describes certain types of mind. It can also convey a sense of
the pathetic, e.g.

    Then Nan lewkt at ma wi a lewk
    Soa yonderly an’ sad.--_Natterin’ Nan._

_Yonderish_ (Yks. Lan.), on the other hand, is not a friendly and gentle
term, it can be even abusive, when used in speaking to persons who think
themselves superior to other people, e.g. Theaw needsno’ be so
yonderish, theaw’rt nowt ’at’s owt [thou art nothing that is anything].
Very expressive too are some of the participial adjectives, such as:
_gaustering_ (Chs. War. Yks. Lan. Lei. Lin.), blustering, bumptious,
e.g. Sike a braungin’, gausterin’ taistrill [such a swaggering,
bumptious, good-for-nothing rascal]; _snazzling_ (Yks. of the wind or
weather), cold, biting, bleak; to lead a _threppoing, pungowing_ life
(Chs.) means the sort of life where it is hard to make both ends meet,
when one is puzzled how to get on, a hand to mouth sort of existence;
all _cottered_ into snocksnarls signifies in an entangled heap; a
_oondermoinded_ nassty trick is a nicely explicit phrase; so is the
sentence: I was so _cumpuffled_ I didn’t know what I was about;
_throssan-_, or _thrussen-up_ (Lakel. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.)--literally,
thrust-up--means conceited, forward. A Yorkshire woman, when on a visit
to her son in the South, was asked by a lady in rather a patronizing
manner, what she thought of South-country ladies. She replied: Wah, to
tel ye t’onist triuth, the’r nowt bud stuk-up thrussen-up things wi’
nowt mich abaht ’em, the’r all ahtside.

[Sidenote: _Natterin’ Nan_]

It is not easy to make a typical selection of what may be called
expressive words, partly because the choice is so very wide, and partly
because one is apt to exaggerate the merits of words which appeal
to one personally, and so one is not an impartial judge. There are
certain quaint dialect words which bring back to one’s mind the days
of one’s childhood, the old family nurse, or the gardener who reigned
supreme in the garden of long ago, and so for old sake’s sake these
words express more than meets the ear of a stranger. Here, however,
is a sample of verbs of various kinds: _brevit_ (gen. use in Midl.
counties), to search, ransack, &c., as in the following account of
a visit to the dentist: Soo the doctor, a lukes at my tooth a bit,
an’ begins a-brevetin’ abaout among his bench o’ tules, an’ a says,
tell ye what Joo, a says, yo’ mut grin an’ aboide this turn. Soo ah
says, ah cain’t grin if ye doon’t lave me noo tooshes, ah says. Soo a
says, Ah, but yo’ can Joo, a says, yo’ can grin o’ the wrong soide;
_cabobble_ (e.An. Cor.), to mystify, puzzle, confuse, e.g. You wholly
cabobble me; _chunner_ (Sc. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. War. Shr.), to grumble,
mutter, murmur. A clergyman, asking an infirm old woman how she was,
received as an answer: I goes on chunner, chunner, chunner. Whereupon
he proceeded to give her a homily showing how wrong it was to be
discontented, when he was stopped by the old woman: Bless you, Parson,
it’s not me that chunners, it’s my innards! _Fratch_ (n.counties),
to quarrel, dispute, as for example, when a loud noise of wrangling
voices is heard, some one may suggest that it is two women fratching,
or forty men fighting; _glox_ (Hmp. Wil.), of liquids: to roll about,
make a gurgling sound when shaken inside a vessel; _goggaz_ (Chs.), to
stare, e.g. What a’t tha goggazin’ at naï? Tha’s noo moor manners abaït
thee till if tha’d bin born in a wood; _guggle_ (various dialects),
to gurgle, make a bubbling sound, which looks at first sight like a
made-up word, but which was known to Cotgrave, and to Dr. Johnson,
who has: ‘To _Guggle_. v.n. [_gorgoliare_, Italian] To sound as water
running with intermissions out of a narrow mouthed vessel’; _gnatter_,
_natter_ (Sc. and n.counties), to grumble, complain, fret, e.g.
_Natterin’ Nan_, which is the title of the most famous of Ben Preston’s
dialect poems:

    Bud t’wahst o’ fouts [faults] at I’ve seen yet,
      I’ woman or i’ man,
    Is t’weary, naagin’, nengin’ turn
      At plaaged puir natterin’ Nan.

[Sidenote: _A local Dick_]

Cp. E. Fris. _gnattern_, murren, verdriesslich sein; _knacker_ (Glo.),
of the teeth: to chatter. A local preacher--such as is termed in
Yorkshire ‘a local Dick’--was once preaching a sermon on the Last Day,
in which he foretold the end of the sinners present in chapel: Every
limb of your bodies will shake like the leaves of an aspen tree, and
your teeth will knacker in your heads like frost-bitten mariners.
_Maffle_, _moffle_ (Chs. Nhp.), to spend recklessly, squander, waste
in trifles. In the accounts of a certain parish, where all the money
could not be accounted for, appeared this item: ‘To moffled away £40.’
_Maunder_ (gen. dial.), to talk idly and incoherently, to mumble;
_mopple_ (Yks.), to confuse, puzzle. At a cottage prayer-meeting a
Minister was, as it is called, ‘engaged’ in prayer, when he became
annoyed by one of those present, who continually broke in with
ejaculations such as: Glory! Amen! Yus! &c. Suddenly the Minister
stopped, tapped the disturber on the shoulder and said: Drop it, mun,
tha mopples me. _Moither_ (gen. dial.), to confuse, perplex, bewilder,
e.g. A wur that moithered, a didn’ knoo wheer a was to a wik [week].
Mary Lamb’s grandmother used to say to her: ‘Polly, what are those poor
crazy moythered brains of yours thinking of always?’ C. Lamb’s letter
to Coleridge, Oct. 17, 1796. _Nivel_ (Glo. Oxf.), to sneer, turn up the
nose in disdain. A small boy in a Sunday School class, reading about
David and Goliath, was asked what was meant by ‘disdained’ in ‘when
the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him’. Ans. He
nivelled at un. Cp. Fr. Norm. dial. _nifler_, flairer avec bruit, en
parlant d’un chien. _Scrawk_ (Yks. Not. Lin. Nhp.), to scratch, mark,
e.g. M’m, me scrawk th’ paaintins [painted woodwork of a room] M’m! I
know my wark better; _scrouge_ (var. dial.), to squeeze, press, crowd,
e.g. Now dwoan’t ’ee come a scrougin’ on I zo; _scrunge_ (n.Cy. Nhb.
Stf. Glo. Oxf. Hmp. I.W. Wil.), with the same meanings as _scrouge_,
e.g. We were that scrunged, we couldn’t move; _thrutch_ (Yks. Lan. Chs.
Der.), to crowd, squeeze, huddle together, O.E. _þryccan_, to press,
push. A proverbial saying applied to any one who has a great deal to
say about the conduct or characters of other people and is not above
suspicion himself, runs: Where there’s leeost reawm, there’s moast
thrutchin’. But the classical illustration of the use of this word
comes in the story of Noah and the ancestor of the Lancashire folk.
This gentleman was swimming about in the Flood, and meeting the Ark,
he called out to Noah to take him aboard, which the latter declined to
do, on the grounds of lack of space, adding by way of apology: We’re
thrutched up wi’ elephants. _Trapes_ (gen. dial.), to trudge, go on
foot, walk heavily or wearily, &c. An old woman on her death-bed was
asked to take a message to a previously deceased person, when she
retorted sharply: Di ya think ah sall he’ nowt ti deeah i’ heaven bud
gan trapsin’ aboot, latin’ [searching] for hor? _Yammer_ (Sc. Irel.
Nhb. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Lin. War.), to lament, cry aloud fretfully, O.E.
_gēomrian_, to mourn, complain.

[Sidenote: _All of a Goggle_]

A good descriptive word, which might well be adopted into the
standard speech, is _fantigue_ (gen. dial.). To be in _a fine
fantigue_ is to be in a state of fussy excitement, or a fit of ill
temper, usually without sufficient cause. Similarly, to be _all in a
confloption_ (e.An. Cor.) well conveys the idea of flurry, confusion;
to be _all in a scrow_ (n.Cy.) is specially used of that annually
recurrent state of domestic disorder known as spring-cleaning; to be
_all of a goggle_ (Glo. Hmp. I.W. Wil.) is to be trembling and shaking
all over; to be _all of a jother_ (Yks.) is a parallel phrase. A stout
old woman describing her first experience of a railway journey, said:
Ah’ll niver gan in yan o’ thae nasty vans nae mair. Ah trimmel’d and
dither’d while [until] ah wur all iv a jother. _All of a quob_ (Wil.
Cor.) means in a heap. A Cornish woman describing the way railway
porters take luggage out of a train said: They pitch it down all of
a quob. A preacher in a Lincolnshire chapel gave out as his text,
‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh.’ Just then a newly married couple
walked in, and the strangeness of the coincidence so upset the orator,
that he exclaimed: Mi brethren, I’m clean blutterbunged. To be _in a
wassle_ (Glo.) is to find oneself in a muddle, or fix, as the preacher
said when he got lost in his discourse: My friends, you must excuse
me, and sing a hymn, for I am in a regular wassle. To be gone _all to
skubmaw_ is to be in a state of wreckage, broken in pieces. A Cornish
minister is reported to have prayed: Lord! send down Thy mighty armour
from above, and scat all our stony hearts to skoobmah.

[Sidenote: _Appropriate-sounding Words_]

Then there are numerous appropriate-sounding terms such as: _fiz-gig_
(Yks. Der. Not. Lin. Nhp. War. I.W.), a disrespectful term for a girl or
woman fond of gadding about, cp. ‘_Trotière_, a raump, fisgig, fisking
huswife,’ Cotgr.; _pelrollock_ (Shr.), an ill-dressed, worn-out looking
woman; _scallibrat_ (Yks.), a passionate, noisy child, a young vixen;
_sledderkin_ (Cum.), a sauntering, slovenly person; _snapperdol_ (Lan.),
a gaily dressed woman. A simple onomatopoeic word for palpitation of the
heart is _glopping_ (Lei.); such too is _pash_ (n.counties), for a
downpour of rain, e.g. Hout, tout! What’s the gude of praying for
moderate rain and shooers? What we want is a gude even-doon pash! But
the name of this type of word is legion, and to illustrate it at all
adequately would require the scope of a dictionary.

[Sidenote: _Homespun Compounds_]

In the days of King Alfred, and of Ælfric, the Abbot of Eynsham,
literary English possessed numbers of good, home-grown, compound words,
which have since been lost, and replaced by some more learned or diffuse
substitute. People said then: _book-craft_ for literature; _star-craft_
for astronomy; _father-slayer_ for parricide; _deed-beginner_ for
perpetrator of crime; _together-speech_ for colloquy; _old-speech_ for
tradition; _well-willing_ for benevolent, O.E. _bōc-cræft_,
_tungol-cræft_, _fæder-slaga_, _dǣd-fruma_, _samod-sprǣc_,
_eald-sprǣc_, _welt-willende_. Sometimes again we have replaced the old
compound by a more concise but less picturesque synonym. For
_lore-house_ we say school; for _dim-house_, prison; for _again-coming_,
return, O.E. _lār-hūs_, _dim-hūs_, _eft-cyme_. In the spoken dialects we
have the natural development of a living tongue, practically untouched
by what are called the learned influences; hence, where in the literary
language we should use a word of Latin origin, we frequently find a
homespun compound used by dialect-speakers. We shall see in a later
chapter to what a large extent these compounds are figurative and
metaphorical; the few here quoted belong only to the simplest type:
_beet-need_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan.), a person or thing that helps in an
emergency, cp. O.E. _bētan_, to improve; _cap-river_, a termagant;
_cover-slut_ (Lei. Nhp. War. Shr.), a long apron used to hide an untidy
dress; _has-been_ (Sc. n.Cy. Lakel. Yks. Chs. Lin. War. Shr.), a person,
animal, or thing, formerly serviceable but now past its prime, as the
old Lincolnshire man said: It stan’s to reason at yung college-gentlemen
like you knaws a vast sight moore then a worn-oot hes-been like me, bud
you weänt better God Almighty an’ ten commandments e’ my time, an’ soä
I’ll just stick to ’em while I’m happ’d up [till I am buried];
_he-said_, or _he-say_ (Wm. w.Yks.), a rumour; _never-sweat_ (Yks. Rdn.
Oxf.), an idle lazy fellow; _rip-stitch_ (Lakel. Yks. Lan.), a romping
boisterous child, e.g. What a rip-stitch that lad is! If aw send him out
i’ th’mornin’ wi’ his things o’ reet an’ tidy, he’ll come back at neet
like a scarecrow; _rogues-agreed_ (Som.), confederates, e.g. They
purtend avore the justices how they ’adn never a-zeed wan t’other avore,
but lor! anybody could zee they was rogues-agreed; _good-doing_ (e.An.),
charitable; _penny-tight_ (Lin.), short of money; _uptake_ (Sc. n.Cy.
Nhb. Cum.), intelligence, comprehension, generally in the phrase _in_ or
_at the uptake_, e.g. He’s gleg i’ the uptak [quick in understanding].

[Sidenote: _Some fine shades of Meaning_]

Fine shades of meaning are often expressed in the dialects by some
slight variation in pronunciation which to our ears might sound purely
arbitrary or accidental, and also by the distinctive use of one or other
of two words which from a dictionary point of view are synonymous. For
example, _drodge_ and _drudge_ both mean a person who works hard, but
the difference is this: a _drudge_ is always kept working by a superior,
a _drodge_ is always working because she cannot get forward with her
work; the word _drodge_ implies blame, and _drudge_ none. _Geeble_ (_g_
soft), _gibble_ (_g_ soft), _jabble_ (Bnff.), signify a quantity of
liquid. The word _geeble_ contains the notion of contempt and
dissatisfaction. When there is a small quantity and greater contempt and
dissatisfaction indicated, _gibble_ is used, and when a larger quantity,
_jabble_ is used. _Muxy_ and _puxy_ (Som.) mean miry, but a _muxy_ lane
would be merely a muddy lane, whereas a _puxy_ lane would be at least
ankle-deep in mud; _steal_ and _slance_ (Lan. Chs.) mean thieve. A boy
may take a piece of pie from his mother’s larder, and he will have
_slanst_ it, but if he did the same thing from his neighbour’s place he
would have _stolen_ it. Words like this would never be confused by
people accustomed to use them in everyday life.



[Sidenote: _Difficulties of the Vernacular_]

Our difficulty in understanding the vernacular of a dialect-speaker
arises in great measure from the fact that many of the sounds being
unfamiliar to us, we cannot tell which syllable belongs to which word,
and so we cannot rightly divide up the sentence into its component
parts. This would of course be much more easily done if we could at once
write down on paper what we have heard, and then stake it off in
sections, like the cryptic word which the Kentish woman wrote to the
village schoolmaster, to explain the absence of her boy from school:
keptatometugoataturin, which became quite clear when divided up thus:
kept-at-ome-tu-go-a-taturin, that is, kept at home to go
a-harvesting-potatoes. For instance, what sounds like _oogerum_ (Yks.)
stands for a whole sentence: _hug her them_, that is, carry them for
her. The sentence always quoted as the classic puzzle of this type is:
_ezonionye-onionye_, which being interpreted means: have any of you any
on you? Another catch specimen of Yorkshire dialect is _t’weet maks’m
pike’m_, the wet makes them pick themselves, used of fowls cleaning
themselves after rain. Then further, many of the commonest words have by
the unhindered action of the laws of living speech become so worn down,
that we hardly recognize them in this their dialect form, though we are
using them every day ourselves in the standard language. Take for
example such a sentence as: I shall have it in the morning, which has
been pared down to: as-et-it-morn (Yks.). Our forefathers a thousand
years ago would have said: _Ic sceal hit habban on ðǣm morgne_, every
single word of which remains firm and intelligible in its skeleton shape
of: as [I shall]-et [have it]-it [in the]-morn. Add to this an enormous
vocabulary of words non-existent in literary English, it is no wonder if
sometimes the accents of a country rustic sound in our ears like an
unknown tongue. A story is told of a Yorkshireman who went into a store
of general wares in London and asked: What diz ta keep here? Ans. Oh,
everything. Yorkshireman: Ah deean’t think thoo diz. Hesta onny coo-tah
nobs [pieces of wood that secure the tie for the legs of cows when being
milked]?--a question which reduced the cockney salesman to a state of
helpless amazement.

[Sidenote: _Specimens from various Dialects_
           _Dialect in the Witness-box_
           _Dialect in the Sunday School_]

But to illustrate more fully what has been stated above, I will here
give some specimens culled promiscuously from various dialects: cost
dibble tates? (Chs.), can you set potatoes; hoore’s his heeaf-hod?
(n.Yks.), where is his home?; hod thi clack (e.Yks.), be silent; till
the want-snap (Som.), set the mole-trap; t’deear beeals oot on t’jimmer
(Yks.), the door creaks on the hinge; us lads wur shollin’ doon a stie
(n.Yks.), we boys were sliding down a ladder; what have you got there?
Ans. Nobbut a whiskettle o’ wick snigs (Chs.), only a basketful of live
eels; t’titter oop t’sprunt mun ower a bit (n.Yks.), the one soonest up
the hill must wait awhile; thoo mun think ma on ti remmon it (Yks.),
you must remind me to remove it; tak the sharevil an’ the kipe, an’ goo
an’ get up some o’ them frum tatoes out o’ the slang (Shr.), take the
garden fork and the wicker measure, and go and get up some of those
early potatoes out of the narrow strip of ground; whot ail’th’n? Aw,
they zeth he’th got a pinswill in ’is niddick (Dev.), a boil on the
back of his neck; gan through the yet, an swin the field wi’the beass
in’t (Nhb.), go through the gate and traverse diagonally the field with
the cattle in it; you needna be afeard o’ gweïn through the leasow,
they’n mogged the cow as ’iled poor owd Betty Mathus (Shr.), you need
not be afraid of going through the meadow, they have moved to another
pasture the cow that gored poor old Betty Matthews; they war fearful
fain to pike amang t’shrogs some shoups, bummelkites, and hindberries
(w.Yks.), they were very glad to glean among the bushes some dog-rose
hips, blackberries, and wild raspberries; an’ the leet windle ne’er
blubbereth or weeneth, but look’th pithest and sif’th (Dev.), and the
little delicate child never cries or whimpers, but looks piteous and
sighs; ae’s pinikin, palchy, an’ totelin, ae’s clicky an’ cloppy, an’
a kiddles an’ quaddles oal day (Cor.), he is ailing, delicate, and
imbecile from old age, he is left-handed and lame, and he potters about
and grumbles all day; shoe maddles an taums ower in a sweb (w.Yks.),
she talks incoherently, and from weakness falls down in a swoon; she
shruk so wonnerful that I fared hully stammed (Ess.), she shrieked so
strangely, that I was wholly overcome with amazement; it’s a soamy
neet, ah’s ommast mafted (Yks.), it’s an oppressive night, I am almost
overpowered by the great heat; when t’ bent’s snod, hask, cranchin an’
slaap, it’s a strang sign of a pash (w.Yks.), when the coarse moorland
grass is smooth, brittle, crackling under the foot and slippery, it’s a
strong sign of a sudden downpour of rain; it snew, an’ it stoured, an’
it warn’t while efter dark at ah wossel’d thruff an’ wan yamm (n.Yks.),
it snowed, and the wind was driving the snow in gusts, and it was not
till after dark that I had battled through and reached home; does it
ever rain here? Ans. Why, it donks an’ dozzles an’ does, an’ sumtimes
gi’s a bit of a snifter, but it never cums iv any girt pell (Cum.), it
drizzles and rains slightly, and is misty, and sometimes there is a
slight shower, but it never comes with any great downpour of rain; a
cam doon wee a dousht an’ a pardoos, an sair did it rackle up ma banes,
it wiz nae jeesty job (Bnff.), I fell with a sudden fall, striking the
ground with great violence, and sorely did it shake my bones, it was
no jesting matter; hee’s waxen a gay leathe-wake, fendible, whelkin,
haspenald-tike (Yks.), he has grown a fine supple, hard-working, big,
youth; I is to gie notidge at Joanie Pickergill yeats yown t’neet,
t’moorn at moorn, an’ t’moorn at neet, an’ neea langer as lang’s storm
hods, cause he c’n get na mair eldin (n.Yks.), I am to give notice that
J. P. heats his oven to-night, and to-morrow, morning and night, and
no longer as long as the snow lasts, because he can get no more fuel;
tendar! tendar! [guard] stop the injun, left ma boondle on the planchen
[platform] (Cor.). An old man having an order for some gravel was
asked whether it was ready. He replied: Naw, Sur, but we’ve a got un
in coose, we must buck [break] et, an’ cob [bruise into small pieces]
et, an’ spal [break into yet smaller pieces] et, an’ griddle [riddle]
et twice, an’ then et’ll be fitty (Cor.). A Cornish girl applying for
a housemaid’s situation was asked: What can you do? Ans. I can louster
and fouster, but I caan’t tiddly; I can do the heavy work, and work
hard at it, but I can’t do the lighter housework. Sometimes a request
for an interpretation of mysterious words only draws forth more of the
same nature, for instance: Mester, that back kitchen’s welly snying
[swarming] wi’ twitch-clogs. What do you mean by twitch-clogs, Mary?
Whoi, black-jacks (Chs.). But ‘Mester’ was still in blissful ignorance
of the presence of black-beetles in his back kitchen. The following
conversation is reported from Somersetshire: I wish you would tell me
where you get your rennet. Why, I buys a vell and zalts’n in. A vell!
whatever is that? Don’ee know hot a vell is? Why a pook, be sure! Dear
me, I never heard of that either; what can it be? Zome vokes call’n
a mugget. I really cannot understand you. Lor, mum! wherever was you
a-brought up to? Well, to be sure! I s’pose you’ve a-zeed a calve by
your time? Of course I know that. Well then, th’ urnet’s a-tookt out
of the vell o’ un. Some one who had never heard the word _gouty_ as
used in Cheshire to mean wet, spongy, boggy, asked: What is a gouty
place? Ans. A wobby place. What’s a wobby place? A mizzick. What’s a
mizzick? A murgin. A judge at the Exeter assizes asked a witness: What
did you see? Witness: A did’n zee nort vur the pillem. Judge: What’s
pillem? Witness: Not knaw what’s pillem? Why, pillem be mux a-drowed.
Judge: Mux! What’s mux? Witness: Why mux be pillem a-wat [mud is wet
dust]. An assault case came before a magistrate in a Yorkshire Police
Court. Magistrate--to plaintiff: Well, my good woman, what did she do?
Plaintiff: Deeah? Why, sha clooted mi heead, rove mi cap, lugged mi
hair, dhragged ma doon, an’ buncht ma when ah was doon. Magistrate--to
clerk: What did she say? Clerk (slowly and decisively): She says the
defendant clooted her heead, rove her cap, lugged her hair, dhragged
her doon, an’ buncht her when sha was doon. Sometimes the inability
to comprehend is on the side of the country rustic. At a school in
Wensleydale a South-country inspector, examining a class on the Bible,
said: Neow tell me something abeout Mouses. Cats kill ’em, was the
prompt rejoinder. A lady reading _Exodus_ ix. 3, ‘There shall be a
very grievous murrain,’ to a Sunday School class of Cornish children,
was puzzled by the seemingly irrelevant comment made by one of her
scholars: Ants is awful things, aint ’em? Afterwards she discovered
that an ant in Cornwall is called a _muryan_. A similar story comes
from Sussex. A lady who had been giving a lesson on Pharaoh’s dreams
was startled to find that all the boys supposed that the fat and lean
kine were weasels. In Surrey, Kent, and Sussex a weasel is called a
_kine_, or _keen_. An old labourer reading the _Book of Genesis_ came
to this verse: ‘And Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet
alive: I will go and see him before I die’ (chap. xlv. 28). There’s a
hatch zomewhere in this story, vor however could wold Jacob zee hes
zon Joseph if hee’d ben yet alive? If he’d ben _yet_ up alive, or
dead, how could there be any of ’en left vor his father to zee? That’s
what I wants to know (I.W.). It must have been a more highly educated
person who understood the coroner’s question: Did you take any steps to
resuscitate the deceased? Ans. Yes, sor, we riped [rifled] ’ees pockets
(Nhb.). An old woman once asked a neighbour the meaning of the word
Jubilee. Ans. Why, ’tes like this, if yiew an’ yieur auld man ’ave ben
marrid fifty years, ’tes a Golden Wedden’, but if the Lord ’ave took
un, ’tes a Jewbilee. A local preacher expounding the Bible to a rural
congregation in North Yorkshire told his hearers that the ‘ram caught
in a thicket’, _Genesis_ xxii. 13, meant: an aud teeap cowt iv a brier.

[Sidenote: _The Dame’s School_]

The quaintly-worded command, Ye mun begin an’ aikle nai (Chs.), has
more significance than meets the eye of those who read it now, for it
records a faint echo from the times of that ancient institution once
common to every village, but now obsolete, namely, the Dame’s School,
the theme of Shenstone’s poem, _The School-Mistress_ (1742), wherein
he sought to imitate the ‘peculiar tenderness of sentiment remarkable
throughout’ the works of Spenser:

    In ev’ry village mark’d with little spire,
    Embow’r’d in trees, and hardly known to fame,
    There dwells, in lowly shed, and mean attire,
    A matron old, whom we school-mistress name;
    Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame.

The ‘Ye mun begin an’ aikle nai’ [you must begin and get dressed for
going now] was the signal given by an old dame who kept a school near
Wrenbury to her ‘little bench of heedless bishops’ that lessons were
over for the day.

    But now Dan Phoebus gains the middle skie,
    And liberty unbars her prison-door;
    And like a rushing torrent out they fly,
    And now the grassy cirque han cover’d o’er
    With boist’rous revel-rout and wild uproar.

[Sidenote:_An old Village Dame_]

Shenstone’s old dame kept a ‘birchen tree’ from which she cut her
‘scepter’; he does not mention the other weapon of torture wielded by
these female tyrants, which was the thimble. The poor children were
rapped on the head with a thimbled finger, and the operation was known
as _thimble-pie_ making. The old dame that I remember, who must have
been one of the last of all her race, was of milder mood than these.
Her name was Mrs. Price, and she dwelt in a remote and picturesque
corner of Herefordshire called Tedstone Delamere. I cannot call it a
village, or even a hamlet, for the houses were so very few and far
between. Mrs. Price’s scholars were mere baby creatures, old enough to
run about and get into mischief, or court danger, and yet too young to
be sent to the parish school with their bigger brothers and sisters. So
busy mothers were glad to pay a trifling sum to have these little ones
tended by a motherly old widow-woman for a few hours every morning. But
the time came when age and infirmity debarred her from even this light
task, and her cottage no longer resounded with those noises which ‘Do
learning’s little tenement betray’. I found her one day sitting all
alone with an open Bible on the table beside her, and her spectacles
lying idle in her lap. She looked tired and dispirited, and said her
eyes were so bad that she had been obliged to stop reading, and sit
doing nothing. Naturally I offered to read aloud to her awhile, and I
inquired what had been engaging her attention. ‘Oh,’ said she, ‘I’d
just got to where the frogs came up upon Pharaoh.’ I took the book, and
read on and on, for each time I came to ‘the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s
heart’, the aged Mrs. Price evinced such satisfaction over the prospect
of yet another Plague, that I had not the heart to cut a long story
short. At last when Pharaoh had finally bidden the Israelites ‘be
gone’, I closed the Bible, and as I did so, the old lady exclaimed,
‘Ain’t that nice readin’!’ One would not have thought that the history
of the seven Plagues of Egypt was exactly the portion of Scripture best
fitted to cheer and comfort a lone and feeble old woman. Perhaps it
stirred old fires in her blood, rekindling memories of the days when
children deemed her ‘the greatest wight on ground’, when she held the
reins of power, distributing rewards and punishments as the honoured
head of a Dame’s School.



If we are to avoid on the one hand the danger of regarding a dialect
as nothing better than a wilful perversion of standard English, we
yet must not allow ourselves to be beguiled by the smooth-running
course of true sound-laws, or the rural charm of quaint words, into
the opposite error of supposing that irregularities and distortions do
not exist. There are in the dialects numbers of words which can only
be regarded as corruptions and mispronunciations of literary English,
but considered relatively to the whole vocabulary the proportion of
them is very small. Many even of the most obvious are not without a
certain interest as examples of popular etymology, or of practical
word-formation, as, for instance, when smother and suffocate are
blended into the useful word _smothercate_ (Not.), or bold and
audacious into _boldacious_ (Der. Cor.). Some apparent corruptions are
in reality old forms which can be found in the literary language in the
earlier stages of its existence. For example: _abuseful_ (Yks. Lin.
War. Shr. Hrf. Glo.) for abusive is not uncommon in seventeenth-century
literature, though it must have died out later, as it is not noted
by lexicographers such as Bailey and Johnson. The word _fancical_
(gen. dial.) for fanciful occurs in 1676 in a work entitled _Musick’s
Monument_, by Mace. _Druggister_ (Yks. Lin. Pem. e.An. Som. Cor.)
for druggist is registered in Sherwood’s _Dictionary_ (1672), ‘A
druggister, _drogueur_.’

Or again, the dialect form may not be directly taken from the
standard language, but may be traced back through some other linguistic
channel which has influenced its development, e.g. _angish_ (Irel.)
is not a mispronunciation of anguish, but it is developed from the
Gaelic form _aingis_. _Squinacy_ (Sc. Irel.), and _squinancy_ in the
compound _squinancy-berry_ (Cum. Lan. Ess.), the black currant, are not
corruptions of quinsy, but are from O.French _squinancie_, quinsy. But
I shall reserve the treatment of historical forms such as these for a
later chapter.

[Sidenote: _Latin Phrases taken into the Dialects_]

A few Latin phrases have made their way into the dialects, where they
have assumed curious forms and meanings. For example: _hizy-prizy_ (Nhb.
Yks. Chs. Der. Som. Dev.), a corruption of _Nisi prius_, a law-term. It
is used to signify any kind of chicanery or sharp practice, or, used as
an adjective, it means litigious, tricky; and in the phrase _to be at
hizy-prizy_, it means to be quarrelsome, disagreeable. The plural form
_momenty-morries_ (Nhb.), skeletons, stands for _memento mori_, remember
that thou must die, the name given to a small decorative object
containing a skeleton or other emblem of death, cp. ‘I make as good use
of it as many a man doth of a Death’s-head or a memento mori,’ _1 Hen.
IV_, III. iii. 35. The Latin _nolens volens_ appears as _nolus-bolus_
(Wil.), _nolum-wolum_ (Wil. Dev.), _hoylens-voylens_, _oilins-boilins_
(Cum.). A mother sending off an unwilling child to school will say:
Oilins-boilins, but thee shall go. _Nominy_ (Nhb. Dur. Yks. Lan. Chs.
Der. Nhp.) represents the Latin _nomine_ in the formula _In Nomine
Patris_, &c., the invocation used by the preacher before the sermon. It
means: (1) a rigmarole, a long rambling tale, a wordy, tiresome speech;
(2) a rhyming formula or folk-rhyme. A knitting nominy used by girls in
Northamptonshire is as follows:

    Needle to needle, and stitch to stitch,
    Pull the old woman out of the ditch.
    If you ain’t out by the time I’m in,
    I’ll rap your knuckles with my knitting-pin.

_Paddy-noddy_, or _Parinody_ (Yks. Lin.), a long tedious rigmarole, a
cock and bull story, is a corruption of _Pater noster_. The form
_non-plush_ (many dials.), a nonplus, dilemma, surprise, usually occurs
in the phrase: _at_, or _on a non-plush_, e.g. I was taken all on a
non-plutch. _Vady_ (Sus. Dev.) is a shortened form of _vade mecum_, used
to denote a small leather cylinder, containing change of raiment, and
other small comforts of the traveller.

The French _rendezvous_ appears as _randivoo_, _randivoose_
(Dev. Cor.), _randybow_ (Nhb. Chs. Dev.), _rangevouge_ (Cor.), meaning
a noise, an uproar, but the literary sense remains in the verb
_rumsey-voosey_ (Wil.), e.g. He went a rumsey-voosing down the lane to
meet his sweetheart.

[Sidenote: _Corruptions and Mispronunciations_]

_Jommetry_ is interesting for the sake of its meaning. It is used in
Gloucestershire in the sense of magic; anything supported in a
mysterious and unknown manner might be said to hang _by jommetry_; the
phrase _all of a jommetry_ means in pieces or tatters. _Lattiprack_
(Wil.) for paralytic is a strange distortion. _Hapsherrapsher_ (Cum.
Lakel.) for haphazard is equally unreasonable, but agreeable withal.
Forms like _solintary_ (Nrf.) for solitary, _skelington_ or _skelinton_
(Yks. Lan. Stf. War. Wor. Shr. Glo. w.Cy. Dor.) for skeleton, have
acquired an intrusive _n_ in common with many words in the literary
language, as messenger, scavenger, &c. _Skelet_ (Sc. Lin. Cor.) is not a
corruption, but a pure French form, cp. ‘_Scelete_, a skeleton,’
Cotgrave. Pronunciations such as: _chimbly_ (var. dials.) for chimney;
_singify_ (Yks. Lan. Der. Brks. e.An. Hmp. I.W.) for signify; _synnable_
(Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Shr. Suf. Ken.) for syllable; _ulster_ (Cor.) for
ulcer; _pumptial_ (Not. Rut. Lei. Shr. Som.) for punctual; _turmit_ or
_turmut_ (gen. dial.) for turnip, can all be accounted for phonetically.
_Hantle_ (Sc. Irel. and n. counties to War. Wor. Shr.) is a perfectly
legitimate contraction of handful, but besides the ordinary meaning, it
can also denote a large quantity. A story is told of a Scotch minister
who alluded in his sermon to the fact that a number of his flock had
joined the Baptists, thus: I thocht till ha’e gethered ye under my
wings, as a hen gethereth her chickens, but a hantle o’ ye ha’e turn’t
oot to be deuks, an’ ta’en to the water.

[Sidenote: _A ‘nice Derangement of Epitaphs’_]

Occasionally one literary word is mistaken for another, and adopted
in its place, as, for instance, _information_ (Lin. Sus. Som. Dev.)
used for inflammation; _sentiment_ (Lin. Nrf.) for sediment. A farmer
having been asked if he would clean out a pond, replied: No, sir, I
can’t undertake the job; there’s a sight of sentiment in that there
pit. _Profligate_ (Shr. Dev.) for prolific is a surprising change of
adjective, especially when applied to the guileless and innocent. I
remember my old nurse, when she took to minding chickens because we had
outgrown the need of her daily ministrations, telling me that she had
collected a ‘sitting’ of a certain kind of eggs, because she thought it
would produce ‘a profligate hatch’. This is paralleled by the use of
_reprobate_ for probationer. The Vicar’s daughter asked a young girl
if she had joined the parochial Guild. The reply was: Oh, yes, Miss!
Last week I were took in as a reprobate (Lin.). A youth writing home
from Canada to his father the village blacksmith, in describing the
Coronation festivities in the city where he dwelt, wrote: The soldiers
fired three volumes. A rheumatic old woman, who had been taken with
several others for an excursion on a very hot day, said to me: Have you
heard what a very nice exertion we had yesterday? Quite recently too,
I was told of a man who had been ‘crossed in love’ in his youth, that
he had been a woman-atheist ever since. One is constantly reminded of
Mrs. Malaprop and her ‘nice derangement of epitaphs’. _Unction_ (Sc.)
for auction, with its derivative unctioneer, is probably a phonetic
change; and the same may be said of _ivory_ (Irel. Not. Lin. Rut. Hrt.
e.An.) for ivy. The use of _persecute_ for prosecute may be merely
the result of confusion of prefixes, as in: discommode, dismolish,
mislest, perdigious, preverse. The use of the native prefix _un-_ where
the standard language has _im-_, _in-_, &c., is very frequent. For
instance, _unpossible_ occurs in all the dialects in Scotland, Ireland,
and England. Other examples are: undecent (many dials.), unlegal
(Yks. Midl. War. Hrf.), unregular (many dials.), unsensible (Sc. Dur.
Yks. War. Sur.), unpatient (Sc. Dur. Lan.), unpeaceable (Yks. Som.),
unperfect (n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Som.), unpassable (Sc. Yks. Som.). The three
last were once good literary forms, and may be found with quotations
from learned authors in Johnson’s _Dictionary_. Beside _unconvenient_
there exists in many dialects the useful compound _ill-convenient_.
_Unhonest_ for dishonest, though now a dialect form, occurs in
literature of the sixteenth century.

[Sidenote: _Curious Prefixes and Suffixes_]

Sometimes the prefix _un-_ is a superfluous addition, as in:
_unbeneath_ (n.Yks.), beneath; _unempt_ (Nhp. Hrf. Oxf. Bdf. Wil.), to
empty; _ungive_ (Lan. Chs. Lei. Nhp. Bdf. Hnt.), to relax, give way,
thaw, though this last form has the support of early literary evidence.
But on the other hand, _un-_ is used in the formation of practical
native words, for which the standard language substitutes words of
foreign extraction, for example: _uncome_ (Sc. Wm. Yks. Lan. Lin.),
not arrived; _unfain_ (Sc. Yks.), reluctant; _unhandy_ (Pem. Glo. Ken.
Dor.), incapable; _unfriend_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks. Not. Hrf. Dev.), an enemy.
_Ungone_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Lin.), not gone, not sent, is merely making
one simple word out of two, with no gain in meaning, but ‘he’s just
ungone’, for ‘he is at the point of death’, rises almost into poetic
simplicity. In the hybrid form _unheeastie_ (n.Yks.), indolent, we have
an old word which recalls the ‘lowly asse’ of Spenser’s Una:

    One day, nigh wearie of the yrkesome way,
    From her unhastie beast she did alight,
    And on the grasse her dainty limbs did lay
    In secret shadow, far from all mens sight.
                                               (_F.Q._ I. iii.)

It would be easy to collect together a large number of words with
curiously assorted suffixes, and many of these words are decidedly
effective. To quote a few examples: _affordance_ (Cum.), ability to meet
expense; _abundation_ (Chs. Shr. Stf. Wor. Hrf. Glo.), abundance;
_blusteration_ (Cum. Lin.), the act of blustering; _prosperation_ (Yks.
Chs. Shr.), prosperity, as used in the old toast at public dinners,
Prosperation to the Corporation; _comparishment_ (Irel.), comparison;
_timeous_ (Sc. Irel.), timely; _timmersome_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel.
Eng.), timorous; _unnaturable_ (Yks. Lan. Lin. Nhp.), unnatural.
Corruptions not infrequently are due to the blending of one word with
another; for instance, _champeron_ (Oxf. Brks.) is a contamination of
champignon and mushroom, M.E. _muscheron_, Fr. _mousseron_; _jococious_
(n.Cy. Yks. Ess.) is a compound of jocose and facetious; _obsteer_
(Lin.), sulky, awkward, is an amalgamation of obstinate and austere;
_tremense_ (Ken.) embraces both tremendous and immense; _thribble_ (Sc.
Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Der. Not. Lei. War. Wor. Ess. Ken.) is treble under
the influence of three; _boldrumptious_ (Ken.) is the magnificent
product of bold, and rumpus, and presumptuous, and its meaning may be
gathered from such a sentence as: that there upstandin’, boldrumptious,
blowsing gal of yours came blarin’ down to our house. _Battle-twig_
(Yks. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Lei. Nhp.), an earwig, is a corruption of
beetle + earwig, contaminated with battle + twig.

[Sidenote: _Corruptions due to popular Etymology_
           _Corruptions due to Sound Change_]

Closely akin to these are the corruptions due to what is called popular
etymology, where an unfamiliar word or syllable becomes converted into
a familiar one. Occasionally it is possible to trace some association
of meaning to account for the change in pronunciation, as when
week-days becomes _wicked-days_ (w.Cy. Som.), probably with an idea of
contra-distinction to Sundays and Holy Days. _Illify_ (Lakel. Cum. Yks.
Lan. Stf. Lin.) for vilify explains itself. The common example given
to illustrate this change is the standard English word belfry. Dr.
Johnson states the case thus: ‘_Belfry._ n.s. [_Beffroy_, in French,
is a tower; which was perhaps the true word, till those, who knew not
its original, corrupted it to _belfry_, because bells were in it].’
One is tempted to suggest that _madancholy_ (Yks. Lan.) for melancholy
started life as a descriptive term for victims of melancholia, but
unfortunately there is the fact that just in those districts where the
word occurs, _mad_ does not mean insane, but annoyed, angry, and the
suggestion is shown to be absurd. _Madancholy_ must therefore rank with
the great majority of corruptions due to sound-change, typified by the
hackneyed form _sparrow-grass_ for asparagus. Jerusalem artichoke for
_girasole_ artichoke is recognized as standard English, so also is
gooseberry. Dr. Johnson has: ‘_Gooseberry._ n.s. [_goose_ and _berry_,
because eaten with young geese as sauce].’ Modern philologists,
however, scorn this simple solution, and referring us to a French
original, they say gooseberry is a corruption of *groise-berry, or
*grose-berry. In Marshall’s _Rural Economy of Yorkshire_ (1796) we
find the form grossberry, and this gross- is the same as the element
gros-in French _groseille_, a gooseberry. The Scotch form is _groset_.
The pronunciation _cowcumber_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. Eng.)
for cucumber was early recognized as corrupt. A paragraph in a book
called _The English Physitian Enlarged_ (seventeenth century) is
entitled: ‘Cucumers, or (according to the pronuntiation of the Vulgar)
cowcumbers.’ Other examples from various dialects are: _ash-falt_ for
asphalt; _brown-kitus_, _brown-titus_, _brown-typhus_ for bronchitis;
_chiny oysters_ (Wil.) for China asters; _Polly Andrews_ (Glo. Wil.)
for polyanthus; _rosydendrum_ (Chs.) for rhododendron; _curly-flower_
(Lin.) for cauliflower; _fair-maid_ (Cor.) for fumade, fumadoe, a cured
(formerly smoked) pilchard, Sp. _fumado_, smoked; _hairy-sipples_ for
erysipelas; the _janders_ (many dials.) for jaundice; _a-kingbow_,
_king-bow_ (Som.), for akimbo; _pockmanteau_ (Sc. Nhb. Lin.) for
portmanteau, but the substitution of _pock-_ for port-is probably
due to association of meaning with _pock_, a bag, sack, or wallet;
_airy-mouse_, _hairy-mouse_, _raw-mouse_ (Hmp. I.W. Wil.), _rye-mouse_
(Glo. Wil.), for rear-mouse, the bat, O.E. _hrēre-mūs_; _screwmatic_
(War. Nrf.) for rheumatic; _tooth-and-egg_ (Nhb. Lan. Der. Not. Lin.)
for tutenag, an alloy of copper, zinc, and nickel. Years ago--years and
years and donkey’s ears, as the saying is--when motor-cars were yet
unborn, and when even tram-cars were unknown to country children, I can
remember my father trying to explain to the little carol-singers at
Christmastime, that they had introduced a corrupt reading into the text
of their carol, when they sang:

    The moon and the stars
    Stopped their fiery ears,
    And listened while Gabriel spoke.

[Sidenote: _‘The rustic Etymologer_]

Now and then we meet with a deliberate attempt on the part of dialect
speakers themselves to explain the mysteries of word-derivation. The
writer of a book entitled _The Folk and their Word-Lore_ tells of ‘the
rustic etymologer’ who explained that the reason why partridges are so
called is ‘because ... they love to lie between the furrows of ploughed
land, and so _part_ the _ridges_’. Further, he tells us that: ‘a
cottager lamenting that one of a litter of puppies had a hare-lip
(divided like that of the hare), or, as she pronounced it, _air-lip_,
explained that it was so called because it admitted the air through the
cleft, which prevented the little creature sucking properly.’ But these
are not the folk who are responsible for the absurd popular etymology
which associates the modern colloquial and slang use of the word _lark_
with the O.E. _lāc_ sb., joyous activity, sport, _lācan_ vb., to play,
and with the dialect _lake_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der.
Not. Lin. Glo.), to play, sport, amuse oneself. This error is the
invention of non-philological people who speak standard English. It
could not have been propounded by any one who uses the word _lake_, nor
by any one who understands English philology. O.E. _lācan_ would have
given in standard English, and in most of the above-mentioned dialects,
a form _loke_, and under no circumstances could it have acquired the
_r_. Apparently _to lark_ is a verb made from the substantive _lark_,
the bird. O.E. _lācan_ has died out, but its Scandinavian cognate O.N.
_leika_, to play, sport, remains in the dialect form _lake_.

For mere distortion and mispronunciation a good illustration is the
variety of dialect shapes which the word breakfast assumes, such as:
_bracksus_, _brecksus_, _brockwist_, _buckwhist_, &c. A remark often
heard in Ireland is: Well, I have the price av me supper now, an’ God is
good for the brukwust. _Dacious_ (Lin. Som.), impudent, rude, is an
aphetic form of audacious, e.g. Of all th’daacious lads I iver seed oor
Sarah’s Bill’s th’daaciousest. _Demic_ (Yks. Not. Lin.), the
potato-disease, is an aphetic form of epidemic; similarly _pisle_
(Yks.), a narration of any kind, is an aphetic form of epistle.
_Obstropolous_, a corruption of obstreperous, and _obligate_ for oblige,
are in general dialect use in Scotland, Ireland, and England.



The linguistic importance of the dialect-vocabulary for the study of
our English language and literature in its earlier periods cannot be
over-estimated, for herein is preserved a wealth of historical words
familiar to us in our older literature, but lost to our standard
speech. Numbers of words used by Chaucer and the early Middle English
poets, by Shakespeare, and by the translators of the Bible, which are
now treated as archaisms to be explained in footnotes and appendices
to the text, still live and move and have their being among our rural
population to-day. Take for illustration this line from the Middle
English alliterative poem, _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_ (l. 2003):

    Þe snawe snitered ful snart, þat snayped þe wylde.

[Sidenote: _‘Attercop’ and ‘Bairn’_]

The three principal words have disappeared from the literary language,
and to give an exact rendering of these two brief sentences we should
have to paraphrase them something like this: The snow, full keenly
cold, blew on the biting blast, which pinched the deer with frost. But
if we turn to the dialects, there we find all three: _snitter_ (Sh.I.
Yks.), to snow, sb. a biting blast; _snar_, _snarry_ (Cum. Yks.), cold,
piercing; _snape_ (n.Cy. Dur. Lakel. Cum. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der. Lin.
War. Shr.), to check, restrain, &c. The difference between _snart_
and _snar_ is accounted for by the fact that it is a Norse word. An
adjective in Norse takes a _t_ in the neuter, and this _t_ not being
recognized on these shores as an inflexional ending was sometimes
adopted into English as if it belonged to the stem of the word, as for
example in the literary words scant, want, athwart, cp. Icel. _snarr_,
swift, keen, neut. _snart_. Many a delightful old word which ran away
from a public career a century or two ago, and left no address, may
thus be discovered in its country retreat, hale and hearty yet, though
hoary with age. It is hard to make a choice among so many, especially
where the chosen must be few, but the following may perhaps serve as
representatives of the remainder: _attercop_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Wm.
Yks. Lan. Chs. Wil.), a spider. This was in Old English _attorcoppe_,
a spider, from _ātor_, _attor_, poison, and _coppe_, which probably
means head, the old idea being that spiders were poisonous insects.
In the M.E. poem _The Owl and the Nightingale_ (_c._ 1225), the owl
taunts the nightingale with eating ‘nothing but attercops, and foul
flies, and worms’. Wyclif (1382) has: ‘The eiren [eggs] of edderes thei
tobreeken, and the webbis of an attercop thei wouen,’ _Isaiah_ lix.
5. _Bairn_ or _barn_ (Sc. Irel. and all the n. counties to Chs. Der.
Lin.), a child, O.E. _bearn_, a child, a son or daughter, M.E. _barn_
or _bern_. Owing to its use among educated Scotch people, this word
has gained some footing in our colloquial speech, and it has always
had a place in poetical diction, but its real stronghold is Scotland
and the North. Perhaps no other word breathes such a spirit of human
love and tenderness as this does. How infinitely superior is _the
barns_ to our commonplace the kids; or _a bit bairn_, or _bairnie_ to
that objectionable term a kiddie! _Pillow-bere_ (Irel. n.Cy. Yks. Chs.
Der. Lin. Shr. e.An. Ken. Sus. Som. Cor.), a pillow-case. We read of
Chaucer’s ‘gentil Pardoner’ that:

      ... in his male he hadde a pilwebeer,
    Which that, he seide, was oure lady veyl.
                                      _Prologue_, ll. 694, 695.

The word also occurs in several of the wills published in _Wells Wills_,
by F. W. Weaver, 1890, as, for instance, in that of Juliane Webbe, of
Swainswick, dated Jan. 11, 1533: ‘Julian Woodman vj shepe, a cowe &c. a
salteseller, a knede cover, a stand, my ijⁿᵈ apparell of my body, a
flockebed &c. ij pelowberys.’ _Char_, or _chare_ (many dials.), an
errand, a turn of work, an odd job, O.E. _cerr_, a turn, _temporis
spatium_. We retain the word in the compound _charwoman_, and in a
disguised form in _ajar_, which literally means on the turn. An old
proverbial saying (1678) runs: ‘That char is char’d, as the goodwife
said when she had hanged her husband.’ Shakespeare has the word in:

          the maid that milks
    And does the meanest chares.
                                    _Ant. & Cleop._ IV. xv. 75.

[Sidenote: _Charming the Bees_]

_Charm_ (gen. use in midl. and s. counties), a confused intermingled
song or hum of birds or bees, e.g. Ow the birds bin singin’ this
mornin’, the coppy’s all on a charm. It is also used of the sound of
many voices. A Herefordshire farmer’s wife writing to me about her five
children under seven years of age, added: ‘You can guess what a charm
they make.’ The O.E. form was _cierm_, a noise, with a verb _cierman_,
to make a noise. Palsgrave (1530) has: ‘I chitter, I make a charme as a
flock of small byrdes do when they be together.’ But we know the word
best in Milton’s lines:

    Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
    With charm of earliest birds.--_Par. Lost_, iv. 641.

The phrase to _charm_ or _cherm bees_ belongs here, and has no connexion
with the ordinary word _charm_, of French origin. To _charm bees_ is to
follow a swarm of bees, beating a tea-tray, or ringing a stone against a
spade or watering-can. This music is supposed to cause the bees to
settle; but another object in doing thus is to let the neighbours know
who owns the bees, if they should chance to settle on adjacent property.
_Har_, or _harr_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. also Mid. e.An. Hmp.
Wil. Som.), the upright part of a gate or door to which the hinges are
fastened, O.E. _heorr_, a hinge. Chaucer, in describing the ‘Mellere’,
tells us:

    Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
    Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
                                          _Prol._ ll. 550, 551.

_Hulk_ (n.Cy. Nhb. Nhp.), a cottage, a temporary shelter in a field for
the shepherd during the lambing season, O.E. _hulc_, tugurium. The
‘lodge in a garden of cucumbers’, _Isaiah_ i. 8, is in Wyclif’s Bible:
‘an hulke in a place where gourdis wexen.’ _Marrow_ (gen. dial. use in
Sc. Irel. and n. counties to Chs. Der.), a match, equal, a mate, spouse,
&c. The word is found in the _Promptorium Parvulorum_ (_c._ 1440):
‘Marwe, or felawe yn trauayle, _socius, sodalis, compar_.’ We are
chiefly familiar with it in the ballad of _The Braes of Yarrow_, which

    Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny bonny bride,
      Busk ye, busk ye, my winsome marrow.

_Mommet_ (n.Cy. Wm. Yks. Lan. War. Wor. Shr. Hrf. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev.
Cor.), an image, effigy, a scarecrow, &c., M.E. _mawmet_, an idol, O.Fr.
_mahummet_, _mahommet_, ‘idole en général,’ La Curne; _Mahumet_, one of
the idols of the Saracens. It is the same word as _Mahomet_, Arab.
_Muhammed_. The form in Shakespeare is _mammet_:

            a wretched puling fool,
    A whining mammet.--_Rom. & Jul._ III. v. 185.

[Sidenote: _Words used for marshy places_]

In Wyclif’s Bible it is _mawmet_: ‘And thei maden a calf in tho daies,
and offriden a sacrifice to the mawmet,’ _Acts_ vii. 41; ‘My little
sones, kepe ȝe ȝou fro maumetis,’ 1 _John_ v. 21. _Quag_ (gen. dial.
use in Sc. and Eng.), a quagmire. This word occurs in _The Pilgrim’s
Progress_, in the description of the Valley of the Shadow of Death:
‘behold, on the left hand there was a very dangerous Quag, into which,
if even a good man falls, he finds no bottom for his foot to stand on:
Into that Quag King David once did fall, and had, no doubt, therein
been smothered, had not he that is able plucked him out.’ Immediately
afterwards the same ‘Quag’ is called a ‘Mire’: ‘when he sought, in the
Dark, to shun the Ditch on the one hand, he was ready to tip over into
the Mire on the other.’ _Mire_, a bog, a swamp, is common in the Lake
District and Devonshire. Yet another word with the same meaning is
_mizzy_ (n.Cy. Lan.), used by the Lancashire author of _Sir Gawayne and
the Green Knight_ (_c._ 1360) in one of the most picturesque passages
in the whole poem, the account of Sir Gawayne’s ride through the
forest on Christmas Eve:

    Þe hasel & þe haȝ-þorne were harled al samen,
    With roȝe raged mosse rayled ay-where,
    With mony bryddeȝ vnblyþe vpon bare twyges,
    Þat pitosly þer piped for pyne of þe colde.
    Þe gome [man] vpon Gryngolet glydeȝ hem vnder,
    Þurȝ mony misy & myre, mon al hym one.
                                                      ll. 744-9.

[Sidenote: _Words used by Middle English Poets_]

_Rise_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. Eng.), a branch, twig, O.E. _hrīs_,
a twig. ‘Cherries in the ryse’ is an old London Street Cry, as we know
from Lydgate’s poem entitled _London Lyckpeny_:

    Then vnto London I dyd me hye,
      Of all the land it beareth the pryse:
    Hot pescodes, one began to crye,
      Strabery rype, and cherryes in the ryse.
                                                     Stanza ix.

Another instance of the use of the word may be taken from the old carol
_The Flower of Jesse_ (_c._ 1426):

    Of lily, of rose of ryse,
    Of primrose, and of fleur-de-lys,
    Of all the flowers at my device,
    That Flower of Jesse yet bears the price
        As most of heal,
    To slake our sorrows every deal.--Stanza vii.

_Steven_ (Cum. w.Yks.), a gathering; an appointment. Hence, to set
the steven, a phrase meaning to agree upon the time and place of
meeting, O.E. _stefn_, a voice. The phrase ‘at unset stevene’ occurs
in Chaucer’s _Knightes Tale_, l. 666, and in other early poems. In the
_Cokes Tale_ we read concerning ‘Perkin Revelour’ and his friends:

    And ther they setten steven for to mete
    To pleyen at the dys in swich a strete.--ll. 19, 20.

_Shep_ (Cum. Lin. Som. Dev.), a shepherd. This form is familiar to us as
occurring in the opening lines of _Piers Plowman_:

    In a somer seson whan soft was the sonne,
    I shope me in shroudes as I a shepe were.

_Toll-booth_ (Sc. Yks.), a place where tolls are paid, a town or
market hall. Matthew, according to Wyclif (1388), was ‘sittynge in a
tolbothe’, _Matt._ ix. 9. _Thwittle_ (n.Cy. Cum. Yks. Lan.), a large
knife. Simkin, the miller of Trumpington, had one:

    A Sheffield thwitel baar he in his hose.
                                           _Reves Tale_, l. 13.

The word is a derivative of _thwite_ (Sc. n.Cy. Lan. Der. Shr. Dev.), to
pare wood, to cut with a knife, O.E. _þwītan_, to cut, shave off.

[Sidenote: _Survivals of old Substantives_]

‘Hit were to tore [hard] for to telle of þe tenþe dole’ of these old
substantives still surviving in the dialects, but I will add just a few
more in a list: _ask_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. to Chs. and n.Lin.), a newt,
lizard, O.E. _āðexe_, cp. Germ. _Eidechse_; _bree_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Lan.
Chs.), the eyelid, the eyebrow, O.E. _brǣw_, the eyelid; _cloam_ (Pem.
Nrf. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), crockery, earthenware, O.E. _clām_, clay;
_dig_ (Irel. Yks. Lan. Chs.), a duck, cp. ‘Here are doves, diggs,
drakes’ _Chester Plays_, c. 1400, _Deluge_, 189, ‘_anette_, a duck, or
dig,’ Cotgrave; _gavelock_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der. Not.
Lin. Nrf. Suf.), an iron crowbar, O.E. _gafeluc_, a spear; _holster_
(Som. Dev. Cor.), a hiding-place, O.E. _heolster_, a place of
concealment; _ham_ (Not. Nhp. Glo. Sus. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev.), flat,
low-lying pasture, land near a stream or river, O.E. _hamm_, a pasture
or meadow inclosed with a ditch; _haffet_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Wm.), the
temple, the side of the face, O.E. _healf-hēafod_, the front part of the
head; _heugh_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks.), a crag, cliff, precipice,
O.E. _hōh_, a promontory, lit. a hanging (precipice); _hull_ (in gen.
dial. use in Sc. and Eng.), a husk, a pod, also used as a verb, to
remove the outer husk of any vegetable or fruit, O.E. _hulu_, husk, cp.
‘Take Whyte Pesyn, and hoole hem in þe maner as men don Caboges,’
_Cookery Book_, c. 1430; _hoar-stone_ (Sc. Lan. Oxf.), a boundary stone,
O.E. _hār stān_ (lit. a hoar stone, i.e. a grey or ancient stone), often
occurs in Charters in the part describing the boundary line; _haysuck_
(Wor. Glo.), hedge-sparrow, O.E. _hegesugge_; _hobbleshow_ (Sc. Nhb.
Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.), a tumult, disturbance, &c. ‘An hubbleshowe,
_tumultus_’, Levins, _Manipulus Vocabulorum_, 1570; _litten_ (Brks. Sus.
Hmp. Wil. Som.), a churchyard, a cemetery, O.E. _līctūn_, an enclosure
in which to bury people; _lide_ (w.Cy. Wil. Cor.), the month of March,
O.E. _hlȳda_; _lave_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks.), the remainder,
O.E. _lāf_; _leap_ (many dials.), a large basket, _seed-lip_ (gen. dial.
use in Yks. Midl. e. s. and w. counties from Lei.), a basket used to
hold the seed when sowing, O.E. _sǣdlēap_; _oly-praunce_ (Nhp.), a
merry-making, M.E. _olipraunce_, vanity, fondness for gay apparel;
_pollywig_, _pollywiggle_ (Sc. Lan. Lei. Nhp. e.An. Hmp. Dev.), a
tadpole, cp. ‘Polewigges, tadpoles, young frogs,’ Florio, 1611,
‘Polwygle, wyrme,’ _Promptorium Parvulorum_; _porriwiggle_, _porwiggle_
(n.Cy. Yks. Lei. e.An. Sur.), a tadpole, cp. ‘that which the ancients
called _gyrinus_, we a porwigle or tadpole,’ Sir Thomas Browne, _Vulgar
Errors_, 1646; _preen_ (Sc. Nhb. Lakel. Yks.), a pin, O.E. _prēon_;
_rake_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Lin.), a track, path, &c., cp.
O.E. _racu_, a hollow path; _ridder_ (Oxf. Hrt. Mid. e.Cy. Sus. Hmp.
I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Cor.), a sieve for sifting grain, O.E. _hrīdder_;
_rivlin_ (Sh. & Or.I.), a kind of sandal made of undressed skin with the
hair outside, O.E. _rifeling_; _ream_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Cum. Yks. Lan.
Dev. Cor.), cream, O.E. _rēam_; _rother_ (n.Cy. Lan. War. Wor. Hrf.
Sus.), horned cattle, M.E. _rother_, an ox; _sax_ (Sh.I. Lin. Brks.
w.Cy. Som. Dev. Cor.), a knife, O.E. _seax_; _seal_ (Sc. Chs. e.An.),
time, season--the seal of the day to you is a friendly salutation; to
give a person the seal of the day is to give him a passing
salutation--O.E. _sǣl_, time, season, &c.; _shippen_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Wm.
Yks. Lan. Chs.), a cow-house, a cattle-shed, O.E. _scypen_, _scipen_, a
stall, a fold for cattle or sheep; _slade_ (many dials.), a valley, a
grassy plain between hills, O.E. _slæd_; _souter_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Nhp.),
a shoemaker, O.E. _sūtere_, from Lat. _sutor_; _soller_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan.
Shr. Hrf. e.An. s.Cy. Cor.), an upper chamber or loft, O.E. _solor_, a
loft, upper room, from Lat. _solarium_; _singreen_ (Wor. Shr. Bck. Ken.
Sus. Hmp. I.W. Wil.), the house-leek, O.E. _singrēne_, the houseleek,
lit. evergreen; _snead_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. Eng.), the
handle of a scythe, O.E. _snǣd_; _whittle_ (Irel. Dur. Lei. War. Pem.
Glo. Oxf. Suf. Sus. Hmp. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), a cape, a shawl, &c.,
O.E. _hwītel_, a cloak, a blanket; _wogh_ (Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Der.), a wall, O.E. _wāg_, _wāh_; _yelm_ (War. Glo. Bdf. Mid.),
straw laid ready for thatching, O.E. _gelm_, a handful, a sheaf.

It would be possible to produce samples of these retired English words
categorized under each of the various parts of speech, but it will be
sufficient here to keep to the most important categories, namely, nouns,
adjectives, and verbs. Not but what many interesting words will thus
perforce stand neglected, for even the humble adverb is often worth a
glance. Take for example the modest form _tho_ (Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.),
then, at that time. This is the regularly developed lineal descendant of
O.E. _þā_, and Chaucer’s _tho_ in the line:

    To don obsequies, as was tho the gyse.
                                       _Knightes Tale_, l. 135.

The common dialect adverb _nobbut_, only, nothing but, lit. not but,
occurs in _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_. When Sir Gawayne is
looking for ‘þe grene chapelle’, to his disgust he finds that it
consists of a hollow mound, ‘nobot an old caue,’ where, he says:

    ... myȝt about mid-nyȝt,
    Þe dele his matynnes telle!--ll. 2187, 2188.

[Sidenote: _Adjectives now disused in Standard English_]

But to come to our second category, namely, old adjectives now disused
in standard English, examples are: _argh_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Yks. Lin.),
timorous, apprehensive, O.E. _earh_ (_earg_), cowardly (cp. Germ.
_arg_), ‘His hert arwe as an hare,’ Rob. of Gloucester, _Chron._,
c. 1300; _brant_ (Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Lin.), steep, high, also
erect, and hence proud, pompous, e.g. as brant as a besom, O.E.
_brant_, _bront_. Brantwood on the eastern margin of Coniston Lake,
the residence of Ruskin, was so called from the _brant_, or steep
wood which rises behind it. _Dern_ (Sc. Nhb. Chs.), secret, obscure,
also dreary, dark, O.E. _dyrne_, _derne_, cp. ‘For derne love of
thee lemman, I spille,’ _Milleres Tale_, l. 92; _elenge_ (Ken. Sur.
Sus.), solitary, lonely, tedious, O.E. _ǣlenge_, tedious, tiresome,
lit. very long; _fremd_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Lin.
Nhp.), strange, foreign, not of kin, O.E. _fremde_, foreign, cp. Germ.
_fremd_. In M.E. this word is often coupled with _sibb_, which latter
word has the opposite meaning of related, akin, as for example in the
lines from the _Moral Ode_, c. 1200:

    Wis is þat him seolue biþenkþ þe hwile he mot libbe,
    Vor sone willeþ him for-yete þe fremede and þe sibbe.
                                                    ll. 34, 35.

[Sidenote: _‘Sib’ and ‘Lief’_]

This too remains in the dialects as _sib_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Der. Lin. Nhp. War. Wor.), closely related, akin, e.g. Oor
Marmaduke’s sib to all the gentles in th’ cuntry, though he hes cum doon
to leäd coäls. _Fenny_ (Ken. Hmp. Wil.), mouldy, mildewed, also in the
form _vinny_ (Glo. Brks. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), O.E.
_fynig_, used by Ælfric in translating _Joshua_ ix. 5, of the
Gibeonites’ bread; _hettle_(Sc. Nhb. Dur. Yks.)-tongued, foul-mouthed,
irascible in speech, O.E. _hetol_, full of hate, malignant. _Lief_,
dear, beloved, is obsolete as an adjective even in the dialects, but as
an adverb it is common throughout the country, so too is the comparative
form _liefer_, more willingly, rather, M.E. _me were lever_, I had
rather, a phrase familiar to us in the description of the Clerk of

    For him was levere have at his beddes heede
    Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reede,
    Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
    Then robes riche, or fithele, or gay sawtrie.
                                         _Prologue_, ll. 293-6.

_Piping hot_ (gen. dial. and colloquial use) is a phrase also found in

    And wafres, pyping hote out of the glede.
                                       _Milleres Tale_, l. 193.

_Punch_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks.), short, fat, occurs in Pepys’s _Diary_, April
30, 1669, ‘I ... did hear them call their fat child punch, which
pleased me mightily, that word being become a word of common use for
all that is thick and short.’ _Rathe_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. Hrf. Gmg. Pem.
Glo. Brks. Hrt. e.An. Ken. Sus. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev.), adj.
and adv. early, soon, quick, O.E. _hræð_, adj. quick, swift, _hræðe_,
adv. quickly, soon, recalls Milton’s line:

    Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies.
                                             _Lycidas_, l. 142.

[Sidenote: _Familiar Miltonic Words_]

In many of the dialects the word is found in the compound _rathe-ripe_,
coming early to maturity, for the use of which we have evidence as far
back as the seventeenth century, in an epitaph on two little children
who died in 1668 and 1670:

    Such early fruites are quickly in their prime,
    Rathe ripes we know are gathered in betime;
    Such Primroses by Death’s impartiall hand
    Are cropped, and landy’d up at Heaven’s command.

Another familiar Miltonic word is _scrannel_ (Yks. Lan. Not. Nhp. War.),
lean, thin; of the voice: weak, piping.

    And when they list, their lean and flashy songs
    Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw.
                                       _Lycidas_, ll. 123, 124.

_Sackless_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.) is a word which has fallen
from its high estate, just like the standard English word _silly_, which
originally meant blessed, happy (cp. Germ. _selig_). O.E. _saclēas_
signified free from accusation, innocent, but in the modern English
dialects the usual meaning is lacking common sense, foolish, stupid, or
weak in body or mind, feeble, helpless, e.g. She leuk’d sackless and
deead-heeaded, an we put her intiv a gain-hand garth te tent her, i.e.
she [the cow] looked helpless and hung her head, and we put her into an
adjoining enclosure to look after her. _Span-new_ (gen. dial. and
colloquial use in Sc. and Eng.), quite new, M.E. _spannewe_, occurs in
_The Lay of Havelok the Dane_, c. 1280:

    Þe cok bigan of him to rewe,
    And bouthe him cloþes, al spannewe.
                                                  ll. 967, 968.

It is originally a Norse form, O.N. _spān-nȳr_, literally, new as a
chip of wood, the vowel of _spān_ having become short in M.E., and the
O.N. _nȳr_ replaced by the native equivalent _newe_. _Spān_ is the O.N.
cognate of our word _spoon_, O.E. _spōn_, an article made out of wood
when it first took shape. _Tickle_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and
Eng.), insecure, unstable, &c., is used by Chaucer in the _Milleres

    This world is now ful tikel, sikerly.--l. 240.

[Sidenote: _‘Tickle’, ‘Nesh’, and ‘Lear’_]

A word of almost the same meaning is _wankle_ (Sc. n. and midl. counties
to Wor. Shr. Hrf.), insecure, tottering, also weak, delicate, O.E.
_wancol_, used in the same senses. _Swipper_ (Sc. n.Cy. Lan.), quick,
nimble, is recorded in the _Promptorium Parvulorum_, ‘Swypyr, or
delyvyr, _agilis_.’ _Nesh_, meaning soft, brittle, delicate, &c., O.E.
_hnesce_; and _rear_, used of meat, eggs, &c., half-cooked, underdone,
O.E. _hrēr_, are still in common use all over England. _Lear_, empty,
hungry, O.E. _lǣre_ (cp. Germ. _leer_), is found in almost all the
Midland, Southern, and South-western counties. A curious relic of an
obsolete verb is the participle _forwoden_ (n.Cy. Yks.), in a state of
dirt, desolation, and waste, generally caused by vermin, overrun, e.g.
Oor apple cham’er is fair forwoden wi’ rattens and meyce. It is the same
word as O.E. _forworden_, undone, perished, the past participle of
_forweorþan_, to perish, a compound of the prefix _for-_ expressing
destruction, and _weorþan_, to become, which remains to us in the
Biblical phrase, ‘Woe worth the day!’ _Ezek._ xxx. 2, and the dialect
_wae worth_, or _wa worth_ (Sc. n.Cy. Dur. Lakel. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der.),
used as an imprecation, or as an exclamation of dismay on hearing
fearful tidings.

[Sidenote: _Time-honoured Verbs_]

This brings us to the third category, the time-honoured verbs, and
truly their name is legion. _Dow_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Der. Shr. e.An.), to thrive, prosper, to be good for something,
&c., O.E. _dugan_, to be strong, to avail (cp. Germ. _taugen_), M.E.

    Ȝif me be dyȝt a destyné due to haue,
    What dowes me þe dedayn, oþer dispit make?
                            _Patience_, ll. 49, 50, _c._ 1360.

This verb contains the stem from which comes the adjective _doughty_:

    If doughty deeds my lady please,
      Right soon I’ll mount my steed.

But even this is now archaic, and the verb has wholly disappeared from
the standard speech, whilst it remains in various forms and meanings in
the dialects. It is a saying in Yorkshire that: They never dow that
strange dogs follow. Another current expression, ‘He’ll never dow, egg
nor bird,’ occurs amongst Ray’s _Proverbs_, 1678. _Dow_ occurs as a
substantive meaning worth, value, in several phrases, as: _to do no
dow_, to be of no use or value, e.g.

    A whussling lass an’ a bellering cow
    An a crowing hen’ll du nea dow.

_Dree_ (Sc. Nhb. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der.), to endure, suffer, O.E.
_drēogan_, M.E. _dreyen_, _drien_. In a description of the building of
the Tower of Babel, given in the _Cursor Mundi_ (_c._ 1300), are the

    Wid corde and plumbe þai wroght so hy,
    Þat hete of sune might þai nohut dry.
                                                ll. 2247, 2248.

To dree one’s weird, to endure one’s fate, is a phrase now practically
confined to Scotland, though this was not the case in the earlier
periods of the language. It occurs, for instance, in _Cleanness_, a poem
probably written by the author of _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_,
who was a Lancashire man:

    & bede þe burne [King Zedekiah] to be broȝt to babyloyn þe riche,
    & þere in dongoun be don to dreȝe þer his wyrdes.
                                                ll. 1223, 1224.

_Flite_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der. Lin.), to scold, find
fault, O.E. _flītan_, to strive, chide, M.E. _flīten_, to quarrel,

    hou we shule flyten
    ant to gedere smiten.
                          _King Horn_, ll. 855, 856, _c._ 1300.

[Sidenote: _‘Heal’ and ‘Healer’_]

_Heal_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), to hide, conceal, keep
secret, O.E. _helan_, str. vb. and _helian_, wk. vb., to conceal, M.E.

    Seynt Gregorie was a gode pope, and had a gode forwit,
    Þat no priouresse were prest, for þat he ordeigned.
    Þei had þanne ben _infamis_ [betrayer of confession] þe firste day,
        þei can so yuel hele conseille.
                   _Piers Plowman_, B. v. ll. 166-8, _c._ 1377.

A _healer_ is a receiver of stolen goods, a common word in the proverb:
the healer’s as bad as the stealer. The verb is also used in the sense
of to cover, to wrap up, to tuck up with bed-clothes. The allied verb
_hill_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Lei. Nhp. War. Wor.
Shr. Oxf. Wil.), to wrap, cover with clothes, is a Scandinavian
loan-word, O.N. _hylja_, to cover (cp. Goth. _huljan_):

    Hile me vnder schadou ofe þi wenges twa.
         Rich. Rolle of Hampole, _Ps._ xvi. 10, _c._ 1330.

Another verb of the same meaning is _hap_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel.
and n. counties to Der. Not. Lin.), which also occurs in our early

    I pray þe Marie happe hym warme.
        _York Plays_, c. 1400. Edited by Lucy Toulmin Smith, p. 144.

_Hish_ (Sc. War. Nrf.), to make a hissing noise to hound on a dog,
occurs in Wyclif’s Bible, ‘The Lord ... ȝaf hem in to stiryng, and in to
perischyng, and in to hisshing,’ _2 Chron._ xxviii. 8. _Lout_ (Sc. Irel.
Nhb. Yks. Hmp.), to stoop, bend, bow, O.E. _lūtan_, M.E. _louten_:

    Knelynge, conscience to þe kynge louted,
    To wite what his wille were, and what he do shulde.
                         _Piers Plowman_, B. iii. ll. 115, 116.

_Latch_ (n.Cy. Dur. Yks. Lan. Der. e.An.), to catch, lay hold of, O.E.
_læccan_, M.E. _lacchen_, to catch, seize. In a poem called _Patience_,
written by the same author as _Cleanness_ and _Sir Gawayne and the Green
Knight_, the word occurs in a striking and curiously realistic
description of Jonah inside the whale: ‘Lorde! colde watȝ his cumfort
& his care huge.... How fro þe bot in-to þe blober [bubbling waves]
watȝ with [by] a best lacched.’ _Lathe_ (n.Cy. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs.),
to bid, ask, invite, especially to invite to a funeral or wedding,
O.E. _laðian_, M.E. _laðien_:

    þe king ...
    ... sende his sonde,
    oueral his kine-lond,
    and lette laþien him to,
    alle his enihtes.
                      Laȝamon’s _Brut_, ll. 6667-73, _c._ 1275.

[Sidenote: _‘Nim’ and ‘Nimble’_]

_Nim_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Nhp. Lei. War.
Ken. Som. Dev.), to catch up quickly, to take or catch up on the sly, to
steal, O.E. _niman_, to take, M.E. _nimen_:

    Noe on anoþer day nymmeȝ efte þe dovene.
                                _Cleanness_, l. 481, _c._ 1360.

In this sense the verb is obsolescent in the dialects, but it is still
used in the sense of to walk with quick, short steps, to walk briskly
and lightly, or mincingly. Probably this meaning is a development of the
earlier uses of the verb in the phrase ‘to take one’s way’, and hence
simply, to go, cp.:

    Rys radly, he says, & rayke forth euen,
    Nym þe way to nynyue, wyth-outen oþer speche.
                             _Patience_, ll. 65, 66, _c._ 1360.

    ðanne he nimeð to kirke.--_Bestiary_, l. 93, _c._ 1250.

The standard adjective _nimble_ is related to this old verb, so too is
that apparently meaningless word _nim_ in the old nursery rhyme said or
sung to a baby on one’s knee:

    The ladies they ride nim, nim, nim;
    The gentlemen they ride trim, trim, trim;
    The farmers they ride trot for trot;
    An’ the hinds they ride clot for clot;
    But the cadgers ride creels an’ aa, creels an’ aa.
                                                  Nhb. Version.

One is glad to give a local habitation and a name to a friend of
such tender associations! _Quop_ (Lei. Wor. Hrf. Glo. Oxf. Brks.),
to palpitate, throb with pain, M.E. _quappen_, occurs in Chaucer’s
_Troilus and Creseyde_ (_c._ 1374): ‘So that his herte gan to quappe,’
Bk. III, l. 57, and also in Wyclif’s Bible: ‘And he [Tobie] wente out
for to wasshen his feet; and lo! a gret fish wente out for to deuouren
hym. Whom dredende Tobie criede out with a gret vois, seiende, Lord, he
asaileth me. And the aungil seide to hym, Cach his fin, and draȝ it to
thee. The whiche thing whan he hadde do, he droȝ it in to the drie, and
it began to quappe befor his feet,’ _Tobit_ vi. 2-5. _Ream_ (Sc. Dur.
Cum. Yks. Lan. Lin. Nhp. Shr.), to shout, cry aloud, to weep, bewail,
O.E. _hrēman_, M.E. _rēmen_:

    A longeyng heuy me strok in swone,
    & rewfully þenne I con to reme.
                            _Pearl_, ll. 1180, 1181, _c._ 1360.

_Speer_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Nhp. Som.), to
search out, to ask, inquire, O.E. _spyrian_, M.E. _spürien_, _speren_,

    My will, myn herte and al my witt
    Ben fully set to herkne and spire
    What eny man wol speke of hire.
                          Gower, _Confessio Amantis_, Bk. VIII,
                            ll. 1998-2000, _c._ 1400.

_Shale_ (Dur. w.Yks. Nhp. e.An. Wil. Dor.), to walk crookedly or
awkwardly, to shamble:

    Schouelle-fotede was that schalke, and schaylande hyme semyde,
    With schankez vn-schaply, schowande to-gedyrs.
                    _Morte Arthure_, ll. 1098, 1099, _c._ 1420.

[Sidenote: _Chaucerian Survivals_]

_Snib_ (Sc. Irel. Rut. Lei. Nhp. Bdf.), to check, restrain, rebuke, M.E.

    Him wolde he snybbe scharply for the nones.
                                   Chaucer, _Prologue_, l. 523.

_Swink_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. War. Hrf. Ken.), to work hard, labour, toil,
O.E. _swincan_, M.E. _swinken_:

    Or swynke with his handes, and laboure.--_Prologue_, l. 186.
The form _swinked_, oppressed, tired, also occurs, reminding us of

           ... what time the labour’d ox
    In his loose traces from the furrow came,
    And the swink’t hedger at his supper sate.
                                            _Comus_, ll. 291-3.

_Thole_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Stf. Der.), to bear,
suffer, endure, O.E. _þolian_, M.E. _tholien_, _tholen_:

    Ne sal nafre eft crist þolien deað for [to] lesen hem of deaðe.
    Ænes drihten helle brac his frend he ut brohte
    Him self he þolede deað for hem wel diere he hes bohte.
                             _Moral Ode_, ll. 184-6, _c._ 1170.

[Sidenote: _Development of standard English ‘Wont’_]

_Won_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Lan. Chs. Der.), to dwell, live, O.E.
_wunian_, M.E. _wunien_, _wunen_, and _wonen_, with _o_ written for _u_
as in N.E. _come_, _love_, &c.

    A Schipman was ther, wonying fer by weste.
                                            _Prologue_, l. 388.

But in many districts this is said to be obsolescent in the dialects of
to-day. The past participle of this verb, O.E. _wunod_, M.E. _wuned_,
early came to be used in the sense of accustomed, for instance:

    She never was to swiche gestes woned.
                                        _Clerkes Tale_, l. 339.

Cp. ‘Wunt, or vsyed: _assuetus_,’ _Promptorium Parvulorum_. From this
was developed the standard English form _wont_, which ought to be
pronounced _wunt_, but the graphic _o_ has been taken for an original
_o_, and the spelling has influenced the pronunciation. _Wont_ occurs
in a few of the Midland dialects as a verb meaning to familiarize, to
domesticate, accustom, e.g. If you tek the cat, you’ll hev to butter
her feet to wont her, an’ then it’s chanch if shay doon’t coom back
’ere agen (Lei.). _Welk_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Hrf. Bdf. Hrt. e.An. Ken.), to
wither, to fade, M.E. _welken_:

    An oðer drem cam him bi-foren,
    vii eares wexen fette of coren,
    On an busk, ranc and wel tidi,
    And vii lene rigt ðor-bi,
    Welkede, and smale.
                   _Genesis and Exodus_, ll. 2103-7, _c._ 1250.

Another verb with the same meaning is _wellow_ (Yks.), which occurs in
Wyclif’s Bible: ‘The reed and the resshe shal welewen,’ _Isaiah_ xix. 6.
_Yawl_ (Sc. Cum. Yks. Lan. Lin. Lei. Nhp. War. e.An. Som.), to howl, to
bawl, is found in _Sir Gawayne_:

    He [the boar] hurteȝ of þe houndeȝ, & þay
    Ful ȝomerly ȝaule & ȝelle.--ll. 1452, 1453.

The more common verb in this sense is _yowl_ (gen. dial. use in Sc.
Irel. Eng.), cp. ‘Y shal weile and ȝoule,’ Wyclif, _Micah_ i. 8.

[Sidenote: _Wealth of old Verbs still surviving_]

The majority of the verbs given above are of such frequent occurrence
in Old and Middle English, that to give just one quotation, chosen more
or less at random, is apt to be misleading, yet space forbids any more
exhaustive treatment. There are hundreds of these verbs still existing
in the dialects, which could be illustrated from our older literature
down the course of several centuries before they disappeared from the
standard language. A few further examples are: _greet_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb.
Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der.), to cry, weep, O.E. _grǣtan_; _heald_
(Sh.I. n.Cy. Yks.), to lean, incline, O.E. _hieldan_; _kythe_ (Sc.
n.Cy. Nhb. Dur. Yks.), to make known, show, display, O.E. _cȳðan_;
_lofe_ (Sc. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. War. Shr.), to offer, offer
at a price, O.E. _lofian_, to praise, to appraise, set a price on;
_pote_ (Sc. n.Cy. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Shr. Hrf. Glo. Som. Dev.
Cor.), to kick, push with the hands or feet, O.E. _potian_; _reese_
(I.W. Cor.), of grain: to drop out of the ear from over-ripeness, O.E.
_hrēosan_, to fall down; _lease_ (many dials.), to pick out, to glean,
&c., O.E. _lesan_, to gather, collect; _mint_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Nhb.
Yks. Lan. Lin. Nhp. e.An.), to purpose, intend, &c., O.E. _myntan_;
_retch_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. and Eng.), to stretch, extend, fig.
to exaggerate, lie, O.E. _reccan_, to stretch, extend; _sam_ (Wm.
Yks. Lan. Der. Wor.), to gather or scrape together, to collect, O.E.
_samnian_; _smoor_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Der. Lin. Lei.
Nhp. e.An.), to smother, suffocate, O.E. _smorian_; _tend_ (n.Cy. Wm.
Lan. Chs. Stf. Nhp. Wor. Shr. Oxf. Som. Dev. Cor.), to kindle, light,
set fire to, O.E. _on-tendan_; _umbethink_, or _unbethink_ (Nhb.
Lakel. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lin. Shr. Dev.), to bethink oneself, to
recollect, O.E. _ymbeðencen_, to think about, consider; _walt_ (Sc.
n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Shr. Suf.), to totter, to lean to one side,
O.E. _wealtan_, to roll, stagger.

[Sidenote: _Dialect Survivals in the Authorized Version_]

It is interesting to note how many of the archaic words of our
Authorized Version of the Bible (1611) can be found remaining in the
dialects. For example: _blain_ (Sc. Dur. Yks. Lan. e.An.), a sore, an
ulcer, O.E. _blegen_; _bolled_ (Lin. Lei.), of corn or flax: ripe, in
pod, in seed; _botch_ (Yks.), a breaking-out on the skin; _brickle_
(Yks. Lan. Chs. Nhp. Wor. Shr. Suf. Sur. Hmp. Dor. Som.), brittle,
easily broken: ‘This man that of earthly matter maketh brickle vessels,’
_Wisdom_ xv. 13; _chanel-bone_ (Lin. Som.), the collar-bone, _Job_ xxxi.
22, marginal note; _charger_ (Yks. Chs. Sus.), a large platter, or
meat-dish, A.Fr. _chargeour_; _chest_ (Sc. Nhb. Suf.), to put into the
coffin: ‘he [Jacob] dieth and is chested,’ _Gen._ 1, chapter heading;
_clout_ (var. dial. uses in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), a patch, a rag;
_cocker_ (Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lin.), to indulge, pamper: ‘Cocker thy
child, and he shall make thee afraid,’ _Ecclus._ xxx. 9; _coney_ (Yks.
Lin. e.An. Ken. Sus. Wil. Cor.), a rabbit; _daysman_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb.),
an arbitrator, an umpire; _ear_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lei. Hrf. Ken. Wil. Som.),
to till or plough land; _fitches_ (gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. Eng.),
vetches; _leasing_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks.), lying, falsehood; _let_ (Irel. Wm.
Yks. Chs. Der. Lin. War. sw.Cy.), to hinder, impede; _magnifical_
(Som.), grand, fine; _marish_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. Chs.), a marsh, O.Fr.
_mareis_; _mote_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. I.W. sw.Cy.), an atom, a minute
splinter of wood, or particle of straw; _pill_ (Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der.
Not. Lin. Midl. Shr. e.An. Som.), to peel, strip off the outer bark;
_tabor_ (Chs. Stf. Lei. Nhp. War. Wor. Shr. Glo.), to rap, tap lightly;
_wist_ (Nhb. Yks.), knew, and known, in the phrase _had I wist_ (Nhb.
Yks. Lan.), had I known, cp.:

    For feare of foole had I wist cause thee to waile,
    let fisgig be taught to shut doore after taile.
        Tusser, _Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie_, 1580.

_Wrought_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Der. Suf.), preterite of to work: worked,
laboured. Some of these old words and expressions have become so common
that they must now be counted as colloquialisms, as, for instance, the
phrase _away with_, meaning to endure, put up with: ‘The calling of
assemblies I cannot away with,’ _Isaiah_ i. 13, cp. ‘I can nat away with
my wyfe, she is so heedy, _je ne puis poynt durer auecques ma femme,
elle est si testue_,’ Palsgrave, _c._ 1530. Another now commonplace word
is _ado_, which has been immortalized by Shakespeare’s use of it in the
title of one of his plays. It occurs in _Mark_ v. 39: ‘Why make ye this
ado, and weep?’ cp. ‘Ado or gret bysynesse, _sollicitudo_,’ _Prompt.

[Sidenote: _Shakesperian Words in the Dialects_]

In the same way most of the obsolete Shakespearian words can still be
traced in the dialects. The Shakespeare-Bacon theory, if not too dead
and gone to be worth further combat, could easily be completely
overthrown by any one who chose to array against it the convincing mass
of evidence which proves Shakespeare’s intimate acquaintance with the
Warwickshire dialect. Numbers of the words and phrases which Shakespeare
used, and which we have since lost, still exist in his native county,
and in the other counties bordering on Warwickshire. Some of them were
at that date part and parcel of the standard vocabulary, and might be
put by Shakespeare into the mouths of his highest personages; others
again must even then have been regarded by him as dialect, and natural
only to the speech of lower folk. It is Corporal Nym who says _shog_ for
move, jog: ‘Will you shog off?’ _Hen. V_, II. i. 47; ‘Shall we shog? the
king will be gone from Southampton,’ _Hen. V_, II. iii. 47. It is a
serving-man who uses the phrase _to sowl by the ears_: ‘He’ll go, he
says, and sowl the porter of Rome gates by the ears,’ _Cor._ IV. v. 213;
and it is Mistress Quickly, the hostess of a tavern, who calls herself a
‘lone woman’ when she means she is a widow: ‘A hundred mark is a long
one for a poor lone woman to bear,’ _2 Hen. IV_, II. i. 35. But to
classify after this sort all the old words in Shakespeare would entail
a classification of all the characters in the plays, and would thus be
outside the scope of this book. I cannot therefore do more than give
examples massed together irrespective of the question whether they were
literary words or not in Shakespeare’s time:

_Bavin_, a bundle of brushwood, a faggot, cp.:

    In stacking of bauen, and piling of logs,
    Make under thy bauen a houell for hogs.

_Bawcock_, a semi-mocking term of endearment, a foolish person;
_biggin_, a nightcap without a border:

    Yet not so sound and half so deeply sweet
    As he whose brow with homely biggen bound
    Snores out the watch of night.
                                      _2 Hen. IV_, IV. v. 26-8.

[Sidenote: _Biggin, Bolter, Blouze_]

The word also denoted a child’s cap, hence: From the biggin to the
nightcap, signifies from childhood to old age. It is worth noting that
this is the meaning which Dr. Johnson assigns to the word--cp. ‘Biggin
... A child’s cap’--and he gives as the sole illustration the above
quotation from Shakespeare. _Bolter_, used of snow, dirt, &c., means to
cohere, form into lumps: ‘blood-boltered Banquo smiles upon me,’ _Macb._
IV. i. 123; _blouze_, a fat, red-faced wench, a coarse, untidy woman,
also termed a blossom: ‘Sweet blowse, you are a beauteous blossom,
sure,’ _Tit. And._ IV. ii. 72; _codger_, a shoemaker: ‘Ye squeak out
your cozier’s catches,’ _Twelfth N._ II. iii. 97; _day-woman_, a
dairymaid; _dowl_, down, soft feathers; _drumble_, to be sluggish and
slow in movement; _cowl_, a large tub: ‘Go take up these clothes here
quickly. Where’s the cowl-staff? look, how you drumble! Carry them to
the laundress in Datchet-mead; quickly, come,’ _Merry Wives_, III. iii.
156; _fettle_, to prepare, make ready; _fill-horse_, the shaft-horse;
_firk_, to beat; _flap-jack_, a pancake; _gaberdine_, a loose garment or
smock-frock: ‘Alas, the storm is come again! my best way is to creep
under his gaberdine; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery
acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows,’ _Temp._ II. ii. 40; _flaw_, a
sudden gust or blast of wind:

    O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
    Should patch a wall to expel the winter’s flaw!
                                         _Ham._ V. i. 238, 239.

_Gallow_, to frighten; _geck_, a fool; _grize_, a step; _haggle_, to
hack, mangle; _inch-meal_, little by little; _inkle_, an inferior,
coarse kind of tape: ‘He hath ribbons of all the colours i’ the rainbow,
... inkles, caddisses, cambrics, lawns,’ _Wint. Tale_, IV. iv. 208. As a
simple word, _inkle_ is dying out now, but the compound _inkle-weaver_
is very common in the phrase: As thick as inkle-weavers, very friendly
or intimate together. _Insense_, to cause to understand, to explain,
inform, literally to put sense into. The word is usually spelt _incense_
in Shakespeare editions, so that it becomes mixed up with _incense_, to
enrage, incite, but _insense_ is clearly the right spelling in such a
passage as:

    Sir, I may tell it you, I think I have
    Incensed the lords o’ the council that he is--
    For so I know he is, they know he is--
    A most arch-heretic.--_Hen. VIII_, V. i. 42-5.

_Jance_, to knock about, expose to circumstances of fatigue; _kam_,
crooked, awry, e.g. It’s clean kam, an’ nowt else (Lan.), cp. ‘This is
clean kam,’ _Cor._ III. i. 304; _kecksies_, hemlock, and similar
hollow-stalked plants; _keech_, a lump of congealed fat:

                      I wonder
    That such a keech can with his very bulk,
    Take up the rays o’ the beneficial sun.
                                       _Hen. VIII_, I. i. 54-6.

Cp. ‘Did not goodwife Keech, the butcher’s wife, come in then and call
me gossip Quickly?’ _2 Hen. IV_, II. i. 101; _kibe_, a chilblain, a
crack in the skin: ‘The age is grown so picked that the toe of the
peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe,’
_Ham._ V. i. 153. An Irish recipe for the cure of kibes is as follows:
The person suffering from kibes must go at night to some one’s door and
knock. When any one asks ‘Who’s there?’ the person who knocked must
run away calling, ‘Kibey heels, take that.’ Then the kibes will leave
the person who has them, and pass to the one who called ‘Who’s there?’
_Knoll_, to toll; _malkin_, a slattern; _mammock_, to break or cut to
pieces, tear, mangle; _mated_, confused, bewildered, e.g. I be reg’lar
mated (Oxf.), cp. ‘My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight,’ _Macb._
V. i. 86; _mazzard_, the head or face; _milch_ or _melch_, warm, soft,
and moist, in the modern dialects applied chiefly to the weather,
e.g. Ther’s a deäl of foäks is badly, an’ its all thruf this melch
weather (Lin.), cp. ‘Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,’
_Ham._ II. ii. 540. The word is connected with Du. _malsch_, tender,
soft, E.Fris. _malsk_, and has probably nothing to do with _milch_,
milk-giving. _Minikin_, small, delicate, effeminate; _moble_, to muffle
the head and shoulders in warm wraps:

    _First Play._ But who, O, who had seen the mobled queen--
    _Ham._ The mobled queen?
    _Pol._ That’s good; mobled queen is good.
                                          _Ham._ II. ii. 524-7.

[Sidenote: _Moble, Muss, Nook-shotten_]

_Muss_, a disturbance, uproar, squabble; _neeze_, to sneeze:

    And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
    And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear.
                                    _Mid. N. D._ II. i. 55, 56.

Cp. ‘By his neesings a light doth shine,’ _Job_ xli. 18; _nook-shotten_,
shot into a corner, used in Cheshire of cheese put aside from the rest
as inferior:

       ... but I will sell my dukedom
    To buy a slobbery and a dirty farm
    In that nook-shotten isle of Albion.
                                       _Hen. V_, III. v. 12-14.

_Nay-word_, a by-word; _orts_, remnants, scraps, especially of food;
_peat_, a term of endearment, a pet; _pick-thank_, a flatterer, a
tale-bearer, a mischief-maker; _plash_, a puddle, a small pool; _pink_,
adj. and vb. small, to make small, to contract, especially to contract
the eyes: ‘Plumpy Bacchus with pink eyne,’ _A. and C._ II. vii. 121;
_poach_, _potch_, to poke, especially with the fingers, to thrust;
_pomewater_, a large kind of apple; _quat_, a pimple; _rack_, flying
clouds, thin broken clouds driven by the wind:

    Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
    With ugly rack on his celestial face.
                                          _Sonn._ xxxiii. 5, 6.

_Reechy_, smoky, begrimed with smoke, dirty; _reneague_, _renege_, to
refuse, deny; _rivelled_, wrinkled, puckered; _shive_, a slice of
anything edible, especially of bread; _skillet_, a small metal vessel
used for boiling liquids: ‘Let housewives make a skillet of my helm,’
_Oth._ I. ii. 273; _sleeveless_, useless, bootless, especially in the
phrase _a sleeveless errand_, cp. _Troil. and Cr._ V. iv. 9; _squinny_,
to squint, look askance; _stover_, winter fodder for cattle:

    Thy turfy mountains, where live nibbling sheep,
    And flat meads thatch’d with stover, them to keep.
                                         _Temp._ IV. i. 62, 63.

_Tetchy_, peevish, irritable; _trash_, a cord used in checking dogs, a
long slender rope fastened to the collar of a young pointer or setter if
headstrong and inclined to run in:

    If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trash
    For his quick hunting, stand the putting on,
    I’ll have our Michael Cassio on the hip.
                                          _Oth._ II. i. 312-14.

_Trencher-man_, a term applied to a person with a good, hearty appetite;
_urchin_, a hedgehog; _utis_, noise, confusion: ‘By the mass, here will
be old utis,’ _2 Hen. IV_, II. iv. 22; _yare_, ready, prepared; _yerk_,
to strike hard, to beat.

[Sidenote: _Shakespearian Phrases in the Dialects_
           _Make a coil, Be in a taking_]

Among interesting expressions of Shakespeare’s date still existing in
the dialects are: _to burn daylight_, to light candles before they are
wanted; figuratively, to waste time:

      _Mercutio._ ... Come, we burn daylight, ho!
      _Rom._ Nay, that’s not so.
      _Mer._ I mean, Sir, in delay
    We waste our lights in vain, like lamps by day.
                                   _Rom. and Jul._ I. iv. 43-5.

[Sidenote:_Make a coil, Be in a taking_]

_To make a coil_, to make a stir, confusion, or fuss: ‘I am not worth
this coil that’s made for me,’ _King John_, II. i. 165; _come your
ways_, come here, _Ham._ I. iii. 135, _Troil. and Cres._ III. ii. 44;
_pass_, condition, state, in phrases: ‘What, have his daughters brought
him to this pass?’ _Lear_, III. iv. 65, ‘Till I be brought to such a
silly pass,’ _T. Shrew_, V. ii. 124; _to one’s head_, to one’s face,
e.g. I told him to his head that I wouldn’t have such goings on in my
house any more (Sus.):

                 ... he shall bring you
    Before the duke, and to the head of Angelo
    Accuse him home and home.
                              _Meas. for Meas._ IV. iii. 146-8.

_To be helped up_, used ironically: to be in a difficulty, e.g. What
with the missis bad, and him out of work, they’re well helped up (War.).
You’re prettily holp up, is a common expression of derision, cp.:

    A man is well holp up that trusts to you;
    I promised your presence and the chain;
    But neither chain nor goldsmith came to me.
                                 _Com. of Errors_, IV. i. 22-4.

_To be in a taking_ (gen. colloq. use), a state of excitement, grief, or
perplexity; a fit of petulance or temper, cp. ‘What a taking was he in
when your husband asked who was in the basket,’ _Mer. Wives_, III. iii.
191; _a hole in the coat_, a flaw or blemish in character or conduct,
cp. ‘If I find a hole in his coat, I will tell him my mind,’ _Hen. V_,
III. vi. 87; _to make the door_, to shut or fasten the door: ‘Make the
doors upon a woman’s wit, and it will out at the casement,’ _A. Y. L.
I._ IV. i. 162; _to stand one on_, to be incumbent on, to be to one’s
interest, cp.:

                     ... For my state
    Stands on me to defend, not to debate.
                                          _Lear_, V. i. 68, 69.

_A thing of nothing_, a trifle, next to nothing, e.g. He bought a lot
o’ taters for his cows, and got ’em for a thing o’ nothing (Chs.),
cp.: _Ham._ The king is a thing-- _Guil._ A thing, my lord? _Ham._ Of
nothing, _Ham._ IV. ii. 30-32. Beside this exists also the parallel
expression ‘a thing of naught’, in the dialects now, _a thing of
nowt_: ‘You must say “paragon”: a paramour is, God bless us, a thing
of naught,’ _Mids. N. D._ IV. ii. 14, cp. ‘They that war against thee
shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought,’ _Isaiah_ xli. 12.
_Worth a Jew’s eye_, of great value, e.g. Hoo mays a rare weife, hoo’s
wo’th a Jew’s eye (Chs.), cp.:

    There will come a Christian by,
    Will be worth a Jewess’ eye.
                                    _M. of Ven._ II. v. 42, 43.

[Sidenote: _Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Dialect_]

The Quartos and Folios read ‘a Jewes eye’, which is now considered the
better reading. The expression _the varsal world_ only differs by a
normal change in pronunciation from Shakespeare’s ‘versal world’: ‘I’ll
warrant you, when I say so, she looks as pale as any clout in the versal
world,’ _Rom. and Jul._ II. iv. 220. Opinions differ as to the precise
meaning of the second element in _cock-shut_, twilight, the close of the
day, used also in the phrase _cock-shut time_:

    Thomas the Earl of Surrey, and himself,
    Much about cock-shut time, from troop to troop
    Went through the army.--_Rich. III_, V. iii. 69-71.

The corresponding term for daybreak is _cock-light_. _More sacks to the
mill_ is a game played in Oxfordshire and Berkshire. It is a
rough-and-tumble boys’ game, in which as many boys as possible are
heaped together, one above another. As each successive boy is added to
the heap the boys shout: More sacks to the mill! cp.:

    More sacks to the mill! O heavens, I have my wish!
    Dumain transform’d! four woodcocks in a dish.
                                    _L. L. L._ IV. iii. 81, 82.

The ancient game of _loggats_ has died out, but the term is still used
to denote the small sticks or pieces of wood used in playing _trunket_
and other games. Cp. ‘Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to
play at loggats with ’em? mine ache to think on’t,’ _Ham._ V. i. 100.
Another Shakespearian game is the _Nine Men’s Morris_, also known as
_Merills_: ‘The boyish game called Merils or five-penny Morris; played
here most commonly with stones, but in France with pawns or men made of
purpose and tearmed Merelles,’ Cotgrave, cp. ‘The nine men’s morris is
fill’d up with mud,’ _Mids. N. D._ II. i. 98. _Hunt’s up_ is an old pipe
tune especially used by the waits on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning:

    Hunsep through the wood, Hunsep through the wood,
    Merrily goes the day, sir;
    Get up old wives and bake your pies,
      To-morrow is Christmas Day, sir.

Cp. ‘Hunting thee hence with hunt’s up to the day,’ _Rom. and Jul._ III.
v. 34. From the derived sense of tumult, outcry, has been developed a
verb used in the Lake District in the meaning of to scold, rate, abuse,
e.g. He’ll hunsip thi fer thi pains. But, lest this list become
wearisomely long, it shall close with the time-worn interjectional
phrase: _Adone_, cease, leave off, cp. ‘Therefore ha’ done with words,’
_T. Shrew_, III. ii. 118.

[Sidenote: _Dr. Johnson’s Testimony_]

Dr. Johnson bears his testimony to Shakespeare’s knowledge of dialect
and colloquial speech in the Preface to the Dictionary: ‘If the language
of theology were extracted from Hooker and the translation of the Bible;
the terms of natural knowledge from Bacon; the phrases of policy, war,
and navigation from Raleigh; the dialect of poetry and fiction from
Spenser and Sidney; and the diction of common life from Shakespeare, few
ideas would be lost to mankind, for want of English words, in which they
might be expressed.’ But the Dictionary ‘was intended primarily to
furnish a standard of polite usage, suitable for the classic ideals of
the new age’ (v. _Six Essays on Johnson_, by Walter Raleigh, p. 82).
Johnson, therefore, though he incorporated this ‘diction of common
life’, did not hesitate to sit in judgment upon it when he thought fit.
Take for example the phrase _to make bold_, which appears in the
Dictionary thus: ‘_to make bold_. To take freedoms: a phrase not
grammatical, though common. _To be bold_ is better; as, _I was bold to

      I have _made bold_ to send to your wife;
    My suit is, that she will to Desdemona
    Procure me some access.      _Shakesp. Othello._’

[Sidenote: _Johnson’s Dictionary_]

(This--it may be mentioned in passing--is one of the cases where Johnson
is quoting from memory, rather than from a printed text, as is shown by
slight verbal inaccuracies, v. _Oth._ III. i. 35.) Or again: ‘_To have
rather_. [This is, I think, a barbarous expression of late intrusion
into our language, for which it is better to say _will rather_.]’ It is
a very common phrase in Shakespeare, though Johnson does not here cite
his authority.

[Sidenote: _Johnson’s Dialect_
           _Johnson’s Treatment of Dialect_]

In the early days of Dictionaries a lexicographer impressed his work
with the stamp of his own personality in a way which is impossible in
modern times when Dictionary-making ranks among the abstract sciences.
Johnson’s Dictionary is pre-eminently personal, betraying the author’s
character and opinions at every turn; indeed, certain definitions, such
as those of ‘lexicographer’, ‘grubstreet’, ‘pension’, ‘excise’, &c.,
have become the hackneyed illustrations wherever Johnson’s life and
writings are discussed. It is not surprising, therefore, if we find in
his treatment of dialect words some points of biographical interest.
Certain of his views with regard to literature and language are plainly
given in his Preface to the Dictionary: ‘I soon discovered that the
bulk of my volumes would fright away the student, and was forced to
depart from my scheme of including all that was pleasing or useful in
English literature, and reduce my transcripts very often to clusters of
words, in which scarcely any meaning is retained; thus to the weariness
of copying, I was condemned to add the vexation of expunging. Some
passages I have yet spared, which may relieve the labour of verbal
searches, and intersperse with verdure and flowers the dusty desarts
of barren philology.’ Speaking of the difficulty of collecting words,
he says: ‘the deficiency of dictionaries was immediately apparent;
and when they were exhausted, what was yet wanting must be sought by
fortuitous and unguided excursions into books, and gleaned as industry
should find, or chance should offer it, in the boundless chaos of
living speech.... That many terms of art and manufacture are omitted,
must be frankly acknowledged; but for this defect I may boldly allege
that it was unavoidable: I could not visit caverns to learn the
miner’s language, nor take a voyage to perfect my skill in the dialect
of navigation, nor visit the warehouses of merchants, and shops of
artificers, to gain the names of wares, tools, and operations, of which
no mention is found in books; what favourable accident, or easy inquiry
brought within my reach, has not been neglected; but it had been a
hopeless labour to glean up words, by courting living information, and
contesting with the sullenness of one, and the roughness of another.’
But even a cursory glance through the pages of the Dictionary show
that where the ‘living information’ was his own knowledge of the
dialect words of his native county it was a ‘labour’ of love to glean
them up and place them among his ‘verdure and flowers’, above the
region of ‘boundless chaos’. Just as it can be shown from the internal
evidence of their respective Dictionaries that Skinner belonged to
Lincolnshire, Levins to Yorkshire, and Cotgrave to Cheshire, so it
could be proved that Johnson belonged to Staffordshire, even if we had
no other testimony outside his Dictionary. Some of the most striking
of these evidences are as follows: ‘Lich.... A dead carcase; whence
_lichwake_, the time or act of watching by the dead; _lichgate_, the
gate through which the dead are carried to the grave; _Lichfield_, the
field of the dead, a city in Staffordshire, so named from martyred
Christians. _Salve magna parens._’ ‘_Kecksy_. n.s. [commonly _kex_,
_cigue_, French; _cicuta_, Latin. Skinner.] Skinner seems to think
_kecksy_ or _kex_ the same as hemlock. It is used in Staffordshire both
for hemlock, and any other hollow jointed plant.’ ‘Shaw.... A thicket;
A small wood. A tuft of trees near Lichfield is called Gentle _shaw_.’
‘Tup. n.s. [I know not of what original.] A ram. This word is yet
used in Staffordshire, and in other provinces.’ In other cases, though
he does not mention his own native county, he seems to be so familiar
with the word in question, as belonging to rustic speech, that, with
the evidence of its existence in the Midland dialects of to-day, we may
safely assume that it was current in the Staffordshire dialect of his
time. For example: ‘Huff. n.s. [from _hove_, or _hoven_, swelled: he is
_huffed up by distempers_. So in some provinces we still say the bread
_huffs up_, when it begins to _heave_ or ferment: _huff_, therefore,
may be ferment. To be in a _huff_ is then to be in a _ferment_, as we
now speak],’ cp. _huff_ (Sh.I. Yks. Lei. Nhp. War.), to swell, puff
up; to rise in baking, generally used with _up_. ‘Clees, n.s. The two
parts of the foot of beasts which are cloven-footed. _Skinner_. It
is a country word, and probably corrupted from _claws_,’ cp. _clee_
(gen. dial. use in Eng.), claw. It represents O.E. _clēa_, the nom.
form of the substantive which in the oblique cases has given Eng.
_claw_. ‘_Fleet_. v.a.... 3. [In the country.] To skim milk; to take
off the cream: whence the word _fleeting_ dish,’ cp. _fleet_ (Cum.
w.Yks. Lan. Hrt. e.An. Suf. Ken.), to skim, take off the surface,
especially to take off the cream from milk; _fleeting-dish_, a flat
dish used in skimming cream from milk. ‘Gleed. n.s.... A hot glowing
coal. A provincial and obsolete word,’ cp. _gleed_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb.
Cum. Chs. Stf. Der. Not. Lei. Nhp. War. Wor. Shr. Glo.), a spark,
ember, red hot-coal, &c. ‘To Pound, v.a. [punian, Sax. whence in many
places they use the word _pun_].’ The form _pun_ still exists in the
following counties: n.Cy. w.Yks. s.Chs. Der. Not. Lei. War. Wor. Shr.
Hrf. Glo. ‘Rear. adj.... 1. Raw; half roasted; half sodden. 2. Early. A
provincial word.

      O’er yonder hill does scant the dawn appear,
    Then why does Cuddy leave his cot so _rear_?      _Gay._’

Cp. _rear_ (gen. dial. use in Eng.), of meat, eggs, &c.: half-cooked,
underdone, O.E. _hrēr_, not thoroughly cooked, lightly boiled. ‘Soe.
n.s. [_sae_, Scottish]. A large wooden vessel with hoops, for holding
water; a cowl. A pump grown dry will yield no water; but pouring a
little into it first, for one bason full you may fetch up as many
_soe_-fills. _More._’ Cp. _soa_ (n.Cy. Nhb. Stf. Lin. Bdf. e.An.), a
large round tub, gen. with two ears; used for brewing or carrying water,
O.N. _sār_, gen. _sās_, a large cask. ‘Suds. n.s.... 1. A lixivium of
soap and water. 2. _To be in the_ Suds. A familiar phrase for being in
any difficulty.’ The same phrase is still extant in n.Lin. and s.Wor.
‘To Toot. v.n.... To pry; to peep; to search narrowly and slily. It is
still used in the provinces, otherwise obsolete.

      I cast to go a shooting,
    Long wand’ring up and down the land,
    With bow and bolts on either hand,
      For birds and bushes _tooting_.      _Spenser’s Past._’

[Sidenote: _Johnson’s Scottish Assistants_
           _Johnson’s Treatment of Scots Words_
           _‘Low Words_]

Cp. _toot_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lin. Rut. Lei. Nhp.
War.), to peep, and pry about; to spy, O.E. _tōtian_, to peep out.
‘To Trape. v.a. [commonly written _to traipse_: probably of the same
original with _drab_]. To run idly and sluttishly about. It is used
only of women,’ cp. _trape_ (Cum. Wm. Lin. Nrf. Suf.), to walk in a
slovenly manner, especially with the dress trailing; and _trapes_ (gen.
dial. and colloq. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), used in the same sense.
One striking example of accurate knowledge of a word belonging only to
a very limited locality is the entry: ‘Sarn. n.s. A British word for
pavement, or stepping stones, still used in the same sense in Berkshire
and Hampshire,’ cp. _sarn_ (Shr. Brks. Hmp.), a culvert; a pavement;
stepping stones, cp. Wel. _sarn_, pauimentum. The word _atter_ Johnson
introduces on the authority of Skinner: ‘Atter. n.s.... Corrupt matter,
A word much used in Lincolnshire. _Skinner._’ It is used to-day only
in certain northern counties, and in East Anglia. The information
concerning words then current ‘in the northern counties, and in
Scotland’, was probably supplied by Johnson’s assistants. Out of his
six amanuenses, five were Scots.[1] A few examples of these words are:
‘Fain. adj.... 1. Glad; merry; chearful; fond. It is still retained
in Scotland in this sense.’ ‘Flit. v.n.... 2. To remove; to migrate.
In Scotland it is still used for removing from one place to another
at quarter-day, or the usual term.’ ‘Grout. n.s. [... In Scotland
they call it _groats_.] 1. Coarse meal.’ ‘Haver is a common word in
the northern counties for oats: as, _haver_ bread for oaten bread.’
‘Kirk. n.s.... An old word for a church, yet retained in Scotland.’
‘To Lout. v.n.... In Scotland they say, a fellow with _lowtan_ or
_luttan_ shoulders; that is, one who bends forwards; his shoulders or
back,’ cp. _looting_, ppl. adj. stooping, bending, now occurring in Sc.
dialects only. ‘Leverook. n.s.... This word is retained in Scotland,
and denotes the lark. The smaller birds have their seasons; as, the
_leverook_. _Walton’s Angler._ If the lufft faa ’twill smoore aw the
_leverooks_. _Scotch Prov._’ This proverbial saying is still found in
Sc. dialects, used in speaking to those who expect unlikely evils to
befall them. Other examples of extant Scottish words noted by Johnson
are Ambry, Bannock, Jannock, Lyart, Lope, Piggin, Sark, Skep, Thrapple,
Throdden. Numbers of modern dialect words are to be found in Johnson’s
Dictionary stigmatized by him as ‘low’. Without making a complete
collection of them, and submitting them to careful linguistic study,
it is impossible to say definitely in each case why he thus marked
them off from polite speech. One is, however, tempted to think that he
sometimes thus disposed of a word simply because he did not happen to
know it in his own dialect; for some of his ‘low’ words have no worse
history than others which he admits as ‘provincial’. For example: ‘To
dag. v.a.... To daggle; to bemire; to let fall in the water,’ is given
as ‘a low word’, while the synonymous ‘To daggle’ is admitted without
comment; cp. _dag_, to trail in the dew, wet, or mire, to bedraggle,
now essentially a Midland word, and _daggle_ (n.Cy. Yks. Chs. Lei.
Nhp. War. Oxf. e.An. Suf.), with the same meaning. Others of his ‘low’
words yet current are: ‘To Collogue, v.n.... To wheedle; to flatter; to
please with kind words’; ‘A Clutter, n.s.... A noise; a bustle; a busy
tumult; a hurry; a clamour’; ‘To dizen. v.a.... To dress; to deck; to
rig out.’ On the other hand, modern usage confirms Johnson’s opinion in
the case of: ‘Souse. adv. With sudden violence. A low word’; ‘To Swop.
v.a. [Of uncertain derivation.] To change; to exchange one thing for
another. A low word’; and so with many other words, which are to the
present day, not dialect, but colloquial and slang expressions that
have never worked their way up into ‘polite usage’, as has been the
better fortune of: ‘To budge’; ‘To coax’; ‘Quandary’; ‘Touchy’; and a
few more, which were once also under the ban of Johnson’s opprobrium,
and were each branded with his stern, judicial dictum, ‘a low word’.

[1] ‘For the mechanical part he employed, as he told me, six amanuenses;
and let it be remembered by the natives of North Britain, to whom he is
supposed to have been so hostile, that five of them were of that
country. There were two Messieurs Macbean; Mr. Shiels, who we shall
hereafter see partly wrote the _Lives of the Poets_ to which the name of
Cibber is affixed; Mr. Stewart, son of Mr. George Stewart, bookseller at
Edinburgh; and a Mr. Maitland. The sixth of these humble assistants was
Mr. Peyton, who, I believe, taught French, and published some elementary
tracts.’--Boswell, _Life of Johnson_, sub anno 1748. Ed. G. Birkbeck
Hill (1887), vol. i, p. 187.

[Sidenote: _The Survival of Rare Words_]

We have already seen that numbers of familiar words which we were wont
to look upon as dead bodies embalmed in the prose or verse of bygone
centuries, are yet alive and active in the dialects of to-day. But not
only have the familiar words been thus preserved, but also, sometimes,
the rare and unfamiliar. Where scholars have been unable to discern the
true meaning, or where the sense has been merely deduced from the
context, the discovery of the living word in some rustic dialect has
supplied the missing clue, or turned vague conjecture into well-grounded
certainty. There exists in Sussex and Hampshire the word _crundel_, used
to denote a ravine, or a strip of covert dividing open country, always
in a dip, usually with running water in the middle. In the _Codex
Diplomaticus_ edited by Kemble, more than sixty _crundels_ are
mentioned, but the meaning of the word had always remained a puzzle.
Sweet, in his _Anglo-Saxon Dictionary_, defines it as a cavity, a
chalk-pit(?), a pond(?); Bosworth-Toller as a barrow, a mound raised
over graves to protect them; Leo as a spring or well; Kemble as a sort
of watercourse, or a meadow through which a stream flows. It was the
discovery of the existence of the word in the dialects which placed the
correct meaning beyond doubt. In the Old English epic poem _Beowulf_,
occurs the following passage: _Ofer þǣm hongiað hrinde bearwas_, Over
which [lake] hang ... woods. The question as to the meaning of _hrinde_
has formed the subject of frequent discussion, and various translations
have been suggested, e.g. barky, rustling, placed in a ring or circle,
standing in a ring, or gnarled(?), v. _Beowulf_, by W. J. Sedgefield,
Litt.D., 1910. Dr. Richard Morris, however, proved fairly conclusively
that the right meaning should be rimy, frosty. The word _hrinde_ was
taken to be a corrupt form of O.E. _hrīmge_, rimy, covered with
hoar-frost, and this amended reading was adopted in subsequent editions
of the text. Now the word for hoar-frost in several northern dialects is
_rind_, and from a philological point of view, it is quite possible to
connect the two words, and justify the retention of the MS. reading,
whilst corroborating the accepted translation.

[Sidenote: _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_]

About the middle of the fourteenth century were produced four
remarkable poems, _Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight_, a romantic
story of the adventures of an Arthurian knight; _Pearl_, a Vision;
_Cleanness_; and _Patience_, stories taken from the Bible. We know
nothing of the life of the author, we do not even know his name.
Perhaps the little ‘Marjory’ who ‘lyfed not two yer in our thede
[country]’ was the poet’s own daughter, and the _Pearl_ the _In
Memoriam_ outpouring of his life’s sorrow. If so, it is the only shred
of his biography which we possess, and some scholars would rob us
even of that, by affirming that the lost ‘Pearl’ was purely a poetic
creation. We can only guess at the man through his works. Judged by
them, he appears to have been a literary country gentleman, born and
bred in Lancashire, a man equally at home in his study, pen in hand,
describing armed knights, and embattled castles, the tumultuous
surgings of the Deluge, and the woes of Jonah in the ‘maw’ of the
‘wylde walterande whal’; or, in the saddle, following the ‘wylde
swyn’, or ‘reynarde’ ‘þe schrewe’ to the sound of horn and bugle and
the ‘glauerande glam of gedered rachchez’ [yelping cry of a pack
of hounds]. He possessed, on the one hand, a real vein of poetic
imagination, coupled with learning and knowledge, and on the other,
all the instincts of a keen sportsman. He was a lover of nature and
outdoor life, with extraordinary powers of accurate observation, and an
artist’s eye for picturesque detail. Thus his memory was stored with
a rich and varied vocabulary which the exigencies of his alliterative
verse brought into full play. Many of the words he used are not found
recorded anywhere else in literature, but they have remained in the
dialect of the district to which the poet belonged. _Sir Gawayne_
especially, by reason of its more secular subject-matter, abounds in
words which are common in the North-country dialects of to-day, and
it is these modern instances which have brought to light previously
hidden meanings, and have confirmed contextual deductions, and thus
enabled us to appreciate more fully the skilful handling of a wide
range of vocabulary which characterizes this unknown poet, sportsman,
and man of letters. In the description of the wondrous caparison of
the Green Knight’s horse are mentioned ‘his molaynes’. The Glossary
to the text gives this word as signifying: round embossed ornaments,
but with a query. Stratmann’s _Dictionary_ gives ‘_Molaine_, sb.?
some ornament of a shield’. No other instance of the use of the word
occurs in literature, but it is found in the Midland and South Midland
spoken dialects: _Mullen_, the head-gear of a horse; the bridle of a
cart-horse. Similarly, ‘toppyng’, another word peculiar to this poem.
The Glossary and Dictionary suggest the meanings ‘mane(?), or top,
head(?)’; the correct meaning as shown by the dialects is: a horse’s
forelock. When the Man in Green ‘gedereȝ vp hys grymme tole, Gawayn
to smyte’, he ‘mynteȝ at hym maȝtyly’, l. 2290. Obviously the verb
‘mynt’ means, as the Glossary says, to aim, or strike, but the more
exact sense, and the one required by the story, is shown by the modern
dialect _mint_ (Sc. Irel. and n.Cy. dialects), to make a feigned
attempt at, to make a movement as if to strike a blow but without doing
it. The Green Knight had appointed his ‘grene chapelle’ as the place
where Sir Gawayne was to receive this blow, and it proves to be ‘nobot
an olde caue, Or a creuisse of an olde cragge’:

    Now i-wysse [of a truth], quod Wowayn, wysty is here.
                                                       l. 2189.

This word ‘wysty’ is translated in the Glossary by: desert, waste, but
with a query; the marginal paraphrase gives: ‘a desert is here.’ The
word does not, as far as I know, occur in any other literary monument,
but it has been preserved in the poet’s native dialect, cp. _wisty_
(Lan. Chs.), spacious, empty, bare, large, often used in the sense of
needlessly spacious. This meaning is exactly in accordance with the rest
of the speech, and it adds a realistic touch, which was wanting in
‘desert’. Sir Gawayne was looking into the chapel, and he sees it all
big, and bare, and empty--it was an uncanny place:

    Now I fele hit is þe fende, in my fyue wytteȝ,
    Þat hatȝ stoken [set] me þis steuen [tryst], to strye [destroy]
       me here.
    Hit is þe corsedest kyrk, þat euer I com inne.
                                                    ll. 2193-6.

[Sidenote: _Cleanness_]

In the poem called _Cleanness_, beginning with the parable of the
Marriage Feast, occurs the word ‘trasches’:

    For what vrþly haþel [man] þat hyȝ honour haldeȝ
    Wolde lyke, if a ladde com lyþerly [badly] attyred.
    With rent cokreȝ [gaiters] at þe kne & his clutte [clouted]
      trasches.--ll. 35-40.

The Glossary gives: ‘Trasches = trauses or trossers, ... trousers?’ and
Stratmann’s _Dictionary_ favours the same suggestion, but there is no
longer any doubt that the word is correct as it stands, and that it is
the same as the modern _trash_ (w.Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der.), an old
worn-out boot, shoe, or slipper. The combination ‘cockers and trashes’
appears in Grose’s _Provincial Glossary_, 1790: ‘Cockers and Trashes.
Old stockings without feet, and worn-out shoes. North.’ The next line of
the poem runs:

    & his tabarde to-torne & his toteȝ oute.--l. 41.

Here both the Glossary and Dictionary suggest that ‘toteȝ’ is a corrupt
form meaning ‘toes’, the suggestion being made to fit the word ‘oute’,
regardless of the fact that the lad’s feet had already been described
in the previous line. In all probability ‘his toteȝ oute’ means: his
locks disordered, hanging loosely about, cp. _tot_ (Lan. Sus. Hmp.
Som.), in forms _tooat_, _tote_ (Lan.), a tuft, as of grass, hair, &c.
The poem _Patience_ is the story of Jonah, enlarged, and pointed with
a moral. When Jonah is told to rise up quickly and take his way to
Nineveh, he fears the consequences:

    I com [if I came] wyth þose tyþynges, þay ta [take] me bylyue,
    Pyneȝ me in a prysoun, put me in stokkes,
    Wryþe [bind] me in a warlok, wrast out myn yȝen.--ll. 78-80.

[Sidenote: _Patience_]

Both Glossary and Dictionary translate ‘warlok’ by prison, which,
besides being a superfluous repetition of ‘prisoun’ in the preceding
line, does not harmonize with the verb ‘wryþe’. A far better sense is
gained by taking ‘warlok’ to mean chain, fetter, cp. _warlock_ (Lan.
Chs. Som.), to tighten the rope or chain which binds the load upon a
wagon; sb. a method of tightening the rope or chain of a wagon-load, the
fastening thus made, cp. ‘Warloke, or fetyr lock: Sera pedicalis uel
compedalis,’ _Prompt. Parv._ circa 1440.

These are only a few examples out of very many which could have been
cited from these fourteenth-century poems alone, to illustrate the way
in which the study of modern dialects helps us to a better
understanding and appreciation of our older literature.

[Sidenote: _Surnames and Place-names_]

Before leaving the subject of the preservation of old words in the
dialects, one other store-chamber of words no longer current in the
standard speech is worth a passing notice. Many old words which have
ceased to be used as common nouns, have become crystallized in surnames,
and it is interesting to compare them with the existing cognates in the
dialects. I am aware that any attempt to go etymologizing among surnames
or place-names is treading on dangerous ground. It is so easy to rush in
with a fair sounding derivation, which is in reality nothing more than a
worthless guess. I shall not, therefore, venture far afield.

Amongst the names here brought together, I have not included those
which have now no living representative, as for example: Hordern, which
is the O.E. _hord-ærn_, a treasury, a storeroom, lit. a hoard-house.
The word _ærn_ is, as far as I know, wholly obsolete, all except its
final _n_ remaining in _barn_, literally, a barley-house. Or again,
Newbottle, Newbold, which contain the forms O.E. _botl_, _bold_, a
house, a dwelling, now no longer used as a simple word, remaining only
in surnames and place-names.

[Sidenote: _Words denoting Occupations_]

The O.E. suffix _-estre_ was originally used in forming feminine
_nomina agentis_, but already in later O.E. we find _bæcestre_ used
to denote a male as well as a female baker, the name changing hands
with the trade. During the M.E. period _-estre_ became _-ster_ and was
felt to be only an emphatic form of the masculine _-er_, and could be
used indifferently for men or women, so that when baking, brewing,
dyeing, weaving, &c., ceased to be feminine pursuits, the terms
bakester, brewester, litester, webster ceased to convey any tinge of
feminine gender, and in course of time they became the surnames Baxter,
Brewster, Litster, Webster. To sit and spin was, however, an occupation
to which the ladies held undisputed claim, and spinster continued to
designate a woman as distinct and apart from a man, even when the
trade was forgotten, so the term has never become a surname. As a
common noun _backster_ for baker is known in a few northern dialects,
but its use is dying out. In the form _bakester_ it is, however,
used in Cornwall. In the same districts _brewster_ for brewer holds
a similar position. _Litster_ for dyer is practically obsolete now,
though the verb _lit_, to dye, remains in Scotland and the North. It
is a Scandinavian word, from O.N. _lita_, to dye, already occurring in
M.E., cp. ‘That thi fote be littid in blode,’ Hampole, _c._ 1330, _Ps._
lxvii. 25. _Webster_ belongs also to Scotland and the North, but it is
rapidly disappearing in favour of the ordinary word weaver. Where the
A.V. has: ‘My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,’ _Job_ vii. 6,
Wyclif wrote: ‘My daies passiden swiftliere thanne a web is kit down of
a webstere.’

[Sidenote: _Words denoting Physical Features_
           _Streams, Meadows, Woods, &c._

The name Brewis means broth, pottage, cp. _brewis_, _browis_ (Sc.
Nhb. Yks. Lan. Chs. Wal. Der. Shr.), broth, or bread soaked in hot
water, gravy, &c., originally a French word, O.Fr. _broez_, broth, in
M.E. _brouis_, _brois_, cp.:

    And y shal yeue þe ful fair bred,
    And make þe broys in þe led.--_Havelok_, ll. 923, 924.

Bentley is the grassy meadow, Broadbent, the broad field, or hill-side,
cp. _bent_ (Sc. Irel. and in gen. use in n. and midl. counties and
e.An.), any coarse grass, especially that found on moorlands or near
the sea, also a sandy hillock or knoll covered with coarse grass,
a hill-side. The word is used by Chaucer, and by many other early
writers. Brock means a badger, cp. _brock_ (Sc. Irel. n. counties to
Chs., also Lin. Lei., &c.), a badger; but the word is obsolescent.
Chapman is a word that occurs frequently in M.E. literature, meaning
merchant, trader. It is closely connected with _cheap_, and _chaffer_,
cp. _chapman_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. Lan. Lei. Nhp. Shr. e.An.), a pedlar,
a small dealer. Clough, Fairclough, signifies a ravine, cp. _clough_
(n.Cy. dialects), a ravine, chasm, narrow glen. It occurs in Barbour’s
_Bruce_ (1375) in the form _clewch_: ‘In a clewch ... All his archeres
enbuschit he,’ xvi. 386. Garth is the Norse form of our word _yard_,
cp. _garth_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Not. Lin. Nhp.), a small
piece of enclosed ground, usually beside a house, O.N. _garðr_, a small
enclosure of land. Ginnell is probably the same word as O.Fr. _chenel_,
or _chanel_, a channel, cp. _ginnell_ (Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs.), a
narrow passage or entry between buildings. In Scotland it denotes a
small channel for water, a street gutter. Greaves is an old form of
_groves_, cp. _greave_ (Irel. Lan.), a grove, a division of a forest,
O.E. _grǣfa_, a bush. Chaucer has the word in a well-known passage:

      The busy larke, messager of daye,
    Salueth in hire song the morwe graye;
    And fyry Phebus ryseth up so brighte,
    That al the orient laugheth of the lighte,
    And with his stremes dryeth in the greves
    The silver dropes, hongyng on the leeves.
                                    _Knightes Tale_, ll. 633-8.

[Sidenote: _Streams, Meadows, Woods, &c._]

Hayward means literally hedge-warden, cp. _hayward_ (Chs. Lin. Wor. Glo.
Oxf. Bdf. Sus. Hmp. Dor. Som.), a manorial officer whose duty it is to
see that fences are kept in repair, to look after the stock, and to
impound stray cattle. One of the earliest instances of the use of the
word in M.E. occurs in the _Ancren Riwle_ (_c._ 1210), or Rule of Nuns,
where reasons are given in support of the Rule that a nun should keep no
beast but a cat only. Among the worldly cares and employments which
would come upon her if she were to keep a cow, is that she would have to
flatter the ‘heiward’. Holt, Hurst, Shaw are common words in the
dialects for wood, copse, O.E. _holt_, _hyrst_, _scaga_, cp. ‘Gaillard
he was as goldfinch in the shaws,’ _Cokes Tale_, l. 3. Inge means a
meadow, cp. _ing_ (Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Not. Lin. e.An. Ken.
Sur. Sus.), a meadow, pasture, especially low-lying land by the side of
a stream or river, M.E. _eng_, O.N. _eng_. Kemp originally meant a
fighter, cp. _kemp_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Wm.), a champion, a bold impetuous
person, O.E. _cempa_, a soldier, warrior, O.N. _kempa_, M.E. _kempe_, a
soldier, a champion. In the _Lay of Havelok_ (_c._ 1280) we read
concerning ‘þe starke laddes’ who ‘putten with a mikel ston’:

    Hwo so mithe putten þore
    Biforn a-noþer, an inch or more,
    Wore he yung, or wore he hold,
    He was for a kempe told.--ll. 1033-6.

[Sidenote: _Todhunter_]

Murgatroyd, the moor-gate-royd, means the moor-way clearing. This
_gate_ has nothing to do with _gate_, an opening, but we have it in
_gait_, with specialized meaning. It is from O.N. _gata_, a way, cp.
_gate_ (var. dial. uses in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), a way, path, road. It
is very common in M.E. writings. _-royd_ is related to Icel. _ruð_,
a clearing in a wood, cp. _royd_ (Yks. Lan.), a clearing in a wood,
now generally found in place-names and field-names. Pargeter means a
plasterer, and is borrowed from French, cp. _parget_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Lin. Nhp. War. Hrf. Glo. Ken. Sur. Sus. Som.), to plaster with
cement or mortar, also to whitewash; _pargeter_, a plasterer. Fr.
(Norm. dial.) _porjeter_, crépir, couvrir une muraille d’un enduit,
O.Fr. (Norm.) _pargeter_, projeter, jeter et répandre en avant. Wyclif
has: ‘Seie thou to hem that pargiten without temperure, that it schal
falle doun,’ _Ezek._ xiii. 11. Ruddock denotes a robin, cp. _ruddock_
(n.Cy. Nhb. Yks. War. Wor. Suf. Ken. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), the
robin, O.E. _rudduc_. Chaucer mentions ‘the tame ruddok’ in his
_Parliament of Foules_. Rutherford means cattle-ford; the more common
form of the word is found in Rotherhithe, literally cattle-harbour,
cp. _rother_ (n.Cy. Lan. War. Wor. Hrf. Sus.), a horned beast, horned
cattle. John of Trevisa, writing of this country in 1387, says:
‘Þis ylond ys best to brynge forþ tren, & fruyt, & roþeron, & oþere
bestes.’ Slade means a valley, a hollow, a grassy plain between hills,
the side or slope of a hill, and is found in many dialects. Snell
is originally an adjective, meaning quick, prompt, cp. _snell_ (Sc.
Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lin.), quick, sharp, acute, keen; and
of the weather: cold, piercing, O.E. _snell_, quick, active. Souter
means a shoemaker, cp. _souter_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Nhp.), a shoemaker,
a cobbler, O.E. _sūtere_ (from Lat. _sutor_), M.E. _soutere_, cp.
‘A somer-game of souteres,’ _P. Plow._ Bk. V, 413. Todhunter is the
fox-hunter, cp. _tod_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Lin.), a fox.
An early occurrence of the word is found in one of Ben Jonson’s poems.
Wong means a field, cp. _wong_ (Yks. Not. Lin. Lei. Nhp.), a field, a
meadow, low-lying land, O.E. _wang_, _wong_, a plain, mead, field, M.E.

    And þe lond þat þor-til longes,
    Borwes, tunes, wodes and wonges.
                                     _Havelok_, ll. 1443, 1444.



So far we have considered only those words which, whether recently or
long ago, have left the ranks of standard modern English and become
‘dialect’. But another wide field for study opens up when we come
to look at common standard English words as they are used in the
dialects. We shall find that the dialects have frequently preserved a
well-authenticated old meaning which we have let slip, and now express
by some quite different word or phrase. What may now sound to us like
a perverted sense is often historically correct, for whereas learned
influences, the introduction of foreign words--which makes for further
specialization and differentiation of meaning--and the general march
of civilization affecting manners, customs, and habits of thought,
all tend to divert the normal course of language, the dialects have
meanwhile kept the noiseless tenor of their way unmolested. Thus it
may often happen that it is we of the literary speech who use a word
in a perverted or specialized sense, while the unlearned rustic is
keeping to one which has been handed down steadily from father to son
since the days of Wyclif or Shakespeare, or to go still further back,
since the days of Alfred or Chaucer. A few examples of these words
used with their older meanings are: _able_ (n.Cy. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm.
Yks. Lan. War. Hrf.), well-to-do, rich, e.g. Bob’s a yabble chap, he
can live wi’oot wahkin’, cp. ‘Able (wealthy), _opulentis_,’ Coles,
_Dict._, 1679; _admire_ (Irel. Wm. Yks. Chs. Lei. Nhp. War. Oxf.
Som.), to wonder at, notice with astonishment: e.g. Yan wad admire
how yau gits sec cauds [such colds], or used with _at_: Ah caan’t bud
admire at t’waay he did it. Cp. ‘Admire not in thy mind, why I do call
thee so,’ _Twelfth Night_, III. iv. 165. The word is frequently used
in this sense in Jervas’ Translation of _Don Quixote_ (1742), e.g.
‘The duchess could not forbear laughing to hear the simplicity of her
duenna, nor admiring to hear the reasonings and proverbs of Sancho’;
‘he admired at the length of his horse,’ vol. ii, p. 272, l. 6; p. 120,
l. 15, World’s Classics edit. Cp. ‘I wondered with great admiration,’
A.V. _Rev._ xvii. 6. _Anatomy_ (in gen. use throughout dials. except
in se. counties), a skeleton, a very thin emaciated person, e.g. She’s
dwinnel’t away til a atomy, ’Er little un’s nuth’n but a natomy, cp.
‘They brought one Pinch, a hungry lean-faced villain, A mere anatomy,’
_Com. Err._ V. i. 238; _baby_ (Dur. Wm. Lan. Lin.), a doll, cp. ‘The
baby of a girl,’ _Macb._ III. iv. 106, and:

    Whilst all the house my passion reads,
      In papers round her baby’s hair.
  Matt. Prior, _To a Child of Quality, Five Years Old_, 1704.
        _The Author then Forty_, ll. 15, 16.

[Sidenote: _Examples of Archaic Meanings_]

_Bachelor_ (Irel.), an admirer, a suitor, cp. ‘broom-groves, Whose
shadow the dismissed bachelor loves,’ _Temp._ IV. i. 67; _bid_ (Sc. Nhb.
Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Stf. Der.), to invite, especially to a wedding
or funeral, hence: _bidden-wedding_, one to which a large number of
guests are invited, and as at a penny-wedding, expected to contribute,
cp. ‘As many as ye finde, byd them to the mariage,’ Tindale, 1534,
_Matt._ xxii. 9; _bravery_ (War. Brks.), splendour, fine clothes, cp.
‘With scarfs and fans and double change of bravery,’ _T. of Shrew_, IV.
iii. 57; _bride-ale_ (n.Cy. Som.), a wedding feast, O.E. _brȳd-ealo_;
_budget_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks. Lan. Stf. Not. Shr. Wil. Dor.), a workman’s bag,
generally made of leather, especially a tinker’s wallet, Fr. _bougette_,
sac de cuir que l’on portait en voyage. There is an old saying in
Nottinghamshire: Yer mun wait while [till] yer get it, like the tinker
an’ ’is budget, alluding to the frequent pawning of the budget, to pay
for the tinker’s board and lodging, cp.:

    If tinkers may have leave to live,
      And bear the sow-skin budget.
                                 _Wint. Tale_, IV. iii. 19, 20.

[Sidenote: _Dizzy, Fond, Foul_]

In a treatise on English Dogs translated from Latin in 1570, we read:
‘This kind of dog is called, in like manner, Canis Sarcinarius; in
Latin, and may aptly be Englished, a Tinker’s Cur. Because with
marvellous patience, they bear big budgets fraught with tinker’s tools
and metal meet to mend kettles, porridge-pots, skillets, and chafers.’

_Burrow_ (Nhp. War. Wor. Shr. Hrf. Glo. Oxf. Bck. Wil.), shelter from
the sun or wind, cp. ‘A burrow (covert), _latibulum_,’ Coles, _Dict._,
1679; _child_ (Lan. Shr. Glo. Oxf.), a female child, a girl, cp. ‘Mercy
on’s, a barne; a very pretty barne! A boy or a child, I wonder?’ _Wint.
T._ III. iii. 71; _dizzy_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks. Chs. War. Shr. e.An.), foolish,
stupid, half-witted, O.E. _dysig_, M.E. _dysy_, foolish; _enough_ (Yks.
Lan. Lin.), used elliptically for enough cooked, e.g. T’beef’s enough,
cp. ‘He took his simples, and made a compound of them, mixing them
together, and boiling them a good while, until he thought they were
enough,’ _Don Quix._ i. 134, Jervas; _fond_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum.
Wm. Yks. Lan. Not. Lin. e.An.), foolish, silly, daft; a very common
simile is: as fond as a besom. There is an old English proverb: He’s a
fond chapman that comes the day after the fair. The substantive
_fondness_, foolishness, nonsense, occurs in Wyclif’s Bible: ‘And in the
profetis of Samarie Y siȝ fonnednesse,’ _Jer._ xxiii. 13. _Foul_ (Yks.
Lan. Chs. Der. Not. Lin. War. Wor. Shr.), ugly, e.g. There never wur a
fou’ face but there wur a fou’ fancy to match it; Fawn-freckles han made
a vow They’ll noan come on a face that’s feaw, cp. ‘Fairing the foul
with art’s false borrow’d face,’ Shaks. _Sonnet_ cxxvii. 6. _Frame_ (n.
country dials.), to set about doing anything, to prepare, &c. Cp.

    The nations all whom Thou hast made
      Shall come, and all shall frame
    To bow them low before Thee, Lord,
      And glorify Thy name.--_Ps._ lxxxvi, ll. 29-32.

_Garret_ in the sense of watch-tower, is obsolete now, but remained in
Newcastle-on-Tyne into last century, cp. ‘garyteȝ ful gaye gered
bi-twene,’ _Sir Gaw._, l. 791, O.Fr. _garite_, a tower on the walls of a
town; _gossip_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. Lan. Lin. Lei. War. Shr. Hrf. Suf. Som.
Dev. Cor.), a godparent, a sponsor at baptism, O.E. _godsibb_, a
sponsor; _haunt_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Yks. Chs. Som.), a custom, practice,
e.g. at your oud hants, at your old habits, cp. ‘Of cloth-makyng she
hadde such an haunt,’ Chaucer, _Prol._ l. 447; _hind_ (n. dials. also
Sus. Dev. Cor.), a farm-labourer, servant, or bailiff. The final _d_ is
excrescent, and the word is formed from O.E. _hī(g)na_, gen. pl. of
_hīwa_, _hīga_, member of a family, servant, M.E. _hine_, cp.:

    Ther nas baillif, ne herde, ne other hyne,
    That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne [deceit].
                                             _Prol._ ll. 603-4.

[Sidenote: _Hugger-mugger, Lead, Learn_]

_In hugger-mugger_ (Sh.I. Nhb. Yks. Der. Suf. Dev.), clandestinely,
privately, in a sneaking way, cp. ‘that his body should be honourably
buried, and not in hugger-mugger, _et non point à cachettes_,’ North’s
_Plutarch_, 1579, cp. _Hamlet_, IV. v. 67; _imp_ (Sc. Dur. Cum. Yks.
Hrf. Rdn. Dev.), a shoot from a tree or fence, a sucker, an ingrafted
slip, O.E. _impa_, a sucker, scion; _lead_ (Sh.I. Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum.
Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Not. Lin. Rut. War. Shr.), to carry, cart, convey
goods by cart, used especially of corn or hay, O.E. _lǣdan_, M.E.
_leden_, to lead, to carry, cp.:

    With him ther was a Ploughman, was his brother,
    That hadde i-lad of dong ful many a fother [load].
                                          _Prol._ ll. 529, 530.

_Learn_ (gen. dials.), to teach, e.g. ’E nivver larnt me nowt, he never
taught me anything. In O.E. the two verbs _lǣran_, to teach, and
_leornian_, to learn, were kept quite separate in meaning, but already
in M.E. _lernen_ sometimes took over the sense of _leren_. Chaucer has:
‘To lerne a lewed [ignorant] man this subtilte,’ _Chanounes Yemannes
Tale_, l. 844, cp. ‘Lead me forth in thy truth and learn me,’ _Prayer
Book_, _Ps._ XXV. 4. In a Northamptonshire churchyard, there is an
epitaph on a village singing-master, dated 1729, which runs as follows:

    He larned singing far and near,
      Full twenty years and more;
    But fatal death hath stopt his breth,
      And he can larn no more.

[Sidenote: _A ‘painful’ Preacher_]

_Like_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks.), to please, be agreeable to, e.g. If it likes
them to do it, let them do it. In O.E. this verb was always used
impersonally in this sense, but during the M.E. period it came to be
used personally as well. _Lodge_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. Chs. War. Shr. Oxf.
Brks. Ken. Sur. Sus. Wil.), of corn or grass: to lie flat, to be beaten
down by wind and rain, generally used in the past participle, cp. ‘Like
to the summer’s corn by tempest lodged,’ _2 Hen. VI_, III. ii. 176;
_loft_ (n. counties and midl.), the upper floor of a house of two
stories, an upper room, cp. ‘Eutychus ... fell down from the third loft,
and was taken up dead,’ A.V. _Acts_ xx. 9; _meat_ (in gen. dial. use in
Sc. Irel. Eng.), food in general, victuals, also used as a verb, e.g.
Well, ya see, ma’am, he meats hissen, an’ ah weshes him, i.e. he finds
his own food, and I wash for him, O.E. _mete_, food. We are all familiar
with the word in this sense in the proverb: One man’s meat is another
man’s poison, and in the Bible, cp. ‘And if thou bring an oblation of a
meat offering baken in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine
flour mingled with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil,’ A.V.
_Lev._ ii. 4. _Nephew_ (Ken.), a grandson. This meaning occurs in
Shakespeare, and several times in the Bible, cp. ‘And he had forty sons,
and thirty nephews,’ with the marginal note: ‘Heb. sons’ sons,’ A.V.
_Judges_ xii. 14. Dr. Johnson gives it, but as an archaism: ‘The
grandson. Out of use.’ Similarly _niece_ (Ken.) is used to signify a
granddaughter, cp. _Rich. III_, IV i. 1. _Owe_ (Sh.I. Irel. n.Cy. Cum.
Yks. e.An. w.Cy.), to own, possess, e.g. Let ta awe ta, an’ ta tither,
let the one person possess the one, and the other person the remaining
one, O.E. _āgan_, cp. ‘the noblest grace she owed,’

_Temp._ III. i. 45; _painful_ (Yks. Chs.), painstaking, hardworking,
active, cp. ‘Such servants are oftenest painfull and good,’ Tusser,
_Husb._, 1580. An inscription on a memorial brass dated 1639 begins

      The body of Henry Rogers
    A painful preacher in this church
        Two and thirty yeeres.

[Sidenote: _Archaic Meanings_]

_Pity_ (Sc. Cum. e.Yks.), impers. it fills one with pity, e.g. It fair
pitied me to see t’poor auld galloway so sairly failed, cp. ‘It pitieth
them to see her in the dust,’ _Prayer Book_, _Ps._ cii. 14; _proper_
(Sc. Nhb. Glo. e.An. Ken. Hmp. Wil. Dor. Dev. Cor.), handsome, fine,
well-grown, cp. ‘This Ludovico is a proper man,’ _Othello_, IV. iii. 36,
‘they saw he was a proper child,’ A.V. _Heb._ xi. 23; _quick_ (n. and
midl. counties), alive, e.g. I thoht thaay was dead last back-end, bud
thaay’re wick eniff noo, cp. ‘I had rather be set quick i’ the earth,’
_Mer. Wives_, III. iv. 90. We are of course familiar with the word in
this sense in the Bible and Prayer Book, and in phrases such as: a
quickset hedge, the quick of the nail, quicksilver, &c. A quickset hedge
is a living hedge, as distinct from a dead fence or stockade, and the
young thorn-plants for forming such a hedge are known in the dialects as
_quick_, or _quicks_. The following is an advertisement which appeared
in the _Oxford Chronicle_: ‘Quick! Quick!! QUICK!!! for hedgerows.
1,000,000 for sale,’ February 1, 1901. _Sad_ (many dials.), solid, firm,
compact; of bread, pastry, &c.: heavy, close; also: grave, discreet. The
original meaning of O.E. _sæd_ was satiated, the word being cognate with
German _satt_, e.g. _wīnsæd_, satiated with wine, but already in Middle
English it came to mean quiet, discreet, solid, cp.:

    In Surrye whylom dwelte a companye
    Of chapmen riche, and therto sadde and trewe.
                             _Man of Lawes Tale_, ll. 134, 135.

[Sidenote: _Sad, Serve, Silly, Speed, Tell_]

Wyclif has: ‘And whanne greet flood was maad, the flood was hurtlid to
that hous, and it miȝte not moue it, for it was foundid on a sad stoon,’
_St. Luke_ vi. 48. Similarly, _sadness_ (Yks. Lan. Chs. Lei. War.),
solidity, seriousness; _in good sadness_ means in earnest. Shakespeare
plays upon the two meanings of the word in a well-known passage
beginning: ‘Tell me in sadness, who is that you love,’ _Rom. & Jul._ I.
i. 205. Connected with these words is the verb _sade_ (n.Cy. Chs. Stf.
War. Wor. Shr. Hrf. Glo. w.Cy.), to satiate, also to become weary or
tired, especially used in the phrase _sick and saded_, O.E. _sadian_,
to become satiated or weary. _Serve_ (Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Not.
Lin. War. Wor. Shr. Oxf. Hmp. Wil.), to supply an animal with food, e.g.
Ah’ll gan an’ sarve t’pigs, cp. ‘See cattle well serued, without and
within, and all thing at quiet ere supper begin,’ Tusser, _Husb._;
_shed_ (Sc. and n. counties), to part, separate, O.E. _scādan_,
_scēadan_, to divide, separate, a meaning which is retained in the
standard language in the compound _watershed_; _silly_ (Ess. Som.),
simple, rustic, (Nhb.) pure, innocent, e.g. The bit bairn’s asleep,
silly thing, cp.:

    Perhaps their loves, or else their sheep,
    Was all that did their silly thoughts so busy keep.
                                Milton, _Nat. Ode_, ll. 91, 92.

Another dialect form of the word is _seely_, O.E. _gesǣlig_, happy,
blessed. _Speed_ (Sc. Yks. Lan. Lin. Glo. Cor.), success, is familiar to
us in certain phrases and sayings, such as: More haste worse speed. An
old Lincolnshire parish clerk affirmed that in his young days it was
customary for men, before they began work in the morning, to say: May
God speed us well. Another of the fraternity used to call out in church:
God speed ’em weel, in a high monotone immediately after the publication
of banns of marriage. _Godspeed_ (Lakel.) is the name for a wooden
screen or barrier against the wind within the door, apparently so called
because leave-takings or good-byes were said there. _Spill_ (Sc. Midl.
Ken. Sur. Sus.), to spoil, ruin, destroy, O.E. _spillan_, to destroy;
_stickler_ (Glo. Som. Dev. Cor.), an umpire, especially an umpire at a
wrestling-match or bout of singlestick, cp.:

    The dragon wing of night o’erspreads the earth,
    And stickler-like, the armies separates.
                              _Troil. & Cres._ V. viii. 18, 19.

_Tell_ (many dials.), to count, reckon up, e.g. Tell them ther ship
[sheep], ’ooll ’e, an let I knaw how many ther be on ’em, O.E. _tellan_,
to count, cp.:

    And every shepherd tells his tale,
    Under the hawthorn in the dale.
                                       _L’Allegro_, ll. 67, 68.

_Whether_ (Yks. Lan.), which of two, e.g. Wether will ta ’ev, this er
that? O.E. _hwæþer_, which of two, cp. ‘Whether of them twain did the
will of his father?’ A.V. _Matt._ xxi. 31; _witty_ (Sc. Yks. Chs. Not.
Lin. Ken. Dev.), wise, knowing, sensible, shrewd, e.g. He’s a witty mon,
is yander, there’s noo bestin’ him at a bargain, O.E. _wittig_, wise,

    In them I trust; for they are soldiers,
    Witty, courteous, liberal, full of spirit.
                                    _3 Hen. VI_, I. ii. 42, 43.

_Wretch_ (War. Wor. Glo. Bck.), used as a term of endearment, sympathy,
or compassion, e.g. I set a deal o’ store by Lucy, poor wratch! cp.:

    Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul,
    But I do love thee!--_Oth._ III. iii. 90, 91.

[Sidenote: _Preservation of Historical Forms_]

Side by side with these historical meanings preserved in the dialects,
are the historical forms. Many a word which we meet in the dialects in
some unfamiliar shape, can be shown to be no mere vulgar
mispronunciation or misspelling, but a genuine old form, once under
distinguished patronage in our earlier literature. Or again, formations
which appear to be ignorant errors in grammar can be shown to be
grammatically regular, the divergence of the standard form being due to
analogy, or some other influence. It is surprising to find what a number
of cases there are where a word in literary English has become corrupt,
whilst in the dialects it has followed its normal development. To take
some examples of these justifiable dialect forms: _alablaster_ (n. and
midl. counties) for alabaster, e.g. It’s a straange nist bairn, it’s
skin’s that clear it’s like alablaster, cp.:

    Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
    Sit like his grandsire cut in alablaster?
                                        _M. Ven._ I. i. 83, 84.

[Sidenote: _Crowner, Laylock, Showl_]

This was the general spelling of alabaster in the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. _Apricock_ (n.Cy. Lan. Lin. Lei. Nhp. War. Shr.
Hrf.) for apricot, cp. ‘Yond dangling apricocks,’ _Rich. II_, III. iv.
29. The word came originally from the Portuguese _albricoque_, and
the change from the final _ck_ to _t_ was due to the French cognate
_abricot_. _Crowner_ (in gen. dial. use in Irel. and Eng.) for coroner,
e.g. I do lot as they’l ’ave a crowner’s quest on he, cp. ‘Crowner’s
quest law,’ _Ham._ V. i. 24. _Laylock_ (in gen. dial. use in Eng.)
for lilac, cp. ‘The Lelacke Tree,’ Bacon, _Essays_, ed. 1625. Our
pronunciation _lilac_ is borrowed from those dialects where _byby_ is
the normal pronunciation of _baby_. We have erred in the same direction
in discarding the older _obleege_ (now confined to the dialects) in
favour of the modern _oblige_. The correct pronunciation of the French
_ī_ is that in _machine_. _Newelty_ (Nhp. Oxf. Bdf. Hnt. e.An. Som.)
for novelty, e.g. Well! there idn very much newelty in thick there
contraption like, cp. ‘_Novella_, a tale, a parable, or a neweltee,’
Thomas, _Italian Grammar_, 1562. _Shool_ or _showl_ (in gen. dial.
use in Sc. Irel. Eng.) for shovel, cp. ‘Item, j. dressyng knyfe, j.
fyre showle,’ _Paston Letters_, 1459. This must have been the proper
pronunciation when the nursery rhyme _Cock Robin_ was composed:

      I, said the Owl,
    With my spade and _showl_ [mod. edits, _shovel_]
      I’ll dig his grave.

[Sidenote: _‘Ballet’ and ‘Sallet’_]

Similarly, comparison with the dialects restores correct rhyme to the
_water_: _after_ in _Jack and Jill_, and correct metre to: ‘Mary,
Mary, quite contrary.’ _Abear_ for bear, endure, is widely diffused
through the dialects. It is O.E. _āberan_, to endure, suffer, a form
which apparently dropped out of the literary language in the thirteenth
century, but which has lived on ever since in the spoken dialects.
_Affodil_ or _affrodile_ (Chs.) for daffodil is found in Cotgrave:
‘_Affrodille_, th’ Affodille or Asphodill flower.’ It is, in fact,
etymologically the correct form, from a M.Lat. _affodillus_, Lat.
_asphodilus_, and the prefixed _d_ of the standard form has yet to be
satisfactorily explained. _Disgest_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel.
and Eng.) for digest was the common form in literary English in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. _Haviour_ (Sc. Yks. Chs.) for
behaviour occurs in Spenser; ‘Her heavenly haveour, her princely
grace,’ _Shepherd’s Cal._, 1579. _Overlive_ (Lan. Der. Rut. Lei. Nhp.)
for outlive occurs in Shakespeare and in the Bible: ‘And Israel served
the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that
overlived Joshua,’ A.V. _Josh._ xxiv. 31. _Ballet_ (Cum. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Der. Nhp. War. Shr. Hrf. Brks. Ess. Ken. Sus. Wil. Som. Dev.) for
ballad is a corruption common in the literary language in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, cp. ‘The Ballet of Ballets of Solomon,’
Bishops’ Bible, 1568; ‘I occasioned much mirth by a ballet I brought
with me made from the seamen at sea to their ladies in town,’ Pepys’
_Diary_, Jan. 2, 1665. In like manner the form _sallet_ for salad
remains in the dialects. _Brinded_ (Der. Not. Wil. Som.) for brindled
recalls the well-known line: ‘Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d,’
_Macb._ IV. i. 1. _Darkling_ (Sc. Yks. Lin.) for in the dark is used by
Shakespeare and by Milton, cp. ‘The wakeful bird sings darkling,’ _Par.
Lost_, iii. 39. _Flannen_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.) is
the correct form for flannel, from Welsh _gwlanen_, woollen material,
cp. ‘She found Dorus, apparelled in flanen,’ Sydney, _Arcadia_, c.
1585. _Lovier_ (e.An. Dor. Som.) for lover carries us back to Chaucer’s
‘yong Squyer’ who was: ‘A lovyere, and a lusty bacheler,’ _Prol._ l.
80. _Margent_ (Sc. Yks. e.An.) for margin, with excrescent _t_, is a
Shakespearian form. Jeremy Taylor has: ‘She was arrested with a sorrow
so great as brought her to the margent of her grave,’ _Holy Living_,
1650. _Neglection_ (Glo. Suf.) for neglect, and _robustious_ (Sc. n.Cy.
I.Ma. War.) for robust, are both to be found in Shakespeare’s Plays;
cp. also Milton:

        ... these redundant locks
    Robustious to no purpose, clustering down.
                                _Sam. Agonistes_, ll. 568, 569.

_Ruinate_ for ruin is now so common that it is a colloquialism rather
than dialect. Johnson gives quotations for it from Shakespeare and other
authors, but says: ‘This word is now obsolete.’

Sometimes a dialect form which sounds like a corruption, is in reality
a different word from the standard form with which we associate it, for
example: _meese_ (Glo. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), moss, is not a
corruption of _moss_, but the regular descendant of O.E. _mēos_, the
literary form being probably a Scandinavian import. _Rivel_ (War. Wor.
Shr. Hrf. Glo. Dor.), to shrivel, is from M.E. _rivelen_, to wrinkle,
whilst _shrivel_ is of different origin. Shakespeare uses both words.
_Shill_ (Sc. Dur. Yks. Nhp. Dor.), shrill, is from O.E. _scill_,
sonorous, etymologically quite distinct from _shrill_. Quite distinct
too is the dialect _lew-warm_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.),
from the standard _lukewarm_, tepid, cp. ‘Thou art lew, and nether cold,
nether hot,’ Wyclif, _Rev._ iii. 16.

[Sidenote: _Phonological Differences_]

Or again, the difference between the dialect and the standard word
may be traced back to a grammatical or phonological variation in the
O.E. period, resulting in the development of two distinct types side
by side, one of which came to be preserved in the literary language
and the other in the spoken dialects. Among such are: _ax_ (in gen.
dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), beside _ask_, O.E. _ācsian_, _āxian_,
beside the non-metathesized form _āscian_. The common dialect form
_cowslop_ for our _cowslip_ goes back to O.E. _cū-sloppe_ beside
_cū-slyppe_. _Yat_ or _yet_ is more usual in the dialects than _gate_,
and is perfectly regular. The form in O.E. was _geat_ in the singular,
whence correctly _yat_ or _yet_; and _gatu_ in the plural, whence our
_gate_ with the hard _g_. A farm I knew well near my Herefordshire
home was known as ‘The Three Hats’, apparently a corruption of ‘The
Three Yats’, so called from its situation at the junction of three
farm-roads, each shut off by a gate. _Gate_ meaning road is, as we have
already noticed (p. 75), a Norse loan-word, and not to be confused
with _gate_, an opening. _Lat_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lei. War.
Wor. Shr.) beside _late_ is the normal descendant of the adjective
O.E. _læt_, beside the adverb O.E. _late_ which has given the standard
form. _Neist_ (Sc. Nhb. Lakel. Yks. Lan. Der. Nhp. Shr. Hmp. Wil.
Som. Dev. Cor.), nearest, nighest, beside _next_ goes back to an O.E.
contracted form _nēst_, beside the uncontracted _nēhst_, which became
_next_. _Quid_, which in many dialects is used for our _cud_, is from
O.E. _cwidu_, beside which was the by-form _cudu_, which gave _cud_.
_Rew_ (Wor. Sur. Sus. Hmp. I.W. Som. Dev.) beside our _row_ goes back
to O.E. _rǣw_ beside _rāw_, a row, a line. _Sealch_ (Sc. Irel.) for
_seal_ is from the O.E. nominative _seolh_, whereas _seal_ is from the
oblique cases where there was no _h_. _Shilder_ (Lan.) for _shoulder_
is derived from the plural form O.E. _gescyldru_, shoulders. The Scotch
and North-country _weel_ for the adverb _well_ is from an O.E. _wēl_
which existed beside the form with _e_, whence our _well_.

[Sidenote: _Grammatical Distinctions_]

Grammatical distinctions are frequently kept up in the dialects,
where they have become obliterated in the literary language, for
example: _kemb_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks. Lan. Cor.) vb. to comb, beside _comb_
subs., in O.E. _cemban_ vb., and _camb_, _comb_ subs. _Keel_ is the
common dialect verb meaning to make cool, in O.E. _cēlan_ vb. beside
_cōl_ adj. Wyclif has: ‘Sende Lazarus, that he dippe the ende of his
fyngur in watir, to kele my tunge,’ _Luke_ xvi. 24. _Snew_ (Irel. Yks.
Lan. Glo. Nrf. Dev.), to snow, to abound, beside _snow_ subs. is from
O.E. _snīwan_ vb. beside _snāw_ subs., cp. ‘It snewede in his hous of
mete and drinke,’ Chaucer, _Prol._ l. 345. _Smeeth_ (Nhb. Chs.), to
smooth, beside the adj. _smooth_ is from O.E. _smēðian_ vb. The correct
form of the adjective is found in a few North-country dialects as
_smeeth_, from O.E. _smēðe_ adj.; our _smooth_ is from the O.E. adverb
_smōðe_. A difference of pronunciation of _work_, verb and noun, is
found in nearly all dialects; in O.E. _wyrcan_ vb. and _weorc_ subs.
In _mean_ (Sc. Nhb. Lakel. Yks. Lan.), moan vb. and subs., the verbal
form O.E. _mǣnan_ has predominated, whilst in the standard language we
have formed our verb from the noun. In _kuss_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan.) vb. and
subs., the dialects have taken the noun form, O.E. _coss_, for both
uses, whilst the standard language has retained only the verbal one,
O.E. _cyssan_, to kiss.

[Sidenote: _Retention of old Verbal Forms_]

In the conjugation of verbs, the dialects have also often retained an
old formation which has become obsolete in standard English, for
example: _afrore_ (sw. counties), frozen, O.E. _gefroren_. Our _frozen_
has taken its medial consonant from the stem of the Present. In the
form _frore_ this word has maintained a fitful existence in poetry ever
since Milton wrote: ‘the parching air Burns frore,’ _Par. Lost_, ii.
594, but this is merely an archaism. _Forboden_ (Yks.), O.E. _forboden_,
is strictly correct; our _forbidden_ has been influenced by the vowel of
the Infinitive. _Getten_, the dialect past participle of _to get_, is,
in the same way, the true form grammatically, and _got_ is due to
analogy. _Raught_ (Sc. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der. War. Shr. Glo. Brks. Hmp.
I.W. Som.) is from O.E. _rǣhte_, and might have remained like _taught_,
but the standard language has selected the new preterite _reached_, made
from the Infinitive, cp. ‘He smiled me in the face, raught me his hand,’
_Hen. V_, IV. vi. 21. _Weared_ (Sc. n.Yks. Nhp. Wor. Som. Dev. Cor.) is
from O.E. _werede_. Chaucer has: ‘A whit cote and a blew hood werede
he,’ _Prol._ l. 564. We have since made a new strong preterite _wore_
on the analogy of _bore_. _Wrought_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks.
Lan. Der. Suf.), as a preterite and participle, is familiar to us in the
Bible, cp. ‘He abode with them and wrought,’ _Acts_ xviii. 3, M.E.
_wrohte_, _wroht_; but the standard language has adopted the newer form
_worked_, retaining _wrought_ only as an adjective. The common dialect
adjective _afeared_ or _feared_ for _afraid_ is originally a past
participle, O.E. _āfǣred_, cp. ‘I am afeard you make a wanton of me,’
_Ham._ V. ii. 310. To illustrate the use of the word in modern times, a
Dialect Glossary gives the following anecdote: Two ladies, alarmed at
some cows that obstructed their path, called a boy to drive them away,
when having been rewarded for his trouble, he said, Would you please to
be feared of the sheep too?

The basis of the standard language is the sound-system of what is
called the Mercian Dialect of the O.E. period, and the East Midland
Dialect of the M.E. period, but occasionally we meet with words
which have been borrowed from some district outside the East Midland
area, and incorporated into literary English with the characteristic
pronunciation of the district whence they came. For instance, our
pronunciation of _among_ is irregular; we ought to make it rhyme with
_hang_ or _long_, as it does in various dialects. Our _among_ rhyming
with _hung_ is a West Midland form, specially common in Lancashire.
Again, our _vat_, _vane_, _vixen_ with initial _v_ are south-western
dialect forms; the regular standard pronunciation should be _fat_,
&c., cp. ‘The fats shall overflow with wine and oil,’ A.V. _Joel_
ii. 24; ‘pressfat,’ A.V. _Hag._ ii. 16, from O.E. _fæt_. The forms
_brize_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks.), from O.E. _brȳsan_, and _kidgel_ (Nhb. Yks.),
from O.E. _cycgel_, have been ousted from the literary speech by the
south-western _bruise_ and _cudgel_. The common dialect pronunciation
_bile_ for _boil_ subs., from O.E. _bȳl_, would be correct in literary
English; our form _boil_ is irregular and corrupt.

[Sidenote: _Irregularities in Standard English compared with Dialect

The name of the irregularities in the standard speech is legion, and
it is an enticing pursuit to hunt for the regular forms in the dialects
and compare them with their literary cognates. _Bread_ (Sc. Dur. Cum.
Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Not. Lin. Shr. Pem.), breadth, is the normal
development of O.E. _brǣdu_; the form _breadth_ has taken over a final
_-th_ from other abstract nouns such as _length_. _Lin_ (Sc. Irel. and
n. and w. counties), flax, linen, is the correct representative of
the O.E. substantive _līn_, M.E. _lin_, as we have it in _linseed_;
our _linen_ is properly an adjective, meaning made of flax. _Mirk_
(Sc. and n. counties), dark, gloomy, also sb. darkness, gloom, from
M.E. _mirk(e_, may be used in modern poetry, but the ordinary form
is _mirky_, _murky_, with the addition of _-y_ from other adjectives
where it was regular. Similarly, _red(d_ (Sc. Irel.) for _ready_,
and _slipper_ (Som. Dev. Cor.) for _slippery_, cp. O.E. _ge-rǣde_,
_slipor_. _Sloum_ (Sc. Irel. and n. counties) for _slumber_ is O.E.
_slūma_, without the later additions of the frequentative suffix, and
intrusive _b_. _Peel_ (Glo. Wil. Som. Dev. Cor.) for _pillow_ is from
the O.E. nominative _pylu_, whereas from the oblique cases came M.E.
_pilwe_, whence our _pillow_. _Graff_ (Sc. Yks. Hrf.) for _graft_,
and _hoise_ (Sc. Irel. Cum. Yks. Lan.) for _hoist_, are both correct
forms without the additional _t_, which is probably due to confusion
with verbal forms in the Past tense, cp. ‘We’ll quickly hoise Duke
Humphrey from his seat,’ _2 Hen. VI_, I. i. 169. _Hose_ (Rut. Som.
Dev.) and _haiss_ (Sc.) for _hoarse_ from O.E. _hās_ are correctly
without the intrusive _r_. _Hollin_ (n. and n. midl. counties) for
_holly_, and _miln_ (Sc. Yks. Lan. Der. Not. Lin.) for _mill_ have not
acquired a final _n_, but they retain one which has been lost in the
standard forms. The O.E. originals were _hole(g)n_ and _myln_. The
latter remains intact in the surnames Milne and Milner. _Ridless_ (Wor.
Shr.) for _riddle_, a conundrum, from O.E. _rǣdels_, preserves the
final _s_ which has been discarded from the literary form, or rather,
the _s_ being taken as the sign of the plural, a new singular has been
formed without it. The same process has given us our _pea_, _burial_,
_Sherry_, and Bret Harte’s _Chinee_. With these literary examples
before us we cannot find fault with the dialect form _shimmy_ (in gen.
dial. use in Sc. and Eng.), the supposed singular of _chemise_; or with
_apse_ (Som. Dev. Cor.), from a plural-sounding _abscess_.

Nearly all the dialects have _lat_ for _lath_, regularly developed
from O.E. _lætt_, and _latta_, the _th_ in our _lath_ being the
irregular element. _Lynse-pin_ (War. Sus. Wil. Som. Cor.), from M.E.
_linse_, an axle, is correct, and our _linch-pin_ is corrupt. _Popple_
(Wor. Pem. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.) represents O.E. _papol_,
and leaves our _pebble_ to be explained. _Penny-winkle_ (Nhb. Yks.
Der. War. Brks. Suf. Dev.), the mollusc, from O.E. _pinewincla_ is
the correct form beside our corrupt _periwinkle_. The common dialect
pronunciation _kindom_ regularly represents O.E. _cynedōm_, M.E.
_kinedom_, whereas in our _kingdom_ popular etymology has substituted
the well-known word _king_ for the forgotten _cyne_, royal.

[Sidenote: _Standard English Words compared with Dialect Equivalents_]

Amongst these dialect words which differ in form and pronunciation
from their equivalents in the standard language are many French words,
borrowed several centuries ago either from Old French, or through
the medium of Anglo-Norman French. Meanwhile, we of the standard
speech have perhaps re-borrowed the word in a more modern shape, or
re-modelled it after the pattern of its Latin cognate, or, where in
older times the standard vocabulary included two forms side by side, we
have since discarded one of them, and left it to drop into obscurity.
Regarded thus, the dialect form can take its legitimate place as the
second half of a doublet, with as good a title to name and fame as the
half that remained in the ranks of the literary vocabulary. There are
quantities of doublets of this nature still in everyday standard use,
but because we are familiar with each half of the pair, we are not
tempted to regard one of them as vulgar or corrupt because it differs
from the other. Examples of these literary doublets are: caitiff and
captive; mayor and major; parson and person; royal and regal; &c., &c.
In all these cases a divergence of meaning has taken place, so that
each member of the pair maintains a separate existence, but in the
following examples from the dialects, I have for the most part selected
those words where the meaning is the same as that of the literary form:
_Aunter_ (Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.), an adventure, a story of adventure,
an unlikely story, was the common form in M.E. for _adventure_,
cp. M.E. _antur_, _aunter_, from Anglo-French _aventure_. The form
_aunters_ (Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks.), with the addition of an adverbial
_s_, means perhaps, lest, in case that, cp. ‘Aunters, peradventure,’
Coles, 1677. _Callenge_ (Glo. I.W. Dor. Som.) for _challenge_ is from
A.Fr. _calenge_. _Causey_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.)
is from A.Fr. _caucè_, the standard form _causeway_ is a compound
of _causey_ and _way_. _Chat_ (Dor. Dev. Cor.), a kitten, is not a
dialect pronunciation of _cat_, but from Fr. _chat_. _Chieve_ (Nhb.
Yks. Lan. Lin. Nhp.) is an aphetic form of _achieve_ common in M.E.
writings. _Corrosy_ (Dev. Cor.), an annoyance, a grudge, is a popular
form of the learned _corrosive_, something that corrodes or causes
annoyance. It occurs as far back as Tusser, cp. ‘So lose ye your
cost, to your corosie and smart,’ _Husb._, 1580. _Descrive_ (Sc.) is
from O.Fr. _descrivre_, whilst our _describe_ is from the Latin form.
_Gilliver_ (Sc. Cum. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Lei. War.)
for _gillyflower_ represents M.E. _gilofre_, for O.Fr. _girofre_,
_girofle_, cp. ‘Then make your garden rich in gillyvors,’ _Wint. Tale_,
IV. iv. 98. The form _gillyflower_ is due to a confusion with _flower_.
_Hamel_ (n.Cy. Nhb. Lan. Chs. Sus.) for _hamlet_ is from O.Fr.
_hamel_, whilst the standard form goes back to the double diminutive
O.Fr. _hamelet_. _Inobedient_ (Sc. n.Cy. Som.) beside _disobedient_
is from O.Fr. _inobedient_, cp. ‘Adam inobedyent,’ _Cleanness_, l.
237, _c._ 1360. _Kiver_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.) for
_cover_ is from the stressed stem-form _cuev-_ of O.Fr. _covrir_, cp.
‘If oure gospel is kyuerid, in these that perischen it is kyuerid,’
Wyclif, _2 Cor._ iv. 3. _Liver_ (Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der.
Lin.) for _deliver_ is from Fr. _livrer_ beside _délivrer_, cp.:

    Ful fast on god bigan þai call,
    To liuere þe folk of þat onfall.
                                   _Curs. Mun._ ll. 5942, 5943.

_Marriable_ (Yks. Lan.) for _marriageable_ is from O.Fr. _mariable_.
_Noy_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks.) for _annoy_ is an aphetic form common in M.E.
literature. _Paise_ (Sc. n. and sw. counties), to weigh, is from O.Fr.
Norman dialect _peiser_ beside O.Fr. _poiser_, M.E. _peisen_ and
_poisen_. The common dialect forms _perfit_, _parfit_ are from O.Fr.
_parfit_, through M.E. _perfit_, _parfit_, whilst our _perfect_ has been
remodelled to conform with Lat. _perfectus_. _Parsil_ (Sc. n.Cy. Wm.
Yks. Lan.) beside _parsley_ is from Fr. _persil_, M.E. _percel_, beside
_perceli_, which owes its ending to O.E. _petersilie_. _Pearch_ (Cum.
Yks. Lan. Lin.) for _pierce_ is from O.Fr. Norman dialect _percher_
beside O.Fr. _percer_. _Perceivance_ (Yks. e.An.) for _perception_ is
used by Milton, cp. ‘The senses and common perceivance might carry this
message to the soul within,’ _Church Government_, 1641, cp. O.Fr.
_percevance_. _Planch_ (Gmg. Suf. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.) is from Fr.
_planche_, whilst our _plank_ is from O.N.Fr. _planke_. _Plat_ (Shet.
and Ork. I. n.Cy. also sw. counties) for _flat_ is from O.Fr. _plat_,
whilst our word is of Scandinavian origin. _Portmantle_ (in gen. dial.
use in Sc. and Eng.), compounded from O.Fr. _mantel_, is the old form
common from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century; our _portmanteau_
is a later borrowing, when the French form was _manteau_. _Provand_ (Sc.
Yks. Lan. Chs.) for _provender_ is from O.Fr. _provende_ beside
_provendre_, cp. ‘Than camels in the war, who have their provand Only
for bearing burdens,’ _Coriol._ II. i. 267, 268. _Queer_ (Sc. n.Cy.
Dur. Yks. Chs. Lin.) for _choir_ represents the M.E. _quer_, _quere_,
from O.Fr. _cuer_. The standard form should be spelt _quire_, as it is
pronounced, but the orthography has been influenced by the word
_chorus_. _Ratten_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Shr.) is
from O.Fr. _raton_, cp. ‘Wiþ þat ran þere a route of ratones at ones,’
_Piers Plow._ B, _Prol._ l. 146. Our _rat_ is probably from the O.E.
_ræt_. _Remeid_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb.) for _remedy_ is from O.Fr. _remede_,
M.E. _remede_, beside _remedie_ from Anglo-Fr. _remedie_. _Scry_ (Sc.
Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Cor.), to cry, proclaim, is from O.Fr. _escrier_
beside _crier_. _Skelet_ (Lin. Cor.) for _skeleton_ is from Fr.
_scelete_ (Cotgrave), our form is from the Greek word. _Vage_ (Sc. Nhb.
Dur. Yks. Lin. w.Cy.) for _voyage_ is from O.Fr. _veiage_, M.E. _viage_,
_veage_, cp. ‘For he was late ycome from his viage,’ Chaucer, _Prol._ l.

[Sidenote: _Apparent Irregularities due to Scandinavian Influence_]

Further, there are the dialect words in which the apparent
irregularity is due to their Scandinavian origin. For example: _boun_
(Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Der. Lin.), e.g. Awm beawn
to Stopport, I am bound for Stockport, is from O.N. _būinn_, prepared,
the past part, of _būa_, to get ready, M.E. _boun_. Our _bound_ has
acquired an excrescent _d_, in common with _sound_ sb., and other
words. _Dead_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Not. Lin. e.An.) for
_death_ is from the Norwegian dialect form _død_; the standard English
_death_ is native, O.E. _dēað_. _Drucken_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks.
Lan.) for _drunken_ is from the O.N. adjective and past participle
_drukkin_, drunk. _Garn_ (Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Lan. Stf.) beside _yarn_
is again the O.N. form beside the English. _Gavel_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb.
Dur. Cum. Yks.) for _gable_ is from O.N. _gafl_, Norwegian dialect
_gavl_. _Ice-shackle_, _ice-shockle_ (Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Nhp.) for
_icicle_ represent O.N. _jökull_, Norw. dialect _isjøkul_, whilst our
word is from the O.E. compound _īs-gicel_. The simple word remains in
the dialect _ickle_ (n. and midl. counties), e.g. It’s bin a snirpin’
fros’ sence it lef’ off rainin’, theer’s iccles at the aisins [eaves] a
yard lung. _Loup_, _lope_ (n.Cy. n.midl. and e.An.) for _leap_ is from
O.N. _hlaupa_, Norw. dialect _laupa_ and _lope_, to run, cognate with
O.E. _hlēapan_, whence our form _leap_. Similarly the Sc. and northern
forms _rin_ and _ren_, both common in M.E., are Norse words, whilst
our _run_ is of native extraction. _Sniggle_ (Lei. Nhp.) for _snail_
is from O.N. _snigill_, beside the native _snail_ from O.E. _snægl_.
_Stam_ (Rut. Nhp. Wor. Glo. Oxf. Bdf. s.Cy. Sur. Sus. Hmp.) for _stem_,
stalk, is from Danish _stamme_. _Stang_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Lin.),
to sting, is from O.N. _stanga_, to prick. _Starn_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb.)
beside _star_ is from O.N. _stjarna_, beside O.E. _steorra_, whence our
_star_. _Teind_ (Sc. n.Cy. Cum. Yks.), a tithe, a tenth part, is from
O.N. _tīund_. _War_ (Sc. Irel. n. and n. midl. counties) for _worse_
is from O.N. _verr_ adv., _verri_ adj., worse; our form is native
English. Nearly all these words, and numbers more of the same type,
can be traced in early literary works written in those districts where
the Norse influence was strong; and on the other hand, if evidence is
wanted for localizing such writings, it is supplied by the existence of
these old forms in the spoken dialects of to-day.



We have often been told, or we have read in newspaper reviews and
suchlike works, that the rustic vernacular is indigenous to the soil,
mostly raw material in the rough, but entirely a native product. Of
course this is in the main true, the real backbone of the dialects is
genuine English, but when we examine the whole vocabulary in detail,
we find it contains a very considerable admixture of foreign elements.
French, Scandinavian, Celtic, and even Latin words permeate the
dialects throughout the country, in varying proportions according to
the geographical area. To take first a sample of the French loan-words:
_agist_ (Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Der. Not. Lin. Rut. Lei. Nhp. w.Cy.), to
receive cattle to graze for a fixed sum, to put out cattle to pasture,
O.Fr. _agister_, to lodge, to make to lie; _aigle_ (midl. counties), an
icicle, Fr. _aiguille_, a needle; _avoirdupois_ (Wor. Hrf. Suf.), to
consider, to weigh mentally, adv. undecided, in doubt, e.g. I be quite
haverdepaise about sending Jane to service; _arain_ (Dur. Yks. Lan.
Der.), a spider, O.Fr. _araigne_, _iraigne_, cp. ‘Oure ȝeris schulen
bithenke as an yreyn,’ Wyclif, _Ps._ lxxxix. 10; _asprous_ (Lei. War.),
of the weather: raw, inclement, Fr. _aspre_, sharp, harsh, rough, +
the termination _-ous_; _bastile_ (Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Der.
Rut. War. Wor.), a popular name for the workhouse, an application of
Fr. _Bastille_, the prison-fortress built in Paris in the fourteenth
century, and destroyed in 1789; _bowet_ (Sc. Nhb.), a hand lantern,
Fr. dial. _bouete_, an equivalent of Fr. _boite_;_benè(s_ (n.Cy.
Yks. Lan.), in the phrase _to clap benè(s_, to clap the hands as an
expression of thanks or of pleasure, used in children’s language.
Children are taught to _clap benè_ before partaking of food, and nurses
say: Clap benès for daddy to cum, An’ bring lile babby a ceàk an’ a
bun. The word _benès_ is a shortened form of _benison_, a blessing,
benediction, used in M.E. in the sense of grace before meat, cp. ‘bord
leyd, And the beneysun was seyd,’ _Hav._ l. 1723, O.Fr. _beneison_.
_Boco_ (Sus.), a large quantity, used principally of fish, Fr.
_beaucoup_, a great deal, much; _bran_ (Lin. Oxf. Nrf. Suf.), freckles,
Fr. ‘_bran de Judas_, freckles in the face,’ Cotgrave. Littré says:
‘_Bran de Judas_, tache de rousseur au visage. Locution vieillie, et
qui vient sans doute de ce qu’on se représenta Judas roux.’ _Chibbole_
(War. Wor. Glo. Oxf. I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), a young onion
with the green stalk attached, a scallion, O.Fr. (Picard) _chibole_,
Mod.Fr. _ciboule_, cp. ‘Chibolles and cheruelles and ripe chiries
manye,’ _Piers Plow._ B, VI, l. 296; _courant_ (Sc. Wm. Yks. Chs. Shr.
I.W. Dev. Cor.), a running and violent dance, a revel, a romp, &c.,
Fr. ‘_courante_, sorte de danse,’ Littré; _dishabille_ (n. and midl.
dials. also s.), disorder, a state of confusion, working-dress, Fr.
_en déshabillé_, ‘en vêtement aisé que l’on porte d’ordinaire chez
soi,’ Hatzfeld; _dole_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Stf. Der. Dor. Cor.),
sorrow, grief, misfortune, O.Fr. _dol_, _dul_, _deul_, Mod.Fr. _deuil_,
sorrow; _fammel_ (War. Wor. Glo. Oxf.), to starve, famish, e.g. I’m
half fammel’d, Norm. dial. _fameiller_, ‘être affamé,’ Moisy, O.Fr.
_fameiller_, avoir faim; _fay_ (Sc. Yks. Som. Dev. Cor.), faith, used
as an interjection, and in assertions and quasi-oaths, cp.:

    Whether seistow this in ernest or in pley?
    Nay, quod Arcite, in ernest by my fey.
                                 _Knightes Tale_, ll. 267, 268.

[Sidenote: _French Loan-words_]

O.Fr. _fei_, faith; _flasket_ (Yks. Lan. Chs. Lei. Nhp. Hnt. Ken. Sus.
Som.), a kind of basket, a shallow, oval washing-tub, Fr. (Béarnais)
_flasquet_, ‘flasque’; _flue_ (Hrf. Brks. Ken. Sur. Sus. Hmp. Wil.),
delicate, sickly, thin, in poor condition, O.Fr. ‘_flou_, délicat, en
parlant des choses; doux, en parlant des personnes,’ La Curne; _frap_
(Nhb. Yks. Lan. Suf. Sus.), to strike, rap, Fr. _frapper_, to strike;
_gigot_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb. Der. Lei.), a leg of mutton, Fr. ‘_gigot_ (_de
mouton_), a leg (of mutton),’ Cotgrave; _goo_ (Sc. Nhb.), taste, relish,
Fr. _goût_, ‘sensation agréable que produisent certaines saveurs,’
Hatzfeld; _hogo_ (Irel. Nhb. Yks. Nhp. Hrt. e.An. Ken. Hmp. I.W. Wil.
Som.), used of tainted meat and strong cheese: a strong disagreeable
smell or odour, Fr. _haut goût_, high flavour; _hone_ (Sc. n.Cy. Lin.
Stf. War. Wor. Shr. Dev.), to whine, complain, with _after_ or _for_: to
repine for want of, to long or pine for, Fr. (Norman dial.) _hoigner_,
‘hogner, geindre, pleurnicher, se lamenter,’ Moisy. Dr. Johnson has: ‘to
Hone.... To pine; to long for any thing,’ but without any quotations.
_Hanch_ (n. counties), to bite, snap at with the teeth as a dog does,
e.g. That dog o’ yours hanched at ma when ah tried ti clap [pat] him,
Fr. _hancher_, to snatch at with the teeth; _hespel_, _huspel_ (Wor.
Shr. Hrf.), to worry, harass, to hurry, drive away, Fr. _houspiller_,
‘maltraiter (qqn.) en le secouant,’ Hatzfeld; _jet_ (Sc. Lakel. Yks.
Not. Lin. War. e.An. s. and sw. counties), to throw, Fr. ‘_jetter_, to
throw,’ Cotgr.; _jigget_ (Sc. Irel. Lan. War. Oxf. Brks. Wil. Som. Dev.
Cor.), to ride or walk at a jog-trot, to shake, to dance up and down,
Fr. _gigotter_, ‘remuer vivement les jambes,’ Littré; _jouke_ (Yks.
Der.), to sleep or roost as partridges, O.Fr. (Picard) _jouquer_,
‘percher, jucher,’ _joquer_, ‘être en repos, percher,’ La Curne, M.E.
_jouken_, cp.:

    Now rys, my dere brother Troilus;
    For certes, it noon honour is to thee
    To wepe, and in thy bed to iouken thus.
                                Chaucer, _Troil._ V. ll. 407-9.

[Sidenote: _Latten, Maugre, Merry, Mort_]

_Jowl_ (Stf. Der. War. Shr.), an earthenware pan or vessel, Fr.
_jalle_, ‘a soe or tub,’ Cotgr.; _keeve_ (Sc. Irel. Glo. Dor. Som.
Dev. Cor.), a large tub, a vat used for fermenting beer, Fr. _cuve_,
‘an open tub, a fat or vat,’ Cotgr.; _lash_ (Sc. n.Cy. Cum. Lin. Nhp.
e.An. Som.), relaxed in consequence of weakness or fatigue; as applied
to fruit and grass feed: soft and watery, Fr. _lasche_, ‘slack, loose,
weak, faint,’ Cotgr., cp. ‘That the Israelites were forbidden to eat
the fruit of their new-planted trees, before the fifth year, was very
agreeable unto the natural rules of husbandry; fruits being unwholesome
and lash, before the fourth or fifth year,’ Sir T. Browne, _Garden of
Cyrus_, 1658; _latten_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb. Yks. Nhp. Oxf. e.An. Sus. Dor.
Som. Dev. Cor.), any kind of very thin sheet-metal, tin plate, Fr.
_laiton_, ‘lattin (metal),’ Cotgr., cp. ‘He hadde a croys of latoun
ful of stones,’ _Prol._ l. 699; _lingle_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Nhb.),
shoemakers’ thread, Fr. _ligneul_; _lyart_ (Sc. n.Cy. Nhb.), of hair:
streaked with grey, O.Fr. _liart_, ‘gris,’ La Curne; _maugre_ (Sc. Lin.
Suf.), in spite of, notwithstanding, e.g. Theäre’s a right of waay by
the Milner’s Trod, and I’ll goä by it when I want, mauger the teäth
of all th’lords and squires i’Linkisheer, O.Fr. _maugré_, ‘malgré,’
La Curne; _maund_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. and Eng.), a basket, a
hamper, O.Fr. _mande_, ‘panier d’osier à deux anses,’ La Curne; _mell_
(Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Lei. Dor. Som. Dev.),
to mix, mingle, to meddle, interfere, O.Fr. _mesler_, _mêler_, ‘unir
ensemble,’ Hatzfeld; _merry_ (Wm. Lan. Chs. Der. Shr. Oxf. Brks. Bck.
Hnt. Sus. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor.), the wild cherry, Fr. _merise_, ‘a small
bitter cherry,’ Cotgr. The English form without the _s_ is parallel
to _cherry,_ from Fr. _cerise_, where the _s_ has been supposed to
be a plural suffix. _Mort_ (in gen. dial. use in Irel. and Eng.), a
quantity, a great deal, abundance, e.g. It did me a mort o’ good,
There’s a mort o’fruit in the garden, Fr. (Norm. dial.) _mort_, in the
phrase _à mort_, ‘en grande quantité: Le prunier a des prunes à mort,’
Moisy; _mure_ (Sc. Yks. Cor.), to confine, as within prison-walls,
Fr. _murer_, ‘to inclose, or shut up between two walls,’ Cotgr.;
_parl(e_ (Sc. Yks. Lan. Chs. Lin. Glo. Brks.), to talk, converse,
O.Fr. _parler_, cp. ‘Patriarkes and prophetes han parled her-of long,’
_Piers Plow._ B, XVIII. l. 268; _peel_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. and
Eng.), a flat, long-headed shovel, generally of wood, used for taking
bread and pies in and out of a brick oven, O.Fr. _pele_, ‘pelle,’
La Curne; _pelt_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), a skin,
hide, Fr. (Norm. dial.) _pelette_, ‘morceau de peau de mouton, avec sa
laine,’ Moisy; _percage_ (Nhb.), a little sheltering cot for a man at a
check gate, a shelter used by shepherds when sheep are lambing, O.Fr.
_parcage_, ‘enceinte pour parquer les bestiaux,’ La Curne; _quail_,
_quell_ (Nhp. Bdf. e.An.), of milk: to curdle, to turn sour, O.Fr.
_coailler_, to curdle; _quiddy_ (Sus.), what do you say? Fr. _que
dis-tu?_; _race_ (Nhb. Dur. Chs. War. Suf.), a root, especially of
ginger, O.Fr. _raïs_, _raïz_, a root, cp. ‘a race or two of ginger,’
_Wint. T._, IV. iii. 50; _regrater_ (Dev. Cor.), one who buys butter,
fruit, &c., from the farmers to sell in the market, O.Fr. _regratier_,
a huckster, cp. ‘Rose þe regratere was hir riȝte name,’ _Piers
Plow._ B, V. l. 226; _rigol_ (Shr.), a small gutter or channel, a
surface-drain, Fr. _rigole_, ‘a trench, drain, gutter,’ Cotgr.; _scute_
(Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.), a sum of money, a present, reward, payment,
O.Fr. _escut_ (Mod. _écu_), a buckler, shield, a coin; _spairge_ (Sc.
Nhb. Yks. Der.), to dash, to scatter broadcast, to sprinkle, Fr.
_asperger_, ‘to besprinkle; to sprinkle, or strew water or dust upon,’
Cotgr.; _stravaig_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Nhb.), to wander about aimlessly,
to stroll, saunter, O.Fr. _estravaguer_, from Low Latin _extravagari_,
to wander out or beyond; _suant_ (Gmg. Glo. Sus. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor.
Som. Dev. Cor.), smooth, even, regular, &c., O.Fr. _suant_, pres. part.
of _sivre_, to follow; _tass(e_ (Sc. Yks. e.An.), a cup, glass, a bowl,
Fr. _tasse_; _urchin_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. and Eng.), a hedgehog,
e.g. Hoo’s getten a tung sharp enough for t’shave a urchant (Lan.),
O.Fr. _eriçon_, _heriçon_, cp. ‘I shal putte it in to the possession
of an irchoun,’ Wyclif, _Isaiah_ xiv. 23; _venell_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy.
Nhb. Yks.), an alley, a narrow lane or passage, Fr. _venelle_, a little
street, Hatzfeld.

[Sidenote: _French Words peculiar to Scotland_]

There are certain French words peculiar to Scotland, but their number
is not very large, for most of the French words found in Scotland
belong also to parts of England. Examples of the exclusively Scottish
loan-words are: _ashet_, a dish, Fr. _assiette_; _cashie_, delicate,
not able to endure fatigue, also soft, flabby, not of good quality, Fr.
_cassé_, ‘broken, quasht in pieces; also cassed; also decaied, worn,
or broken with age,’ Cotgr.; _evite_, to avoid, escape, Fr. _éviter_,
to avoid; _fier_, plur., the prices of grain legally fixed in each
county for the current year, O.Fr. _feur_ (_foer_, _fuer_), ‘prix,
valeur,’ La Curne; _graduwa_, _gradawa_, a physician, a doctor with
a medical degree, Fr. _gradué_, ‘a graduate, one that hath taken a
degree in an University,’ Cotgr.; _gillem_, a carpenter’s or joiner’s
tool, a rabbet-plane, Fr. _guillaume_, ‘rabot à fer étroit, échancré,
pour faire les rainures,’ Hatzfeld; _jupe_, a woman’s skirt, or short
petticoat, O.Fr. _jupe_; _pirlicue_, a brief résumé or recital given
at the close of a series of addresses or sermons of the principal
subjects and points treated, Fr. ‘_par la queue_, par le bout, par la
fin,’ Littré; _pownie_, a peacock, Fr. _paon_; _retour_, a return, Fr.
_retour_; _skellat_, a small bell, a hand-bell, O.Fr. _eschalette_,
_esqualette_, _escalette_, a little bell; _souflet_, a stroke,
blow, Fr. _soufflet_, ‘a box or cuff on the ear,’ Cotgr.; _stance_,
a standing-place, position, a site, O.Fr. _estance_, a condition,
situation; _trance_, a passage within a house, an entrance-hall,
&c., O.Fr. _transe_, ‘passage,’ Godefroy; _vivers_, food, provision,
Fr. _vivres_, food; _vizzy_, a look, view, a scrutinizing gaze, Fr.
_visée_, ‘a levelling, or ayming at with the eye, a level or aym
taken,’ Cotgrave.

[Sidenote: _The Development of ‘Mooch’_]

A loan-word which has undergone a curious development of meanings is
the common dialect word _mooch_ (in gen. dial. use in Sc. and Eng.),
_meech_, or _mitch_. In O.E. there must have been an unrecorded form
_mȳcan_, which gave the dialect form _mitch_. This O.E. _mȳcan_
corresponds to the O.H.G. _mūhhan_, to lie lurking secretly, to waylay
a person with intent to do him bodily harm, a word which remains in
the Modern German _Meuchelmord_. The German word passed into Northern
French, and underwent the Norman-French change of _hh_ [_ch_ as in Sc.
_loch_] to _tch_ [as in _such_], becoming _moucher_. In this stage the
Normans brought the word to this country, where it developed a curious
category of meanings: 1. To idle and loaf about, generally with the
idea of seeing what one can pick up on the sly; to pilfer, e.g. That
owd black cat goes mouchin’ about, in an’ out uv folkses ’ousen, ’er’ll
sure to get shot one uv these daays. Hence _moocher_, a pilferer, a
loafer, one who dogs another by stealth; a beggar; a hawker. 2. To play
truant, especially to play truant in order to gather blackberries; to
absent oneself from business, e.g. My lad’s been mouching again. Hence
_moocher_, a truant from school, especially one who plays truant in
order to gather blackberries; hence a gatherer of blackberries, a
blackberry-moocher. 3. In the Imperative, _mooch_ means Be off! 4. The
phrase _on the mooch_ means gone off loafing. 5. _Mooch_ sb. means a
blackberry. Meanwhile a further development in form took place on the
Continent; the Norman-French _moucher_ passed into Central French,
and underwent the ordinary change of _tch_ to _ss_, thereby becoming
_musser_, and later _muser_, to lurk in a corner, preserved in the
Modern French reflexive verb _se muser_, to play truant. From _musser_
was derived the substantive _musse_, defined in Littré as a narrow
passage through a wall or a hedge for hares, rabbits, and other game.
This Central French word _musse_ was brought over to England in the
reign of Henry VII, as a hunting term, together with many other words
of the same kind. It is common in English works of the seventeenth
century in the form _muse_, familiar to us in the old English
proverbial saying:

    Take a hare without a muse,
    And a knave without excuse,
    And hang them up.

[Sidenote: _French Hunting Terms_]

Though obsolete now in the standard language, it is still very common in
the dialects, meaning a small hole or ‘run’ through a hedge or through
grass made by a rabbit, hare, or other small animal in its track. The
form _mitch_, from the original O.E. _mȳcan_, developed meanings on the
same lines as _mooch_. It is found in Shakespeare: ‘Marry, this is
miching mallecho; it means mischief,’ _Ham._ III. ii. 147, together with
the substantive _micher_: ‘Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a
micher and eat blackberries,’ _1 Hen. IV_, II. iv. 450. Tusser writes in
his ‘Good husbandlie lessons worthie to be followed of such as will

    Once placed for profit, looke neuer for ease,
      except ye beware of such michers as thease:
    Unthriftines, Slouthfulnes, Careles and Rash,
      that thrusteth thee headlong to run in the lash--

where ‘micher’ conveys the old sense of lurking stealthily, with intent
to do mischief.

[Sidenote: _Scandinavian Loan-words_]

To take next some specimens of the Scandinavian loan-words: _addle_
(n. counties to Chs. Stf. Der. Not. Lin., also in Rut. Lei. Nhp. War.
e.An.), to earn, acquire by one’s labour, to gain, procure, e.g. It
isn’t what a chap addles, but what a chap saves at makes him rich, cp.
‘Hu mann mihhte cwemenn [please] Godd & addlenn hefmess blisse,’
_Ormulum_, l. 17811, _c._ 1205, cp. O.N. _øðla_, reflexive _øðlask_, to
acquire (for oneself) property; _birr_ (Sc. Irel. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks.
Lan. Chs. Der.), force, impetus, energy, &c., cp. ‘Lo in a greet birre,
al the drove wente heedlinge in to the see,’ Wyclif, _Matt._ viii. 32,
O.N. _byrr_, a favourable wind; _bulder_, _buller_ (Sc. Nhb. e.An.), a
loud gurgling noise, a bellowing, Norw. dial. _bulder_, _buller_, a
bubbling circle or whirlpool; _dag_ (n.Cy. Lan. Chs. War. Brks. e.An.),
dew, O.N. _døgg_ (mod. gen. _daggar_), dew; _ettle_ (gen. dial. use in
Sc. Irel. and all n. counties to Lan.), to intend, propose, have in
mind, &c., O.N. _ǣtla_, to intend, purpose; _fitty_ (Lin.), marsh-land
lying between the sea-bank and the sea, Norw. dial. _fit_ (pl.
_fitjar_), a level meadow by the water; _force_ (Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks.
Lan.), a waterfall or cascade. It is not uncommon in certain parts of
Yorkshire to find that where sign-posts direct the traveller to
‘Stainforth Force’, or ‘Catterick Force’, the native will say,
‘Stainforth Foss’, ‘Catterick Foss’, the reason being that the O.N.
_fors_, a waterfall, has in the written language become associated with
_force_, and established as the standard form, whilst the Norw. dial.
_foss_, Dan. _fos_, has been preserved in the spoken dialects. _Frosk_
(Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.), a frog, O.N. _froskr_; _gaggle_ (e.An.), a
flock of geese, O.N. _gagl_, a young goose; _grum_ (Yks. Lan. Glo. Oxf.
Som. Dev.), surly, cross, disagreeable, angry, Norw. dial. _grum_,
proud, haughty, Dan. _grum_, fierce, angry. Dr. Johnson incorporates
this adjective, but marks it as ‘a low word’. _Hag_ (n. and midl.
counties), to hew, O.N. _höggva_; _haver_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks.
Lan. Lin.), oats, Norw. dial. _havre_; _heppen_ (n.Cy. Yks. Not. Lin.),
tidy, respectable, handsome, handy, deft, O.N. _heppinn_, lucky, also
dexterous; _helder_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan. Der.), adv. more, rather,
preferable to, O.N. _heldr_, the English form _helder_ being properly a
double comparative; _hill_ (n. and midl. counties), to cover up, to
wrap, cover with clothes, &c., O.N. _hylja_; _hooly_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum.
Wm.), adv. slowly, carefully, gently, O.N. _hōgliga_, gently; _keld_
(Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan.), a spring of water, a fountain, a marshy place,
O.N. _kelda_, a spring of water; _lait_ (Sc. and n. counties), to seek,
O.N. _leita_; _lake_ (Sc. n. counties, Der. Not. Lin. Glo.), to play,
sport, amuse oneself, to idle, to be out of employment, _lake-house_, a
theatre, and _laker_, an actor, O.N. _leika_, to play, sport; _lamp_
(Sc. Nhb. Yks. Chs. Stf. War. Wor. Shr. Hrf.), to walk with long, heavy
steps, also to beat, thrash, Norw. dial. _lampa_, to walk with heavy
steps, to beat; _lea_ (n.Cy. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Lin.), a scythe, O.N.
_lē_; _loof_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Yks. Nhp.), the palm of the hand, the
open hand, O.N. _lōfi_, the hollow of the hand; _mense_ (Sc. Irel. and
n. counties), honour, respect, hospitality good manners, &c., e.g. of a
person who has neither manners nor understanding it is said: He hez
nowder sense nor mense, O.N. _mennska_, humanity; _mun_ (Sc. and gen.
dial. use in Eng. down to Oxf. Brks.), must, O.N. _munu_, 3rd pr. pl.
will, shall; _nowt_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. e.An.), cattle, O.N.
_naut_, the cognate English word is _neat_, as in _neat-herd_; _oam_
(Sc. Dur.), steam, a blast of warm air, a warm aroma, Norw. dial. _ome_,
smoke, the smell of something burning; _ouse_ (Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Lin.), to
empty out liquid, to bale out a boat, Norw. dial. _ausa_, to bale water
out of a boat, O.N. _ausa_, to pump, especially a ship; _owmly_ (Yks.),
lonely, dreary, used with reference to large ancient houses, with few
inmates, e.g. Ah sudn’t like ti sleep wi mi-sen i’ that greeat owmly
hoose, Norw. dial _aumleg_, poor, wretched, miserable, O.N. _aumligr_;
_quey_ (Sc. Irel. n. and midl. counties), a heifer, O.N. _kvīga_; _ean_
(gen. dial. use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.), a balk in a field, a division of
land, &c., O.N. _rein_, a strip of land; _roose_ (Sc. n.Cy. Cum. Yks.
Lan. Lin.), to praise, O.N. _hrōsa_; _seave_ (Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.
Chs. Lin.), a generic name for the rush, O.N. _sef_; _skep_ (Sc. Irel.
Eng. and Wal.), a basket, O.N. _skeppa_, a measure; _swip_ (Sc. Yks.),
the exact image or likeness, O.N. _svipr_, a likeness; _tine_ (Sc.
n.Cy. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Lan.), to lose, O.N. _tȳna_; _tite_ (Sc. Nhb. Dur.
Lakel. Cum. Yks. Lan.), adv. soon, early, readily, &c., O.N. _tītt_,
neut. of _tīðr_, frequent; _wath_ (Sc. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Lin.), a
ford, O.N. _vað_, a wading-place, a ford across a river or creek; _will_
(Sc. e.An.), bewildered, lost in error, uncertain how to proceed, O.N.
_villr_, bewildered, erring, astray, etymologically the same word as the
native English _wild_.

[Sidenote: _Celtic Words in the Dialects_]

The number of Celtic words in the English dialects is relatively
small, even if under the common term Celtic we group together Gaelic,
Welsh, and Old Cornish words. Some of these loan-words are very early
borrowings, and can be traced back to the O.E. period. _Bannock_ (Sc.
Irel. Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. e.An. Hmp. Wil. Som. Dev.),
a cake composed of oatmeal or barley mixed with water and baked on a
girdle, is O.E. _bannuc_; and _brat_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm.
Yks. Lan. I.Ma. Chs. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Wor. Shr. Pem.), a child’s
pinafore, a large coarse apron made with sleeves, worn by workers in
factories, is found in the Northumbrian Gospels of the tenth century,
_bratt_ ‘pallium’, _Matt._ v. 40. Perhaps the most interesting of the
early Celtic loan-words is the word _tallet_, meaning a hay-loft,
especially one over a stable, also used of the space immediately under
the roof in any building, but not applied to a ceiled room of any kind.
It is originally a Latin word, _tabulatum_, a boarded floor, and must
have been a relic of the Roman occupation, picked up by the ancient
Britons, and preserved by them in a modified form, cp. Wel. _taflod_,
a hay-loft, O.Ir. _taibled_, a story. Then later it was adopted by
the Anglo-Saxon invaders, and became the English word _tallet_, which
is found to-day in common use in the dialects of Cheshire and all the
w.midl. and sw. counties, that is, in all the counties near the Welsh
border. The remarkable point about the preservation of this word is
that it never once occurs in the whole range of English literature down
to the nineteenth century, when Blackmore introduced it in his _Lorna
Doone_. Through all these centuries it has steadily persisted in the
spoken language without any help from the world of letters, linking the
modern rustic to the early Briton and the subjects of Julius Caesar.

[Sidenote: _Celtic Words in Scottish Speech_]

The dialects of Scotland have adopted a certain amount of Gaelic
words into current speech, for example: _fuilteachs_, _fultachs_,
sb.pl. a period partly in January and partly in February, according
to ‘Old Style’ reckoning, now wholly in February. If the weather
is fine during the _fultachs_, a bad summer and a cold wet harvest
may be expected; but stormy _fultachs_ betoken a good summer, Gael.
_faoilteach_, the last fortnight of winter, and first fortnight of
spring, proverbial for variableness. _Glack_, a ravine, glen, Gael.
_glac_, a hollow, a narrow valley; _oye_, a grandchild, Gael. _ogha_;
_skeeny_, pack-thread, twine, Gael. _sgéinnidh_, twine, flax or hemp
thread; _taisch_, the voice of a person about to die, second sight,
Gael. _taibhs_, a vision, apparition, ghost. Similarly, modern Irish
has incorporated certain Old Irish words, such as: _gra(h)_, affection,
love, fondness, Ir. _gradh_, love; _grafan_, a small axe with the edge
turned across like an adze, used for grubbing, Ir. _grafán_; _miscaun_,
a lump of butter, Ir. _miosgán_, a small dish of butter; _partan_, the
common crab, Ir. _partán_, _portán_, a crab; _shanagh_, _shanacus_,
a gossip, chat, talk, Ir. _seanchus_, history, genealogy, every kind
of knowledge. From Wales a few Welsh words have been taken over into
the English dialects, for instance: _cader_ (Yks. Lan. Chs. Stf. Dev.
Cor.), a cradle, Wel. _cadair_, a chair, _cadair fagu_, a cradle;
_keffel_ (n.Cy. Yks. War. Wor. Shr. Som.), a horse, generally an old or
inferior one, Wel. _ceffyl_, a horse. The form _flannen_ for flannel,
which is in general dialect use in Scotland, Ireland, and England, is
also Welsh, and not a corruption of the standard pronunciation, cp.
Wel. _gwlanen_, woollen material. Old Cornish as a language ceased
to be spoken about the end of the eighteenth century, but here and
there can be found traces of it in the modern Cornish vocabulary, for
example: _mabyer_, a young hen, a pullet, a chicken, O.Cor. _mab_ +
_iar_, i.e. the son of a hen; _muryan_, an ant, O.Cor. _murrian_, ants;
_palch_, broken down in health, palsied, &c., O.Cor. _palch_, weak,
sickly; _pilm_, dust, dry dust, fluff, O.Cor. _pilm_, flying dust like
flour; _quilkin_, a frog, O.Cor. _cwilcen_; _subban_, a sop, O.Cor.
_suben_, a mass, a morsel.

[Sidenote: _Latin Words in the Dialects_]

The French and Scandinavian loan-words constitute by far the greater
proportion of the foreign element in the dialects, and next come the
Celtic words. Beside these, the borrowings from other languages are of
little or no importance, beyond the fact of their adoption. It strikes
one with surprise, for instance, to meet a Greek word like _nous_ in
common dialect use all over England, e.g. Th’ ’ead o’ un’s a-put on
vitty, there’s some nouse about he (Som.), or: T’yent no good to ax he
to do’t, vor ’e a-yent got no nowse (Brks.). Latin words have crept into
English dialects from various sources. Some have drifted down from the
Old English period, e.g. _sicker_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum. Yks.), secure,
safe, which is O.E. _sicor_, secure, certain, from Lat. _securus_;
_taffel_ (Sc.), a small table, which is the same word as O.E. _tæfl_, a
chess-board, from Lat. _tabula_. Others have come through the medium of
Old Norse, e.g. _almous_, _aumous_ (Sc. Irel. and n. counties), money or
food bestowed in charity, a small portion, &c., from O.N. _almusa_,
beside the standard English form _alms_, from O.E. _ælmysse_, _ælmesse_,
from a pop. Lat. *_alimosina_; _scrive_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks.), to write, from
O.N. _skrifa_, from Lat. _scribere_. Some are legal terms, e.g.
_mittimus_ (Wm. Yks.), a legal summons, a notice to quit, a dismissal
from service, e.g. Poor fella, ah pity yon man, ah du really:
t’landlord’s sent him hiz mittimus to leeav; _siserary_ (Irel. Dur. Nhp.
e.An. Suf. Dev.), a violent scolding, a severe blow, which is a dialect
corruption and use of the legal term _certiorari_, a corruption found in
Smollett’s _Humphrey Clinker_, cp. ‘I have gi’en the dirty slut a
siserary.’ Others, again, are Church words, e.g. _cirage-money_ (Chs.),
church rates, originally the equivalent of ‘wax-shot’, a duty formerly
paid towards the charge of wax candles in churches, from M.Lat.
_ceragium_, ‘quod cerae nomine praestabatur ecclesiis ad luminarium
concinnationem,’ Ducange; _calends_ (Wor. Shr. Hrf.), a name given in
certain places to the footpath leading to the entrance of the church,
from M.Lat. _kalenda_, ‘Initium cuiusvis rei, puta, Locus ubi
territorium aliquod incipit,’ Ducange. A small sprinkling of Dutch words
can be found, such as: _dwile_ (e.An.), a coarse house-flannel, any
coarse rubbing-rag, a mop, Du. _dweyl_, a clout to wash the floor,
_stok-dweyl_, a mop; _frow_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Cum-Yks. Lan.), a big, fat
woman, Du. _vrouw_, a woman, wife.

[Sidenote: _Poetic Words in Dialect Use_]

Another feature of the dialect vocabulary which is worth a passing
notice, is the existence therein of words which we are wont to regard as
too poetical, or too literary for everyday use. We should fear to be
considered affected, and given to a habit of interlarding our
conversation with quotations from books, if we called a song-thrush a
_mavis_, or a _throstle_, and spoke of a _merle_ or an _ousel_ instead
of saying blackbird, yet all these four are extremely common dialect
terms. In parts of Yorkshire dialect-speakers call honeysuckle
_eglantine_, as Milton did in _L’Allegro_; and in certain southern
counties a stream is called a _bourn_, reminding us of Milton’s ‘bosky
bourn’; the two words would not, however, be still heard in conjunction
with one another, for _bosky_ is confined to the northern dialects. In a
number of counties from north to south _mead_ is a common term for a
field, a meadow, e.g. The beeses is i’ the mead; similarly _delve_ is a
common verb for dig, _dight_ for prepare, _hie_ for hasten, e.g. Hie
thee, Sarah, hie thee, and bring me a sope o’ beer, aw’m welly
[well-nigh] kilt wi’ droot (Chs.); _lap_ for wrap; _rive_ for tear;
_rue_ for regret, e.g. I’ve never rued it but once, and that’s ever sin;
_wax_ for grow, e.g. He’s waxed sair sin aa seed him last (Nhb.), Ah wax
warm (Suf.). _Sear_, adj. withered, dry, is common in East Anglia. A
Sussex rhyme runs:

    Burn ash-wood green,
    ’Tis fire for a Queen;
    Burn ash-wood sare,
    ’Twool make a man swear.

There is a ring of poetry in the mere sound of such a word as _dimble_
(Der. Not. Lei.) for dingle, an echo of Ben Jonson’s line: ‘Within a
gloomy dimble she doth dwell’; and the expression _a wimpling burn_ (n.
counties) seems to carry with it the note of fresh, running water.

[Sidenote: _Words of Academic Character_]

Beside these, are the words with a savour of academic learning such
as: _accord_ (Wor. Hrf.) for agree, e.g. ’Im an’ ’er can’t accard
together no waay; _element_ (n. and sw. counties) for sky, atmosphere.
A Somersetshire man describing a thunder-storm said: Th’element was
all to a flicker. The Yorkshire proverbial saying: Ah could na more
do it ner ah could fly into t’element, is worth recording before the
oncoming cloud of aeroplanes has made us forget that it could ever
typify the impossible. The term _cabal_ can be used to describe a group
of people met together for gossip, e.g. There wor Jane, an’ Hoppy, an’
Sal, an’ the hull cabal on ’em i’ the lane (Not.), or it can signify a
great noise of talking, &c., e.g. They war makkin’ a fine auld cabal at
t’public-hoose last neet (Wm.). In some parts of Ireland a _gladiathor_
is a well-known term for a fine fellow, a roysterer, a fighter, e.g.
Whin I comes acrass a man who has two or three hundred pounds, an’ sees
all his capers an’ antics, I says to meself, What a gladiathur ye are.
But here we have to deal also with the change of meaning which the
literary word has undergone, and as the majority of what we have termed
learned words are used in a transferred sense in the dialects, the
remainder of our examples must be carried over into the next chapter.



[Sidenote: _Clever, Comical, Conceit, Discourse_
           _False, Flippant, Idle_
           _Jolly, Kind, Maxim, Odd_]

The linguistic study of the dialects becomes an entertaining pursuit
when we turn our attention to the dialect usage of literary words in a
sense other than that to which we are accustomed in standard English.
This can only be illustrated by quotations, for only thus can the true
inwardness of the dialect meaning be appreciated. _Adapted_ (Hmp.)
means accustomed to: a man adapted to pigs is a man experienced in the
rearing of swine; _agreeable_ (Yks.) means suitable, to one’s taste
or liking, e.g. Noo, reach to, an’ mak’ yersels agreeable, an’ if ye
dean’t lahk it lay back, is a friendly invitation to guests at the
board to help themselves to what they fancy; an _auction_ (Yks. Lan.
Chs. Stf.) is a dirty or untidy place or room, a meaning which no doubt
has had its origin in the state of dirt and disorder occasioned by a
public sale: Ah nivver seed sitch a auction i’ all my life as their
hahse is, t’furnitur’s onnywheear but whear it sud be; _cake_ (Yks.) is
bread, whilst _bread_ means oatcake, e.g. Etten cake’s sooin forgotten
is a proverbial saying; to _call_ a person (gen. dial. use) means to
abuse him to his face, to abuse any one behind his back is to _illify_.
A Yorkshire minister preaching on Christian forbearance counselled
his hearers thus: If they call ya, tak neea heed on’t, bud if they
bunch [kick] ya, or cobble ya wi’ steeans, gan ti t’justice, an’ a’e
deean wi’t at yance. _Casualty_ (n. m. and w. dials.) is used as an
adjective meaning precarious, risky, uncertain, not to be relied upon,
e.g. Cauves is cazzlety things to rear; a _Christian_ (gen. dials.) is
a human being as distinguished from one of the lower animals, e.g. W’y
’e’d get on that wall, said a woman of a favourite dog, an’ bark like
a krischun ’e ’ood, ’e knowed so well who wuz a-comin’. A shop-bill
announcing the attendances of a veterinary at Mansfield Market more
than a century ago, concluded with the words: ‘N.B. Likewise bleeds
Christians.’ A _chintz_ cat is a tortoiseshell cat; _clever_ (Nhb.
Dur. Yks. Ken. Dev. Cor.) means well, in good health, active, e.g. Hoo
are ye the day, lad? Man, aa’s clivver; _comical_ (Wor. Hrf. Glo. Bdf.)
means unwell, out of sorts, e.g. I’ve felt bad and comical a many days;
used of roads (Shr.) it signifies bad, dangerous, e.g. It’s a comical
road, specially if theer comes on a mug [fog]; a _conceit_ (Irel. n.
and midl. counties) is an opinion, idea, fancy, e.g. If a wanst teks
a consate, loike, you mee as good talk to a win’mill, and it can be
used as a verb in a like sense, e.g. What do you understand by being
confirmed? Why, I consate I’ll have to fight the devil by mysel’;
_dead_ (Irel. Hrf. Glo. Cor.) means faint, unconscious, e.g. I was dead
ever so long; a _deaf_ nut (n. midl. and sw. counties) is one without a
kernel, e.g. He does not look as if he lived on deaf nuts is said of a
man who looks well-fed and prosperous; to _disannul_ (n. midl. w. and
e. counties) means to abolish, destroy, e.g. Mr. B. has disannulled
the pigsty; or to disarrange, inconvenience, e.g. Yo’ can come in,
yo’ oonna disannul the ladies; _discourse_ (Lin. Som. Dev.) is bad
language, e.g. Of all the discoose ever I yurd in my life, that there
beat everything; a _dormouse_ (Glo.) is a bat; _dubious_ (Chs. Shr.) or
_jubious_ (Sc. Nhb. Yks. Lan. Stf. Der. War.) means suspicious, e.g.
’Er’s as jubous as ’er’s scrimmity [niggardly], weighs the flour out,
an’ then the bread after it’s baked, be’appen ’er thinks as I should
ate the duff; a _faggot_ (midl. and s. counties) is a dish, usually a
small cake or rissole made of the fry, liver, or inferior portions of
a pig or sheep, e.g. ‘Hot faggots to-night’ is a not uncommon notice
to be seen, for example, in the windows of small eating-houses in
Malvern, Cheltenham, or Oxford; a _fig_ (Brks. Hmp. Wil. Som. Dev.
Cor.) is a raisin, hence _figgy-pudding_ stands for plum-pudding.
A woman who made plum-puddings for sale, placed this notice in her
shop-window: ‘Figgy pudden wan appeny a slice, more figgier wan penny
a slice.’ It is a common saying that a Cornishman’s idea of happiness
is: A fresh preacher and a figgy-pudding every Sunday. _False_ (n.
and midl. counties), applied to children and animals, means sharp,
shrewd, clever, precocious, e.g. as fause as a Christian, often said
of a clever animal; _fierce_ (midl. and e.An.) means brisk, lively,
in good health, and is usually applied to babies, it can also signify
brave, valiant, mettlesome, as in the ironical simile: as fierce as a
maggot; _fog_ (in gen. dial. use) is the aftermath, the second crop of
hay, or the long grass left standing in the fields during winter. In a
M.E. account of the fate of Nebuchadnezzar we read: ‘He fares forth on
alle faure [fours], fogge watȝ his mete.’ A printed notice conspicuous
in the market-square of Settle a few years ago advertised ‘120 acres
of fog for Sale’. _Flippant_ (Dor. Som. Dev.) is used of rods or
sticks in the sense of pliant, used of persons it means quick, nimble;
_frightful_ (Hrf. e.An. Som.) means timid, easily frightened, e.g.
Lauk! Miss, how frightful you are! said by a homely wench when Miss
screams at a toad or a spider; a _gentleman_ (midl. and s. counties)
is a man who need not work, or is disabled from work, e.g. He’s a
gentleman now, but he just manages to doddle about his garden with a
weedin’-spud. It can be applied to a sick woman, e.g. I’m sure I’ve
done all I could for mother; if she isn’t a gentleman, I should like
to know who is! _Good_ (Sc. n.Cy. Suf.), with names of relationship,
denotes kinship by marriage, e.g. my good aunt, is my aunt by marriage;
my good son, is my son-in-law; _good-natured_ (Dev.) can be used of
inanimate objects, e.g. A good-natured stone is one easy to work; a
_gull_ (midl. counties) is an unfledged gosling, called in parts of
Hampshire a _maiden_; _head_ (Som. Dev.) can signify the cream on the
surface of milk, so that if a farmer’s wife is asked for milk in the
forenoon, she may reply: I ’ont break my head vor nobody; a _hypocrite_
(Suf. Sus.) is a person who is unwell, or a lame person, e.g. She’s
quite a hypocrite, she can’t walk a step without her stilts; _idle_
(Suf. Sus. Hmp. I.W. Wil. Dor.) means mischievous, saucy, flippant.
It is said that half the choir in a Dorsetshire village resigned when
a lady told them they were _idle_. They believed that she had accused
them of leading a vicious life. To _imitate_ (Chs. Shr. e.An. Nrf.
Suf.) means to attempt, endeavour, e.g. Don’t yow imitate hittin’ me,
or yow’ll find it won’t pay; an _income_ (Sc. n.Irel. n.Cy.) is an
internal disease, or an abscess, boil; _inconsistent_ (Nhp. Hnt.) means
reprehensible; to _intend_ (w.Yks.) can be used to express a desire or
expectation beyond one’s own control, e.g. I had intended our Rector
to be a Bishop; an _item_ (Yks. Chs. Der. Lin. War. Wor. Shr. Sus.) is
a hint, signal, cue, e.g. I sid the Maister comin’ so I gid ’im the
item. In Somerset and Devon it can mean a trick, antic, e.g. Her’s za
vull ov items as a egg’s vull ov mayte. _Jolly_ (n.Cy. n.midl. e.An.)
means fat, plump, e.g. the phrase _a jolly wench_ would be applied to a
young woman weighing about twelve stone; _kind_ (midl. and s. counties)
means in good condition, thriving, healthy, e.g. These’m nice kind
pigs, He’s always been a kindly bullock. It can also signify pleasant,
agreeable, as in the Lancashire saying: There’s never a gate ’at’s so
kind to th’ fuut as th’ gate one likes to go. A _maxim_ (War. Wor. Suf.
Som. Dev. Cor.) is a plan, contrivance, e.g. The curate’s a fustrate
’un amongst the lads, ’e’s got such a many maxims to amuse ’um; _mean_
(Yks.) signifies angry, e.g. I war ganging by t’field, and there war
Willy Lowis’ bull. I couldna rin, and ’ea cam and leuked at me across
t’stile. ‘Is ta gaen to be mean?’ says I; _megrims_ (Yks. Chs. Stf.
Der. Lin. War. Shr.) are antics, tricks, gesticulations, grimaces,
e.g. Them childern wun naughty i’ church, they wun makin’ maigrims
an’ witherin’ one to another all the wilde, where _witherin_ implies
muttering with an accompaniment of nods and winks; _miraculous_ (Sc.
Yks.) means wild, eccentric, reckless, venturesome, e.g. He’s a bit
mirak’lous wiv a gun; to _mortify_ (Yks. Der. Shr. Hrf. Glo. Oxf. Som.)
is to tease, vex, annoy, e.g. Drat the cheel! her’s enough to mortify
anybody out o’ their life; _novice_ (Yks.) is a very common term of
reproach, used of a person who is awkward in manner or procedure; _odd_
(Cum. Yks. Lan. Der. Lin. Lei. War.) means solitary, single, lonely,
e.g. He lives e’ a niced house, but it was so odd, there wasn’t a
place of worship within three mile; a very common phrase is: an odd
one, meaning a single one, e.g. Oor parson ewsed to keäp two curates,
bud noo he’s a-gooin’ to mak shift wi’ a odd un. A Primitive Methodist
preacher was advocating the missionary cause. Describing the heathen,
he said: Them poor creätures weds as mony wives as iver thaay’ve a mind
to, but th’Testament says as clear as daayleet, we’re nobbut to hev a
odd un a-peäce. To _perch_ (Lan. Gmg. Pem. Dor. Som. Dev.) means to
sit, sit down, take a seat, e.g. Prithee, perch!; similarly to _pitch_,
e.g. Plaze to pitch, ma’am; and to _print_ (Cum. Wm. Yks.), e.g.
Print thi body doon e’ that chair tell ah git a bit o’ this muck off
mi hands an’ fiase; a _phrase_ (Cor.) is a habit, custom, e.g. She’s
all the time groanin’, and it’s nothin’ in the world but a nasty old
phrase she’ve took up; a _pig_ (Sc. Nhb.) or _piggy_, is a hot-water
bottle. A traveller is said to have reported that in Northumberland the
people slept with the pigs for warmth, because he had been asked if
he would have a piggy in his bed. In parts of Scotland a _pig_ means
a flower-pot. A rich Glasgow merchant once sent for a London artist
to decorate the panels in the cabins of his yacht. The artist asked
what kind of decoration was desired. The reply was: Ony thing simple,
just a pig wi’ a flower. _Plain_ (Sc. Lin. Wor. Hrf. Dor.) signifies
frank, unaffected, homely, e.g. Lady Jane is such a plain lady, she
come into my ’ouse, an’ sits down, an’ takes the childern in ’er lap
as comfortable as con be. She’s as plain as you be, Miss, every bit; a
_posy_ (Lakel. Lan. Yks.) is used of any single flower, which explains
the line: ‘He promised to buy me a garland of posies’; a _pot_ (Yks.)
is an awful chasm, almost a bottomless pit, not uncommon in certain
moorland districts, technically it is a fissure in limestone; _pot_
(Nhb. Cum. Yks. Lan. Not. Lei.) also means earthenware. Of a man with
a squint it may be said: He skens wor nor a pot cat. To _prove_ (Nhp.
Oxf.), applied to yeast or dough, means to rise, or to set to rise.
When I complained recently that the bread was hard and dry, I received
the following letter from the baker: ‘Dear Madam, I am sorry to receive
your complaint concerning the bread; the tin bread had been overproved,
I fear, but the foreman will make an extra care, so that it shall not
occur again.’ _Purgatory_ (Der. Stf. Wor. Shr. Hrf. Glo. Oxf.) is a
receptacle for ashes beneath or in front of the grate; a _radical_
(Cum. Yks. Lan. Oxf. Brks. and se. counties) means a troublesome boy,
an impudent, idle fellow, e.g. That little chap be a proper young
radical, a wunt do nothun’ his mother tells un; _rapid_ (Lin. Nhp. Glo.
Ken. Sus. Wil. Som. Dev.) means violent, severe, applied specially to
pain; a _retinue_ (w.Yks.) is a long, tedious tale; to _serve_ is a
very common verb meaning to supply an animal with food, e.g. Ah’ll gan
an’ sarve t’pigs; a _sessions_ (n.Cy. Yks. Ken. Sus.) is a disturbance,
fuss, a great difficulty, e.g. Noo there’ll be a bonny sessions aboot
it; to _settle_ (Yks. Lan. Lin.) is to reduce, to fall in price, e.g.
Breead’s sattl’d a haup’ny; _severe_ (Som. Dev.) means sheepish,
ashamed; to _shut_ (Shr.) means to yoke horses to the implements, to
_unshut_ is to unyoke, or unharness them. This latter word occurs in
an epitaph on a tombstone in Ludlow churchyard, over the grave of one
John Abingdon, ‘who for forty years drove the Ludlow stage to London, a
trusty servant, a careful driver, and an honest man’:

    His labor done, no more to town
      His onward course he bends;
    His team’s unshut, his whip’s laid up,
      And here his journey ends.
    Death locked his wheels and gave him rest,
      And never more to move,
    Till Christ shall call him with the blest
      To heavenly realms above.

[Sidenote: _Literary Words with Dialect Meanings: Radical, Serve,
              Simple, Unshut_]

_Simple_ (Ken. Sur. Sus.) means unintelligible, hard to understand, e.g.
Will you please lend mother another book? She says this one is so simple
she can’t make it out at all; _small_ (Yks. Lan.) is thin, slender, so
that a man over six feet high may be _small_; in the phrase: a small
family (Sc. n.Cy.) it means young, e.g. A small family of nine
children; a _soul_ (Yks. Glo.) is a night-flying white moth; a _stag_
(n. w. and sw. counties) is a young cock. A School Inspector who asked a
child what it was that recalled St. Peter to repentance, was completely
nonplussed when informed that it was a _stag_. To _stammer_ (Sc. n.Cy.
Nhb. Cum. Yks.) is to stagger, stumble, totter, e.g. Grandfather’s very
stammering, though ’e’s lisher [more nimble] of his feet than uncle; to
be _suited_ (Cum. Yks. Lin.) is to be pleased, e.g. Oor Bill’s just
suited noo he’s getten into th’quire wi’ a white surplice on; to
_suppose_ (Yks. Not. Lin. Rut. Lei. War. Shr. Hrf. Sus.), in the phrase
_I suppose_, is used to express certainty, e.g. I suppoäse he’s deäd for
I was at th’ funeral; _tender_ (Hmp.), used of the wind, means sharp,
biting; to _terrify_ (midl. and s. dialects) is to annoy, irritate,
worry, e.g. ’E canna get a wink a slip uv a night, ’is cough is that
terrifyin’; it can also mean to damage, destroy, e.g. Thay wapses do
terrify our plums; _thin_ (Irel. Yks. Chs. Wor.), used of wind or
weather, means cold, piercing, e.g. My word! but it’s a thin wind this
morning, it’ll go through you before it’ll go round you; a pair of
_twins_ (Shr.) is an agricultural implement for breaking the clods and
uprooting the weeds of ploughed land, e.g. Tell Jack to shet [yoke] a
couple o’ ’orses to that par o’ twins; to _upbraid_ (Nhb. Yks. Lan.
Lin.) is used in speaking of digestion, e.g. Ah nivver eeats onions bud
they upbraids mă; to _up-raise_, or _up-rise_ (Dev. Cor.) is to church a
woman, e.g. Please, Sir, can Mrs. Smith be uprose this afternoon?; to
_live upright_ (Yks. Lin. Nrf.) means to have independent means, e.g. He
lives upright, and keeps a pig; to _worship_ (Som.) is to be fond of,
e.g. Her [a cat] idn arter the pheasants, ’tis the rabbits her do
worship; _young_ (Som. Cor.) means unmarried, e.g. Are you young or
married? Of a very young bride it was said: She du look a pretty lot
better than when she was young.

[Sidenote: _Literary Words in the Dialects with Peculiar Idiomatic

Sometimes the simplest of English words have a peculiar idiomatic use in
the dialects, which may sound curious to our ears; for instance, with
_belong_ (Wm. Lin. Stf. Nhp. Som.) property and its possessor are
reversed, e.g. Who do belong to these here bullicks? A town boy, seeing
some geese pasturing on the wide expanse of Newby Moor, wanted to carry
off one of them, and being remonstrated with, he replied: Why! nobody
belongs to ’em! To _break_ (Nhp. Glo. Hmp. Wil. Som. Dev.) is used of
things which tear, and conversely, _tear_ is used of things which break,
e.g. Please, governess, her’s a-broke my jacket. Who’ve a-bin an’ a-tord
the winder? He wadn a-tord ’smornin’. _Few_ in many dialects is used in
speaking of liquid food, more especially of broth, e.g. Will ye hev a
few mair broth? _Just_ (Nhb. Der. Gmg. Pem.) implies nearly, almost,
e.g. She’ve a just cut her hand off, means she has narrowly missed doing
so; _partly_ (Yks. Chs. Der. Oxf. Brks. Hnt.) is similarly used, e.g.
He’s partly ten years old. It is also often used as a termination to a
sentence, much in the same way as _like_, or _in a manner of speaking_
and other phrases intended to round off the angles of a too explicit
statement, e.g. Well, ah thenk a’d a-coom if his woife ’ud a-let him,
paartly. To _want_ (Sc. Irel. and n. dialects) signifies to do or be
without, to be free from, e.g. She never knew what it was to want a
headache; to _half_ do a thing (Oxf.), used with a negative, implies an
excessive amount of energy in the performance of the action, e.g. She
didn’t half cry, means that she made a tremendous noise; _while_ (Sc.
n.midl. and e.An.) means until. A north-countryman taking a
Sunday-school class ‘down south’ surprised his hearers by saying: Now,
boys, I can’t do nothing while you are quiet. An epitaph in a Lancashire
church runs:

    Here must he stay till Judgment day,
    While Trumpets shirl [shrill] do Sound,
    Then must he Rise in Glorious wise,
    And Gloriously be Crown’d.

Another, commemorating a married pair in Lincolnshire, is as follows:

    Married we were in mutual love,
      And so we did remain,
    Till parted by the God of love
      While we do meet again.

This use of _while_ was once literary, and occurs in Shakespeare’s
Plays. The conjunctions _if_, _and_, used as present participles, form
an expression denoting hesitation, e.g. I axed that ŏŏman about the
weshin’, an’ after a good bit o’ iftin’-an’-andin’ ’er said ’er’d
come--but ’er didna seem to car’ about it (Shr.). _Neighbour_, used as a
verb, is very common in the sense of associate with, visit, go about
gossiping, e.g. I give them the time o’ day, but I don’t neighbour with
any of them.

[Sidenote: _Familiar Forms in Standard English with different Meanings
              in the Dialects_]

Then there are an almost unlimited number of dialect terms which
sound like familiar forms in standard English speech, but which are in
reality words of totally different origin and meaning. _Agate_ is a
very common adverb in all the north-country dialects, meaning on the
way, afoot, astir, &c., concerning which a story is told of a farmer’s
wife giving her instructions to a new, south-country servant thus:
Thoo mun git a-gait i’ good tahm i’ t’mornin’ an’ leet t’fires. The
poor girl was seen wandering about the fields in the early morning,
and when the mistress appeared and reproached her for the unlighted
fires, she explained that she had been searching in vain for an old
gate to break up and use for kindling. A villager meeting the new
curate accosted him with: ‘Ah see you’re a-gait.’ ‘No,’ replied the
parson in an indignant tone, ‘I’m the curate.’ A _badger_ (n. and midl.
counties) is a corn dealer, or a huckster, a very old term, found in
early English Dictionaries; a _banker_ (Yks. Stf. Lin.) is a navvy, a
drain-and ditch-digger. The judge and bar were puzzled by being told
that a disreputable fellow whom the police had found asleep under a
stack was a banker. ‘A banker!’ exclaimed the judge. ‘Yes, sur, and he
is a banker, that I’ll take my Bible oath on, for I seed him mellin’
doon kids at the stathe end not ower three weeks sin’,’ replied the
witness, and an interpreter had to be found in court to explain to the
men of law that the witness had described a navvy occupied in hammering
down faggots supporting the foreshore of a river. A _banker-mason_
(Rut.) is one who works fine stone: We call them as chops stones
for walls, choppers-and-wallers. If you called a banker-mason a
chopper-and-waller, he’d look awkward [annoyed]. To _boast_ (w.Yks.)
is to dress stone with a chisel, which chisel is termed a _boaster_;
a _bounder_ (Cor.) is the holder of a tin-bound or parcel of land in
the tin-mines; a _damsel_ (Sc. Irel. Nhb. Yks. Lan. Chs.) is a damson
plum, e.g. Fine fresh damsels at sixpence a peck; a _dodger_ (Ken.)
is a night-cap; a _fresher_ (e.An.) is a young frog; a _humbug_ (Yks.
Lan. Chs. Der. Lin. War. Wor. Hrf. Glo. Wil. Dev.) is a particular kind
of sweetmeat, varying in different localities. A well-known vendor
of _humbugs_, familiarly called Dan, until a few years ago regularly
plied his trade on the platform of Shipley station, and was wont to
relate with pride that he had once sent a parcel of his wares to Her
Majesty Queen Victoria, by the hand of Princess Beatrice. _Love_ (Ess.)
means lather, soap-suds; an _old maid_ (Wor. Glo.) is a horse-fly; to
_peck_ (Wor. Oxf. Brks. Sus. Wil.) is to use a pickaxe. In a case of
manslaughter the witness giving evidence remarked: You see he pecked
he with a peck, and he pecked he with a peck, and if he’d pecked he
with his peck as hard as he pecked he with his peck, he would have
killed he, and not he he. _Raps_ (Chs. War. Shr.) are sports, games,
fun of any kind, e.g. It wuz rar’ raps to ’ear the ’unters shoutin’ to
the scar-crow to know which way the fox went; _shale_ (w.Yks.) denotes
a fire-lighter, made by cutting down a piece of soft deal wood into
something resembling a tree-fern. A showman proclaimed that within his
show we were to be told something worth a pound for a penny. Inside
was a man cutting shales, and all he said was: Always cut from you
and you’ll never cut yourself. To _simper_ (Irel. w.Yks. e.An.) is to
simmer, cp. ‘I symper, as lycour dothe on the fyre before it begynneth
to boyle,’ Palsgrave, 1530; a _slip_ (Irel. Pem. I.W. Dor. Som. Dev.
Cor.) is a young pig; to _steal_ (Yks.) is to put handles on pots. The
following conundrum was once very common: As Ah went ower Rummles Moor,
Ah pept dahn a nick an’ Ah seed a man steylin’ pots, an’ they wor all
his awn. Hah could that be? A _wig_ (in gen. dial. use) is a kind of
cake or bun, a _plain wig_ is a bun without currants, a _spice wig_ is
one with currants. The Lincolnshire version of the common nursery rhyme
runs as follows:

    Tom, Tom, the baker’s son,
    Stole a wig, and away he run;
    The wig was eat, and Tom was beat,
    And Tom went roaring down the street.

[Sidenote: _‘Pig’ or ‘Wig’_]

The ordinary version substitutes ‘pig’ for ‘wig’, and makes Tom’s
father a ‘piper’. It is a question for textual critics to settle,
but natural sequence of idea and detail is on the side of the
‘wig’-version being the original one; and it is easy to see how in
a literary nursery, authority would say that the most omnivorous of
small boys could not eat a periwig, and therefore the word must be
pig. This change once made, Tom’s father becomes a piper for the sake
of alliteration, rather than because there is any historical connexion
between a piper and a pig.



[Sidenote: _Alliterative Phrases_]

A love of alliteration and rhyme in phrase and compound has always
been characteristic of English as a whole. We tend naturally to say
weary and worn, or sad and sorrowful, and we cling to compounds like
helter-skelter and pell-mell. We even begin the education of our babies
by teaching them to call a dog a bow-wow, and a horse a gee-gee. It is
not, therefore, surprising to find this prevalence still more marked
in the dialects, where all normal tendencies have fuller sway than in
the standard language. Some of the alliterative compounds are very
expressive. A few examples are: _chim-cham_ (Som. Dev.), undecided
talk, e.g. You niver can’t get no sense like out o’ un, cause he’s
always so vull o’ chim-cham, which was said of a certain candidate for
Parliament; _easy-osie_ (Sc.), easy-going, e.g. He was an easy-osie
bodie, a kind of we’ve-aye-been-providit-for-and-sae-will-we-yet
sort of man; _feery-fary_ (Sc.), tumult, noise, passion, cp. ‘Cupido
... Quha reft me, and left me In sik a feirie-farye,’ Montgomerie,
_Cherrie_, 1597; _flim-flam_ (Som. Dev.), idle talk, nonsense, e.g.
Don’t thee ever tell up no such flim-flam stuff, else nobody ’ont
never harky to thee, nif ever thee’s a-got wit vor to tell sense;
_giddle-gaddle_ (Yks. Chs.), a contrivance used instead of a stile
or gate, an effective bar to cattle and a trial to stout persons;
_giff-gaff_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Nhb. Yks. Lei.), mutual obligation,
reciprocity, used especially in the proverbial saying: giff-gaff
makes good friends. A farmer said in reference to a douceur which his
landlord’s agent appeared to expect: Chiff-chaff, feer an’ squeer,
that’s roight enew, but this here giff-gaff grease i’ fist sort o’
woo’k doon’t dew for may. The word is found as far back as the year
1549 in one of Latimer’s sermons: ‘Giffe gafe was a good felow, this
gyffe gaffe led them clene from iustice.’ _Hiver-hover_ (Stf. War. Wor.
Shr.), wavering, undecided, e.g. Did’n yo goo? No, I wuz ’iver-’over
about it fur a bit, but as I said I oodna, I didna; _kim-kam_ (Shr.),
awry, perverse; _midge-madge_ (I.W. Som.), confusion, disorder, e.g.
Go home hon a will, ’tis always the same, all to a midge-madge, and
her away neighbourin’; _miff-maff_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lan.), nonsense,
foolishness; _mingle-mangle_ (Sc. Lan. Lei. Nhp.), a medley, a
confused mixture, cp. ‘_Centon_, a mingle-mangle of many matters in
one book,’ Cotgr.; _nilder-nalder_ (Yks.), to idle, to waste time,
to pace along idly, e.g. Nilder-naldering and sinter-sauntering;
_pip-pop_ (Bck.), a swing-gate, such as is called in many dialects
a kissing-gate; _reel-rall_ (Sc. Irel.), a state of confusion,
disturbance; _trinkum-trankums_ (Sc. Cum. Lan. Chs. e.An.), trinkets,
gewgaws; _wee-wow_ (Chs. War. Wor. Shr. e.An. Som. Dev. Cor.), crooked,
ill-balanced, unsteady, e.g. I knowed well enough that loäd ŏŏd never
raich wham, it wuz all wee-wow afore it lef’ the fild. As a noun it is
common in the phrase: all of a wee-wow. It can also signify squinting,
e.g. ’Er babby’s eyes is drefful wee-wow-like. Dr. Johnson exhibits
some contempt for this type of word, as for example: ‘Twittletwattle.
n.s. [A ludicrous reduplication of _twattle_.] Tattle, gabble. A vile
word.’ Cp. _Twattle_ (Yks.), foolish talk, gossip.

In some dialects even the cat takes up the alliterative tale; the
purring sound she makes is called _three thrums_ (Sc. Cum. Yks. Chs.
Lin.), and when children beg to be told what she sings, Pussy’s song put
into words is: Three threads in a thrum, Three threads in a thrum.

[Sidenote: _Glunch and gloom, Peak and pine_]

It is very common to find two verbs of similar meaning coupled
together by _and_, as for instance: to _blare and blore_, of cattle,
to bellow, low. A Lincolnshire preacher, discoursing on Saul’s capture
of Agag said: You seä Samuel was a prophet o’ th’ Loord, an’ was not
to be sucked in wi’ Saul’s lees, soä he said unto him: ‘Saul,’ says
he, ‘your goin’ about to tell me ’at you’d dun as the Lord tell’d ye
is all a heap o’ noht at all. Do ye think I can’t hear them theare
beäs blarin’ an’ bloorin’, an’ them sheäp bealin’ oot? Naaither God
nor me is deäf, man.’ To _chop and change_ is so common as to have
become a colloquialism. It is a very old phrase, occurring as far back
as fifteenth-century English literature. Tusser has: ‘... chopping
and changing I cannot commend with theefe and his marrow, for feare
of ill end.’ To _glop and gauve_ (Yks.) means to stare stupidly,
gaze open-mouthed; to _glunch and gloom_ (Sc.), is to look surly or
sulky, to whine, grumble; to _peak and pine_ is to waste away, cp.
‘Weary se’nnights nine times nine Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine,’
_Macbeth_, I. iii. 23; to _pell and pelfer_ (Chs.) is to eat daintily,
to pick and choose when eating; to _quimble and quamble_ is to fondle,
caress; to _rap and ran_ or _rein_ (Lakel. Yks. Ess.), _rap_ and
_rear_ (Lin.), _rap and reeve_ (Cum.), are all expressions signifying
to seize with violence, get by any means, fair or foul; to _rap and
rend_ (Sc. n.Cy. Shr. Hrf. e.An.) has the same meaning, but can also
bear the sense of to destroy property, waste. Dr. Johnson has: ‘To Rap
_and rend_ [more properly _rap and ran_ ...] To seize by violence,’
exemplified by a quotation from Butler’s _Hudibras_. To _rug and rive_
(Sc. n.Cy.) is to pull and tear, to drag forcibly. A Northumbrian
proverbial saying is: Like the butter of Halterburn, it would neither
rug nor rive, nor cut with a knife--it was confounded. To _screw and
scruple_ (Brks.) is to beat down in price; to _steven and stoor_ (Yks.)
of the wind, is to howl and bluster. To _tew and tave_ (n.Cy. Lin. Dor.
Som.) is to toss, to throw the hands wildly about as a person in fever
does; to _tug and tew_ (Yks.) is to toil, to work hard and incessantly,
e.g. T’poar slave mun tug an’ tew wi’t wark Wolivver shoo can crawl; to
_twist and twine_ (Nhb. Cum. Yks.) is to whine, cry, to be peevish and
out of temper; _squetched and skywannocked_ (Lin.) signifies all awry;
to _meddle or_ (_and_) _make_ (in gen. dial. use) is to interfere in
matters which do not concern one--the phrase is generally used in the
negative, as in the old Berkshire proverb: Quoth the young cock, I’ll
neither meddle nor make.

In the same way two nouns beginning with the same letter are yoked
together to form a phrase, as for example: _care and cark_ (Sc. Nhb.
Cum. Yks. Lan. Glo. Suf. I.W. Som.), anxiety, sorrow; _by raff and reng_
(Yks.), by little and little; _scrap and screed_ (Wm.), every particle,
e.g. He’s geean, an’ teean iv’ry scrap an’ screed he could lig hands on.
_I’ve neither brass nor benediction_ (Yks.) means I am quite destitute.
Of a total disappearance it may be said: There was nowther head nor hair
on’t, moit nor doit (n.Yks.).

[Sidenote: _Rhyming Words and Phrases_]

Beside these are the rhyming words and phrases, such as:
_argle-bargle_ (Sc. Lin.), to argue; _crawly-mawly_ (e.An.), poorly,
ailing; _dimmy-simmy_ (Shr.), languishing, affected; _eeksie-peeksie_
(Sc.), equal, on an equality; _ham-sam_ (Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.), adv.
irregularly, confusedly; _hanchum-scranshum_ (Lin.), bewilderment,
confusion; _havey-cavey_ (Yks. Lan. Der. Nhp.), unsteady, trembling in
the balance; _hay-bay_ (Lakel. Cum. Yks.), a hubbub, uproar, commotion;
_hirdum-dirdum_ (Sc. Lan.), confused, noisy mirth; _how-skrow_
(Lakel.), disorder, a state of confusion, e.g. It’s cleenin’ time
an’ we’re o in a how-skrow; _kabbie-labby_ (Sc.), an altercation,
wrangle; _mimpsy-pimsey_ (Dev.), fastidious, affected, e.g. Whot a
poor mimpsey-pimsey craycher ’tez, tü be sure; _nibby-gibby_ (Cor.),
a narrow escape; _otty-motty_ (Chs. Der.), suspense, e.g. Keepin’
him in otty-motty, an noather tellin’ him one thing or another--it’s
enough to vex annybody; _pinky-winky_ (n.Cy. Lan. Nhp.), very small;
_quavery-mavery_ (e.An.), undecided, hesitating; _rory-tory_ (Som.
Dev. Cor.), loud, noisy, also gaudy, tawdry, e.g. Of all the rory-tory
bonnets ever you zeed, Mrs. Vickery’s beat ’em all, he was all the
colours of the rainbow. The word occurs in Fielding’s _Jonathan Wild_,
cp. ‘Cavaliers and rory-tory ranter boys.’ _Tacky-lacky_ (Som. Dev.),
a drudge, a person at every one’s beck and call, e.g. Poor maid, her’s
tacky-lacky to all the tother sarvunts.

[Sidenote: _Moil and toil, Rape and scrape_]

To _biver and wiver_ (Ken. Dev.) means to shake and tremble, e.g. Aw,
Loramassy, Joan, ’ow you did stertlee me! I’ve abin a-bivering an’
a-wivering iver zince. Yü shüde be more thortvul; to _blare and stare_
(War. Glo.) is to wander about, e.g. What bist a blarin’ and starin’
thur for?; to _codge and modge_ (War.) is to muddle and cobble, e.g.
You’ve codged and modged this sewing pretty well; to _haggle and jaggle_
(Yks. Lakel.) is to quarrel; to _holler and boller_ (Lei.) is to shout,
halloo, e.g. They was a-’ollerin’ an’ a-bollerin’, yo moight a-’eern ’em
a moile off; to _moil and toil_ (in gen. dial. use) is to work hard,
e.g. Yo met’n mwoil an’ toil a couple o’ ’ours, an’ ’ardly get a wisket
full. Tusser tells us in his autobiographical poem:

    When court gan frowne and strife in towne,
    And lords and knights saw heauie sights,
    Then tooke I wife, and led my life in Suffolke soile.
    There was I faine my selfe to traine,
    To learne too long the fermers song,
    For hope of pelfe, like worldly elfe, to moile and toile.

To _rape and scrape_ (Chs. Not. Glo. e.An.) is to scrape together, to
get by any means in one’s power; to _raunch and scraunch_ (War. Shr.) is
to snatch greedily, e.g. Look at that ŏŏman [a gleaner] raunchin’ an’
scraunchin’, ’er’ll be all o’er the fild afore the others bin in at the
gate; to _slave and drave_ (Wil.) is to toil; _shaffling and haffling_
(Chs.) means acting in an undecided, shilly-shallying way; _wafting and
draughting_ (Chs.) means bustling about; to _wink and skrink_ (Cor.)
means to make signs by winking. The following story is told of a Cornish
lad: he had been left in charge of the Sunday dinner whilst the family
were at church, and like King Alfred, he let it burn. He repaired to the
church, and endeavoured by his energetic signs from the porch, to draw
out the housewife. She in turn made signs to him to wait, when, growing
impatient, he cried out: ‘Yiew may winky and skrinky as long as yiew du
plase, but the figgy dowdy [plum pudding] is burnt gin the crock.’

_By habs and nabs_ (Yks. Lin.), and _by hobs and jobs_ (Shr.) are
phrases signifying little by little, bit by bit; _by hulch and by
stulch_ (Chs.) is equivalent to by hook or by crook; _hitheracs and
skitheracs_ (Yks.) are odds and ends.



The average educated Englishman has no accurate conception of what a
dialect really is, beyond a vague notion that the term covers a mass of
barbarisms, corruptions, and mispronunciations of the King’s English,
devoid of any order or system, and used by the illiterate rustic in a
haphazard fashion with no regard to consistency. But as we have already
seen in Chapter VII, in very many cases it is the standard language
which contains the anomalies and the corruptions, whilst the correct
forms have been handed down in the dialects where systematic sound-laws
and exact grammatical rules have been regularly developed and carried
out unhampered by the arbitrary rules of fashion, or the regulations of
a stereotyped spelling 400 years behind the pronunciation. As Max Müller
puts it: ‘the real and natural life of language is in its dialects,’
_The Science of Language_, vol. i, p. 55.

A dialect may be defined as one of the subordinate forms or varieties
of a language arising from local peculiarities of pronunciation,
vocabulary, and idiom, or as that form or idiom of a language peculiar
to a limited region or people, as distinguished from the literary
language of the whole people. Hitherto we have been concerned chiefly
with the second of these three characteristics of a dialect, namely
vocabulary, but we will now consider in some detail the first on the
list, namely pronunciation, and here we cannot fail to be struck by
the wonderful uniformity and regularity of the sound-system of modern

To classify the modern dialects of a country is a difficult and
unsatisfactory task. If we possessed about three hundred detailed
grammars of the principal English dialects spoken in the United
Kingdom, and could find hundreds of competent people willing to answer
queries about difficult or doubtful points, it might be possible to
furnish a classification which would be tolerably accurate. But this is
a state of things never likely to be realized. Though a great deal has
been done in collecting material, it is as yet insufficient to enable
any one to give the exact geographical area over which many of the
grammatical phenomena extend, hence the boundaries given in the
classification of our dialects are more or less roughly drawn. For all
practical purposes we may divide the English dialects into the following
seven groups:

[Sidenote: _Dialectal Groups_]

(1) Scottish, including n.Nhb. and n.Cum. Here literary English _a_
has a tendency to become _à_ before a single nasal in such words as
_can_, _man_. The sound is generally represented in books by _o_, as
_con_, _mon_. O.E. _æ_ (_a_) in originally open syllables and O.E. _ā_
have fallen together, as _name_, _hame_ (O.E. _nama_, _hām_), lit. Eng.
_name_, _home_. O.E. _o_ in originally open syllables and O.E. _ā_ are
still kept apart, as _kōl_, _hame_ (O.E. _colu_, _hām_), lit. Eng.
_coal_, _home_. O.E. _i_ and _u_ have not been diphthongized before a
following _nd_ as in lit. Eng. O.E. _u_ has become _ɒ_ [the sound in
_sun_] as in lit. Eng. O.E. _ū_ has generally remained, but in s.Sc. it
has become _ɒu_ [the sound in _cow_] when final. In Sc. medial _d_ has
disappeared after _n_ in such words as _cinder_, _wonder_. Final _l_
has generally disappeared after a guttural vowel, as _ā_, _fū_, lit.
Eng. _all_, _full_. _r_ is strongly trilled in all positions.

(2) North-country, meaning Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. (except sw. and
s.Yks.), and the northern portion of Lancashire. O.E. _i_ has remained
before _nd_, e.g. a word like _blind_ rhymes with lit. Eng. _wind_ sb.
O.E. _u_ has generally remained, and also when followed by _nd_. In
words like _cup_, _summer_, _pound_ (O.E. _pund_), the _u_ has the sound
of the _u_ in lit. Eng. _pull_. O.E. _ū_ has generally remained as in
_hūs_, _ūt_, lit. Eng. _house_, _out_. _r_ is uvular in Nhb. and parts
of Dur. This is called ‘the Northumberland burr’.

(3) North Midland, meaning sw. and s.Yks., the southern portion of
Lan. I.Ma. Chs. n.Wal. Stf. Der. Not. Lin. Rut. Lei. Shr. O.E. _a_
has become _e_ before _g_ in parts of Yks. and Lan. as _dreg_, _reg_,
lit. Eng. _drag_, _rag_. O.E. _a(o)_ has in several of these dialects
become _u_ or _ɒ_ before _ng_ in such words as _long_, _wrong_. This
pronunciation has been taken over into the standard language in
_among_, _-monger_, _mongrel_. O.E. _e_ in originally open syllables,
Germanic _ǣ_ and O.E. _ǣ_ (= _i_-umlaut of _ā_) are still kept apart
in several dialects, whereas in lit. Eng. they have fallen together,
e.g. _steal_, _sleep_, _heal_ (O.E. _stelan_, _slǣpan_, _hǣlan_ beside

(4) South Midland, meaning Nhp. War. Wor. Hrf. Mon. s.Wal. Glo. Oxf.
Bck. Bdf. Hrt. Mid. Hnt. O.E. _a(o)_ has become _u_ or _ɒ_ before _ŋ_ in
_long_, _wrong_, &c. O.E. _a_ has become _ā_ before _sp_, _ss_, _st_, as
in lit. Eng. _gasp_, _grass_, _fast_. Initial _shr_ has become _sr_, as
in _srimp_, _srivel_, lit. Eng. _shrimp_, _shrivel_.

(5) East-country, meaning Cmb. Nrf. Suf. Ess. O.E. _a_ has become _ā_
before _sp_, _ss_, _st_. O.E. _y_ has become _e_, as _pet_ (O.E.
_pytt_), lit. Eng. _pit_, but this _e_ is rapidly disappearing through
the influence of the standard language. It has been adopted into lit.
Eng. in _evil_, _fledge_, _merry_ (O.E. _yfel_, _-flycge_, _myrige_).
O.E. _ȳ_ has become _ī_, as _mīs_ (O.E. _mȳs_), lit. Eng. _mice_.

(6) South-country, Ken. Sur. Sus. Brks. O.E. _a_ has become _ā_ before
_sp_, _ss_, _st_. O.E. _æ(a)_ in originally closed syllables has become
_e_ in parts of Kent, as _bek_, _thet_ (O.E. _bæc_, _þæt_), lit. Eng.
_back_, _that_. Initial _þr_ has become _dr_, as _drī_, lit. Eng.
_three_. Initial and medial _v_ has become _w_ in Ken. and e.Sus.

(7) South-west-country, meaning I.W. Hmp. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Cor.
O.E. _æ(a)_ has become _ǣ_ before _sp_, _ss_, _st_. O.E. _or_ in the
combination _or_ + consonant has become _ā_ in such words as _corn_,
_storm_. This also occurs in Group 6 above. O.E. _i_ has generally
become _e_ before _ng_ or _nk_, especially in Wil. and Dev. as _theng_,
_drenk_, lit. Eng. _thing_, _drink_. A _d_ has been developed between
_l--r_, _r--l_, _n--r_, as _pālder_, _mādl_, _tailder_, _kānder_, lit.
Eng. _parlour_, _marl_, _tailor_, _corner_. Initial _f_ and _s_ have
become _v_ and _z_ in native words in Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. Initial _þ_
[the sound in _thin_] has become _ð_ [the sound in _then_] in sm. Hmp.
I.W. Wil. Dor. Som. Dev. e.Cor. Initial _þr_ has become _dr_.

[Sidenote: _Phonology_]

The above are the main distinguishing features of the phonology of
the dialects as taken in groups, but no such list can adequately
represent the range of pronunciation in the dialects taken
individually. The extent of this range can be shown by taking a list
of common standard English words, where the number of different ways
in which they are known to be pronounced in the various dialects has
been carefully counted and registered, e.g. all (20), both (27),
chamber (23), close (33), clothes (29), coat (20), cold (31), cow (20),
cucumber (35), daughter (36), do (17), done (24), earth (44), father
(35), gate (30), good (21), have (24), hold (37), home (44), house
(29), night (22), oats (30), old (42), one (21), potato (46), so (24),
through (29), whole (33), wrong (22).

The evidence of the pronunciation of words in the different English
dialects is of great importance to the student of English philology, as
he is thereby often enabled to explain anomalies in the standard
language. To take only one instance: philologists have been at a loss to
explain why the word _oven_ in lit. Eng. does not rhyme with _cloven_.
The O.E. recorded form is _ofen_ parallel to the past participle
_clofen_, yet while the latter word has followed the normal development,
the former has the development not of an original O.E. _o_, but of _u_.
Now the collected evidence of the dialects goes to show that there must
have been beside the recorded O.E. _ofen_ an unrecorded form *_ufen_
from which lit. Eng. _oven_ is quite regularly developed, for the _o_
representing an older _u_ is no more than the old French spelling with
which we are familiar in such words as _love_, _come_, _son_, &c.

We can best compare the phonology of the dialects with that of the
standard language by examining the vowels and consonants categorically,
and noting some of the differences in development. The following is
merely a rough outline of the subject, and some of the phonological
points noticed in the classification of the dialects will not here be

[Sidenote: _Phonology: Vowels_]

VOWELS.--(1) _a._ The sound _æ_ which is regular in lit. Eng. in close
syllables such as _back_, _thatch_, is rare in the dialects, occurring
chiefly in e. and s.Cy. The majority of the dialects have _a_ in this
position. The _a_ in open syllables which has become _ei_ in lit. Eng.
as in _name_, _shake_, has become _ē_ in Sc. n.Cy. and Midl. In s.Sc.
and nearly all the other dialects it has become diphthongized to _eə_ or
_iə_, but _ai_ [the sound in _time_] in Hrt. Lon. Ess. and se.Kent.

(2) _e._ O.E. _e_ of whatever origin has in close syllables generally
had the same development in the dialects as in the standard language,
but in many of the s.Sc. e. and sw.Cy. dialects it has become _æ_ [the
sound in _hat_, _man_]. O.E. _e_ of whatever origin, has in originally
open syllables generally had the same development in Sc. n. and s.Cy. as
in the standard language, i.e. it has become _ī_, but in the s.Midl.
e.Cy. and sw.Cy. dialects it has mostly become _ē_, and in the other
dialects it has generally been diphthongized into _ei_ or _iə_, the
former occurring especially in the w. and s. portions of Yks., in Lan.
n.Stf. and Nhp., and the latter in the remaining portions of Yks. Lan.
and in Lin. s.Oxf. and w.Wil.

(3) _i._ This vowel has generally had the same development in the
dialects as in the standard language, but in s.Sc. n.Nhb. n.Cum. Der.
and w.Som. it has become _e_. In most Sc. dialects except in the south,
it has become a kind of mixed vowel somewhat resembling the _e_ in
German _Gabe_.

(4) _u._ This vowel has had the same development in Sc. n.Nhb. n.Cum.
e. s. and sw.Cy. and in some of the s.Midl. dialects as in the standard
language, but in the n.Cy. and many of the n.Midl. dialects O.E. _u_
has generally remained unchanged. In some of the n.Midl. and many of
the s.Midl. dialects it has become _ù_, a sound formed with the lips
more open than for _u_, and which acoustically resembles an _o_-sound.
It should be noted that those dialects which have _ɒ_ or _ù_, generally
also have it in those words where the standard language has _u_, as in
_bull_, _put_.

(5) _y._ This vowel has generally had the same development as in the
standard language, but in Ken. e.Sc. and e.An. it has regularly become
_e_, which was a characteristic feature of these dialects already in the
M.E. period.

(6) _o._ In close syllables. This vowel has generally had the same
development in the dialects as in the standard language, but in the
m.Sc. s.Midl. s. and sw.Cy. dialects there is a tendency to lengthen the
vowel in monosyllables, and in some dialects there is also a tendency to
change _o_ to _a_ especially before a following _p_ and _ft_, as _shap_,
_tap_, _craft_, lit. Eng. _shop_, _top_, _croft_.

_o._ In originally open syllables. In the development of this vowel
the dialects differ entirely from the standard language. In the
southern portions of Yks. and Lan. it has become _oi_ (parallel with
the development of _e_ to _ei_, v. (2) above), but in all the other
dialects it has become long close _ō_ or has become diphthongized to
_uə_ (often written _oə_). It should be noted that in Lan. ne.Der. and
all the dialects north of the Humber the development of O.E. _o_ in
open syllables and O.E. _ā_ is still kept apart, whereas in all the
other parts of England the two sounds have fallen together.

(7) _ā._ In all the dialects north of the Humber this vowel has had
the same development as O.E. _a_, _æ_, in open syllables, i.e. it has
become _ē_, _eə_, or _iə_(_ia_), whereas in the dialects south of the
Humber the regular development is generally the same as for O.E. _o_ in
open syllables.

(8) _ǣ_ (= Germanic _ǣ_, W.S. _ǣ_, Anglian _ē_). This vowel has
generally had the same development in the dialects as in the standard
language, i.e. it has become _ī_, but in the southern half of England it
has not unfrequently become _ē_ or _iə_, rarely _ei_, and these
diphthongs also occur sporadically as far north as Yorkshire.

(9) _ǣ_ (= _i_-umlaut of _ā_). This vowel has generally had the same
development as the preceding one, except that the _ē_ and _iə_ extend
over a much wider area, which shows that many dialects still keep these
two sounds apart (_ǣ¹_ and _ǣ²_).

(10) _ē._ This vowel has mostly become _ī_ in the dialects just as in
the standard language, but _ei_ beside _ī_ occurs in nw.Yks s.Chs. and
Lei., and _iə_ beside _ī_ in m.Yks. s.Midl. and sw.Cy.

(11) _ī._ O.E. _ī_ appears as a diphthong in all the dialects except
in those of e. and se.Yks. m. and s.Lan. where we have _ā_. In Sc. and
Nhb. it is mostly _ei_, but _ai_ is also not uncommon, especially in
Frf. Per. Lth. and Edb.; n.Cy. _ai_; in the Midlands, e. and s.Cy. it
is generally _oi_ or a diphthong closely resembling _oi_; and in sw.Cy.
_ɒi_, which is approximately the same as in the standard language.

(12) _ō._ The normal development of this vowel is generally ü or ö
(rarely _ǖ_ or _œ̄_, but _ī_ in ne.Sc.) in Sc.; _ǖ_ in e.Cy.;
_ǖ_ beside _œ̄_ in sw.Cy.; _iu_ beside _iə_ in n.Cy., but sw.Yks.
_ui_; and _ū_, more rarely _iu_, in the Midlands; _ū_, in s.Cy.

(13) _ū._ O.E. _ū_ has generally remained in Sc. and n.Cy. (but _ɒu_
in s.Sc. when final) and n.Lin. It has become _ā_ in s. and sw.Yks. and
the greater part of Der. and Not.; _ǣ_ in Lan., _ɒu_ in the Midlands,
especially in the northern portions, and sw.Cy.; _eu_ in the southern
portions of the Midlands, e. and s.Cy. and parts of sw.Cy.

(14) _ȳ._ This vowel has generally had the same development as O.E.
_ī_, but it has become _ī_ in the eastern counties and also in Glo.
Bdf. e.Sus. Dev. and Cor.

(15) O.E. _e͞a_. This diphthong has generally had the same development
as O.E. _ǣ_ (= _i_-umlaut of _ā_).

(16) O.E. _e͞o_ has generally had the same development as O.E. _ē_.

[Sidenote: _Phonology: Consonants_]

CONSONANTS.--(1) The Semi-vowels. (_a_) _w._ Initial _w_ has
generally remained before vowels, but in parts of Sc. Midl. e.An. and
sw.Cy. it has disappeared in certain words, mainly where it stands
before a following _u_, such as _woman_, _wonder_, _wood_, _wool_,
_wound_, &c. There are no examples in the dialects of initial _w_
being changed to _v_ before a following vowel. This sound-change,
characteristic of the language spoken by Mr. Samuel Weller and his
father--‘ven’, ‘vay’, ‘svear’, ‘anyveres’, &c.--seems to have been
invented by Dickens. The converse, namely, the change of initial _v_ to
_w_, does occur in Bck. Nrf. Suf. Ess. Ken. e.Sus., and Dickens would
have heard this pronunciation--_wery_, very, _wenter_, venture--used by
the class of person typified in Sam Weller, but there is no authority
for the change of _w_ to _v_, and it can only be described as ‘artist’s
licence’. An initial _w_ has often arisen in the dialects through a
falling diphthong having become a rising diphthong, e.g. in such words
as _wome_, _wum_, _woats_, _wold_, lit. Eng. _home_, _oats_, _old_.
This accounts for the _w_ in the place-names Woking, Wokingham, which
within living memory were pronounced Oaking, Oakingham, and for the
pronunciation of lit. Eng. _one_, _once_, and the spelling _whole_.
Initial _hw_ has become _f_ in ne.Sc. in such words as _what_, _wheat_,
_wheel_, &c. Initial _kw_ has often become _tw_ in n.Cy. dialects,
in such words as _twilt_, lit. Eng. _quilt_. A _w_ has often been
developed before a back vowel preceded by a consonant, especially a
labial, more rarely when preceded by a guttural, dental, nasal, or
liquid. This _w_ is chiefly confined to the s.Midl. s. and sw. dialects
when the preceding consonant is a labial, as _bwone_, _bwoy_, _pwoizn_,
lit. Eng. _bone_, _boy_, _poison_. Medial _w_ has generally disappeared
in words compounded with _-ward_, _-worth_, as _awkward_, _backward_,
_pennyworth_, &c. It has also generally disappeared in _always_, and in

(_b_) _j._ This consonant is represented in modern English spelling by
_y_. An initial _j_ has often arisen in the dialects through a falling
diphthong having become a rising diphthong, as _jabl_, _jek_, _jiər_,
lit. Eng. _able_, _ache_, _ear_. Many educated people in the south of
England make no difference in the pronunciation of _ear_ and _year_. A
s.Midl. s.Cy. saying to express a long period of time is ‘years and
years and donkey’s ears’. A medial _j_ has often been developed after a
consonant. In many cases the change has been caused by a falling
diphthong having become a rising diphthong, e.g. _gjārdin_, _kjetl_,
lit. Eng. _garden_, _kettle_.

(2) The Liquids. (_a_) _l._ Medial _l_ has often disappeared,
especially in the combinations _ld_, _lf_, _lh_, _lk_, _lp_, _ls_, and
_lt_, e.g. in such words as _bald_, _bulk_, _pulpit_, _false_, _bolt_.
Final _l_ has often disappeared after a guttural vowel, especially in
the Sc. Ir. n.Cy. and n.Midl. dialects, e.g. in such words as _all_,
_fool_, _pull_, _small_, _wool_.

(_b_) _r._ In Sc. and the greater part of Irel. and the northern parts
of Nhb. and Cum. _r_ has a strong trill. In Nhb. and parts of n.Dur. it
is a uvular _r_, not unlike the French _r_. It is often called ‘the
Northumberland burr’. In all the s. and sw. dialects it is a reverted or
retracted _r_, the trill being indistinct and less sharp than for the
Sc. _r_. Similarly in these dialects the _l_ is reverted. In the rest of
England _r_ has had practically the same development as in the standard
language. When a word ends in and the next word begins with a vowel, a
‘euphonic’ _r_ is generally inserted to avoid a hiatus, in the s.Midl.,
eastern, southern, and south-western dialects, as _aidiər əv it_, idea
of it, _Sērər An_, Sarah Ann, _lǭr əv Iŋglənd_, law of England.
And an _r_ is sometimes inserted medially, as _drǭrin_, drawing. This
insertion of ‘euphonic’ _r_ is not confined to dialect speakers, it is
quite common among educated people in the s.Midl. and s. counties, and
seems to be spreading gradually further north. _r_ has often undergone
metathesis, especially in the sw. dialects in _apə̄n_, _tʃildən_,
_gərn_, _h)undəd_, _pə̄ti_, &c., lit. Eng. _apron_, _children_,
_grin_, _hundred_, _pretty_, &c.

(3) The Nasals. (_a_) _m._ This consonant has generally remained
unchanged in all positions except where after consonants it has become
vocalic, as in _bodm_, _botm_, _kindm_, &c., lit. Eng. _bottom_,
_kingdom_, &c.

(_b_) _n._ Initial _n_ has remained in _nadder_ (O.E. _nǣdre_),
_napron_ (O.Fr. _naperon_), _nauger_ (M.E. _nauger_), lit. Eng.
_adder_, _apron_, _auger_. In the various dialects there is a large
number of words which have an inorganic initial _n_. It has arisen
partly from the _n_ of the indefinite article _an_, and partly from
the _n_ of the possessive pronoun _mine_; the latter is especially the
case in words denoting relationship, as _n-oration_, a great noise or
clamour, _n-urchin_, a hedgehog, _n-awl_, _n-aunt_, _n-uncle_, cp.
‘Nuncle Lear, nuncle Lear, tarry and take the fool with thee,’ _Lear_,
I. iv. 338. The _n_ in lit. Eng. _nickname_ (M.E. _ekename_), _newt_
(O.E. _efeta_) is of this origin. The normal form _evet_ is common in
the dialects of southern England. In a few words _n_ has been developed
before medial _dȝ_; [the final sound in _bridge_], as _porindȝə(r_, a
coarse pot or mug used for porridge, _sosindȝə(r_, sausage, cp. lit.
Eng. _messenger_, _passenger_, for _messager_, _passager_. In the n.
and n.Midl. dialects medial _n_ has disappeared in unaccented syllables
as _Liŋkiʃə(r_, Lincolnshire, _Robisn_, Robinson, &c. In a few words,
mainly in n.Cy. dialects, final _n_ occurs contrary to the usage of the
lit. language; these are: _aivin_ (O.E. _īfig_, _īfegn_), ivy, _holin_
(O.E. _holen_, _holegn_), holly, _miln_ (O.E. _mylen_), mill, _ratn_
(O.Fr. _raton_), rat, _slōn_ (O.E. _slāh_, _slā_, plur. _slān_), sloe.

The guttural _ŋ_ [the final sound in _hang_], written _n_ in O.E.,
only occurred before the gutturals _g_ and _c_. In stressed syllables
medial _ŋg_ has become _ŋ_ in Sc. Irel. n.Cy. n.Midl. and parts of Ken.
Sus. and Som., as _fiŋər_, finger, _siŋl_, single, &c. _ŋ_ has become
_n_ before a following dental in _lenþ_, length, _strenþ_, strength,
in Sc. Irel. and n.Cy. The _n_ is also very common in other parts of
England, but beside it there exist the forms _leŋþ_, _leŋkþ_; _streŋþ_,
_streŋkþ_. The forms with _k_ are often used by educated people in the
Midlands. Medial _ŋ_ in unstressed syllables has generally disappeared,
as _Bebitn_, Bebbington, _Notigəm_, Nottingham, &c. Final unstressed
_ŋ_ has generally become _n_ in all the dialects, as in _evenin(g)_,
_farthin(g)_, _mornin(g)_, _sendin(g)_, and similarly in all present
participles and verbal nouns in _-ing_. In parts of Lan. Chs. Der. when
dialect speakers try to talk ‘fine’ they generally substitute _ŋk_ for
_ŋ_ in all present participles and verbal nouns in _-ing_. The same
thing can often be heard among educated speakers in those parts.

(4) The Labials. (_a_) _p._ This consonant has generally remained in
all positions the same as in the standard language.

(_b_) _b._ This consonant hardly ever occurs in any of the dialects
between _m--l_ or _m--r_ in such words as _bramble_, _thimble_,
_chamber_, _number_. The word _marble_ appears in almost all the
dialects as _marvl_. The form _pipl_, pebble, occurs in some s. and sw.
dialects, cp. O.E. _papol-_ beside M.E. _pibble-_, _pobble_.

(_c_) _f._ Initial voiceless _f_ has become the voiced spirant _v_ in
e.Hrf., parts of Glo., w.Brks. Wil. Dor. Dev. Som. The change must have
taken place at a very early period because it is confined almost
exclusively to native words, hence it must have taken place before the
influx of French words. Three examples of this dialect peculiarity have
been incorporated into lit. Eng., viz. _vixen_, _vat_, _vane_ (O.E.
_fyxen_, _fæt_, _fana_).

(5) The Dentals. (_a_) _t._ The initial combinations _tr_ and _str_
have become _tþr_, _stþr_, or _þr_, _sþr_ in Irel. Wm. e. and se. Yks.
e. em. and s.Lan. I.Ma., as _tþrī_, _þrī_, tree, _stþrīt_, _sþrīt_,
street. Medial _t_ between vowels and vowel-like consonants has become
_d_ in the sw. dialects, as _bodl_, bottle, _kedl_, kettle; _bodm_,
bottom, occurs also in Sc. and n.Cy. dialects, but this goes back to
a form _bodan_ which existed beside _botm_ already in O.E. The _t_ in
French words which has become _tʃ_ [the sound of the medial consonant
in _nature_] in lit. Eng. through the influence of the following
_ü_ has remained unchanged in the dialects, as _piktə(r_, picture,
_fiətə(r_, feature. Final _t_ has disappeared in many dialects after
voiceless consonants, especially in the combination _st_; finally
after _k_ and _p_ it has disappeared in all Sc. dialects, as _fak(t_,
_korek(t_, _temp(t_. Examples of the loss of _t_ after _s_ occur in
all parts of Sc. Irel. and Eng. especially in such words as _beast_,
_joist_, _last_, _next_. In a few instances a _t_ has been added after
_n_, _f_, or _s_, as _sāmənt_, sermon, _sudənt_, sudden, _vāmint_,
vermin, _teligraft_, telegraph, _aist_, ice, _naist_, nice, _wənst_,
once, _tweist_, twice. This excrescent _t_ occurs in certain words in
the standard language, e.g. _against_ (M.E. _ageines_), _amidst_ (M.E.
_amiddes_), _behest_ (O.E. _hǣs_), _betwixt_ (O.E. and M.E. _betwix_),
_whilst_ (M.E. _whiles_), _ancient_ (Fr. _ancien_), _pheasant_ (O.Fr.

(_b_) _d._ Intervocalic _d_ followed by _r_ in the next syllable
became in the first instance _ð_ in all dialects, as _blaðə(r_, bladder,
_konsiðə(r_, consider, _foðə(r_, fodder, _pūðə(r_, powder, &c., in
addition to the words which have _ð_ in the standard language, as
_father_, _gather_, _mother_, _weather_, &c. (O.E. _fæder_, _gædrian_,
_mōdor_, _weder_, &c.). Examples of the _ð_ forms begin to appear about
the year 1500, but the change has never been consistently carried out in
the literary language, whilst in the dialects its operation has been
regular. Where exceptions seem to occur they are due either to the
influence of the standard language or to the sound-change given below.
This _ð_ from _d_ (O.E. _fæder_, &c.) fell together with O.E. _ð_ in the
same position (O.E. _feðer_, &c.), and underwent all further changes in
common with it. It has thus become (1) _d_ beside _dð_ n.Cum. Wm. and
parts of Yks. and Lan., (2) _d_ in sn.Sc. n.Cy. and se.Cy. dialects. The
words _burden_ (O.E. _byrþen_) and _murder_ (O.E. _myrþran_) had a
spirant already in O.E. The forms with _ð_ are still very common in Sc.
Irel. n.Cy. Lan. Stf. Der. e.An. Medial _d_ very seldom occurs in any of
the dialects between _n--l_ or _n--r_ in such words as _bundle_,
_candle_, _gander_, _thunder_, &c. Medial _d_ has regularly disappeared
after _n_ in the Sc. dialects except in those of the south, as _sinər_,
cinder, _wɒnər_, wonder, &c. Final _d_ has a tendency in all dialects
except those of the e. and se. counties to become _t_ in words of more
than one syllable, especially after _n_ and _r_, as _bi-jont_, beyond,
&c. Final _d_ has generally disappeared after _n_ in Sc., but in the
southern counties of Sc. it has only disappeared in the conjunction
_and_, the present participles, and in the pret. and pp. of strong verbs
whose present ends in _-nd_. This loss of final _d_ in the pret. and pp.
of verbs like _bind_, _find_, _grind_ is quite regular in Sc. Irel. and
the north and north Midl. counties.

(_c_) _þ._ Initial _þ_ has generally remained voiceless except in
pronouns and the adverbs derived from them, as in the lit. language. The
definite article has undergone various changes. It has become (1) _t_ in
me.Nhb. Cum. Wm. n. e. nm. sw. and s.Yks. nw.Lan. n.Lin. (2) _þ_ in m.
and se.Lan. wm.Stf. (3) _t_, _þ_ sm. and w.Yks. n. em. sw. and s.Lan.
Chs. n.Stf. Der. Not. (4) _də_ Ken. Sus. (5) _d_, _t_ w.Dur. ne.Yks. (6)
_d_, _t_, _þ_ nw. and e.Yks. (7) _e_ Cai. Bnff. In all other dialects it
has had the same development as in lit. Eng., viz. _ðī̆_, _ðə_. In
those dialects which have both _t_ and _þ_, the former is used before
consonants (_tman_, &c.), and the latter before vowels (_þapl_, &c.),
and when the sentence begins with the definite article.

(6) The Sibilants. _s._ Initial voiceless _s_ has become _z_ in those
dialects where _f_ in the same position has become _v_, cp. (4)(_c_)
above. There is in the dialects a large number of words beginning with
_s_ plus a consonant where in most cases the _s_ is not original. It
occurs most frequently in the combinations _sk_ and _sq_. In fact nearly
all the _sq_ words occurring in the dialects have forms with and without
initial _s_. No rule can be laid down about the geographical
distribution of the words belonging to this category. Examples are:
_sclasp_ beside _clasp_, _sclimb_ beside _climb_, _scrawl_ beside
_crawl_, _scroodle_ beside _croodle_, to crouch, _skist_ beside _kist_,
a chest, _snotch_ beside _notch_, _squench_ beside _quench_, _strample_
beside _trample_, &c., &c. Dr. Johnson was familiar with _scraunch_
beside _craunch_, cp. ‘To Craunch. v.a. [_schrantsen_, Dutch; whence the
vulgar say more properly to _scraunch_.] To crush in the mouth. The word
is used by _Swift_.’ In Glo. and the s. and sw. counties _sp_ has
generally become _ps_ by metathesis, as _aps_, asp, _klaps_, clasp,
_lipsy_, to lisp; _wæps_ and _wæsp_ existed in O.E., so in the modern
dialects there are double forms.

(7) The Gutturals. (_a_) _k._ Initial _k_, generally written _c_ in
O.E., has remained before _n_ in such words as _knave_, _knead_, _knit_,
_knock_, &c., in ne.Sc. In the remaining parts of Scotland it has
disappeared in the dialect of the younger generation. In the early part
of the last century it was preserved in all Sc. dialects. _tn_ from
older _kn_ is still used by old people in w.Frf. and e.Per. A generation
ago this _tn_ was also common in the dialects of Cum. and Wm., but it is
now obsolete. Initial _cl_ has become _tl_ in many of the dialects of
Eng. especially in Yks. Lan. the Midlands, and the s. and sw. dialects,
in such words as _clap_, _claw_, _cliff_, _climb_, _cloak_, _cloud_. No
Sc. or Ir. dialect has changed initial _cl_ to _tl_. In other respects
initial _c_ has generally had the same development in the dialects as
in the standard language. Initial _sc_ has become, ʃ [the initial sound
in _she_] in native Eng. words just as in the lit. language, as _shade_,
_shell_, _ship_, &c.; whereas in words of foreign origin it has remained
in the dialects just as in the lit. language, as _scaffold_, _scale_,
_scatter_, _school_, _skin_, &c. Excluding all _sc-_ words which are of
various origins and which are common both to the lit. language and the
dialects--such as the words in the above list: _scaffold_, _scale_,
&c.--it is a remarkable fact that the _English Dialect Dictionary_
contains no less than 1,154 simple _sc-_ words. This points to one of
two things: either the dialects contain a far larger number of Norse
words than is generally supposed, or else it is not certain that initial
_sc_ has under all circumstances become ʃ in native words in the
dialects. Words where a final _k_ has become _tʃ_ in the lit. lang.
generally have _tʃ_ also in the dialects, as _bleach_, _flitch_,
_reach_, _stitch_, &c. But in the dialects of Sc. Irel. n.Cy. and parts
of the n.Midlands assibilation has not taken place to the same extent as
in the lit. language, hence such forms as _skrīk_, _sik_, _þak_, &c.,
lit. Eng. _screech_, _such_, _thatch_, &c.

(_b_) _g._ Initial _g_ has remained before _n_ in _gnat_, _gnaw_ in
ne. and s.n.Sc., but it has disappeared in the remaining parts of Sc.
Irel. and Eng. Initial _gl_ has become _dl_ in many dialects of Eng.,
especially in Yks. Lan. the Midlands, and the s. and sw. dialects,
parallel to the change of _cl_ to _tl_.

Final _g_. O.E. geminated _g_, written _cg_, has generally become
_dȝ_ [the final sound in _sedge_] in the dialects in such words as
_bridge_, _edge_, _ridge_, &c., but as in the case of the change of
final _k_ to _tʃ_, in Sc. and the northern parts of Eng. assibilation
has not taken place to the same extent as in the lit. language, hence
such forms as _brig_, _rig_, _seg_, &c., lit. Eng. _bridge_, _ridge_,
_sedge_, &c.

(_c_) _h._ Initial _h_ has remained before vowels in Sc. Irel. Nhb.
and perhaps also in portions of n.Dur. and n.Cum. In the remaining
parts of Eng. it has disappeared, but words originally beginning with a
vowel or _h_ often have an _h_ prefixed when the dialect speaker wishes
to express a strong emphasis. The emphatic form of _it_ has retained
the _h_ in Sc. and Irel. The emphatic form of _us_ is _hɒz_ in Sc. and
Nhb., the only word in the Sc. dialects containing an inorganic _h_.
Medial and final χ [the final sound in Sc. _loch_] has generally become
_f_ in the dialects of Eng. in those words which have _f_ in the lit.
language, as _cough_, _laugh_, _rough_, _tough_, but _f_ also occurs in
many dialects in certain other words besides, as _daftər_, _slaftər_,
_þoft_, _þruf_, &c., lit. Eng. _daughter_, _slaughter_, _thought_,
_through_, &c.

To turn now from phonology to accidence, we shall find that here,
too, system and rule prevail to a surprising extent.


[Sidenote: _Accidence: The Articles_]

A. The Indefinite Article. Very few dialects follow the rule of the
literary language according to which _an_ is used before a vowel or _h_
mute. _ə_ is used before vowels and consonants, as _ə apl_, an apple.
When _n_ is used it is generally attached to the noun, as _ə napl_. In
all the dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng. the indefinite article is used
redundantly before numerals and nouns of multitude and quantity, as:
more than a twenty of them; a many; a plenty; cp. lit. Eng. a few. This
construction occurs in our older literature, cp. ‘A many fools,’ _Mer.
of Venice_, III. v. 73.

B. The Definite Article. The dialect forms of the definite article
have been given above under the consonant _þ_. In those dialects where
the form is _t_, should the following word begin with a dental, the
only trace of the article is the suspension of the dental. A clear
distinction is made between _teəbl_, table, and _t’eəbl_, the table,
_dlium_, gloom, and _d’lium_, the gloom. These same dialects, owing
to liturgical influence, use the full form _ðə_ before _loəd_, Lord,
when applied to the Deity, save in off-hand speech and in the phrase
_loəd nǭz_, the Lord knows, where the article is omitted altogether.
The ending of the O.E. neuter form of the definite article survives in
_tōn_, the one (O.E. _ðæt ān_), and _tuðə(r, tɒðə(r_, the other (O.E.
_ðæt ōðer_). These words are in general use in the dialects of Sc.
Irel. and Eng.; their origin being forgotten, the ordinary form of the
definite article is often used redundantly before them.

The definite article is used in many dialects in cases where it would
be omitted in the lit. language:

(_a_) In the dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng. before the names of all
diseases, as: he has got the fever, the rheumatics.

(_b_) In the Sc. Midl. and sw.Cy. dialects before the names of trades
and occupations, generally with a frequentative force implying the
practising or learning of the trade, e.g. We’ve a-boun un purntice to
the shoemakerin’ (Som.), Apprentices and improvers wanted to the

(_c_) In Sc. before the names of sciences and commodities, as: he
studies the botany; the sugar is cheap.

(_d_) In the Sc. and Midl. dialects before the names of days, months,
seasons, especially when speaking of any particular circumstance
connected therewith, as: he died in the Christmas.

(_e_) In the dialects of Sc. and n.Cy. before certain words, as
church, school, bed, when these are used absolutely or indefinitely,
as: it’s wearisome lying in the bed.

(_f_) In the Sc. n.Cy. and Midl. dialects before ordinals used
adverbially, as: Tom came in the second and Jack the third.

(_g_) In Irel. and most parts of Eng. before _both_, as: I will have
the both of them.

(_h_) In w.Yks. before proper names, and in the sw. dialects whenever
a proper name or title is preceded by an adj., as: T’Skipton, T’Hawes;
the young squire Jones.

(_i_) In I.Ma. before an adj. when special stress is required,
generally with inversion of verb and adj., as: the sick I am.


[Sidenote: _Accidence: Nouns_]

The formation of the plural of nouns is practically the same as in the
standard language, but a few points of deviation are worth notice. Nouns
ending in _þ_ which in the lit. language change _þ_ to _ð_ and take _z_
in the plural, as _pāþ_, _pāðz_, generally retain the _þ_ and take _s_
in the plural in the dialects; similarly in Sc. and sw. dialects nouns
ending in _lf_ retain the _f_ in the plural and take _s_. Nouns ending
in _st_ form their plural in _əz_, _iz_ in the Midl. s. and sw.
dialects, as _bīst_, beast, _bīstəz_, _pōst_, post, _pōstəz_. Very
frequently, however, such nouns take a double plural, as _bīstəzəz_,
_postəzəz_. A triple plural _nestsəzəz_, nests, is found in Sus. The
only plurals in _-n_ in the lit. language are _oxen_ and the archaic
form _hosen_. _Brethren_, _children_, and _kine_ are double plurals. The
list is much longer in the dialects and comprises: (_a_) Words which
belonged to the weak declension in O.E.: _æʃn_, ashes, s.w.Cy.; _bīn_,
bees, Irel. Chs.; _īn_, eyes, in general use in Sc. Irel. and Eng.;
_flīn_, fleas, Midl.; _pīzn_, peas, Wxf. Eng. gen.; _tōn,_ toes, Wxf.
s.Chs. (_b_) Words which originally belonged to the strong or irregular
declensions: _brùðrən_, brothers, Lei.; _tʃīzn_, cheeses, e.An. Dor.;
_klūtn_, clouts, e.Yks.; _vəzn_, furze, Dor.; _h)ɒuzn_, houses, gen. in
Eng. except n.Cy.; _kīn_, keys, Wil.; _mɒuzn_, mice, Glo. e.Dev.;
_nīzn_, nests, s.Chs. Midl. e.An.; _ōkn_, oaks, Hrf.; _pōzn_, posts,
Nhp. Shr. Glo. Hnt.; _riksn_, rushes, sw.Cy.; _ʃūn_, shoes, gen. in Sc.
Irel. and Eng.; _sistrən_, sisters, Cai.; _trīn_, trees, Fif. Wxf.;
_tɒrvn_, turfs, Sc.; _wopsn_, wasps, Hmp.; _wenʃn_, wenches, Glo. (_c_)
Romance words to which the weak ending has been added: _botln_, bottles,
sw.Dev.; _klōzn_, fields, Lei. Nhp. e.An.; _feərin_, fairies, e.Lan.;
_plēzn_, places, Midl. sw.Cy.; _primrōzn_, primroses, Glo. Dev.

The plural form _tʃildə(r_, children, in general use in Irel. and Eng.
is the regular form from the O.E. plural _cildru_. In the lit. language
the _r_ has ceased to be felt as a sign of the plural and the weak _-n_
has been added. Certain nouns form their plural by change of vowel as in
the literary language; these are: foot feet, goose geese, louse lice,
man men, mouse mice, tooth teeth, woman women; _breðə(r_, _bruðə(r_,
brother makes _breðə(r_ in parts of Sc., n.Yks. Lan.; _kau_, cow, makes
_kai_, Sc. n.Irel. n.Cy. n.Midl. sw.Cy. On the other hand _fut_, foot,
makes _futs_ e.Suf., _lɒus_, louse, _lɒusəz_, Abd. e.Sus. n.Dev.,
_mɒus_, mouse, _mɒusəz_, m.Bck. e.Sus.

Certain nouns have the singular and plural alike, as: _as_, ash,
ashes, Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Midl.; _tʃik_, chicken, chickens, e.Sus.;
_tʃikn_, ibid., Glo. Oxf. Ken. m.Sus. Som.; _fɒul_, fowl, fowls, Sc.
Shr.; _hors_, horse, horses; and a few others; _bīst_, an animal of
the ox tribe, has a collective plural _bīs_ _(biəs)_ in Sc. Yks. Lan.
Midl. and sw.Cy. On the other hand, corn has a plural _kornz_, oats,
in Sc.; _ʃip_, sheep, makes _ʃips_ in War. Shr. Glo. Nouns expressing
time, space, weight, measure, and number, when immediately preceded by
a cardinal number, generally remain unchanged in the dialects of Sc.
and Eng.

Double plurals are common in the dialects, for example: (_a_) _əz_,
_iz_ is added to the ordinary plural ending _s_, _z_, in: _beləsəz_,
bellows, n. and nm.Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Midl. sw.Cy.; _buədzəz_, boards,
Sus.; _galəsəz_, braces, n.Cy.; _æmzəz_, hames, sw.Cy.; _keksəz_, a
plant, Midl. Ken. Sur. Dor.; _ʃūzəz_, shoes, Nrf. Dev.; _sǭtsəz_,
sorts, Brks.; _stepsəz_, steps, w. and sw.Yks. w.Som.; _þrīzəz_,
threes, _tūzəz_, twos, Brks. e.An.; _toŋziz_, tongs, w.Wil. w.Som.
(_b_) _z_ is added to the plural _-n_: _brīknz_, breeches, &c.;
_oksnz_, oxen, w.Som.; _plēzns_, places, Not.; _riksnz_, rushes, Dev.;
_ʃūnz_, shoes, Sc.; _slōnz_, sloes, Midl. e.Cy. sw.Cy. (_c_) _s_, _əz_
is added to umlaut plurals: _fīts_, feet, Sc. se.Yks. Glo.; _gīzəz_,
geese, Nhb.; _mīzəz_, mice, Ess. (_d_) _tʃildə̄z_, children, occurs in
w.Yks. (_e_) The weak ending _-n_ is sometimes added to the ordinary
_s_, _z_: _ǭzn_, haws, Glo.; _ipsn_, hips, Oxf. n.Wil.; _ɒksn_,
hocks, Ken. Dev. Cor.; _nīzn_, knees, s.Chs. (_f_) The weak plural
ending is sometimes added to the umlaut plural: _fītn_, feet, e.An.;
_gīzn_, geese, Suf.; _kain_, kine, Ayr. Gall. Wxf. n.Cy. Ken. Dev.;
_mīzn_, mice, Cmb. Suf. Triple plurals occur in: _ǭznz_, haws, Glo.;
_ipsnz_, hips, Oxf. n.Wil. In some nouns the plural form is used for
the singular, as: _ǭz_, a haw, Oxf. Suf. Ess. Ken.; _inz_, an inn, Sc.
n.Irel.; _slōn_, a sloe, Midl. s. and sw.Cy.; &c. In certain words the
_s_ of the stem has been taken as the sign of the plural, and a new
singular formed without it, as: _karitʃ_, catechism, Fr. _catéchèse_,
Sc. n.Yks.; _ʃē_, chaise, Yks. Lan. m.Bck. e.Sus.; _hō_, a single
stocking, Sc. _piz_, a single pea, in Bch. Abd. is a survival of O.E.
_pise_; in the lit. language a new singular has been formed, but cp.
_pease-pudding_. Other examples of the formation of a new singular
without _s_ in the lit. language are: _burial_, O.E. _byrgels_;
_riddle_, O.E. _rǣdels_; _cherry_, Fr. _cerise_; _sherry_, formerly
_sherris_, Span. _Xeres_; _skate_, Du. _schaats_, Fr. _échasse_.

The following nouns, though remaining singular in form, take the
plural form of the verb and pronoun and are used after few, &c., as:
_brōz_, a kind of porridge, Sc.; _broþ_, broth, Sc. n.Ir. n.Cy. Midl.
e.An. sw.Cy.; _brouis_, a kind of gruel, s.Chs. Shr.; _grǖəl_, gruel,
e.An.; _poridȝ_, porridge, n.Cy., n.Midl.; _sūp_, soup, w.Yks. Shr.

The sign of the genitive, both singular and plural, is generally
omitted when one noun qualifies another in all the n.Cy. dialects, and
occasionally in the n.Midlands, as: the Queen cousin; my father boots;
the lad father stick. A Lancashire magistrate is reported to have asked
a witness, ‘Was it your brother dog?’ This characteristic of n.Cy.
dialects is found already in the M.E. period. The M.E. practice of
placing the genitival _s_ at the end of an attributive clause survives
in most dialects of Sc. and Eng., as: I’ve just seen Jim Dutton him as
went to America’s wife; that’s the woman what was left behind’s child.
There is a general tendency in all dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng. to
express the genitive plural by means of an additional syllable suffixed
to the nominative plural, as: the farmerses cows. This is especially
the case with the word _folk_, nom. pl. _fōks_, gen. pl. _fōksəz_.

The gender of nouns grammatically speaking can only be ascertained by
means of the pronouns referring to them. There is a general tendency in
all dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng. to personify inanimate objects. In
Sc. Irel. and the dialects of the northern counties the feminine pronoun
is used, while in the Midlands, the e. s. and sw. counties, the use is
variable. In the sw. dialects inanimate objects are divided into two
classes. The first or personal class consists of formed, individual
objects, as: a tool, a tree; for these masculine or feminine pronouns
are employed. The neuter pronoun is used when referring to nouns
contained in the second or impersonal class of unformed objects, as:
water, dust.


[Sidenote: _Accidence: Adjectives and Numerals_]

In the dialects the practice of forming adjectives denoting material
from the substantive by means of the suffix _-en_ is carried out to a
much greater extent than in the literary language, as: _tinnen pots_,
_glassen bottles_, _hornen spoons_. This is especially the case in the
southern and south-western dialects. The comparison of adjectives is
formed in the dialects by adding the comparative suffix _-er_ and the
superlative _-est_ to practically all adjectives, polysyllabic as well
as monosyllabic. _More_ and _most_ are as a rule only used to supplement
or intensify the regular comparison, as: _more beautifuller_, _most
worst_. The following adjectives, irregular in the lit. language, are
compared regularly in some dialects: _badder_, _baddest_, n.Cy. Midl.;
_farer_, _farest_, Sc. n.Cy. and the Midlands; _gooder_, _goodest_, Cum.
m.Yks. Dev.; _iller_, w.Yks. e.An., _illest_, Fif. n.Cy.; _liker_, Sc.
Irel. n.Cy. sw.Cy.; _littler_, _littlest_, in general use in n. and
ne.Sc. and Eng. The old comparative _near_, treated as a positive in the
literary language, retains its force in n.Yks. and nw.Der.; similarly,
_far_, further, is retained in Yks. Lan. and the Midlands. _Mae_, the
M.E. comparative of _many_, is used in Sc. Nhb. e.Yks. Stf. Double
comparatives occur in _betterer_, Cum. Yks. Dev. Cor.; _morer_, Shr.;
_worser_, in general use in Sc. and Eng. A triple form, _worserer_, is
heard in e.An. Double superlatives occur in _bestest_, sw.Cy.;
_leastest_, Lan. e.An. sw.Cy.; _mostest_, Shr. Ken. Som. Cor.


In the dialects of the western and south-western counties it is usual
to place the lower digit before the higher, as: _five and fifty_. In
Shr. this rule is invariable when speaking of sums of money under £2,
as: six and thirty shillings for a pig. In the dialects, especially of
Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Lei. Wor. Shr., the ordinals after _third_ take the
suffix _t_ instead of literary English _th_. The old ordinal _erst_,
first in order, survives in Sc. and n.Yks.


[Sidenote: _Accidence: Pronouns_]

In all the dialects of Sc. and Eng. there is a tendency to introduce a
redundant personal pronoun after a noun when emphasis is required; this
is especially frequent after a proper name, as: Mr. Smith, he came to my
house. In Sc. and the northern dialects a pronoun is often used to
introduce a statement, the specific subject being added later, as: it
runs very well, does that horse. In all the dialects of Sc. and Eng. the
objective form of the personal pronoun is used for the nominative: (1)
After the substantive verb, as: it was her that did it. (2) When
standing alone, as: Who did that? Her. (3) When the verb refers to
different persons, as: him and me did it; Jack and us went together. (4)
When antecedent to a relative pronoun, and therefore separated from its
verb by a subordinate sentence, as: him that did that ought to be
hanged. The objective forms are often used for the nominative when the
pronouns are unemphatic, especially in the south-midland, eastern,
southern, and south-western counties. Conversely in all the dialects of
these same counties the nominative of the personal pronoun is used as
the emphatic form of the objective case, as: her did it; her saw she. In
Irel. the impersonal phrase _it is_ often occurs redundantly at the
beginning of a sentence, as: it’s sorry you will be; it’s sleepy I am.

The various dialect forms of the personal pronouns are of special
interest to the philologist in that they supply living examples to prove
the truth of the theory necessary to explain the original forms of the
pronouns in the separate branches of the Indo-Germanic family of
languages. Most of the pronouns, especially the personal and
demonstrative, must have had accented and unaccented forms existing side
by side in the parent language itself, and then one or other of the
forms became generalized already in the prehistoric period of the
individual branches of the parent language. At a later period, but
still in prehistoric times, there arose new accented and unaccented
forms side by side in the individual branches, as e.g. in prim. Germanic
_ek_, _mek_ beside _ik_, _mik_. The separate Germanic languages
generalized one or other of these forms before the beginning of the
oldest literary monuments, and then new accented beside unaccented forms
came into existence again. And similarly during the historic periods of
the different languages. Thus, e.g., the O.E. for _I_ is _ic_; this
became in M.E. _ich_ accented form beside _i_ unaccented form; _ich_
then disappeared in standard M.E. (but it is still preserved in one of
the modern dialects of Somersetshire), and _i_ came to be used as the
accented and unaccented form. At a later period it became _ī_ when
accented and remained _i_ when unaccented. The former has become lit.
Eng. _I_, and the latter has disappeared from the lit. language, but it
is still preserved in many northern Eng. dialects as _i_. In these
dialects _i_ is regularly used in interrogative and subordinate
sentences; the M.E. accented form _ī_ has become _ai_ and is only used
in the dialects to express special emphasis, and from it a new
unaccented form _a_ has been developed, which can only be used in making
direct assertions. Thus in one and the same dialect (Windhill, Yks.) we
arrive at three forms: _ai_, _a_, _i_, which are never mixed up
syntactically by genuine native dialect speakers. Something similar to
what has happened and is still happening in the modern dialects must
also have taken place in the prehistoric and historic periods of all the
Indo-Germanic languages.

I. (_a_) The nominative of the first person singular. The stressed
form is generally the same as the normal development of old _ī_
(_v._ p. 132), but in some of the n.Midl. dialects _ǭ_ is used. The
unstressed forms are generally _a_ or _ə_, but in the n.Midl. dialects
_o_ is the general form. The forms _itʃ_ (_ich_), _ɒtʃ_ (_utch_),
_ɒtʃi_ (_utchy_), and the contracted form _tʃ_ (_ch_), as: _tʃam_ = I
am, were formerly used in Wxf. Dor. Som. and Dev. These forms are still
used by old people in a small district of Som. close to Yeovil on the
border of Dorset, cp. ‘Chill pick your teeth, zir,’ _Lear_, IV. vi.
250. (_b_) The objective case. The stressed form is generally _mī_,
rarely _mei_. The unstressed form is _mə_.

II. (_a_) The nominative of the second person singular. The stressed
form generally contains the normal development of old _ū_ (p. 132), but
in the n. and n.Midl. counties the _ð_ has generally become _t_ in
interrogative and subordinate sentences. (_b_) The objective case. The
stressed form is generally _ðī_, rarely _ðei_. The unstressed form is
_ðə_. The pronoun of the second person singular is in use in almost all
the dialects of Eng. to express familiarity or contempt, and also in
times of strong emotion; it cannot be used to a superior without
conveying the idea of impertinence. In s.Sc. this pronoun has entirely
disappeared from the spoken language, and is only very occasionally
heard in other parts of Sc. In Glo., owing probably to Quaker influence,
it can be used without rudeness to a superior. In Nrf. it is only used
in a few stereotyped salutations, as: _fare-thee-well_. In e.Dor. it is
only used to children or in recriminatory language.

III. (_a_) The nominative of the third person singular masc. The
stressed form is generally _h)ī_, rarely _h)ei_. The unstressed form is
generally _i_ or _ə_. In the n. and some n.Midl. dialects the _i_ is
used in affirmative sentences and the _ə_ in interrogative and
subordinate sentences. The unstressed form _ə_, written _a_, occurs
often in Shakespeare’s Plays, cp. ‘_Hostess._ Nay, that a did not.
_Boy._ Yes, that a did,’ _Hen. V._, II. iv. 32, 33. (_b_) The objective
case. The stressed form is _h)im_ and the unstressed form _im_, but in
the s.Midl. s. and sw.Cy. dialects _ən_, generally written _en_, _un_
(O.E. _hine_), is the regular unstressed form for _im_. It is also used
of inanimate objects and in w.Som. of feminine animals, though never of
a woman.

IV. (_a_) The nominative of the third person singular fem. The
stressed form is generally _ʃī_, rarely _ʃei_, but in some of the
n.Midl. dialects it is _ʃū_. The unstressed form is generally _ʃə_, but
_ʃu_ is also used in those dialects which have _ʃū_ as the stressed
form. O.E. _hēo_, she, survives as _ū_, _u_ generally written _hoo_,
in parts of w.Yks. Lan. Chs. Flt. Dnb. Stf. Der. Not. Wor. (_b_) The
objective case is generally _h)ē(r, h)ə(r_.

V. The nominative of the third person singular neut. The stressed form
is generally _it_, but in Sc. and Nhb. _hit_. The unstressed form is
generally _it_ or _ət_. In Oxf. Dor. and Som. _it_ is frequently used
instead of the plural pronoun when animals or objects are referred to

VI. (_a_) The nominative of the first person plural. The stressed form
is _wī_, rarely _wei_. The unstressed forms are _wi_, _wə_. In many
n.Cy. and n.Midl. dialects _wi_ is used in affirmative sentences and
_wə_ in interrogative and subordinate sentences. (_b_) The objective
case. The stressed form is generally _ɒs_, but in some of the n.Cy. and
n.Midl. dialects it is _uz_, in Sc., parts of Irel. and Nhb. _hɒz_. The
unstressed forms are _əs_, _əz_.

VII. The second person plural. Few dialects discriminate between _you_
and _ye_; on the whole the use of _ye_ for the nom. and obj. cases
singular and plural is the more general. In s.Chs. _you_ is always
singular in meaning though it takes the verb in the plural, as: you
thinken; _ye_ is always plural. In Irel. and Nrf. the curious form
_yous_, in Irel. also _yees_, is used when more than one person is

VIII. (_a_) The nominative of the third person plural. The stressed
form of the nominative is generally _ðē_ or _ðeə_, but in some midl.
and s. dialects it is _ðai_ or _ðei_, and in Sh. and Or.I. n.Ken.
Sus. _dē_, rarely _dei_. The unstressed form is generally _ðe_ or
_ðə_, rarely _ði_. In Lin. War. Shr. _ə_ (O.E. _hīe_) is used for the
unstressed form of _they_. (_b_) The objective case. The stressed
form is _ðem_, rarely _ðēm_. In all the dialects of Irel. and Eng.
the unstressed form is _əm_ (O.E. _heom_), generally written _em_, or
_’em_. In Sc. the unstressed form is _ðem_ or _ðəm_.

The conjunctive possessive pronoun is in many dialects formed by
adding the genitival _s_ to the personal pronouns both nominative and
objective, as: _we’s_, Oxf. Ess.; _us’s_, m.Yks. Glo. Oxf.; _you’s,_
Sur.; _him’s_, w.Sc. Hrf.; _she’s_, Sur. Wil.; _them’s_, Dev.; in e.An.
_that’s_ is used for _his_, _her_, _its_. The use of the personal
pronoun, nominative or objective, instead of the possessive is common
in many Midl. and sw.Cy. dialects, especially when unemphatic or in
addressing children, as: we held we breaths; let’s be off tul us
dinners, In certain n.Cy. and Midl. dialects the old uninflected _it_
is still used instead of the modern _its_, cp. ‘It lifted up it head,’
_Ham._ I. ii. 216. In Hmp. the still older use of _his_ for the neuter
possessive is preserved, cp. ‘To every seed his own body,’ A.V. 1
_Cor._ xv. 38. In ne. Lan. _her_ (O.E. _hiera_) is used for _their_.
Throughout England the use of _our_, _your_ before a proper noun to
denote that the person spoken of belongs respectively to the family of
the speaker or the person spoken to is very common, as: our Sal; your
Tom. _wə(r_ is in general dialect use in Sc. Irel. and Eng. for the
unstressed form of _our_.

In the Midl. e. s. and sw. counties the disjunctive possessive
pronouns, except _mine_, _thine_, are generally formed from the
conjunctive by adding _n_ or _ən_, thus _hisn_, _hern_, _ourn_,
_yourn_, _theirn_. A double form is used in _mine’s_, Sc. n.Yks.
This double ending is added to the nom. in _weez’n_, Glo.; _shizn_,
War. Glo. Brks. Hmp. Wil. The conjunctive form is used disjunctively
in Lakel. Suf. Ess., as: that is my. In w.Yks. _that’s_ is used as
the disjunctive possessive of the third person. Apart from these
deviations, the dialects generally express the disjunctive possessive
pronouns in the same manner as the lit. language.

The reflexive pronouns are generally formed by adding _self_, _sel_,
_sen_, or _seln_ for the singular, and _selves_, _sels_, _sens_ (rarely
_sen_) for the plural, to the conjunctive possessive pronouns, usually
the unstressed forms: _mi_, _ði_, _wə(r_, _jə(r_, &c. The endings _sen_,
_seln_, _sens_ are chiefly confined to the n.Midl. dialects. The endings
_self_, _selves_ are hardly ever used in Sc. Irel. n.Cy. and n.Midlands.
Frequently the objective case of the simple personal pronoun is used
with a reflexive meaning, especially in Sc. n.Cy. and n.Midl., as: get
thee dressed while I wash me. In Sc. _theirsel_ is used when the idea is
collective, _theirsels_ when it is segregate.

The demonstrative pronoun _this_ is expressed by: (1) _This_,
generally used in the same manner as in lit. English. (2) _This here_,
in general dialect use in Eng. (3) _That_, in Sc. and n.Irel. as: that
is a fine day. (4) _Thease_, Hrf. Glo. and sw.Cy., used of objects
having a definite shape; cp. Lat. _hic_; in w.Som. when the noun,
whatever its quantity or number, has already been mentioned in the
same sentence, it is referred to as _that_, _this_, not as _thick_,
_thease_. (5) _Thease yerimy_, Glo. (6) _Thick here_, sw.Cy. In
disjunctive use are: (7) _Thisn_, _thisna_, n.Cy. Midl. Suf. Sur. (8)
_Thease here_, w.Som. (9) _Thissum_, Glo. Hmp. sw.Cy.

_That_ is expressed by: (1) _That_, generally used in the same manner
as in lit. Eng. (2) _That there_, in general dialect use in Eng.; a
second _there_ is often added, as is also a second _here_ to _this
here_. (3) _Thack_, _thacky_, Glo. sw.Cy. (4) _Thick there_, Glo. I.W.
sw.Cy. (5) _Thon_, Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur., used to identify an object
remote from both speakers. (6) _Thonder_, Chs. Hrf. (7) _Yon_, Sc.
Irel. n.Cy. n.Midl. Hrf. e.An. Dev., used especially of a person or
thing a little way off, but within sight. (8) _Yond_, Edb. Yks. Lan.
Dev. (9) _Yonder_, Ayr. I.Ma. s.Chs. Nhp. w.Wor. Nrf. In disjunctive
use are: (10) _Thatn_, Lakel. Der. Not. Wor. Hrf. Sur. (11) _Thickumy_,
Som. (12) _Thilk_, Glo. In Sc. n.Midl. Lon. Suf. Ken. _that_ is used in
emphatic reiteration of an assertion, as: I suppose you are in a hurry.
I am that. In all the dialects _that_ is used adverbially with the
meaning to such a degree, as: I was that bad. It is also used before a
substantive with the meaning _such_, as: in that fear that I couldn’t
move. In n.Hmp. _thick_ is always used for _this_, and _thuck_ for
_that_; in Dor. _thick_ is only used for the personal class of formed
individual objects.

_These_ is expressed by: (1) _These_, as in lit. Eng. (2) _Thes here_,
w.Yks. Midl. Brks. Nrf. Ken. Som. n.Dev. (3) _These yerimy_, Glo. (4)
_Theasum_, _theasamy_, Glo. Hmp. sw.Cy. (5) _This_, ne.Sc. n.Cy. parts
of Yks. and Lan., and sw.Cy. It is used especially with plural nouns
denoting time, as: this three weeks. In disjunctive use are: (6) _These
’ans_ (= ones), _theseun_, Cum. Hrf. Brks. Wil. (7) _Thism_, Glo.

_Those_ is seldom or never heard in genuine dialect speech. Its place
is supplied by: (1) _Them_, in all the dialects of Sc. Irel. and Eng.
In Sc. it is especially used as the antecedent of the relative, as:
them at did it. (2) _Them there_, n.Midl. Midl. e.An. Dor. Som. (3)
_Themmin_, Glo. Wil. (4) _Themmy_, sw.Cy. (5) _They_, Midl. Suf. s. and
sw.Cy., used especially as the antecedent of the relative. (6) _They
there_, Ken. w.Som. Dev. (7) _That_, ne.Sc. (8) _These_, Sc. Cum. Yks.
(9) _Thon_, Sc. Irel. Nhb. Dur. (10) _Yon_, Sc. n.Irel. n.Cy. n.Midl.
e.An. Dev. (11) _Yond_, Edb. Yks. Lan. Dev. (12) _Them ’ans_, Cum. (13)
_Yon ’ans_, Cum. _These_ and _those_ are both expressed by: (1) _Thae_,
Sc. Uls. n.Cy. (2) _Thick_, _thuck_, Wor. Dev. (3) _Thir_, Sc. (s. of
the Grampians) Uls. n.Cy. In disjunctive use: (4) _Thirs_, _thors_, Sc.
Nhb. (5) _Thir ’ans_, Cum.

There are no special dialect words for the interrogative pronoun, but
the following deviations from the lit. use are worth notice: _Whom_ is
hardly ever used in any dialect; its place is taken by _who_. In Sc. and
n. and ne.Yks. _whose_ is seldom used as an interrogative pronoun, a
periphrasis being used instead, as: _who is aught the bairn?_ whose is
the child? _who belongs this house?_ whose house is this? In Cum.
_which_ is used of persons as well as of animals and things.

The relative pronoun is generally expressed by _as_, _at_, _that_ or
_what_ for all genders and numbers, when the antecedent is expressed. In
other cases _who_ is used for the masc. and fem. nom. and obj., and
_what_ for the neuter. _Whom_ is never used in the dialects. _As_ is
rarely used in n.Cy., but in the other parts of England it is in general
use. _At_ is in general use in Sc. Irel. n.Cy. and a small portion of
the n.Midl. counties. _What_ can be used when it refers to persons as
well as to inanimate objects in some of the n.Midl. counties, and in
nearly all the counties south of the n.Midlands. In w.Som. it is only
used when special emphasis is required. In s.Not. Hrf. Glo. and Nrf. the
relative _which_ is used redundantly in a conjunctive sense, as: ghosts,
which I can’t bear talking about. In Brks. _whosen_ is used for _whose_,
but as a rule the possessive relative cannot be expressed by a single
word in the dialects; instead a periphrasis or parenthetical sentence
is substituted. Especially frequent is the use of _as_ or _what_ coupled
with a possessive pronoun, as: that’s the chap as his uncle was hanged.
In Sc. _at_ is similarly used, as: the man at his coat’s torn.


[Sidenote: _Accidence: Verbs_]

Preterites. In the conjugation of verbs in the dialects many old forms
have been preserved which have been lost in the literary language. Very
often where, in the lit. language, the old plural form of the preterite
or the past participle has been carried through the whole preterite, in
the dialects the old singular form has been levelled out. Or again, an
old strong verb has in lit. Eng. become weak, whilst in the dialects the
strong forms have remained. On the whole, it is the northern dialects
which have preserved these old strong preterite forms. It may be said to
be characteristic of the southern dialects to form new weak preterites
to originally strong verbs. Examples of verbs which have preserved old
strong preterites are: bind, _ban(d_ (O.E. _band_), Sc. n.Cy. Shr.;
break, _brak_ (O.E. _bræc_), Sc. n.Cy.; climb, _klam_, _klom_ (O.E.
_clamb_, _clomb_), Sc. n.Cy. n.Midl. Hrf. Hmp. Dor.; find, _fan(d_ (O.E.
_fand_), Sc. Cum. Yks.; grind, _gran(d_ (O.E. _grand_), Sc. Dur. Yks.
Shr.; knead, _nad_, _nēd_ (M.E. _knad_, late plur. _knāden_), Yks. Shr.;
speak, _spak_, _spēk_ (M.E. _spak_, late plur. _spāken_), Sc. Dwn. n.Cy.
Ess. Dev.; swing, _swaŋ_ (O.E. _swang_), Sc. Lakel. Yks.; tread, _trad_,
_trēd_ (M.E. _trad_, late plur. _trāden_), Sc. Yks.; win, _wan_ (O.E.
_wan(n_), Sc. Cum. Yks.

Examples of old strong verbs which have acquired new weak preterites
are: bear, _beared_, Bch. Abd. Yks. s.Chs. s. and sw.Cy.; begin,
_beginned_, w.Som. Dev.; burst, _bursted_, Sc. Midl. sw.Cy.; come,
_comed_, Yks. Lan. n.Midl. e.An. sw.Cy.; draw, _drawed_, Midl. Hmp.
sw.Cy.; grow, _growed_, n.Midl. I.W. Dor. w.Som.; know, _knowed_, n.Ir.
n.Cy. Midl. Ess. Ken. Sur. I.W. sw.Cy.; see, _seed_, Sc. n.Cy. Yks. Lan.
s.Chs. Midl. e.An. s. and sw.Cy.; steal, _stealed_, Sc. n.Lin. Brks.
e.An. Dev.; throw, _throwed_, _thrawed_, Nhb. w.Yks. Midl. s. and
sw.Cy.; weave, _weaved_, n. and e.Yks. w.Som.; &c., &c. These verbs have
likewise a weak past participle, as: _beared_, _corned_, _drawed_, &c.

A few old weak verbs have become strong in lit. Eng. but retain their
original weak forms in certain dialects, such are: dig, _digged_,
w.Som., cp. ‘He made a pit and digged it,’ A.V. _Ps._ vii. 15, ‘Wells
digged,’ _Neh._ ix. 25; strive, _strived_ (M.E. _strivede_ beside
_strōf_), Peb. ne.Nrf. w.Som. Cor.; wear, _weared_ (M.E. _wered(e_), Sc.
n.Yks. Nhp. Wor. sw.Cy. Old forms of a weak preterite survive in reach,
_raught_ (M.E. _raughte_), Sc. Midl. s. and sw.Cy., cp. pp. ‘The hand of
death hath raught him,’ _Ant. & Cleop._ IV. ix. 30; work, _wrought_
(M.E. _wroughte_), Sc. Irel. n.Cy. Lan. Der. Stf. This is the ordinary
preterite form used in the Authorized Version of the Bible, but in
modern lit. Eng. only the past participle remains as an adjective, as in
_wrought iron_. On the model of this kind of preterite we have in lit.
Eng. catch, _caught_, but the regular form _catched_ (M.E. _cacched_
beside _caughte_) is common in nearly all the dialects of Sc. Irel. and

Many verbs which in the literary language have lost the final _n_ of
the strong past participle, retain it in certain dialects. These old
past participles are found in Sc. n.Cy. and n.Midl. dialects, but very
rarely further south than Shropshire. Examples are: bake, _baken_, Sc.;
bereave, _beriven_, m.Yks.; bind, _bunden_, _binden_, Yks. Nhb.; climb,
_clomben_, Nhb. Shr.; come, _cumen_, _comen_, Sc. n.Cy. Chs. Shr.;
creep, _cropen_, _crupen_, Sc. n.Cy. Chs. Shr.; fight, _foughten_,
Sc. n.Cy. Lei. Shr.; fling, _flungen_, e.Yks. s.Chs. Der.; grind,
_grounden_, Nhb. n. and e.Yks. Shr.; help, _holpen_, s.Chs. Rut. Shr.;
knead, _nedn_, m.Yks., _noden_, n.Cy. w.Yks. Nhp.; shoot, _shotten_,
_shutten_, Sc. n.Irel. Lakel. n.Cy. Lei. Wor. Shr. Ken.; sit, _sitten_,
Sc. n.Cy. Chs. nw.Der. Shr.; slit, _slitten_, Sc. Nhb. Yks. nw.Lin.;
spring, _sprungen_, e.Yks. s.Chs.; wash, _washen_, Sc., _weshen_,
w.Yks.; writhe, _writhen_, Sc. m.Yks. s.Chs.

In some dialects the verbal endings differ considerably from those of
the standard language, and the use of these endings is governed by exact
grammatical rules. To begin with the present tense: In Sc. Irel. n.Cy.
and most of the n.Midl. dialects, all persons, singular and plural, take
_s_, _z_, or _əz_ when not immediately preceded or followed by their
proper pronoun; that is when the subject is a noun, an interrogative or
relative pronoun, or when the verb and subject are separated by a
clause. When the verb is immediately preceded or followed by its proper
pronoun, the first person sing. and the whole of the plural generally
have no special endings in the above dialects, except occasionally in
parts of Yks. Lan. and Lin. It follows from this that grammatically
‘Scots wha hae’ is incorrect; strictly the line should run: ‘Scots at
haes wi’ Wallace bled.’ In the other parts of England the first person
sing. has no special ending except in some of the southern and
south-western dialects, which have the ending _s_, _z_, or _əz_. Most of
the s.Midl. e. s. and sw. dialects have _s_, _z_, or _əz_ for all
persons of the plural. The plural generally ends in _n_, _ən_ in se. em.
and s.Lan. Chs. Flt. Dnb. Stf., nearly all Der., Shr., and also often in
Nhp. War. Wor. Hrf.; this is especially the case with _have_. In Som.
and Dev. the plural often ends in _ð_ among the older generation of
dialect speakers. In e. and s.Hrt. Ken. Sur. Hmp. I.W. w. and s.Som.
Dev. Cor. _’m_, _am_, is generally used for _are_ after the pronouns
_we_, _ye_, _they_, as: _wəm_, we are. In Nhb. Dur. Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.
n.Lin. _is_ is often used for _am_. The periphrastic form _I do love_,
&c., for _I love_, &c., is in general use in the sw. dialects.

The preterite plural sometimes ends in _n_, _ən_ in some n.Midl.
dialects, but beyond this the preterite endings generally agree with
those of the literary language.

In the dialects of England the present participle ends in _in_ except
in parts of n.Nhb. and n.Cum. where the ending is _ən_. This _ən_
probably goes back to the Northern M.E. ending _and_. In the dialects
of s.Sc. and also in a few other Sc. dialects the present participle
ends in _ən_, from older _and_, and the verbal noun ends in _in_ from
older _ing_. In the imperfect and perfect continuous tenses, as: _I
am striking_, _I have been striking_, the present participle takes the
prefix _ə_ (_ɒ_) in the Midland, e.Cy. and sw.Cy. dialects, as: _I am
a-goin_. This is an interesting point when we realize that it proves
the origin of our present participle ending _ing_, which cannot be
developed from the O.E. _ende_. The form with the prefix _ə_ represents
the verbal noun (O.E. _-ung_, _-ing_) preceded by the preposition _on_.
The preposition dwindled through lack of stress into a mere prefix,
and was ultimately lost in lit. Eng. These dialects thus preserve the
intermediate stage.

In the s.Midl. and sw.Cy. dialects the past participle has the prefix
_ə_ (_ɒ_) from the O.E. prefix _ge-_.

The infinitive generally has no special ending just as in the literary
language. But in the sw.Cy. dialects, especially in Dor. Som. Dev.,
intransitive verbs generally have the ending _i_, written _y_, from the
O.E. ending _-ian_ of weak verbs such as _lufian_, to love; _lōcian_, to

The future is formed the same way as in lit. Eng. except that in Sc.
Irel. and Wal. _will_ is used for the first person singular and plural.

The perfect is generally formed the same way as in lit. Eng., but in
those dialects of England which have preserved the old strong past
participles, the auxiliary _have_ is generally omitted in affirmative
sentences when the subject is a personal pronoun immediately followed by
the verb, as: we done it, I seen him, they been and taken it. In the
Midl. e. and s. dialects, this construction is sometimes used to express
the preterite.

The negative in O.E. was expressed by the particle _ne_ prefixed to
the verb, and to all the other words in the sentence that admitted of
contracted negative forms. If no such words were present, then _nā_
or _naht_ was used to strengthen the _ne_. This usage was kept up in
M.E., as: _he never hadde noþing_, but beside it _nat_, _not_, the weak
form of O.E. _nāwiht_, began to take the place of the _ne_. In Modern
English the _ne_ disappeared entirely, and the influence of Latin
grammar led to the adoption of the rule ‘two negatives contradict each
other and make an affirmative’. In the dialects the old pleonastic
negatives remain, as: He nivver said nowt neeaways ti neean on em;
Neeabody’s neea bisniss ti thraw nowt inti neeabody’s gardin; I deean’t
want nobbut yan.



To most people the details contained in the preceding chapter will
seem but the dry bones of dialect speech; they would prefer the bones
to be covered with sinews and flesh. Dialect speech as the embodiment
of living, many-sided, human nature is perhaps nowhere so closely
seen as in a collection of the figurative terms and phrases applied
to people and things. Here we approach the unlimited humour displayed
in the dialects. It is of all kinds--the ironical, the sage, the
frankly jolly, the merely ridiculous. It takes every shape; we meet
it in similes, metaphors, proverbs, and in various other forms which
elude description. A characteristic form of humour, often combined
with sarcasm, appears in those comparisons wherein the moods, habits,
and actions of men are likened to those of birds, beasts, fishes,
and even insects in real or imaginary situations. The following is a
miscellaneous selection of similes: as awkward as a cat in pattens; as
big as bull-beef, said of a conceited person; as black as the devil’s
nutting-bag; as blue as a whetstone; as bug [self-satisfied, vain] as
a pump with two spouts; as busy as bees in a basin, said when any one
is busy about trifles; as busy as a cat in a tripe-shop; as clean as
print; as cold as snow in harvest, said of any one who looks hard and
unfeeling; as dark as a boot; as dark as a black cow’s skin, said of a
very dark night; as dateless as a rubbin’-stoop [as stupid, insensible
as a rubbing-post]; as dazed as a duck against thunder; as dazed as a
goose with a nail in its head; as deaf as a beetle [a wooden mallet];
as deaf as a haddock; as drunk as mice, cp. ‘We faren as he that
dronke is as a mous,’ Chaucer, _Knightes Tale_, l. 403, ‘Thou comest
hoom as dronken as a mous,’ _Wife of Bath’s Prol._, l. 246; as dunch
[deaf] as a door-post; as dutch [fine, affected in language] as a dog
in a doublet; as dutch as a mastiff, said of one who assumes an air
of innocence after having done some mischief; as fat as a modiwarp [a
mole]; as fast as a midge in a treacle-pot; as fast as a thief in a
mill [i.e. an old windmill, built on posts, and with only one way of
ingress and egress]; as fine as a new-scraped carrot, used to describe
any one who has dressed himself up smartly for any occasion; as flat
as a flaun [a pancake, O.Fr. _flaon_]; as fond [foolish] as a besom;
as fond as a poke [bag] of chaff with the bottom end out; as foul as a
curn-boggart [as ugly as a scarecrow]; as friendly as a bramble-bush;
as genny [fretful] as a bear with a sore lug [ear]; as greedy as a
fox in a hen-roost, referring to the fact that a fox kills many more
hens than he can eat; as good-natured as a pump; as green as a leek,
cp. ‘His eyes were green as leeks,’ _Mids. N. D._ V. i. 342; as happy
as pigs in muck; as happy as little pigs in new straw; as handy as a
gimlet, said of any one who is quick and useful; as hard as a ground
toad, said of any one who looks healthy and strong; as hardened as
Pharaoh; as heart-sound as a cabbage, said of any one possessing a good
constitution; as hungry as a June crow; as in and out as a dog’s hinder
leg, said of any one not to be depended on; as keen [strong] as Samson;
as lilty as tykes in a tramp-house [as light-hearted as vagrants in a
tramps’ lodging-house]; as lonely as a milestone; as lonely as a steg
[gander] in sitting-time, said of a bachelor living by himself; as
mild as a moon-beam, said of a particularly mild and placid person;
as narrow as a drink of water, said of a person excessively thin; as
nimble as a cat on a hot backstone; as nimble as a cow in a cage, said
of a person who is clumsy and awkward; as plain as a pack-staff. This
refers to the pedlar’s staff which supports the pack on his back, and
also serves to measure his wares, and which by constant wear on his
journeyings becomes exceedingly smooth. The better known version--as
plain as a pike-staff--is thought to be a corruption of pack-staff.
As peart as a gladdy [as lively as a yellow-hammer]; as peart as a
robin; as pleased as a dog with two tails; as poor as a rames [as thin
as a skeleton]; as right as pie; as sackless as a goose; as safe as a
church tied to a hedge, said when superfluous precaution has been used;
as sharp as a weasel; as simple as a ha’porth of cheese; as simple as
a ha’porth of soap in a washing-mug, i.e. as ineffectual as so small
a quantity of soap would be in so large a vessel of water, mug here
denoting a wash-tub; as slender in the middle as a cow in the waist,
said of a very stout person; as slick as a oont [as smooth as a mole];
as slim as a barber’s pole; as soft-hearted as a rezzil [weasel], said
of a person who is absolutely cruel; as sound as a trout; as sour as
a grig, referring to _grig_, the wild bullace, not to the proverbial
_merry grig_; as straight as a loach, an allusion to the swift direct
motion of the loach; as sure as God’s in Gloucestershire, an allusion
to the large number of churches and religious houses the county used
to possess; as throng [busy] as a cobbler’s Monday, said in ridicule,
because a cobbler is supposed to rest on Monday to work off the effects
of a drinking bout at the week-end; as tough as a withy; as wakken as
a witterick [as lively as a weasel]; as warm as a bee; as weak as a
midsummer gosling; as weak as a wet dish-clout; as welcome as flowers
in May, said to a friend entering the house; as welcome as snow in
harvest, or as welcome as water in one’s shoon, said of an undesired
guest; as whisht as a winnard, an allusion to the redwings which reach
Cornwall in the late autumn, and are seen there in the winter in a very
thin and miserably weak condition; as windy as a wisket [basket], said
of a forgetful person; as yellow as a gollan [a corn-marigold].

[Sidenote: _Similes and Metaphors_]

To look like a bit of chewed twine is to look worn out; the tears were
running down his cheeks like beetles up a hill is said in ridicule of a
child who is crying for nothing; to grin like a Cheshire cat chewing
gravel, eating cheese, or brass wire. Charles Lamb once explained why a
Cheshire cat is given to grinning: ‘I made a pun the other day, and
palmed it upon Holcroft, who grinned like a Cheshire cat. (Why do cats
grin in Cheshire?--Because it was once a county palatine, and the cats
cannot help laughing whenever they think of it, though I see no great
joke in it.)’ _Letters_, vol. i, p. 245. Like a chip in a mess of milk,
or like a chip in porridge, said of a person or thing of no importance,
useless; to stare like a choked throstle, or like a throttled earwig;
like a cow handling a musket, said of a person doing something in a
clumsy manner; to look like death on a mopstick is to look miserable; to
work like Diggory is to work hard. The name Diggory was once a common
Christian name. It occurs as the name of a farm labourer in Goldsmith’s
_She Stoops to Conquer_. To go like a dinner of broth is to go
successfully without hitch or friction; short and sweet like a donkey’s
gallop; to go buzzing away like a dumbley-dory [a bumble-bee] in a
snoxun [a foxglove], or like a dumble-dore in a warming-pan, is said of
a humdrum preacher; she’s like an old ewe dressed lamb-fashion is said
of an old woman gaily dressed; she’s in and out of folkses housen like a
fiddler’s elbow is said of a gossiping woman; to be like a fly in a
glue-pot is to be in a state of nervous excitement; to have a memory
like a frog-tail is to have a bad memory, or none at all; to be like a
hen on a hot girdle is to be restless and impatient; off, like a jug
handle; laid out like lamb and sallet is said of a person gaily dressed;
it’s bare work and poor pay, like licking honey off a thorn, said of an
employment yielding only a small and uncertain profit; lost like a lop
in a barn, said of a person living in too big a house; to be like a pig
in a well is to be without visible means of support; to be like a pig,
to do no good alive, is said of a covetous and selfish man; it’s much
cry for little wool, like shearing a pig; to mend like sour ale in
summer is to grow worse and worse; to look like a sow with side-pockets
is said of a person absurdly dressed; anything very useless is said to
be of no more use than a side-pocket is to a toad, or an umbrella to a
duck; like a sucking duck, said of a foolish person; it’s slow work,
like sucking buttermilk out of a sieve; to follow any one like a Tantony
pig is to stick as close to him as St. Anthony’s favourite is supposed
to have done to the saint, cp. ‘Lord! she made me follow her last week
through all the shops like a Tantiny pig,’ Swift, _Polite Conv._ i; to
sit like a toad on a shovel, said of any one who has a very uncertain
seat on horseback, and also of a person in a very uncertain condition of
affairs; like a toad out of a tree--thump; to live or lead a life like a
toad under a harrow is to suffer from ill-treatment or ill-usage; he’s
like a Tom-noup [the great tit] on a round of beef, said of a
swaggering, pretentious, little man; drinking to drown sorrow is like
trying to sleck a fire with gunpowder; it runs in the blood like wooden

[Sidenote: _Conversational Allusions to Fictitious Persons or

Beside these are the longer similes in the style of those
conversational allusions for which Sam Weller is famous. For example:
all asiden like Martha Roden’s twopenny dish, said of something aslant,
out of the perpendicular; like the old cow’s tail, all behind, said when
any one is behind-hand with work; all to one side like the handle of a
jug; same’s the crow said by the heap of toads, all of a sort; same’s
the old Tucker found his halfpenny, all to a heap; all together like
Brown’s cows; like Morley’s ducks, born without a notion; it’s as broad
as it’s long, like Paddy’s blanket, means that it matters not which of
two ways a thing is done; clean gone, like the boy’s eye, and that went
into his head; like Malachi’s child, choke-full of sense, said of any
one who boasts of himself or of his children; to do things by degrees as
the cat ate the pestle [shank or foreleg of an animal, especially of a
pig]; as dirty as Thump-o’-Dolly, that died of being washed; dressed to
death like Sally Hatch; forty save one like Obitch’s colt, applied to
persons of a certain age who affect youthful manners; he’s like a
pig-tail, going all day and nothing done at night; he’s like the
parson’s fool, he likes everything that’s good; like Jan Trezise’s
geese, never happy unless they be where they baint; hitty-missy, as the
blind man shot the crow; nought’s impossible, as the old woman said when
they told her the calf had swallowed the grindlestone; knoppy road, as
the man said when he stumbled over a cow; as knowing as Kate Mullet, and
she was hanged for a fool; you’re late, as Paddy Loughran said to the
ghost; as lazy as Ludlam’s dog, that leaned up against the wall to bark;
long in the legs like Nanny Panter’s hens; like lucky Jan Toy, who lost
a shilling and found a twopenny loaf, applied to any one who is
rejoicing over a small gain purchased at the expense of a greater loss;
there’s more clout than pie, as the schoolboy said when he unwrapped his
dinner; he won’t do it if he hasn’t a mind to, as the man said by his
jackass; ’tis neat but not gaudy, as they said of the devil when they
painted his body pea-green, and tied up his tail with red ribbons, said
in ridicule of showy dress; don’t be in a hurry, it’s one at a time
here, as the old woman said at the wirligog [turn-stile]; as queer as
Dick’s hatband, that went nine times round and would not tie at last;
like the quest [wood-pigeon] always saying ‘to do’, but everybody knows
it makes the worst nest in the wood; thee beest a queer quest, as the
boy said to the owl; quietness is best, as the fox said when he bit the
cock’s head off; as throng as Throp’s wife when she hanged herself with
the dish-clout, applied to a woman who is for ever busying herself about
domestic affairs, but whose house and surroundings are nevertheless
always untidy; you thought wrong, like Hob’s hog, which, it is said,
when the butcher went into the sty to kill it, fancied its breakfast was
coming. To catch a person napping, as Moss caught his mare, is a saying
which occurs as far back as 1641 in Taylor’s works. To sit like
Mumchancer who was hanged for saying nothing contains an allusion to an
old game of chance played with cards or dice, at which silence was

[Sidenote: _Figurative and Metaphorical Terms and Phrases_]

Amongst the figurative and metaphorical terms and phrases are:
ankle-biters, children, e.g. I had too many little ankle-biters to save
much; abbey-lubber, an idle person, a loafer. This is a very old word
occurring in Cotgrave, and also in Dr. Johnson’s _Dictionary_, in the
latter it is defined as: ‘a slothful loiterer in a religious house,
under pretence of retirement and austerity.’ The blacksmith’s daughter,
a padlock; a bread-and-cheese friend, a true friend, as distinguished
from a cupboard-lover; bread, or potatoes and point, a meal of bread, or
potatoes, only; calf-lick, a tuft of hair growing on the human forehead,
which will not part or lie flat; calf’s tongue, a person who is,
according to occasion, mild-spoken or harsh-spoken, like the tongue of a
calf, smooth on one side and rough on the other; cat-lick, a hasty,
indifferent washing; cat-malison, a recess or cupboard in the ceiling,
in which meat, &c., is hung, called the cat’s curse because from its
position it was secure from the cat; a churn-milk [buttermilk] study,
reverie, a brown study; clash-bag, a tale-bearer, a scandal-monger;
cobbler’s pork, bread; cold turkey pie, bread and cheese; countryman’s
treacle, garlic; a duck’s frost, a slight frost, or none at all, also a
drizzling rain; fly-by-sky, a giddy, flighty person; hearthstone talk,
boastful talk, promises made at night and not intended to be kept in the
morning; hopping-Giles, a cripple, so named from St. Giles, the especial
patron of cripples; a lawyer, a long thorny stem of bramble or briar; a
lick and a promise, a slight, ineffectual washing, any work done in a
perfunctory manner; a messenger, a sunbeam, a small detached cloud
betokening rain; Methody cream, or milk from the brown cow, rum in tea;
milestone-bread, shouting-cake, or Here be I, where be you? bread, cake,
or pudding in which the currants or raisins are far apart; Miss Nancy,
an effeminate man, especially one conspicuous for outward adornment, but
deficient in common sense; muck-spout, a person who uses filthy
language; news-poke, a gossip; nip-curn [-currant], nip-fig, nip-raisin,
a person so stingy that he would nip a raisin in two; the one-armed
landlord, a pump; pea-swad [-pod] days, young days; the poor man’s
piano, a wringing-machine; poverty-engine, a tea-kettle; Prince-town
College, Dartmoor prison; a pump without a handle, any person or thing
that is quite unfit to discharge the office which he or it has to fill;
Purdy’s lantern, the moon; sike-fat [rill-fat], water used instead of
fat in making cakes, puddings, &c.; a snail’s gallop, a very slow pace;
snow-blossom, a snowflake; a stepmother’s blessing, a loose piece of
skin at the base of the finger-nail; a Sunday saint and Monday sinner, a
pseudo-religious person; tea-kettle broth, weak tea, or broth made of
bread, hot water, and an onion or two; tongue-bang, to scold, abuse;
water-bewitched, weak tea or ale; a winter Friday, a cold,
wretched-looking person; a wooden cloak, dress or sark, a coffin.

To tell a long story without much point is to beat the Devil round the
gooseberry-bush; to be lazy is to have Lawrence on one’s back; Lawrence
bids high wages is said of a person who is rendered almost incapable of
work by the heat of the weather, or who yields to it too willingly; the
boy’s gone by with the cows, and the snap’s down, are sayings addressed
to one who has lost a certain opportunity, and is now too late; a person
who has fallen into trouble by his own foolishness or misconduct says:
Ah’ve browt me pigs tiv a bad mahkit; to make a bad bargain is to sell a
hen on a rainy day, cp. ‘Never mind our son, cried my wife; depend upon
it he knows what he is about. I’ll warrant we’ll never see him sell his
hen of a rainy day. I have seen him buy such bargains as would amaze
one,’ _Vicar of Wakefield_, chap. xii; a person who has been deceived
once, and will not be so again, says: Ah’ve been ta Jerry berrin’
[Jerry’s funeral]; it’s all along of Colly Weston, said when anything
goes wrong, bears reference to a very old phrase found as early as 1587.
Collywest, or collyweston, is an adverb or adjective meaning askew, not
straight or level. Of a project or undertaking that has failed it is
said: That cake’s all duff [dough]. A Warwickshire folk-rhyme runs:

    O, dear, O!
    My cake’s all dough,
    And how to make it better
    I do not know.

Shakespeare uses the phrase twice in the _Taming of the Shrew_, I. i.
110; V. i. 145; and it occurs in _Don Quixote_, translated by Jervas:
‘The duchess’s cake was dough, as the saying is, till she had read her
letter.’ To be all mops and brooms is to be bewildered; to be all skin
and grief is to be half-starved, of a melancholy disposition; anything
peculiarly agreeable is said to be honey and nuts; a rich fool is said
to carry his brains in his breeches-pocket; to make a great show on
insufficient means is to carry a tight swagger [ship’s flag] on a rotten
mast; a person singing or whistling badly is told that he would charm
the heart of a wheelbarrow; goa tell thy mother to cheän ugly up is a
remark often made to a pouting, ill-tempered child; choose how the cat
jumps is a phrase equivalent to by hook or by crook; to comb the head
with a three-legged stool is to beat, knock, cp. ‘... doubt not her care
should be To comb your noddle with a three-legg’d stool,’ _Tam. of Shr._
I. i. 63; of the return of a penniless scapegrace it is said he’s coming
home with Penny Liggan, or Peter Lacken, probably the original phrase
was penny lacking; a person with a sharp temper is asked: Did ye come
past the smithy?; a disagreeable person is told that he looks sour
enough to come [curdle] a cheese; of a very blunt knife it is said that
it would cut butter if it was hot; to attempt the impossible is to cut
smoke with a leather hatchet, to eat stir-pudding with an awl, to sup
sowens [oatmeal and water] with an elshin [a shoemaker’s awl], to gape
against a red-hot oven, to get blood from a turnip, to stop an oven with
butter, to throw straws at the wind; the dule’s had o’ th’porritch an’
the Lord’s nobbot getten th’pon for t’scrape is said of a death-bed
repentance; a person belonging to a different religious denomination to
that of the speaker is said to dig with the wrong foot; of a draught in
a room it is said that it would deet [winnow] potatoes; of a weak person
or animal it is said he can’t dint into a pound of butter; to eat
rue-pie signifies to repent, regret; to eat bread dipped in fried water
is to live poorly; when a horse is left standing outside a door,
especially of a public-house, it is said to be left to eat sign-post
hay, or sneck [latch] hay; sparrow-pie, or sparrow-pudding is a dish
supposed to make a person preternaturally sharp, e.g. Her’s purty flip
this morning, idden her? I rakkon her’th abin ayting sparrer-pie; Bless
her heart! aw could ate her wi’ a butter-cake! is a rustic compliment;
highly complimentary also is the saying: Hoo’s an e’e i’ her yed at ’ud
fot a duck off th’ wayter; a long and dull discourse is said to be
enough to deafen a spider; something irritating and provoking is said to
be enough to urge the blood of Peter Cockerel; Fare thee well, Oula, is
an expression used when parting from something one is not likely to see
again; to a person smiling or laughing for no apparent reason it is
said: What bist thee a-loffin’ at? I sh’d think thee ’adst fund a
tiddy-obbin’s nist un’ wus a-loffin’ at the young uns; I never flacker
my wings ower t’edge o’ my awn nest means that I never go beyond the
bounds of my own circumstances; to fly up with Jackson’s hens is to be
bankrupt; to gather or sow gape-seed is to stare about, to stare out of
a window; to gather strings, or to pick up one’s crumbs, is to regain
one’s health after an illness, e.g. Our Liz bin ter’ble bad, her was
a’most come to a nottomy [skeleton], but her’s pickin’ up her crooms
again now like, thank th’Almighty; to get one’s kale through the reek
[smoke] signifies to get a good scolding; a very tall and lazy person is
told to go and get measured for a pikel [pitchfork]; of a very dull,
unintelligent person it is said: He’s getten a head and so has a mell
[mallet]; of a scolding woman it is said: Hoo’s getten a tung sharp
enough for t’shave a urchant [hedgehog]; Eh, what a tail our cat’s got!
is said at the sight of unwonted finery and conceit; when the head of
the family has introduced various members of the family into the same
employ it is said that the fingers have got pretty close to the thumb;
of a mean man it is said: He’s a rare good customer wheer they’re givin’
things away for nowt; an undecided person, wanting in manly
straightforwardness is said to go betwix the oak and the rind; a person
living beyond his means is said to graze beyond his tether; a man who
invites friends during his wife’s absence is said to hang out the
besom; He’s hing’d his fiddle on the door-sneck is said of a man in a
bad temper; a person completely happy and independent may say: I wo’dn’t
thenk ye to hev th’ Queen for my aunt; of a haughty woman it is said
that she will hardly know the Queen’s cousin; of a coward it is said
that he has no more heart than a dumbledory; of a child who repeats
sentences or opinions picked up from his father it is said: He’s heard
the old cock crow; to heat or warm up old broth signifies to renew an
old courtship; of scant fare received in another person’s house it is
said that the shelf was pretty high; to keep on good terms with any one
is to keep the wheel in the nick; a person using large means for very
small ends is said to be killing clocks [beetles] with clubs; a person
supposed to be thoroughly acquainted with any particular matter is said
to know both the hare and the hare-gate; a state bordering on starvation
is described as lean lickin’ o’ thibles [sticks for stirring porridge];
to marry for money and then to be discontented with one’s lot is to like
the boose [stall for a cow] but not the ring-stake; a man who marries
for money, and whose wife turns out to be a scold, is said to wed
t’midden for t’muck and be puizened wi’ t’stink; to live or die an old
maid is to live the life or die the death of Jenkin’s hen[2]; not to be
deterred from anything by blustering talk is to live too near the wood
to be frightened by an owl; to a tardy messenger it is said: Theaw’rt
th’reet mon for t’send for sorrow--theaw’rt so lung uppo th’road; to be
in a state of bewilderment or confusion is to look two ways for Easter,
or to look seven ways for Sunday; of a person who squints it is said
that he was born in the middle of the week, and looked both ways for
Sundays; a man not to be depended upon is said to be loose in the haft,
not to be trusted further than you could throw a pig by the soaped tail;
If a mak an erran’ tae yer face, it ’ill no be tae kiss ye is an
expression of anger; a very cold wind is said to make thin linings, i.e.
to make one’s clothes feel thin, My word! but it’s a thin wind this
morning, it’ll go through you before it’ll go round you; to discourse
pointlessly or beyond the mark is to milk over the can; there’s a mule
in the garden signifies that something unpleasant is going on; of a
person who has said or done something foolish it is said that he is
plagued with the simples; to do anything in the slowest possible way, to
work ineffectually, is to plough with dogs; to sew hurriedly and badly
is to put in a stitch for a friend; to attempt to improve a thing which
is already perfect is to put butter on bacon; to take away one’s
appetite is to put one by one’s porridge, e.g. What, thoo’ll nivver come
nar neea mair? Let me tell thi that’ll put nin on us by wer poddish;
they don’t put up their horses together means that they are not friendly
together; when something has interfered to prevent an arrangement being
carried out it is said that the pigs ran through it; an old woman’s
rock-staff [distaff] is a contemptuous expression for a silly
superstitious fancy; of an impudent person it is said that he has rubbed
his face with a brass candlestick; of a person given to petty and
‘penny-wise’ economies it is said that he saves at the spigot and lets
it run out at the bung-hole; to consent readily is to say sniff if
another says snaff; to earn one’s bread laboriously before one eats it
is to scrat before one pecks; a person complaining of want of
sociability or kindness amongst neighbours will say: ’Er didn’t say as
much as Set down, dog, or: There isn’t one as’ll so much as look in and
say Dog, how beest?; when milk is burnt, and adheres to the sides of the
saucepan, it is said that the bishop has set his foot in it. This is a
very old saying, cp. Tusser, _Husb._, ‘Blesse Cisley (good mistris) that
Bishop doth ban For burning the milk of her cheese to the pan’; and
Tindale, _Obedience of a Christen Man_ (1528), ‘Yf the podech be burned
to, or the meate over rosted, we saye the bysshope hath put his fote in
the potte, or the bysshope hath playd the coke, because the bysshopes
burn who they lust and whosoever displeaseth them.’ Of a very thin
person it is said that he shames his pasture; of hollow friends it is
said: They’ll shak ye by t’hand an wish your airm off by t’elbow; of a
tedious caller it is said: She’ll sit a hen-sit; of a stingy, niggardly
person it is said that he would not part wi’ t’reek off his keal, and
that he would skin a toad for the hide and tallow; of an avaricious
person it is said that he would steal the cross off an ass, i.e. the
dark marks across its shoulders; to idle about the streets gossiping is
to spin street-webs; a description of poor fare is stare and stand
back--three jumps at the pantry door and a drink of cold water; of a
bow-legged person it is said that he couldn’t stop a pig in a snicket;
to have a sad life is to sup sorrow by spoonfuls; to pay attention to
one’s own faults is to sweep up one’s own doorstep; of a very loquacious
person it is said that he would talk a butt of bees to death, or talk a
dog’s hind leg off; of a tedious person it is said that he would weary a
growing tree; to tell improbable stories is to tell dildrams and
Buckingham Jenkins; to attract by good feeding is to tether by the
teeth; to a thriftless and extravagant wife it is said: Don’t throw your
property out of the door with a spade while your husband is bringing it
in through the window with a spoon; of a bachelor it is said that he
trails a light harrow, his hat covers his family; of a person who has
known sorrow or misfortune it is said that the black ox has trodden on
his foot. This saying occurs in our early literature, cp. Tusser,
_Husb._, ‘Why then do folke this prouerbe put, The blacke oxe neare trod
on thy fut, If that way were to thriue?’; and Lyly, _Sapho and Phao_
(1584), ‘She was a pretie wench, when Juno was a young wife. Now
crowesfoote is on her eye, and the black oxe hath trod on her foot.’ To
quit a business at a critical point is to unyoke in the sherd [gap in
the hedge]; to like to have one’s own way is to want the water to run in
one’s own ditch; a person who boasts of doing difficult things is asked
if he can whistle and chew meal; to go whistling jigs to a milestone is
a phrase used of any fruitless attempt or impossible undertaking; I wish
I had our cat by t’tail is said by people a long way from home and
fireside; to work overtime without receiving extra pay is to work for
the Queen; to do work for which the pay has been already drawn is to
work on a dead horse.

[2] The Carlyles, however, used this phrase in a different sense. Mrs.
Carlyle in a letter to her husband (September 13, 1844) wrote: ‘The
evening of the Bullers’ departure Jenkin’s Hen came, pale as a candle,
with a red circle round each eye which was very touching;--he had
evidently been crying himself quite sick and sore.’ Carlyle’s note on
this passage is as follows: ‘Fleming. To “die the death of Jenkin’s hen”
expressed in Annandale the maximum of pusillanimity.’ V. _The Second
Post_, E. V. Lucas, p. 151.

[Sidenote: _Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings_]

Proverbs and proverbial sayings are very numerous in all the dialects,
generally introduced in plain epigrammatical style, but sometimes
preluded by: It’s an owd sayin’, an’ it’s a true un.... The following
specimens may be taken as a fair sample of the whole. It will be seen
that some are merely dialect readings of well-known lit. Eng. proverbs,
e.g. It’s th’yarly bird as gollaps th’wurm; others convey the same
meaning, but under a different figure to that with which we are
familiar, e.g. To give apples to orchards, beside the ordinary lit. Eng.
To carry coals to Newcastle.

It’s bad clicking butter out of a dog’s throat; a bealing coo soon
forgets it cauf; the beard won’t pay for the shaving; a blate [timid]
cat makes a proud mouse; co [call] thi own cawves t’gether an’ le’ mine
come whoam o’ thersels; kaa [call] me an’ aa’ll kaa thee = one good turn
deserves another; a child and a chicken should always be pickin’;
christen your own child first = charity begins at home; a deaf man hears
hae [have, take this]; wan’s as dip i’ the mood as t’oother i’ the moire
= it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other; dumb folks heirs no
land, said when anything is to be obtained by speaking; it’s easy
holding down the latch when nobody pulls the string, usually applied to
a woman who boasts about remaining single; way mut all ate a peck o’ dut
afore way doy, a saying commonly supplemented with: but non on us wants
it all at woonst; empty barrels make the most noise; what do you expect
from a pig but a grunt?; those who can’t fadge must louster, said of
people who increase their physical labour by want of foresight, cp. his
head doesn’t save his heels; them at feals [hide] can find; a feeal’s
bolt is seean shotten, cp. ‘Sottes bolt is son i-scoten,’ _Prov.
Alfred_, c. 1275; there’s never a gant [yawn] but there’s a want of
mate, money, or sleep, cp. ‘Them that gant Something want, Sleep, meat,
or making o’,’ Galt, _Sir Andrew Wylie_, 1822; if ye’ve got one [i.e.
child] you can run, If ye’ve got two you may goo, But if ye’ve got three
You must bide where you be; ther’s no gettin’ white meeol eawt of a
coal-seck = you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; geea ne
hetter kail nor ye can sup yorsel; half an egg’s better an a team’d
shell = half a loaf’s better than no bread; hantle o’ whistlin’ an’
little red lan’ [ploughed land] = much cry and little wool; have a
little, give a little, let neighbour lick the mundle [stick for stirring
porridge] = charity begins at home; the hailer is zo bad as tha stailer,
cp. Germ. Der Hehler ist so gut wie der Stehler; every yerrin’ should
hang by it own gills; a hundred words won’t fill a bushel; a hungry eye
sees far; hunger’s famous kitchen [relish eaten with bread]; an idle
mon’s yed’s the divvle’s smithy; if stands stiff in a poor man’s pocket;
If ifs and an’s Were pots an’ pans There’d be naya trade for tinklers;
If ifs an’ buts Were apples an’ nuts, Wouldn’t I fill my guts; a bad
shearer [reaper] nivvor gat a good hyuk = bad workmen abuse their tools;
never invite a friend to a roast and then beat him with the spit; nivver
judge a blade by t’heft; the kail-pot’s callin’ the yetlin [pan] smutty;
it isn’t oft at t’kittlin’ carries t’owd cat a maase; to learn one’s
granny to lap ashes; they might lick thooms to the elbows = one is as
bad as the other; a little word is a bonny word = least said, soonest
mended; it is not good to live where you can hear your lord’s cock crow;
ye may lock afore a haand-tief, but no afore a tongue-tief; A man may
spend And God will send If his wife be good to ought, But man may spare
and still be bare If his wife be good to nought; those that have marbles
may play, but those that have none must look on; to measure a peck out
of one’s own bushel is to judge of another’s disposition or experience
by one’s own; meeat is mickle but mense [goodness, courtesy] is mair;
iv’ry megullat [owl] thinks her own bubs best; the mellerest apple hes a
crawk [core] i’side; o’er muckle water drowned the miller; a nimble
ninepence is better than a slow shilling; peekle in yer ain pwoke neuk =
mind your own business; Pity without relief Is like mustard without
beef; pull the bobbin with joy, bud knock wi’ sorrow; a raffle [foolish]
tung an’ a race-hoss gan t’faster t’leeter wight tha hug [carry]; a
rolling stone gathers no moss, but a tethered sheep winna get fat; save
thy wind to keel thy porridge; never scaud your lips in ither folk’s
kail; seein’s believin’, but feelin’s God’s truth; when I see shells I
guess eggs = there’s no smoke without a fire; it’s nouther seeds nor
meal = neither one thing nor another; a shift and a shilling is worth
thirteen pence, i.e. an expedient or contrivance will increase the value
of anything, and make it go further; as well sit teum [empty] as run
teum = better make the best of a bad bargain; skeer [rake out] your own
fire; he maun be seun up that cheats the tod [fox]; never speak ill of
the bridge that carries you; don’t stretch thi arms farther nor thi
sleeves reyks [reach]; ye mauna think to win through the world on a
feather-bed; Them as ’oon thrive Mun rise at five. Them as have thriven
May lie till seven; tiggers should not be tarrowers = beggars should not
be choosers; if a man tinkles, he must expect to be grimed; to tirr
[unroof] the kirk to theek the quire = to rob Peter to pay Paul; Twoast
yer bread An’ rasher yer vlitch, An’ as long as e lives Thee ’ooll never
be rich; the toll is heavier than the grist = the game is not worth the
candle. Formerly the miller always took his payment in a toll of the
corn, a custom alluded to in a metaphorical epitaph found in Surrey on
the tombstone of a miller:

    O cruel Death, what hast thou done,
    To take from us our mother’s darling Son?
    Thou hast taken toll, ground and drest his grist,
    The bran lieth here, the flour is gone to Christ.

A toom purse makes a blate merchant; other tow to teaze, other oats to
thrash = other fish to fry; dunna waste a fresh haft on an ould blade =
don’t throw good money after bad; there’s aye some water where the stirk
[heifer] drowns; better wed over the mixen than over the moor; the well
is not missed until it is dry; better a wet mitten than a cold hand;
t’wheem sew yets t’draff [the still sow eats the pig-wash]; A whistling
woman and a crowing hen Will fear the old lad out of his den; he that
will to Cupar maun to Cupar = a wilful man must have his way.

An interesting elucidation of the common proverb: Don’t spoil your ship
for a ha’porth of tar, is given by comparison with the dialect version
of it, which remains faithful to the original. The saying Dunnot loaz
t’yow [ewe] for a hawporth o’ tar, i.e. do not be niggardly or
over-economical in farming, is recorded as far back as 1636 in the form
‘hee that will loose a sheepe (or a hogge) for a pennyworth of tarre
cannot deserve the name of a good husband’. It thus becomes clear that
our word ‘ship’ is here a dialect form of sheep, and that the ha’porth
of tar does not signify the remedy for a leaking vessel, for which it
would be wholly inadequate, but the means for marking the owner’s
initial on a sheep’s back to prevent its being unrecognized when found
straying. The introduction of spoil for lose is no doubt due to the
misunderstanding of ‘ship’.

[Sidenote: _Phrases referring to Time_]

We noted at the beginning of Chapter II some examples of the
multifarious expressions which can be found in the dialects for one
simple idea, but a few more may be added here: a moment of time,
instantly, is: in a couple of cat-squints, in half a dozen cracks of a
cobbler’s thumb, in two claps of a lamb’s tail, in the fillin’ o’ a
pipe, in a pig’s whisper, in the shaking of an ass’s lug, in the snifter
[sniff, snort] of a rabbit, in the snirt of a cat, in the twinkle of a
bed-post, and--commonest of all--in a twink, cp. ‘That in a twink she
won me to her love,’ _Tam. of Shr._ II. i. 312; never is: o’ St.
Pawsle’s [Apostle’s], at Tib’s Eve, on Whistlecock Monday, in the reign
of Queen Dick, midsummer-come-never, to-morrow-come-never, next
neverstide, when apples grow on orange-trees, when there are two moons
in the lift [sky], when there are two Fridays in the week, when two
Sundays come together, the first Sunday in the middle of the week, some
Sunday in next week, a week of three Sundays; a long, indefinite period
of time is: from seven year end to seven year end, for years long years
and donkey’s ears; a place far off and solitary is: aback o’ beyond, or
aback o’ beyont where they kessen [christen] cawvs and knee-band lops
[fleas], behind God speed, up atop o’ down yonder miles-endy-ways; to go
to Jericho is to go to Buckhummer, or to gill-kickerty. A person who is
half-witted, or slightly insane is said to have a leaf out, to have
nought but what was put in with a spoon, to be a bit of a toby-trot, to
be sort o’ comical in his head, to be gone past hisself, to be
half-rocked, nobut ninepence to the shilling, not exactly plumb, not up
to Monday, one of God’s oddlin’s, put in wi’ the bread and a’tookt out
wi’ the cakes like.

[Sidenote: _Phrases referring to Death_]

The phrases referring to death are of many kinds, some cold and
commonplace, some grim, and a few almost poetical. Amongst them are: he
has put his spoon in the wall; he is gone to the mole country; he is
singing Whillalooya to the day nettles; he’s gone deeod sure enough, an’
iv he’s ta’en his brass wi’ him it’ll be melted bi neaw; thou’l niver be
satisfied til thoo gets thi moothful a mould is a phrase used to a
grumbling, discontented person; he’s nowt good for till he’s happed up
[buried, lit. covered], said of a miserly churl; they’ve a-putt poar ol’
Bill tü beyd wi’ a showl [shovel] tüday; of a delicate person not yet
old, it is said he’ll never carry a grey toppin’ whoam; of a person too
ill to be likely to recover it is said: I fear he’s boun’ up
padjan-tree; the sexton has shaked his shool at him; of an old man in
failing health it is said he’s going down the brewe [brow, hill]; it’s
welly [wellnigh] six o’clock with him, six o’clock being the hour at
which labourers, when it is light, leave off work; he’s gettin’ into th’
linderins. The linderins or lindrins are ropes put round a weaver’s beam
when the woof is nearly finished, and the term is applied thus
figuratively to the approaching end of an old man’s life. And then, when
the end has come, like the hand-loom weaver whose work is finished: he’s
ta’en his reed and gears in at last. There is something picturesque in
the use of the phrase to go home applied to trees and flowers. My
gardener always speaks of a dead plant or a withered blossom as having
gone home.

[Sidenote: _Evasive Replies to the Inquisitive_]

There are certain curious expressions used in the dialects as replies
to children and inquisitive questioners when the person addressed
does not mean to give the desired information. For example, answers
to the question What’s that? are: rare overs for meddlers; lay-overs
for meddlers, and crutches for lame ducks; shimshams for meddlers; a
trina-manoose; a whim-wham for a mustard mill, or for a treacle-mill,
a whim-wham to wind the sun up. What are you making? Ans. A snoffle
[snout] for a duck. What are you doing? Ans. Muckin’ ducks wi’ an
elsin. What have you got in the cart there? Ans. Only a load of
post-holes. What did that cost? Ans. Money and fair words. Where did
that come from? Ans. I got it from the Binsey treacle-mine (Oxf.).
What’s the latest news? Ans. The Dutch have taken Holland. Where is he
gone? Ans. To Botn’y Baay and theäre he maay staay. How old are you?
Ans. As owd as me tongue an owder than me teeth. How old was So-and-So
(lately deceased)? Ans. Oh! I reckon he lived same’s Tantarabobus--all
the days of his life. Why did you do that? Ans. For fun and fancy,
because Bob kissed Nancy. What will you bring us from the Fair? Ans.
If you’ll be good children, I’ll bring you all a silver new-nothing to
hang on your arm.

[Sidenote: _Salutations_]

Dialect forms of greeting are usually short and comprehensive. It is
not uncommon for a rustic to pass the time of day with a friend met on
the road by the use of a single monosyllable. All forms of salutation,
from the single monosyllable to the interchange of a few remarks,
may be termed passing the time o’day. This expression is current in
practically all the dialects of England, e.g. A niver stopped to speak
to ’im, on’y just passed the time o’ day, cp. ‘But meet him now, and,
be it in the morn, When every one will give the time of day, He knits
his brow,’ _2 Hen. VI_, III. i. 14, ‘Good time of day unto my gracious
lord!’ _Rich. III_, I. i. 122. Noo! is a common greeting in the North
when two friends meet. There are various forms of inquiry after the
well-being of the person addressed, e.g. Well, an’ how be ’ee to-day?
Purty bobbish, thank-ee. Are ye middlin’ weel? Hoo’s a’ wi’ ye? On
a grey day among the Yorkshire moors every native one meets salutes
one with the single word Dull! If the weather be fine he will say in
passing, Grand day! If wet, his greeting will be: Soft weather! or, A
soft day! A story is told of two Irishmen who thus greeted each other
when they met at a Fair: Bad luck to you, Pat, says one, How are you?
Good luck to you! Mick, answered the other, and may neither of them
come true.

A common Devonshire salutation at meal-times is Gude stummick to ee
wan an’ all, a phrase which from its like significance might claim
country-cousinship with the after-dinner greeting ‘Gesegnete Mahlzeit’
of North Germany. A Cornish grace before meat runs: Lord mek us able To
eat what’s upon table, followed by: The Lord be praised Our stummicks be
aised. Outspoken phrases of this kind have their charm, when they
proceed from simple, honest hearts. After a long morning walk on a
Yorkshire moor, plates of home-made cake, and tumblers of new milk,
spread in a farm-house kitchen with the homely invitation, Reik tul, an’
mak yersens at ’oam, can be a meal which will linger in the memory long
afterwards as a feast of fat things, and wines on the lees well refined.
Reach to, in its various forms, is the ordinary phrase in the northern
dialects, e.g. Noo reeach teea an’ help yersels, ther’s nowt ya need be
neyce [shy] aboot, an’ ya needn’t mak spare ov owt; Noo, deean’t be owre
neyce, reach tul an’ git agait; Noo you munnot be shy and owernice, but
mak a lang airm to what you like best. The guest may reply: Ah sal lad,
ah sal bide noa assing [await no asking]; I’s ower meeat-yabble
[hungry] to be blate [bashful]. Not this time, thank you, is a polite
way of declining to take any more food at the hospitable board, and when
the guest leaves the house he says: Well, a mun love ye, and leave ye.

[Sidenote: _Phrases denoting Contempt_]

Turning from the language of courtesy and good-feeling to that of
contempt and derision, we shall find in the dialects a rich variety of
expressions of a still more outspoken and forceful character. For
example: Me gwain to have thick [that] hangdog-looking fuller!--why, I
widn be azeed in a ten-acre field way un; Au wodn’t be seen at a
hen-race wi’ thee; Thee jump up an’ knep [pick] a daisy; He don’t care
for kith, kin, hog, dog, nor devil; Her temper’ll ne’er be meawlt
[mouldy] wi’ keepin’; Thou gert lang-catching buzzard; Old cinderwig;
You’re a nice cup o’ tea, you are, said to a person who thinks himself a
fine fellow; Thou gaumless donnat [stupid good-for-nothing]; ’Er’s a
vigger ov nort, ’er is; A jolter-yeded gawpsheet; Old gimlet-eye; Thoo
gert idle honk, thoo; Shoo is a pullet, shoo goes abaht like a guytrash;
A ragabrash slitherin’ owd raskald; Wor hes thoo been aw this time, thoo
sledderkin, thoo?; Tomnoddy, big heed an’ little body, a street-boy’s
gibe at a person of dwarfish stature.

[Sidenote: _Phrases applied to Localities_]

Corresponding to the figurative and proverbial similes and sayings
of a general nature are the more strictly local ones, recording some
feature of the locality, some current tradition, or some real or
imaginary characteristic of the inhabitants of a special town or
county, for example: all on one side like Bridgnorth Election, said
of anything which is oblique or out of the perpendicular. The saying
is supposed to refer to the fact that members of the Tory Whitmore
families of Apley, near Bridgnorth, have, with rare exceptions,
represented the borough in Parliament from 1663 onwards for over two
hundred years. All on one side like Marton Chapel (Chs.); all on one
side like Parkgate, said of anything lopsided. Parkgate is a fishing
village on the Cheshire side of the river Dee, consisting of one long
street with houses on one side only, the sea wall being on the other
side. All play and no play, like Boscastle Market, which begins at
twelve o’clock and ends at noon (Cor.); always too late like Mobberly
clock (Chs.); to end in a whew, like Cawthorne feast, said of anything
which ends badly or never comes to pass (w.Yks.); like a Whillymer
cheese, it wants an axe and a saw to cut it (n.Cy.); it’s gone over
Borough Hill after Jackson’s pig, said when anything is lost. Borough
Hill is an extensive Roman encampment near Daventry. ’Tis as long in
coming as Cotswold barley, applied to things which are slow but sure.
This proverb, alluding to the slow growth and ultimate excellence of
Cotswold corn, is amongst those collected by Ray in 1678. Ship-shape
and Bristol fashion signifies respectability, steadiness, stolidity;
he has been sworn in at Highgate, is said of a man who is very sharp
or clever (n.Der.). The custom of swearing on the horns at Highgate
near London is described in Hone’s _Everyday Book_, 1827. As big as
Russell’s wagon (Cor.). This was a huge wagon for the conveyance of
goods and passengers, drawn by six, eight, or even ten horses. It took
nearly a fortnight to go from Cornwall to London. Passengers sometimes
took their own bedding with them, and slept in the wagon, and they made
their wills before starting. Like Nicholas Kemp he’s got occasion for
all (Cor.) is a saying referring to a traditional voter in a Cornish
borough who, in order that it might not be said that any one had given
him a bribe, was told to help himself from a table covered with gold
in the election committee-room. Taking off his hat, he swept the whole
mass into it, saying: ‘I’ve occasion for all.’ They’ll rax [stretch]
an’ run up like Tommy Yarrow’s breeches (Nhb.) is applied to anything
very elastic. Tommy Yarrow was a celebrated maker of leather breeches,
which he asserted to be capable of stretching or shrinking to meet
the wearer’s requirements. To _creg_ means to be short-tempered or
ill-natured, like the inhabitants of Cragg Hill, a geographical portion
of Horsforth in West Yorkshire.

[Sidenote: _Local Nicknames_]

Nicknames for the inhabitants of certain towns are: Bury muffs; Dawley
oaves, a name derived from the traditional Dawley Barrow-maker who was
the original oaf. He is said to have built a wheelbarrow in an outhouse
with so small a door, that he could not get the barrow out when it was
finished. Morley gawbies; Leeds loiners; Radcliffe boiler-lifters; Wigan
Hearty-Christers, an allusion to a form of oath peculiar to the Wigan
colliers, a corruption of Heart-of-Christ; Yarmouth bloaters, cp. ‘But
Peggotty said, with greater emphasis than usual, that we must take
things as we found them, and that, for her part, she was proud to call
herself a Yarmouth Bloater,’ Dickens, _David Copperfield_. A Dicky-Sam
is a Liverpool man; and a Jug is a man of Brighton.

Sometimes these sayings are in rude rhyme, e.g. Proud Preston, poor
people, Eight bells in a crackt steeple; Birstal for ringers,
Heckmondwike for singers, Dewsbury for pedlars, Cleckheaton for
sheddlers [swindlers]; Oh, Boston, Boston, thou hast nought to boast on
But a grand sluice and a high steeple, And a coast as souls are lost on;
Cheshire bred, Strong i’ th’ arm But weak i’ th’ head; Derbyshire born,
Derbyshire bred, Strong i’ th’ arm, and thick i’ th’ head; Essex miles,
Suffolk stiles, Norfolk wiles, many men beguiles, cp. ‘For Norfolke
wiles, so full of giles, Haue caught my toe, by wiuing so,’ Tusser.
Gobbinshire is an old name for a portion of West Cheshire, gobbin
signifying a clownish person, a country fellow.

Parallel to the nicknames belonging to certain towns are the county
ones, such as: an Essex calf; a Hampshire hog [sheep]; a Norfolk
dumpling; a Yorkshire bite, or tyke; wild people, i.e. the inhabitants
of the Weald of Sussex. Shropshire is reputed to be full of trout and
Tories. Anciently the Salopian was proverbial for sharp shins, as
recorded by Leland and others:

    I am of Shropshire, my shinnes be sharpe:
    Ley wode to the fyre and dresse me my harpe.

Leland’s _Itinerary_, 1710-12. This old proverb remains in a
crystallized form in the term sharpshins, e.g. Now then, sharpshins,
taking me up as usual! said in rebuke to some sharp speech, or captious

[Sidenote: _Phrases denoting Local Characteristics_]

To direct a person to go to a place not to be named to ears polite is
to tell him: to go to Melverley (Shr.), a saying which has arisen from
the fact that this village is continually flooded by the irruptions
of the Severn, and is therefore a place where ills and misfortunes
befall the inhabitant; to go to Halifax (Yks. Lin. Oxf.); to Hexham
(Nhb. Yks.); to Hull. From Hull, Hell, and Halifax, Good Lord deliver
us (Yks. n.Lin.), is a saying based on the local history of the two
towns named. At Hull all vagrants found begging in the streets were
whipped and put in the stocks, and at Halifax persons taken in the act
of stealing cloth were instantly, and without any process, beheaded.
Jedburgh and Lydford (Dev.) bear a like fame for summary infliction of
punishment. Jedburgh-justice and Jedburgh-law are proverbial phrases
signifying trial after execution. ‘First hang and draw, Then hear the
cause by Lidford law,’ is amongst Ray’s _Proverbs_, 1678. To send a
man to Dingley couch, or Dinglety-cootch (Irel.), means to send him
to Coventry. Dingle-i-Coush was an old name for Dingle in Co. Kerry,
a place very remote and inaccessible; to be sent to Ketton (n.Lin.)
signifies to be sent to the prison at Kirton-in-Lindsey; to be sent to
Wakefield is a parallel expression current in Yorkshire. You could tell
that up in Devonshire is a Cornish expression equivalent to: Give a cat
a canary, or: You fry your feet (e.Suf.), said when any one makes an
incredible statement.

[Sidenote: _Stories illustrating Local Stupidity_]

Deeds such as those for which the Wise Men of Gotham are famous are
localized in various parts of the country. In Wiltshire people sometimes
speak of their western neighbours as Somerset hedge-cuckoos, in taunting
allusion to their making a hedge round the cuckoo to keep it from flying
away. The natives of Madeley-on-Severn are said to have tried to secure
the cuckoo by standing round it in a ring with clasped hands; whilst
they of Borrowdale sought to compass the same end by building a wall.
Moonraker, a term for a very foolish person (w.Yks. Hrf. Oxf. Hmp.
Wil.), has its origin in similar tradition. The Wiltshire moonrakers are
best known to fame, but it is also told of the natives of Slaithwake
that they raked the canal to secure the moon which was reflected
therein, and which they mistook for a cheese. It has been stated with
regard to the existence of the term in Hampshire, that the original
moonrakers were smugglers who, when detected on their journeyings, were
wont to pitch their booty into one of the numerous ponds in the
district, to be raked out again some night when fear of pursuit was
past. As fond as the folks of Token (Cum.) is a saying based on the
tradition that the first coach that passed through Token was followed by
a crowd of the inhabitants who were anxious to see the big wheel catch
the little one; as fond as th’ men of Belton, at hing’d a sheäp for
stealin’ a man, is a north Lincolnshire expression. A Coggeshall job
means in Essex a stupid piece of work, a foolish action. Many stories
are told in illustration of the stupidity of the people of Coggeshall,
for instance, it is related that when they had built their church they
found they had forgotten to make any windows. So they got some hampers,
and set them open in the sun to catch the light, then shut them up
tight, wheeled them into the church in barrows, and there opened them to
let the light out. Another legend tells that the people thought that
their church was in the wrong place. In order to move it, they went to
one end to push it, laying their coats down on the ground, outside the
opposite end, on the spot to which the wall was to be removed. When they
judged that they had moved the building far enough, they went round to
find their coats, but none were to be found. They at once concluded that
they had pushed the wall over them, and went to look for them inside the
church. Further, they are said to have placed hurdles in the stream to
turn the river, and to have chained up the wheelbarrow when the dog bit

[Sidenote: _Historical Allusions_]

Among the most interesting of the dialect sayings are those which
contain historical allusions. Here we find the memory of old, unhappy,
far-off things, and battles long ago, handed down from generation to
generation, enshrined in some quaint word or phrase. Or perchance
it is the name of some great or notorious man that has now passed
into a rustic proverb, some notable event in political or Church
history which, long after it has ceased to live in men’s minds, still
lingers in their speech. When Durham boys are quarrelling or playing
at soldiers, one may taunt another by crying: A coward! a coward! o’
Barney Castle Dare na come out to fight a battle. In all probability
this refers to the holding of Barnard Castle by Sir George Bowes during
the Rising of the North in 1569. The couplet: Bellasis! Bellasis! daft
was thy knowle, When thoo swapt Bellasis for Henknoll (e.Yks.), refers
to a foolish exchange of estates in the fifteenth century. An Easter
Monday custom peculiar to Ashton-under-Lyne, called Riding the Black
Lad, consisted in carrying through the streets an effigy which was
afterwards publicly burned. Originally this effigy represented a man in
black armour, and was intended for Sir Ralph Assheton, the tyrannical
Black Knight of Assheton, but later it was made up to resemble some
person who happened to be politically or socially unpopular in the
town. Bloody Mary (w.Yks.) is a name for the crane’s-bill, _Geranium
Robertianum_. To vanish in a bokanki (Dur.) is to take precipitate
flight after the manner of Dr. Balcanqual, Dean of Durham, in the time
of the Civil Wars, who fled from the city with extreme precipitation,
after the battle of Newburn, for fear of the Scots. A reminiscence of
the days when rural England lived in terror of a Napoleonic invasion
is contained in the phrase: marrow to Bonny (Lakel. w.Yks.), i.e. a
match for Buonaparte, equally bad, applied to any one who bears a very
bad character, or who has been guilty of a bad action. Chewidden Day,
Picrous Day, and the phrase drunk as a Perraner, are all references
to the reputed finders of tin in Cornwall. Tradition tells that St.
Perran was one day cooking for himself a humble meal when a stream of
white metal flowed out of the fire which he had built on a heavy black
stone. Great was the joy of the good saint, for he perceived that
there had been revealed to him from above something which would be
useful to man. He communicated his discovery at once to St. Chewidden,
and the two saints soon devised ways and means of producing this metal
in large quantities. They called the Cornishmen together and told them
of their treasures, and how they could set to work to obtain them.
Days of feasting followed the announcement; mead and metheglin and
other drinks flowed in abundance, and were partaken of so freely by the
saints and their followers, that St. Perran’s name from that day passed
into a proverb. The name of Cromwell occurs in an Irish imprecation:
the curse of Cromwell, and in the Lincolnshire saying: it caps old
Oliver, and he capped Long Crown, i.e. the Cavaliers, so called from
the shape of their hats, said when anything very extraordinary is
recounted. Other versions of this expression are: it caps Leatherstarn,
and he capt the divel (e.Yks.), it cowes the gowan (Sc.), it flogs
t’doll (Yks.). A red-haired Dane (Sus. Wil. Som. Cor.) is a term of
reproach applied to a man with red hair. Such a man is often said to
be crossed wi’ the Danes, or a bit touched wi’ the Danes. Danes’ blood
(Wil.) is the dwarf elder, _Sambucus Ebulus_, popularly believed only
to grow on the ancient battle-fields, and to have sprung originally
from the blood of the slain Danes. The same name is also given to
the pasque-flower, _Anemone Pulsatilla_ (Hrt. Cmb. Nrf.), and to the
clustered bell-flower, _Campanula glomerata_ (Cmb.); it also denotes
a certain species of red clay found in Hampshire. Dane-weed (Nhp.) is
a name for the field eryngo, _Eryngium campestre_. A Dane’s skin is a
freckled skin. Derwentwater Lights (Nhb. Cum.) is a name for the aurora
borealis. On the night of the execution of the Earl of Derwentwater
the aurora borealis flashed with remarkable brilliancy, and has since
been so named in remembrance of him. Duff’s luck (Sc.) is a proverb
expressive of some special good fortune. Duff is the family name of
the Earls of Fife, a family which has for many generations gone on
adding land to land, successfully building up huge estates. The days
of the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion are remembered as Dukin’-time
(Som.). Schoolboys in north Lincolnshire call coloured snail-shells or
butterflies English, the origin of which term dates back to the period
of the long war with France, when children used to kill all the white
butterflies they could find, regarding them as symbols of the French.

[Sidenote: _Allusions to Historical Events and Noteworthy Personages_]

Here and there some noteworthy man is commemorated in an everyday
simile, as for instance: as deep as Garrick; as big as Gilderoy; as sour
as Hector. The name gaskin (Ken. Sus.) denotes a species of wild cherry
brought from France by Joan of Kent when her husband, the Black Prince,
was commanding in Guienne and Gascony. Effigies of Guy Fawkes may still
be seen on Nov. 5, carried by small boys who beg for coppers with a:
Please to remember poor Guy, but the old rhymes narrating his history
are now seldom heard. An old Devonshire version runs:

    Wul é plaize tü remimber
      Tha veefth ov Novimber
    Tha gunpowder trayson an’ plot;
      I daunt zee no rayson
      Why gunpowder trayson
    Shüde iver be vurgot.

This was sung on the night of Nov. 4, when funds were collected for the
next day’s bonfire. On the 5th, the _momet_ or figure was carried round
by boys singing:

                Guy Fawkes, Guy!
    He and ’is companions did contrive
    Tü blaw all Englan’ up alive,
    With a dark lantern an’ a match,
    By God’s massy ’e wuz catched.

[Sidenote: _Local Traditions_
           _Old Customs_
           _Oak-Apple Day_
           _Robin Hood_]

In West Yorkshire, Nov. 5 is known as Plot, and a special kind of
cake, made of oatmeal and treacle and called _parkin_, is eaten at
about that date. A curious bit of testimony to the popularity of
Shakespeare may be traced in the common Yorkshire expression to play
Hamlet (with), e.g. Bai gou, lad! wen ta gets ’oam ther’ll bi ’amlit
to pleay; Mi mother pleayed ’amlit wi’ ’im fer stoppin’ aht lat at
neet. The use of Hanover in exclamations and mild oaths such as: What
the Hanover do I care about it! (Lin.), Go to Hanover and hoe turnips!
(e.Suf.), is said to date from the time of the Georges, who were very
unpopular in the east of England. According to an old Cheshire legend,
for several days before the battle of Blore Heath, there arose each
morning out of the fosse three mermaids, who announced: Ere yet the
hawberry [hawthorn-berry] assumes its deep red, Embued shall this
heath be with blood nobly shed. Higgledy-piggledy, Maupas shot (Chs.)
means serving all alike, a saying which is sometimes extended by the
addition of: let every tub stand on its own bottom. The tradition
which accounts for its origin is by some attributed to James I, and
by others to William III. The kernel of the story in either case is
the refusal of the then Rector of Malpas to treat the monarch to his
share of a dinner at the village inn. In spite of the remonstrances
of the Curate, who was also present, the shot was equally divided
between the three: higgledy-piggledy all pay alike. Later the monarch
caused the same rule to be applied to the benefice, and henceforth the
Curate received a moiety of the glebe and tithes. Hobby-horse Day is
a festival held in Padstow on May 1. A hobby-horse is carried through
the streets to a pool about a quarter of a mile outside the town, where
it is supposed to drink. The procession then returns home singing a
song to commemorate the tradition that the French, having landed in the
bay, mistook a party of mummers in red cloaks for soldiers, and hastily
fled to their boats and rowed away. Hockney Tuesday, that is the first
Tuesday after Easter week, is celebrated at Hungerford in Berkshire
as Kissing Day, in accordance with the charter which John of Gaunt
gave the town after its services in some great battle. Two tutty-men
visit each house in the borough, and demand a coin of the realm from
each male, and a kiss from every female. They each carry a staff about
six feet long, bedecked with flowers and ribbons, the whole being
surmounted with a cup and spike bearing an orange, which is given
away with each salute, and then replaced by another one. The tutty-men
[nosegay-men] are the tything-men, selected from the tradesmen of the
town, whose duty it was before the establishment of the county police
to act as constables, and assist in preserving order in the town.
Pictures of the proceedings on Kissing Day appeared in the _Daily
Graphic_ of April 6, 1910, entitled ‘Hocktide at Hungerford: Quaint
thirteenth-century customs observed’. Hock-Monday in Sussex is kept as
a festival in remembrance of the defeat of the Danes in King Ethelred’s
time. The term Kemble’s Pipe (Hrf.), applied to the concluding pipe
any one smokes at a sitting, is now no longer in current use. The
original Kemble was executed at Hereford on Aug. 2, 1679, on a charge
of implication in Titus Oates’ plot. On his way to execution he
smoked his pipe and conversed with his friends, and hence arose the
name Kemble’s Pipe for the last pipe smoked in a social company. The
cloud-berry, _Rubus Chamaemorus_, in many north-country dialects is
known by the name of knout-berry. A Lancashire tradition derives this
name from King Cnut, or Cnout, who, being reduced to great extremity,
was preserved from starvation by feeding on this fruit. There’s been
worse stirs than that at Lathom is a Lancashire saying used when a
flitting, a whitewashing, or any domestic stir of an unpleasant nature
makes an apology needful on the score of untidiness or confusion. It
alludes to the havoc made when the Parliamentary forces took Lathom in
1645. To pull anything Lymm from Warburton (Chs.) signifies to pull
anything to pieces. The expression originates from the fact that the
church livings of Lymm and Warburton were formerly held together, but
that they were eventually separated, and the income of the rectors of
Lymm thereby reduced. Nelson’s bullets (n.Cy.) is the name of a kind
of sweetmeat made in the shape of small balls. A Norman (Suf.) is a
tyrannical person. Lord Northumberland’s Arms (Nhb.) is synonymous with
a black eye. The 29th of May, commemorating the Restoration of Charles
II, is commonly observed in the midland and south-western counties.
The day is variously known as: Oak-apple Day, Oak-ball Day, Royal Oak
Day, and Shick-shack Day. Shick-shack is the name of the piece of
oak, especially one with an oak-apple attached, which is worn before
noon, mostly by school-children. In the afternoon the shick-shack is
discarded, and monkey-powder, i.e. leaves of the ash, put in its place.
In the evening both emblems have to disappear, or the wearers are
beaten with nettles (Oxf.). Elsewhere the beating with nettles is the
punishment for not wearing any oak-leaves at all. In Yorkshire a boy
who does not wear the oak is nicknamed a Papish. The Penny Hedge (Yks.)
is a fence or hedge of wicker-work set up annually on the eastern
shore of Whitby harbour, at the Feast of the Ascension. According to a
legend, dating from 1315, ‘the lords of Sneaton and Ugglebarnby, with
others, whilst hunting the boar, did mortally injure an hermit, who
dared to protect the quarry.’ As penance for this outrage, the local
lord and his successors after him must thenceforth plant a certain
number of stakes every year in the tideway. This performance is now
called the Horngarth Service, or the Setting of the Penny Hedge. A
Cheshire version of a well-known proverb is: When the daughter is
stolen, shut the Peppergate. The proverb is said to be founded on
fact. The daughter of a certain Mayor of Chester was stolen as she was
playing at ball in Pepper Street, and the young man who carried her
off took her through the Pepper Gate. After the loss of his daughter,
the Mayor ordered the gate to be closed. The case is altered, quoth
Plowden (Shr.), is a phrase which originated through the unexpected
decisions given by Judge Plowden, an eminent lawyer in Queen Mary’s
time. A _pussivanting_ (Dev. Cor.) is an ineffective bustle; used as an
adjective the word is equivalent to meddling, fussy. It is undoubtedly
a corruption of _poursuivant_, but whether the original Poursuivants
from whom the term is derived were those sent into Cornwall in the
fifteenth century, threatening punishment for the blackmailing habits
of certain Cornish sea-captains, or whether they were the Poursuivants
of the latter part of the seventeenth century, who were sent to search
out all those entitled to bear arms, is a matter on which opinions
differ. The name of Queen Anne is used to denote a coloured butterfly
(Chs.), an ancient gun (Sc.), and an old-fashioned tale (n.Yks.),
e.g. Tell us some o’ your aud Queen Anners. Queen Anne’s flowers
(Nrf.) is a name for the daffodil; Queen Anne’s needlework (Nhp.) is
the striped crane’s-bill. Queen Mary’s thistle (Nhp.), the cotton
thistle, _Onopordon Acanthium_, owes its name to the tradition that
it was brought to Fotheringay by Mary’s attendants. Various plants
are named after Robin Hood, e.g. Robin Hood’s feather, or fetter
(Cum.), the traveller’s joy, _Clematis Vitalba_; Robin Hood’s hatband
(Cum. Yks.), the club moss, _Lycopodium clavatum_; Robin Hood’s men,
or sheep (Lin.), the bracken fern, _Pteris aquilina_. To go round by
Robin Hood’s barn (Cmb. w.Midl.) is to go a roundabout way, to go the
farthest way; Robin Hood’s wind (Chs.) is a wind which accompanies a
thaw. It is said that Robin Hood could stand anything but a thaw wind.
A Yorkshire proverb runs: Many speak of Robin Hood, that never shot his
bow, i.e. many people talk of doing great things which they can never
accomplish. It’s long o’ comin’, like Royal Charlie (Irel.), is said
of a thing that has been long expected. A Scarborough warning (Yks.
Nrf.) signifies no warning at all. The origin of the saying rests on
the statement that in 1557 Thomas Stafford entered and took possession
of Scarborough Castle before the townsmen were aware of his approach.
Sherra-moor (Sc. Nhb. Dur.), used to signify a row, tumult, a state of
confusion, is originally a name given to the Rebellion of 1715. The
title of Vicar of Bray (Brks.) is applied as a term of contempt to a

[Sidenote: _Historical Value of Loan-words_]

Apart from isolated scraps of history preserved in epithets and
sayings such as these, there is the mass of historical evidence that
can be gleaned by a careful study of the loan-words in the dialects. We
have already noted many of them, but only for their philological value.
To estimate their importance from an historical point of view they
would have to be treated geographically, the point of consideration
being not the form in which they are found, but the locality. Thus we
should obtain valuable corroborative testimony to known historical
facts, regarding the settlement of the British Isles. For instance,
history tells us that some time before the Norman Conquest some Flemish
people settled in England. John of Trevisa wrote: ‘The Flemmynges, that
woneth in the west syde of Wales, habbeth yleft here strange speche
and speketh Saxonlych ynow.’ But in learning English they carried over
into the new language some of their own words, and these Flemish words
brought in by these colonists have remained in the dialects of those
counties which lie on the west side of Wales, e.g. south Pembroke and

The loan-words, further, give living support to written history in
pointing back to the existence of Frisians in Kent, the Isle of Wight,
and Hampshire; to an early settlement of people from the south-west of
England in Wexford; to the influx of Scots into Ulster; and of Huguenots
into Norfolk. They prove, too, that far more Normans settled in the
south-midland and southern counties than in the rest of England; that
the Scandinavian settlers in East Anglia were to a great extent Danes;
and that the Scandinavians in Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland,
Westmorland, Yorkshire, and Lancashire were chiefly Norwegians.



A book such as this cannot pretend to do justice to the mine of
folk-lore which even the most superficial acquaintance with the dialects
opens up to any one who cares to delve therein. Here we meet with the
outward and visible signs of old superstitions of mythical origin,
popular beliefs, faith in charms, and quaint medical lore concerning all
kinds of human ills, betokening a strange mixture of Christianity and
creeds of heathen times, of pious faith and childlike dread of the
unknown and mysterious still existing in the minds of our rural
population. Very many of these old superstitious beliefs and practices
are, as we should naturally expect, dead and gone, or traceable only in
shadowy legend and story, the marvel is that so many are yet alive in
spite of the spread of education. Indeed, superstition is by no means a
monopoly of the uneducated or semi-educated mind, the only difference is
that where the rustic gives free expression to his fears and fancies, we
disguise ours from the public gaze under a cloak of mockery or of
would-be science.

[Sidenote: _Local Apparitions_]

Among the outworn superstitions is the belief in all those imaginary
beings that peopled the darkness of long ago. They have nearly all
disappeared, except that the names of some of them have been added
to the list of that hideous crew of fictitious personages invented
to terrorize the young. They are chiefly monstrous animals, and
goblins, some harmless, some terrific and of evil omen; the ghost, as
the spirit of the departed, is a minor character on the stage. The
dialect terms: _fearing_, _frittening_, _summat_, _things_, usually
imply ghostly appearances of any shape, not specially human. The same
may be said of the word _know_, e.g. The know of a dog, is the shape
of a dog when the dog is not there. _Ghostlin_ is a contemptuous
term for an apparition, one which might be used by a person born on
Christmas Day, for such are born ghost-free to the end of their lives.
To _come again_ is the common phrase for the supposed return of the
dead, e.g. You remembers ’Arry Whitly as was cut t’pieces an the
line? Well, he comes agen strong, in six pieces; or the dead man may
be said to be _troublesome_, e.g. I can’t never bide in th’ouse--the
poor old Harry’s that troublesome. Here and there some special ghost
keeps its local habitation and name, as for instance, Spotloggin, the
ghost of a murdered man which haunts a certain ditch near Evesham in
Worcestershire. It appears after dark to any one who attempts to cross
the ditch at a point where there is no hedge on the bank, and where
according to tradition no hedge will grow, it being the precise spot
where the murder took place. We may presume that few do venture to
pass that way, and encounter the veritable ghost, for its identity is
still a matter of question. Some who ignore the commonplace murder
story, maintain that Spotloggin was ‘a lady of that name who used to
patch her face, and was supposed to be very proud’. Speaking generally,
however, I think it may be said that it is rather the educated mind
which concerns itself with ghosts of this kind. A lady historian of
Shropshire folk-lore tells us that her inquiries after ghost-stories
had more than once been met by this answer from the country rustic: I
dunna believe as there’s anythin’ in it, as the dead come back. If they
bin gone to the good place they wouldna want to come back, and if they
bin gone to the tother place they wouldna be let to.

[Sidenote: _Boggarts_]

The generic name for an apparition, whether ghost or hobgoblin, is
_boggart_ or _boggard_, cp. ‘a boggarde, _spectrum_’, Levins, _Manip._
1570. Many an old Hall in Lancashire had its own private and particular
boggart, as for instance, the Boggart of Clegg Hall, the Clayton Hall
Boggart, the Clock House Boggart, &c. The Clock House Boggart was
wont to stalk through the bedchambers at dead of night, and strip the
bedclothes off the sleepers; or it would sit, a gigantic, white-robed
figure, perched solemnly in a large yew-tree, beneath which tree it
was ultimately laid by an assemblage of divines. The Clayton Hall
Boggart was likewise notorious for its nightly pranks--snatching
the clothes off beds, trailing heavy weights across floors, and the
like--till at last it became so insufferable that steps had to be taken
to lay it. One of the best ways of laying a boggart was to beguile it
into consenting to keep away ‘while hollies are green’. The average
boggart, being too dull-witted to perceive the true inwardness of the
suggestion, easily fell into the trap, and was never able to appear
again. Aw’m heere agen, like the Clegg Hall Boggart, is, or used to
be, a popular saying commemorating one of these well-known ghosts.
A horse that starts at any object in the hedge or road is said to
take the boggart. In Cheshire the word denotes a scarecrow, a meaning
familiarized to us by Caldecott’s illustrations to _The Three Jovial

    They hunted, an’ they hollo’d, an’ the first thing they did find,
    Was a tatter’t boggart, in a field, an’ that they left behind.

Cp. ‘Like as a fray-boggarde in a garden off cucumbers kepeth nothinge,
even so are their goddes of wod, of sylver and golde,’ Coverdale
(1535), _Baruch_ vi. 69. The most dramatic and awesome of all the
boggarts is the north-country Barghest, a frightful goblin armed with
teeth and claws, having eyes as big as saucers, and loaded with heavy
chains, which rattle and clank, like Herne the Hunter who ‘shakes a
chain in a most hideous and dreadful manner’, _Merry Wives_, IV. iv.
33. Sometimes the Barghest takes the shape of a large dog, donkey, pig,
or calf; sometimes only its terrifying shrieks are heard, as it passes
by at midnight, boding death to any one who happens to hear the sound.
It has long been a prominent figure among apparitions, and various
attempts have been made to account for its name. Some folklorists think
that the word is a corruption of _barn-ghaist_ [ghost], others suggest
_bier-ghaist_, and others, with a sense of the picturesque, say it is
_bar-ghaist_, because the spectre had a habit of sitting on the top
rail of a gate or fence, waiting, ready to leap on to the shoulder of
the belated wanderer. But whatever its origin, the name yet lives in
proverbial sayings such as: to roar like a barghest (Dur.), and as a
term of abuse (Yks. Not.), e.g. You noisy bargust, said to a child, or:
Y’er allus i’ th’road, yer young bargest, ger out! Church-grim (Yks.)
is a fixed inhabitant of the church by day and by night, and only
‘marauds about’ in dark stormy weather. It has been known to toll the
death-bell at midnight, and at times a priest officiating at a burial
would see it sitting at a window in the church-tower, when he would be
able to tell by the creature’s aspect whether the soul of the departed
was saved or lost. Clap-cans (Lan.) does nothing beyond making a noise
as of beating on empty cans. Gally-trot (n.Cy. Suf.) is the name of
an alarming apparition in the shape of a dog, and of the size of a
bullock. It is white, and somewhat shadowy of outline, and it gives
chase to any one who runs away from it in fear. The word is derived
from _gally_, to frighten, scare, and may also be used as a common term
for ghostly objects in general, though it sounds almost slangy, and one
could fancy that in spectral circles it might be deemed an impertinence
to speak--let us say--of the Barghest of York as a mere gally-trot.
A guytrash (n.Cy. Yks.) is an evil cow whose appearance was formerly
believed in as a sign of death. Jack-in-irons (Yks.) is a supernatural
being of great stature, wearing clanking chains, who may at any moment
spring out on a passer-by in the dark. Old Baker, Old Bendy, and Old
Lob are just ordinary boggarts. Pad-foot is a terrible boggart with
saucer-eyes, and dragging clanking chains; or it takes the form of a
large sheep or dog walking beside you, making a soft noise--pad, pad,
pad--with its feet. It always portends disaster. Old Shock (e.An.) is
a mischievous goblin in the shape of a great dog or calf, haunting
highways and footpaths after dark. Those who are so foolhardy as to
encounter the beast are sure to be thrown down and severely bruised.
Skriker (Yks. Lan.) is an apparition portending death. It wanders
about in the woods by night uttering loud, piercing shrieks, its form
being then invisible. At other times it takes visible shape as a large
dog, with enormous feet and shaggy hair, and the usual saucer-eyes.
When walking, its feet make a splashing noise, as of a person in old
shoes walking in soft mud; hence it is also known by the name of Trash,
for to _trash_ signifies to walk wearily through wet and mire, and
_trashes_ are worn-out shoes.

[Sidenote: _Apparitions in the form of Animals_]

Then there is the phantom horse under its various names: Aughisky
(Irel.), the fairy water-horse that preys on cattle; Phooka (Irel.), the
spectral horse which carries off belated travellers on its back; Neugle
(Sh.I.), the water-kelpie which appears in the form of a sleek horse,
and vanishes in a ‘blue lowe’, also known by the name of De Shoopiltie;
Shagfoal (Lin. Nhp.), a hobgoblin in the shape of a small, rough horse,
with eyes like tea-saucers; Tangie (Sh. & Or.I.), a sea-spirit which
sometimes assumes the appearance of a horse, and at other times that of
an old man. Taroo-ushtey (I.Ma.) is a fabulous water-bull.

[Sidenote: _Gabriel’s Hounds_]

The Gabriel Ratchets, Gabble Raches, or Gabriel’s Hounds (n.Cy. Yks.
Lan. Stf. Der.) are spectre dogs whose yelping cry may be heard at dead
of night, or in the early morning, what time the collier goes to his
work in the pits, a warning of death to the hearer or to some one among
his kinsfolk and acquaintance. Their leader Gabriel is condemned to
follow his hounds at night, high in the upper air, till doomsday, for
the sin of having hunted on Sunday. Wordsworth alludes to this
superstition in one of his Sonnets:

    For overhead are sweeping Gabriel’s Hounds,
    Doomed, with their impious lord, the flying hart
    To chase for ever on aërial grounds.

[Sidenote: _The Devil and his Dandy-dogs_]

By some the sound is believed to be the cry of the restless souls
of children who have died unbaptized. As a matter of fact it is
probably caused by flocks of wild geese or other fowl. The term is
found as far back as 1483 in the _Catholicon Anglicum_: ‘Gabrielle
rache, _camalion_,’ cp. ‘Ratche, hounde, _ordorinsecus_,’ _Prompt.
Parv._, O.E. _ræcc_, a dog that hunts by scent. In Cornwall a spectre
huntsman and his pack of baying hounds are known as the Devil and his
Dandy-dogs. Unlike the Gabriel Ratchets, which fly too high in the
air to be visible to mortal eye, the Devil and his Dandy-dogs walk
the earth, and may be seen as well as heard. They frequent bleak and
dreary moors on tempestuous nights, and woe betide the unlucky wretch
who chances to cross their path. A story is told of a poor herdsman who
was journeying home across a moor, one windy night, when, above the
noise of the storm, he heard behind him the howl of the yelping dogs,
and the grim halloa of the hunter. Presently they had so gained on him,
that, glancing back, he could see the terrible saucer-eyes, horns, and
tail of the hunter, a black form, carrying a long hunting-pole, and
the mass of dogs, each snorting fire and uttering frightful yelps. But
just as they were about to spring upon him, by a happy inspiration he
fell on his knees in prayer, and the foe was rendered powerless. The
hell-hounds stood for a moment at bay, howling dismally, and then,
led by their master, they drew off and disappeared. These phantom
hounds, jet-black, and breathing flames are also known by the name of
Heath-hounds; Yeth-hounds (Som. Dev. Cor.), and Wisht-hounds (Dev.

To roar like Tregeagle is a Cornish phrase, whereby hangs a tale. One
tradition tells that Tregeagle was a steward in the reign of James II,
who made himself unpopular by his harshness to the tenantry, and another
legend bases his claim to notoriety on his being a Cornish Bluebeard,
who married several heiresses for their money, and afterwards murdered
them. But whether for cruelty to tenants, or murder of wives, as a
punishment for his sins his spirit was doomed to toil for ever at
impossible tasks such as weaving sand, and emptying perennial pools with
a cockle-shell. When the Devil is so minded he amuses himself by hunting
this miserable ghost over the moor with his hell-hounds, at which time
Tregeagle is heard to roar and howl in so dreadful a manner that his
name has passed into a proverb.

[Sidenote: _The Seven Whistlers_]

The Seven Whistlers are mysterious birds, the sound of whose cry is a
sign of some great calamity. Miners have been known to refuse to go down
the pits the day after hearing it, believing that some accident would
befall them if they did so. The superstitions concerning the Seven
Whistlers vary in different parts of the country, from Lancashire to
Essex and Kent. Wordsworth records of his ancient Dalesman:

    He the seven birds hath seen that never part,
    Seen the Seven Whistlers on their nightly rounds,
    And counted them.

In parts of Shropshire and Worcestershire they were, according to the
legend, seven birds, six of whom fly about continually looking for the
seventh, and when they find him, the world will come to an end. The idea
of the wailing of unseen birds sent by Providence as a direct warning of
approaching danger belongs more particularly to colliery districts,
though it is not confined to them. Just as behind the stories told of
the Gabriel Ratchets is the natural cry of migrating wild geese, so the
voice of the Seven Whistlers can be traced to passing flocks of widgeon,
curlews, or plovers. Indeed, the name is actually given in some places
to these birds: I knows what makes the noise; it’s them long-billed
curlews; but I never likes to hear them (Ken.).

[Sidenote: _Names for imaginary Monsters_]

The boggarts who are named in those awful threats by means of which the
young are quelled into obedience to authority seem wellnigh innumerable.
They include monsters of every sort and description, from the plain
unadorned bogie--e.g. If tha doesna leave off skrikin’, I’ll fetch a
black bogy to thee--to the highly dramatic figure of the skeleton that
haunted the wicked murderer, crying, Oi want my booans, Oi want my
booans! Pictures such as this, when presented to the vivid imagination
of children, doubtless gain rather than lose in lurid colouring and
terrifying shape, and one shudders to think of the effect they must
produce on impressionable minds, though in the majority of cases, no
doubt, familiarity breeds a wholesome contempt. Amongst these imaginary
monsters are: the Black man (Sc. Lei. War. Oxf. Sus. Som. Dev.); Black
Parr (Nhp.); the Bo-chap (n.Yks.); the Bo-lo (Nhb.); the Bodach (Sc.),
e.g. In ye binna quayet the bodach ill cum doon the lum [chimney] an’
tak ye; Bugabo (Sc. Irel. Midl.), Bugan (I.Ma. Chs. Shr.). The simple
form _Bug_, a bogie, is apparently obsolete, remaining only in the
phrase _to take bug_ (Midl.), to take fright. Dr. Johnson has: ‘Bug.
Bugbear.... A frightful object; a walking spectre, imagined to be seen;
generally now used for a false terrour to frighten babes.’
Jack-up-the-orchard (Shr.), e.g. If yo’ dunna tak’ car’ I’ll shewn yo’
Jack-up-the-orchut’; Knocky-boh (n.Yks.), a bogie who taps behind the
wainscot to frighten children; Mumpoker (I.W.), e.g. I’ll zend the
mumpoker ater ye; Old Scrat (n.Cy. dials.), e.g. By goy! but auld
Scratty’ll git thi if thoo doesn’t come in; Pokey-hokey (e.An.); Punky
(w.Yks.); Tankerabogus, or Tantarabobus (Som. Dev.), e.g. Now, Polly,
yü’ve abin a bad, naughty maid, and ef yü be sich a wicked cheel again,
I’ll zend vur tankerabogus tü come and cār yü away tü ’is pittee-awl
[pit-hole]; Tod-lowrie (n.Cy.), e.g. Here’s Tod-lowrie coming! In
Scotland the word is a name for the fox. Tom Dockin (Yks.), a bogie
having iron teeth, with which he devours bad children; Tom-poker
(e.An.), a bogie who inhabits dark closets, holes under stairs,
unoccupied cock-lofts, &c. Churn-milk Peg (w.Yks.) and Melsh Dick
(n.Cy.) are wood-demons supposed to protect soft, unripe nuts from being
gathered by naughty children, the former being wont to beguile her
leisure by smoking a pipe. The Gooseberry-wife (I.W.), in the guise of a
large furry caterpillar, takes charge of the green gooseberries, e.g. If
ye goos out in the gearden, the gooseberry-wife’ll be sure to ketch ye;
while in the orchards is Awd Goggie (e.Yks.), guarding the unripe
apples. Grindylow, Jenny Green-teeth, and Nelly Long-arms (Yks. Lan.
Chs. Der. Shr.) are the various names of a nymph or water-demon who is
said to lurk at the bottom of deep pits, ponds, and wells. When children
approach too near to the edge of her domain, she will stretch out her
long, sinewy arms, seize them, and drag them under the water, holding
them there till they are drowned. Her presence is indicated by a green
scum on the surface of the water. If there is no pond or deep water for
her near by, she has been supposed to take up a temporary lodging in the
tops of trees, where after nightfall she may be heard moaning, in a
voice like the sighing of the night-wind through the branches of trees.
In some parts of the country, instead of Jenny Green-teeth, the boggart
of the ponds is a masculine water-demon called Rawhead (Yks. Lan. Lin.
War. e.An.), Tommy Rawhead (w.Yks.), Bloody-bones (Lan.), or Rawhead and
Bloody-bones, e.g. Keep away from the marl-pit or rawhead and
bloody-bones will have you. This personage is often mentioned in our
earlier literature. Dr. Johnson has: ‘Rawhead.... The name of a spectre,
mentioned to fright children,’ followed by quotations from Dryden and

[Sidenote: _Cornish Sprites_
           _Cornish Traditions as to the Jews_]

Bucca, Gathorns, Knockers, Nicker, Nuggies, and Spriggans are
individual and collective appellations for the sprites that haunt the
tin-mines of Cornwall. They hardly belong to the boggart tribe of
spectres whose business it is to terrify mortals with gruesome sounds
and horrid shapes. They are for the most part a harmless folk, occupied
in mining on their own account, out of sight of the human miners. These
latter, however, take pains not to annoy the goblin workers; whistling
and swearing, for instance, are held to be obnoxious to mine-spirits,
and must therefore be avoided. Once upon a time there was a miner
called Barker, who was foolhardy enough to say he did not believe there
were any Knockers. In revenge for this insult, a crowd of Knockers
waylaid him, and pelted him with their tools, causing him a lifelong
injury, whence grew up the proverb: As stiff as Barker’s knee. Bucca
is an Old Cornish word for hobgoblin. Nicker is the same word as Old
English _nicor_, a hippopotamus, a water-monster, in which latter sense
it is found in the dialect of the Shetland Islands. This water-goblin
is probably the original of Nickerbore (Yks.), of whom it is related
that he sat on the wrong side of a branch which overhung a stream, to
saw it off, and in consequence fell into the water. Tell Nickybore,
don’t tell me, is equivalent to: Tell that to your grandmother. The
Knockers know where to find the most productive lodes, and sometimes
they reward an industrious miner by pointing out to him where he might
take a good tribute pitch. They are generally heard working deep
underground, but at no great distance, for the rolling of barrows, the
stroke of pickaxes, and the fall of earth and stones are distinctly
heard, and sometimes voices seem to mingle with these sounds.
Some say that these phantom toilers are the souls of the Jews who
formerly worked the Cornish tin-mines, and who, for their wicked
practices as tinners, have never been allowed to rest; others suppose
them to be the ghosts of the Jews that crucified Jesus, who were sent as
slaves by the Roman Emperor to work the tin-mines. The association of
the mine-spirits with the Jews is based on the historical fact that
after the Conquest, the tin-mines of Cornwall and Devon were farmed by
Jews, as is proved by charters granted by several kings of England, more
especially by King John, and further corroborated by the existence of
such terms as: _Jews’ bowels_, small pieces of smelted tin found in old
smelting works; _Jews’ houses_, very old smelting places; _Jews’
leavings_, mine refuse; _Jews’ pieces_, very ancient blocks of tin.

[Sidenote: _Will-o’-the-wisp_]

The dialect terms denoting the ignis fatuus, or Will-o’-the-wisp, are
some masculine and some feminine names; or again, they may denote an
unpersonified apparition--e.g. corp-candle, corpse-candle (Sc. Lan.
Lin.); dead[death]-candle (Sc.)--regarded as an omen of death. Among
these names are: Billy-wi’-t’wisp (w.Yks.); Hobbledy’s-lantern (War.
Wor. Glo.); Hob-lantern, Hobby-lantern (Wor. Hrt. e.An. Hmp. Wil.
w.Cy.); Jack-a-lantern (in gen. dial. use), cp. ‘Jack with a Lantern,’
Johnson, _Dict._; Jenny-burnt-tail (Nhp. Oxf.); Jenny-wi’-t’-lantren
(Nhb. n.Yks.); Joan-in-the-wad, or Joan-the-wad [bundle of straw] (Som.
Cor.); Kit-in-the-candlestick (Hmp.); Kitty-candlestick (Wil.);
Kitty-wi’-the-wisp (Nhb.); the Lantern-man (e.An.); Peg-a-lantern
(Lan.); Peggy-lantern (Lin.); Pinket (Wor.). This lantern-bearing sprite
haunts bogs and swampy meadows, where it gambols and dances by itself,

    Hovering and blazing with delusive light,
    Misleads th’ amaz’d night-wanderer from his way
    To bogs and mires, and oft through pond or pool,
    There swallow’d up and lost, from succour far.

Some people have connected herewith the Led-will superstition formerly
current in East Anglia, explaining the phrase as meaning led-by-will,
i.e. by Will-o’-the-wisp. Led-will is defined as an influence under
which the victims, though perfectly sane and sober, lose themselves on
well-known paths. It causes farmers to walk round and round their own
familiar fields for hours without finding the exit, and to make short
circular tours in their gigs, returning to the point whence they
started. Persons under this influence must always travel in circles, and
the only way of escape is to turn some article of their clothing. The
most probable meaning of the term is led astray, _will_ representing
O.N. _villr_, bewildered, erring, astray, cp. ‘ðo fleg agar fro sarray
[Sarai], ... In ðe diserd [desert] wil and weri,’ _Gen. & Exod._, c.

[Sidenote: _Hobgoblins_]

The ‘drudging goblin’, who threshes the corn and does the domestic
work whilst the farmer and his household are asleep, was known in the
dialects as: Billy-blin (Sc.); Boman (Sh. & Or.I.); Brownie (Sc. Nhb.
n.Yks. Cor.); Dobbs, or Master Dobbs (Sus.); Grogan (Irel.); Hob, and
Hob-thrush, or Hob-thrust (n.Cy. dials.), cp. ‘Our own rustical
superstition of hobthrushes, fairies, goblins, and witches,’ Steele,
_Guardian_, 1713; the Leprachaun (Irel.), the fairy shoemaker;
Robin-round-cap (e.Yks.). This benevolent and humble sprite, though very
useful when properly treated, would disappear, or become openly
mischievous, if annoyed. Chief among the things whereat he would take
offence is the offering of recompense for his labours. A hob-thrust, who
used to wear an old tattered hat when at work, found a new one put for
him in his accustomed haunt, whereupon he straightway departed, crying:
New hat, new hood, hobthrush’ll do no more good. If the farmer or any of
his servants had spoken disrespectfully of the hobthrush, they would
presently find cream-pans smashed to atoms, horses and cattle turned
loose and driven into the woods, and the housewife’s churning would
produce no butter. Sometimes the Hob or Dobby (Yks. Lan.) is famous only
for whimsical pranks of this nature. The popular story of the goblin who
was so troublesome that the farmer and his family packed up their goods
and quitted the house, only to find that they were carrying the goblin
too amongst the household stuff, is also told of the north-country Hob.
I see you are flitting, said the neighbour, met by the way, Ay, we’s
flitting, came the voice of Hob from out of the churn. Weel, an’ thou’s
ganning teea, Ah’ll just awa’ back agen, rejoined the farmer. A certain
Yorkshire Hob, who had his dwelling in a cave, was noted for curing
children of the whooping-cough, when thus invoked by those who took them
to his abode: Hob-hole Hob! Mah bairn’s getten t’kin’-cough: Tak’ ’t
off! Tak’ ’t off! Though nowadays these sprites are dead and forgotten,
we occasionally find a trace of them preserved in a common phrase or
proverbial saying, for instance: Master Dobbs has been helping you
(Sus.), an expression used to a person who has done more work than was
expected. When a man boasts of being a good workman, as of the great
number of things which he can make in a day, some one will say: Ah, tha
can mak’ em faster nor Hob-thrust can throw shoes out o’ t’window

Billy-winker (e.Lan.) is the mythical sprite that closes the eyes of
children at bedtime; the Dunnie (Nhb.) is a mischievous goblin related
to the Brownies; Peg o’ Nell (Yks. Lan.) is the sprite of the River
Ribble, as Peg Powler (Dur.) is of the River Tees, with her green
tresses, and her insatiable desire for human life. When foam floats on
the surface of the water it is Peg Powler’s cream, or Peg Powler’s suds.
Red-cap, or Red-capie-dossie (Sc. Lan.) is an elf supposed to haunt old
castles and ruins. When a person runs away from his work, people say
such a one has seen Red-cap. The Red-man (Nhp.) is an elf of solitary
habits residing in caves, old wells, &c. Thrummy-cap (n.Cy. Nhb.) was a
well-known local sprite who haunted the cellarage of old mansions. He
was supposed to wear a cap or bonnet made of _thrums_ or weavers’ ends.
Wryneck (Lan.) is one of those imaginary beings reputed to surpass the
Devil: He caps Wryneck, and Wryneck caps the Dule.

[Sidenote: _References to the Devil in Plant-names_
           _Names of Birds assigned to the Devil_]

To trace all the references to the Devil, to tabulate all the dialect
sayings, and superstitions, and local legends relating to him, and
to see through these the various forms he takes in the popular
mind--whether beast with horns and hoofs, fiend, or giant--would be a
literary task in itself, and would fill a large volume. We can only
here point out a few of the many tracks wherein these allusions lie.
Obviously ‘the very old un’ is the original of most of the bogies
represented as waiting to carry off naughty children--Old Scratt,
Tantarabobus, and the rest which we have enumerated above. Among
dialect plant-names there are over fifty beginning with Devil-, not
counting those bearing one of his proper names, such as: Old Lad’s corn
(Shr.), the greater stitchwort; Owd Lad pea-cods (w.Yks.), the fruit of
the laburnum; Satan’s cherries (n.Yks.), the deadly nightshade. It will
be seen from the following examples that the plants associated with the
Devil all possess some objectionable quality; either they are weeds
obnoxious to the farmer, or they are inherently unpleasant to smell or
taste, or simply ugly to behold: Devil’s bit, or Devil’s bit scabis
(Sc. Yks. Lin. War. Wor. Shr. sw.Cy.), the blue scabious, perpetuates
a very old superstition, cp. ‘It is commonly called Divels bit, of the
root (as it seemeth) that is bitten off: for the superstitious people
hold opinion, that the diuell for enuie that he beareth to mankinde,
bit it off, because it would be otherwise good for many vses,’ Gerarde,
_Herb._ ed. 1633, cp. ‘_Mors du diable_, fore-bit, or devels-bit (an
herb),’ Cotgrave. The same plant is also known as Devil’s button
(Cor.), if picked, the Devil is said to appear at your bedside in
the night; Devil’s churnstaff (Irel. Shr.), the sun-spurge, probably
owes its name to the acrid milky juice contained in its stems; Devil’s
claws (Hmp. I.W.), the common crowfoot; Devil’s fingers (Nhp.), the
catkins of the black poplar, to pick them up is considered unlucky;
Devil’s garter (Wxf.), the great bindweed; Devil on all sides (w.Yks.),
Devil on both sides (Dur. War. Bck.), the common crowfoot, so called
from the hooks which surround the seeds and cause some difficulty in
separating them from the grains of corn; Devil’s posy (Shr.), the
broad-leaved garlic; Devil’s root (Ken.), the lesser broom-rape, very
destructive to clover; Devil’s snuff-box (n. s. and sw. dials.), the
puff-ball, from the snuff-like powder with which the fungus is charged
in its mature state, and to which very baneful properties are popularly
attributed; Devil’s stinkpot (Yks.), the stink-horn. In like manner
birds and insects are assigned to the Devil, for example: Devil’s bird
(Sc. Shr.), the magpie, believed to have a drop of the Devil’s blood
in its tongue; also applied to the yellow-hammer (n.Cy.), commonly
believed to drink a drop, some say three drops, of the Devil’s blood
every May morning; Devil’s coach-horse (Irel. Lin. Lei. Nhp. Wor. Shr.
Ken. Dev. Cor.), the rove-beetle, or common black cocktail, considered
a harbinger of ill-luck; Devil’s darning-needle (Lan.), the dragon-fly;
Devil’s finger-ring (Nhp.),--golden ring (Ess. Dev.),--ring (Brks. Hrf.
Wil.), the caterpillar of the great tiger-moth, concerning which a
current belief in Berkshire is that if you touch it, it will curl round
your finger and suck your blood; Devil’s pig (Oxf.), the woodlouse;
Devil’s screamer (ne.Yks.),--screecher (Hrf. Glo.),--shrieker
(w.Yks.),--squeaker (Lan.), the common swift, so named on account of
its long squeaks. No doubt its black colour, and impetuous flight, tend
to give it an uncanny appearance.

The deil gang wi’ ye, an’ saxpence, an’ ye’ll nether want money nor
company, is an Irish saying. What comes over the devil’s back goes under
his belly (Yks. Chs. Lin.) is a proverbial saying used in speaking of
ill-gotten gains. Much cry and little wool, as the devil said when he
shore the sow, is a Shropshire version of a familiar phrase. He likes
him as the devil likes holy water (w.Yks.) is equivalent to: he hates
him mortally. To say of a woman: shay’s as nassty as a devil unknobbed
(Lei.), implies that she is as dangerously spiteful as a devil with no
knobs on his horns.

[Sidenote: _Prodigious Feats of the Devil_]

The conception of the Devil as a giant capable of prodigious muscular
feats, but so dull of intellect that he is easily outwitted by the
simplest rustic, may be traced in the Devil’s Spadeful legend that
clings to certain isolated hills in different parts of the country. The
Devil’s Spadeful near Bewdley in Worcestershire is a sort of moated
mound, easily seen from the Bewdley-Kidderminster loop railway.
Tradition tells that the Devil was approaching Bewdley carrying a
spadeful of earth, with which he intended to dam up the Severn just
below the town, and so destroy it and all the inhabitants by a flood. At
the point where the mound now stands he met a cobbler, laden with a sack
of old boots and shoes which he was taking home to mend. The Devil had
lost his way, and was feeling weary under his burden, so he asked the
cobbler how far he must yet travel before reaching Bewdley. ‘I cannot
say how far it is,’ replied the cobbler, ‘I only know that I have worn
out all these boots and shoes on the road since I started.’ Whereupon
the Devil relinquished his project in despair, and threw down his
spadeful on the spot. Another version of the story adds that the cobbler
himself was buried under the mound. The present mound could quite well
suffice for a tumulus, but as a dam for the Severn it would seem
inadequate. The same story belongs also to the Wrekin. The Devil, having
a spite against the Mayor and all his people, wished to submerge the
town of Shrewsbury. After throwing down his load, which formed the
Wrekin, the Devil scraped his boots on his spade, and the mud which he
scraped off was such a pile that it made the little Ercall hill by the
Wrekin’s side. Silbury Hill near Devizes is said to possess a version of
this legend.

[Sidenote: _The Devil in Local Place-names_]

There are in various places isolated heaps of stones associated with
the Devil, and called Devil’s Lapfuls. One such heap exists in the
parish of Winsford in Somerset. It is a large scattered heap chiefly
of quartz boulders on the brow of a hill, and no stones of the like
formation are to be found anywhere near. It is said that the Devil
meant to build a bridge over the Barle, close by, with these stones,
which he had brought from a long distance, when his apron-string
broke, and the stones fell where they now are, and whence they cannot
be removed. Not to be altogether deterred from his purpose, the Devil
afterwards built the bridge called Tarr-steps with the great slabs
of slaty rock found on the spot. Not far from the village of Stanton
Harcourt near Oxford are three large stones known as the Devil’s
Quoits. According to local tradition, the Devil played here with a
beggar for his soul, and won by throwing these huge boulders.

A legend which connects the Devil with the building of a church may be
found all over England in varying forms. The site of the church having
been selected, stones were brought thither, and the work begun, but each
night the Devil came and carried the stones away, laying them down on
the spot where the church now stands. The workmen, tired of labouring in
vain, gave up the original site, and adopted that chosen by the Devil,
and thenceforth the building went on unmolested. In Shropshire the site
which cannot be built upon is always at the top of a hill, but this is
not invariably the case elsewhere.

[Sidenote: _Pixies and Fairies_]

It is difficult to classify all the supernatural beings known to
dialect lore, otherwise than very roughly, for even a cursory glance at
the whole mass of superstitions and fancies regarding them shows that
there is great confusion of idea between fairies and witches, bogies
and goblins. Sometimes it is the fairies who terrify the stabled horses
at night, sometimes it is a witch; here the benevolent Hob has been at
work, and there his doings are ascribed to a pixy. The following may,
however, rank as Fairies: the Derricks (Dev.), a species of dwarfish
fairies, of somewhat evil nature; Nanny Button-cap (w.Yks.), of whom
the children sing:

    The moon shines bright,
    The stars give light,
    And little Nanny Button-cap
    Will come to-morrow night.

Fenodyree, or Phynnodderee (I.Ma.), a fallen fairy, who was banished
from fairyland for having paid his addresses to a Manx maiden, and for
deserting the fairy court during the harvest moon to dance with her in
the Glen of Rushen. Stories are told of the great strength of Fenodyree.
On one occasion, when he was cutting grass, harrow-pins were placed in
the meadow to annoy him, but he cut them through without effort, merely
remarking: ‘Hard stalks, hard stalks.’ Gancanagh (Irel.), who appears in
lonesome valleys, and makes love to milkmaids. Collective names are: the
Fair Folk, or Gueede Neighbours (ne.Sc.), polite phrases used to avoid
mentioning the name Fairies, which they were supposed to dislike; the
Gentle People, or Gentry (Irel.), to whom old hawthorn trees growing
singly were sacred. An old man who ventured to cut down one such tree
was shortly afterwards stricken with rheumatic fever, and the
circumstance was declared to be a judgment of the gentry upon him.
Henkies (Sh. & Or.I.), so called because they were supposed to _henk_ or
limp when they danced, _Henkie knowes_ are the knolls round which these
trolls or fairies used to gambol at night; the Hill Folk (Sh.I. Lan.);
the Piskies, or Pixies (Sc. n. s. and sw.Cy.), believed in some
districts (Dev. Cor.) to be the souls of unbaptized children which have
become sprites; the Small Folk, or Small People (Cor.), supposed to have
dwindled in size, and turned into _muryans_ [ants], wherefore it is
deemed unlucky to destroy a colony of ants. Popular etymology has made
out of the common double plural form fairyses, a singular Pharisee (War.
Wor. e.An.), which among children gives rise to endless mistakes between
the fairies of the story-books and the Pharisees of the Bible.

[Sidenote: _The Fairies in Plant-names_]

The associating of the fairies with certain plants and fungi leads
to the formation of very picturesque plant-names, for example:
Fairy’s-bath, or Fairies’ bath (Sus. Hmp.), the fungus Jew’s ears, or
blood-cups; Fairy-butter (n.Cy. e.An. Hmp.), a species of fungus, of
yellowish colour and gelatinous consistence, found growing upon rotten
wood. The fairies are supposed to amuse themselves at night by flinging
their butter so as to make it adhere to gates and doors. It is thought
very lucky to find it inside a house. Fairy-bell (Irel.), Fairy-fingers
(Dur. Cum. n.Yks.), Fairy-glove (Irel. Dor.), Fairies’-petticoats
(Chs.), Fairy-thimbles (Cmb. Nrf. Ess.), the foxglove; Fairies’-table
(n.Wal.), the common mushroom; Fairy-cheeses (Yks.), the dwarf mallow;
Pixy-glove (Dev.), a thistle; Pixy (Dev.), the greater stitchwort,
concerning which children say that if you gather the flowers you will
be pixy-led; Pixy-pear (Hmp. Dev.), the hip, the fruit of the dog-rose,
or (Dor. Som.) the haw, the fruit of the hawthorn; Pixy-stool (Sc. Hmp.
Som. Dev. Cor.), a toadstool or mushroom. To pixy (w.Som.), or to go
pixy-wording, is to glean stray apples in an orchard after the trees
have been stripped. Fossil echini turned up by the plough, or found on
the sea-shore are termed Fairy-loaves, or Pharisee-loaves (Glo. e.An.).
There is a saying in Norfolk: If you keep a fairy-loaf you will never
want bread. The ‘green sour ringlets’ ‘whereof the ewe not bites’ are
still known as Fairy-rings (in gen. dial. use), or Pixy-rings (Som.
Dev.). It is thought safer to walk round them rather than across. Old
legends say that by running round a fairy-ring nine times on the first
night of the full moon, sounds of mirth and revelry may be heard from
the subterranean abode of the elves, who make this their dancing-green;
or again, that on peaceful nights faint echoes of music, and the
pattering of tiny feet, may be wafted down from the hill-sides. It
is said that the fairies were wont of old to wash their clothes in
Claymore Well (Yks.), and mangle them with the _bittle and pin_. The
_bittle_ is a heavy wooden battledore; the _pin_ is the roller; the
linen is wound round the latter, and then rolled backwards and forwards
on the table by pressure on the battledore. The strokes of the bittles
on fairy washing-nights could be heard a mile away. The following story
of a fairy in the capacity of the benevolent sprite used to be told
in one of the southern counties of England. Once upon a time there
was a young woman who married a thresher. Soon he turned out to be a
hopeless drunkard; his work was neglected, and starvation stared them
in the face. So the woman dressed herself in her husband’s clothes, and
went to the barn to do the threshing whilst he slept off the effects
of his drunkenness. On the morning of the second day she found her
pile of threshed corn double what she had left there overnight, and
this increase was repeated for three or four nights in succession. She
determined to watch one night and discover who was her unknown helper.
Presently she beheld a little pixy come into the barn, and set to work
vigorously to thresh the corn, and as he swung his flail he sang:

    Little pixy fair and slim,
    Without a rag to cover him.

[Sidenote: _Fairy Benevolence_]

Out of pity and gratitude, the woman next day made him a tiny suit of
clothes, and hung them up behind the barn door beside his flail. At
night when the pixy returned to work, he saw the clothes, and put them
on at once. Then, surveying himself with satisfaction, he sang:

    Pixy fine and Pixy gay,
    Pixy now must fly away.

With that he disappeared, and never came back any more.

[Sidenote: _Mischievous Fairies_]

Dr. Johnson defines ‘Fairy’ thus: ‘A kind of fabled beings supposed to
appear in a diminutive human form, and to dance in the meadows, and
reward cleanliness in houses.’ The reward was bestowed in the form of a
coin secretly placed in the shoe of the industrious servant, an ancient
belief which was, we are told, long kept alive by mistresses, who would
slip the expected coin into its place to encourage their servants
to industry. But the fairies did not everywhere possess only this
blameless reputation. Mischievous fairies were dreaded by the farmer’s
wife lest they should get into the dairy and spoil the cream. To keep
them away, every one who entered the dairy must stir up the cream with
the mundle (Wor.). A tangled knot in a horse’s mane was proof of their
having been in the stable, for this was the _pixy-seat_ (Dev.). A trace
of what Dr. Johnson calls ‘an odd superstitious opinion, that the
fairies steal away children, and put others that are ugly and stupid in
their places’, remains in the dialect saying: Bless th’ bairn, he must
hev been chaanged (Lin.), used when a child, generally good-tempered,
becomes suddenly irritable without any obvious reason. Country folk in
Cornwall used to put a prayer-book under a child’s pillow as a charm
to keep away the pixies. The still prevailing superstition that it is
unlucky for a woman after child-birth to go into anybody’s house--some
say even to cross her own threshold--before she goes to be churched,
is no doubt a remnant of the old belief that the mother until _kirk’t_
was not safe from the power of the fairies. People suddenly seized with
rheumatism, lumbago, paralysis, or fits were supposed to have been
shot at by malicious fairies, and when a prehistoric arrow-head of
flint or stone was picked up, it was alleged to be the fairy weapon,
the _awf-shot_ or fairy-dart. A hole in a deal board occasioned by the
dropping out of a shrunken knot, was regarded as the path of a fairy
shaft, and called an _awf-bore_. In Northumberland and Cumberland a
sudden attack of illness or disease is still spoken of as a _shot_,
e.g. a shot of rheumatics. The phrase Plaze God and the pigs (w.Som.)
is probably a reminiscence of the days when the pigseys or pixies were
regarded as powers which had to be reckoned with in ordinary daily
life. To laugh like a pixy (Dev. Cor.) is to laugh heartily, like the
merry elves of yore when they danced in the meadows by moonlight.

[Sidenote: _Belief in Witchcraft_]

The belief in witches as active personalities belongs, together with
the belief in fairies, to bygone generations, but its traces are
with us still. On the one hand there are the old words and phrases,
the husks of a once living seed, and on the other hand is the vague
superstitious dread of an evil influence which is none the less
real and potent because people have ceased to ascribe the dreaded
ill-luck to witchcraft and the evil eye. Among the plants associated
with witches are: Witch-bells (n.Cy.), the corn blue-bottle;
Witch’s-milk (Lan.), the common mare’s-tail; Witch’s-needles (Nhb.),
the shepherd’s needle; Witch’s-knot (Wm.), a bundle of matted twigs
which forms on the branches of birches and thorns. The fungus which
we have already noticed under the name Fairy-butter, is also known
as Witch’s-butter (Nhp. w.Cy.); and the purple foxglove is sometimes
called Witch’s-thimble (Sc. Nhb.). When horses break out into a sweat
in the stable, they are said to have been hag-rided (Som.); and
the tangled locks in their manes are the Witch’s-stirrups (Shr.).
In parts of Surrey and Sussex a Fairy-ring is called a Hag-track.
The shoulder-bones of a sheep are termed Hag-bones (Som.), because
formerly witches were believed to ride on them, and consequently it
was necessary to burn them. The ancient belief that the shells of
eggs used by the household were appropriated by the witches for boats
is still regarded in practice, the spoon must be thrust through the
bottom, or the shell crushed to pieces before it is thrown away, cp.
Sir Thomas Browne and his annotators: ‘To break the egg-shell after the
meat is out, we are taught in our childhood, and practise it all our
lives; which nevertheless is but a superstitious relique, according
to the judgment of Pliny ...; and the intent hereof was to prevent
witchcraft.’ ‘To keep the fairies out, as they say in Cumberland,’
Note (Jeff.); ‘Least they perchance might use them for boates (as they
thought) to sayle in by night,’ Note (Wr.), _Vulgar Errors_, Book V,
Chap. XXIII.

[Sidenote: _The Evil Eye_]

As ill as a witch (Chs.) is a phrase meaning very ill. As fause
[false, i.e. cunning] as a Pendle witch (Lan.) is a saying which
keeps on record the traditional association of Pendle Forest with
witches. It was there that the old custom called Lating [seeking]
the Witches used to be observed on All-hallows Eve, the night when
the witches were said to meet in the Forest. Lighted candles were
carried about the hills from eleven to twelve o’clock. If the witches
failed to extinguish a light, the bearer was safe from their power
for the season, but if the light went out, it portended evil. Persons
or things under the supposed influence of witchcraft or the evil eye,
were formerly said to be _blinked_ (Sc. Irel. Chs. Shr. e.An.), a
word which still remains in e.Anglia in the sense of soured, spoiled,
used of beer. The very common word _wisht_ (w. and sw. Cy.), meaning
unlucky, uncanny, also physically weak, sickly, haggard, is no
doubt originally _wished_, i.e. ill-wished, or bewitched. The terms
_overlooked_ (Sc. Irel. Yks. War. Shr. e.An. sw.Cy.), _overseen_ (Hrf.
Glo.), _overshadowed_ (Dev.) were certainly used in their original
sense of bewitched as late as the last two decades of the nineteenth
century, cp. ‘The last witness said deceased had been “overshadowed”
by some-one,’ _n.Dev. Herald_, June 25, 1896. A writer in to-day’s
_Times_, Feb. 21, 1912, regards the belief in this form of witchcraft
as still current: ‘We still hear of people in remote villages who
complain of being overlooked, and who actually pine away under the
belief that a spell has been cast upon them.’

[Sidenote: _Ill-Omens_]

A White Witch was a person, either man or woman, who was supposed to
possess the power of removing the spell, and of inflicting punishment
on the individual by whose malice the evil had been wrought. In return
for pecuniary considerations, the white witch dispensed oracular
wisdom, and remedies in the form of charms. As recently as the year
1890 a man who called himself ‘the White Witch of Exeter’ was convicted
on a charge of obtaining money by means of palmistry. Mrs. Sarah
Hewitt in her book on Devonshire customs and folk-lore--_Nummits and
Crummits_--writes: ‘In cases of sickness, distress, or adversity,
persons at the present time (A.D. 1898) make long expensive journeys
to consult the white witch, and to gain relief by his (or her) aid.’
The miscellaneous articles and medicaments advocated by the white witch
we shall notice later when we come to consider charms and cures.
Meanwhile let us first look at some of the many ways in which the old
fear of mysterious evil still shows itself, that fear which in spite
of our advances in education and civilization still makes men regard
trivial happenings with superstitious awe, and see omens of death and
ill-luck in the commonest things.



Chief among the ‘unlucky’ things regarded by the superstitious as
omens of approaching calamity are those to which is attached the idea
of a death-portent. This warning of death appears in various ways, it
may be seen in some purely accidental occurrence, or some chance act;
it may be announced by a bird or some other animal; it may even lurk
in the most innocent flower. The following are sure signs of death: If
a small oblong cinder flies out of the fire it is called a _coffin_
(n.Cy.) and betokens death, especially if it lies silently where it
fell; but if, on the other hand, it makes a crackling noise, it can be
a _purse_, and mean money in store, cp.:

    Last night (I vow to Heaven ’tis true)
    Bounce from the fire a coffin flew.
                        Gay, _The Farmer’s Wife and the Raven_.

[Sidenote: _Terrifying Apprehensions_]

A large hole in the crumb of a loaf is a _grave_ (Brks.), or a _coffin_
(s.Not.). When the tallow or wax of a candle runs down on one side
it often projects and then reunites to the candle, forming a sort of
loop; this is a _coffin-handle_ (w.Som.), and is a sign of death to
the person in whose direction it forms itself. The same superstition
holds when the grease from the guttering candle forms a broad solid
mass, popularly termed a _winding-sheet_. A piece of charred wick at
the top of a burning candle is a _death-lowe_ [-flame] (Cum.), or a
_shroud_ (Sc. Lin. Som.), and presages death, unless the flame be
extinguished by immersing the candle in running water. When furniture
creaks suddenly it betokens death, but some say it only means a serious
illness. If a clock, a picture, a looking-glass, or a flitch of bacon
falls, it portends death; so does a table-cloth, when it is badly
folded, and has a crease in the form of a diamond in the centre. If
letters cross in the post; if the church clock strikes while the text
of the Sunday morning’s sermon is being given out, or while the last
hymn is being sung; if a piece of land has been accidentally missed in
ploughing or sowing, it is a sign of death. The sound of singing in the
ears is the _dead-bell_ (Sc.). In some districts the choking sensation
in the throat known as the _rising of the lights_ is held to forebode
death, but more usually it is regarded as an insignificant physical
condition, to be remedied by swallowing small shot, the weight of which
will keep the _lights_ in their proper place. To break a looking-glass;
to open an umbrella in the house, especially if it is held over the
head; to put the bellows on the table; to drop a comb--are all deeds
which forebode somebody’s death. The belief that if three people take
part in making up a bed there is sure to be a death in the house within
the year, is a superstition which I found was held to in my own house,
together with the very common one that it is unlucky to turn a mattress
on a Friday or Sunday.

[Sidenote: _Portents of Death_]

Among the omens wrought by insects, perhaps the most common is the
death-watch, also known as the _dead-chack_ (Sc.), and _death-tick_
(Oxf. Dev.). Sir Thomas Browne made a careful study of this particular
source of ‘terrifying apprehensions’, cp. ‘Few ears have escaped the
noise of the death-watch, that is, the little clickling sound heard
often in many rooms, somewhat resembling that of a watch; and this is
conceived to be of an evil omen or prediction of some person’s death:
wherein notwithstanding there is nothing of rational presage or just
cause of terror unto melancholy and meticulous heads. For this noise is
made by a little sheath-winged grey insect, found often in wainscot
benches and wood-work in the summer. We have taken many thereof, and
kept them in thin boxes, wherein I have heard and seen them work and
knock with a little proboscis or trunk against the side of the box, like
a _picus martius_, or woodpecker against a tree. It worketh best in warm
weather, and for the most part giveth not over under nine or eleven
strokes at a time,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. II, Chap. VII. There is great
diversity of opinion as to the signification of crickets. In some parts
of England the sound of the cricket in the house is esteemed lucky (Yks.
Nhp. Cor.), in other parts unlucky (w.Cy.); and again, there are
districts (Shr.) where it is looked upon as a death-portent. If a swarm
of bees settles on the wall of a house, or on a dead tree, or wooden
stake, it is a sign of an approaching death in the family; if they
_knit_ on the ground, it is a sure sign of a berrin’ [funeral]. A death
in the family may also be presaged by the sudden death of a pig. I
remember just twenty years ago, when an old cook, whom I knew very well,
inquired after my brother who was then recovering from a severe attack
of scarlet-fever, she concluded the conversation by saying: ‘I knew
quite well that there would be a serious illness in your family, because
you had told me that one of the pigs had died suddenly.’ The sudden
departure of rats from a house is sometimes held to betoken the death of
one of the inmates. A white bird flying past, or a dove flying against a
window at night, or flying into a room, is a sign of death. In some
places, any bird pecking at a window announces death, but the robin is
the chief harbinger of death, whether he announces his message by
tapping at the window, chirping on the sill, or by hopping into the
room. In the winter of 1910, a tame robin used to cause considerable
uneasiness in this household by coming into the house through the open
windows. If a crow settles on a house, one of the inmates will die
within the year. If a hare or a white rabbit crosses your path; if you
hear a hen crow; if the cock crows at midnight; or if a cow lows three
times in your face, it is a sign of death, as are, too, the midnight
hooting of owls, and the howling of dogs. In the Miracle Play in
Longfellow’s _Golden Legend_, when the Rabbi asks Judas Iscariot ‘Why
howl the dogs at night?’ the answer is:

    In the Rabbinical Book, it saith
    The dogs howl, when with icy breath,
    Great Sammaël, the Angel of Death,
    Takes through the town his flight.

If children pick the Herb Robert it means death to one or other of the
parents, hence the name Death-come-quickly (Cum.); for the same reason
the Red and White Campion is called Mother-dee (Cum.). If the child
pluck the red species, its father will perish, or if the white, then the
mother will die. It is very unlucky to bring pieces of the spindle-tree
into the house, hence it is the Death-alder (Bck.); but still more
commonly this superstition is attached to the flowers of the hawthorn,
and further, in some districts to the snowdrop (Shr. Stf. Der. Wor.
Sus.). When a school-fellow of mine died of typhoid fever, the lady
Principal of the boarding-school wrote to my parents, charging them with
being the authors of the calamity, in that they had a short time before
sent me a box of snowdrops. If parsley is once sown in a garden, there
it must stay, to transplant it would be fatal to some member of the
household. If fruit trees blossom out of season it is a token of death:

    A bloom upon the apple-tree when the apples are ripe
    Is a sure termination to somebody’s life.

The failure of a crop of ash-keys is said to portend a death in the
royal family within the year. Tradition tells that there were no
ash-keys in the year in which King Charles was beheaded.

[Sidenote: _Magpie Rhymes_
           _Superstitions concerning Evil Influence of Animals, Birds,
              and Insects_
           _Popular Sayings and Beliefs as to Good and Ill-luck_
           _Lucky and Unlucky Actions_]

The magpie is always an ominous bird. Seen singly, it is everywhere
taken as a sign of evil, but the significance of two or more varies in
different parts of the country. The commonest version of the magpie
rhyme is: One for sorrow; Two for mirth; Three for a wedding; Four
for a birth. Other versions are: Yan is sorrow; Tweea is mirth; Three
is weddin’; Fower is birth; Five is silver; Six is gold; Sebben is a
secret, nivver to be told (n.Cy.). Yen’s sorry; Twee’s morry; Three’s
a wedding; Fower’s deeth; Five’s hivin’; Six is hell; And Sivin’s the
deel’s aan sel (Nhb.). One, sign of anger; Two, sign o’ muth; Dree,
sign o’ wedding-day; Vower, sign o’ death; Vive, sign o’ zorrow; Zix,
sign o’ joy; Zebm, sign o’ maid; An’ eight, sign o’ boy (w.Som.). To
avert these indications you may use one of the following charms: raise
the hat in salutation; make a cross with your foot on the ground, or as
many crosses as there are magpies; wet the forefinger with spittle, and
therewith make the sign of the cross on your shoe; make the same sign
by crossing the thumbs; spit on the ground three times, and say: Devil,
devil, I defy thee! Magpie, magpie, I go by thee! If a shrew-mouse runs
over your foot, it portends ill-luck, sometimes the coming ill-luck
is defined as paralysis of the foot. In Sussex the country people
have an idea that the shrew-mouse is unable to cross a path which has
been trodden by man. Whenever it attempts to do so it is said to be
immediately struck dead, and hence the number of shrew-mice which may
be found lying dead in lanes or on field footpaths. If a hare crosses
the path of a woman with child, she must instantly stoop down and
tear her shift, or the child will have a hare-lip, or _’ar-shotten_
lip, as it is called (Shr.). This superstition is no doubt connected
with the old belief that a witch often took the form of a hare. They
never dow [prosper] that strange dogs follow, is a Yorkshire saying.
It is very unlucky to drive away a black cat, if a stray one should
come into the house. An Oxford landlady told us quite recently that
she had driven away a black cat from her door shortly after she was
married, some twelve years previously, and since then she had ‘buried
twenty-three relations’! It is unlucky when moving house to transport
the cat; it is also unlucky to allow a cat to die in the house, hence
when it begins to be ill, it is better to drown it. It is unlucky to
keep a kitten born in May, for: May chets Bad luck begets. In the North
a May cat is supposed to suck the breath of the baby in the cradle,
if opportunity offers; while in some south-western districts it is
said to bring adders and _varmints_ into the house. Goslings hatched
in May will not bring gain to the owner; and it is an evil month for
marriage. Scotch people especially, even among the well-educated, have
a strong prejudice against marrying in May. Marry in May, You’ll rue
it for aye, is a Devonshire saying. There is an old rhyme against
short-coating babies in May: Tuck babies in May, You’ll tuck them
away, but this is perhaps merely a health warning, parallel to: Don’t
cast a clout Till May is out, based on the uncertain temperature of
the month of May. It is very unlucky to kill a swallow, a robin, or
a wren, and even to take their eggs is a sacrilegious act certain to
bring ill-luck, for: The Robin and the Wren Are God Almighty’s cock
and hen. The Martin and the Swallow Are God Almighty’s scholars. Other
versions of this rhyme are: Martins and swallows Are God’s teachers
and scholars. Robins and wrens Are God’s chickens and hens. Those who
kill a robin or a wren Will never prosper, boy or man. Swallows and
martins bring luck and prosperity under the roof around which they
build, and hence it is a bad sign if they forsake a house where they
have been accustomed to build, cp. ‘Though useless to us, and rather of
molestation, we commonly refrain from killing swallows, and esteem it
unlucky to destroy them: whether herein there be not a Pagan relick,
we have some reason to doubt. For we read in Ælian, that these birds
were sacred unto the Penates or household gods of the ancients, and
therefore were preserved,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. V, Chap. XXIV. It is
also unlucky to kill a ladybird, God Almighty’s colly-cow (Hmp.); or to
kill a spider. If you wish to live and thrive Let the spider run alive,
is a current Berkshire rhyme. The little red spider, when found, should
be put in the pocket, for it means money. Spiders’ webs sometimes
escape destruction through a belief that such a web concealed our Lord
as He lay in the manger from the messengers of Herod. The Sun-beetle
is God’s horse (Cum.), and like the Rainy clock, or Thunder clock
(Cum. Wm.), is supposed to cause terrible storms if it be killed. It
is very unlucky to bid a price for an animal, such as a cow, pig, or
horse, when it is not for sale, for if this is done the animal is sure
to die. To covet another man’s beast is to _heart-eat_ (Lan. Yks.) it,
and an animal so coveted will not prosper. It is unlucky to sell bees,
or to hive a swarm after nightfall. To kill a pig when the moon is
waning means ill-luck with the bacon, it is sure to shrink in the pot.
Some say it will not take the salt, and cannot therefore be cured. Nor
must cider be made at such times, else the apples when gathered will
_shrump up_, and the cider will turn sour. It is unlucky to look into
an owl’s nest. Once upon a time a foolhardy person ventured to do so,
and in consequence he became melancholy, and _destroyed hissell_. It
is important to give a hen an odd number of eggs to sit on, if this is
not done, most of the eggs, if not all of them, will be addled. The
regulation number is thirteen. It is very unlucky to spill salt, or to
help another to salt, or to break a salt-cellar, though the misfortune
may be averted by throwing a pinch of salt over the left shoulder.
She that pricks bread with fork or knife Will never be happy maid or
wife (Shr.), the thing must be done with a skewer. It is unlucky to
hang a picture over a door. When you have set out on any business, or
started on a journey, it is very unlucky to turn back and re-enter
the house, but if it is absolutely necessary to return, the evil may
be counteracted by sitting down on a chair before starting again.
Some say even to look back is unlucky, and in this case they connect
the superstition with the fate of Lot’s wife. Pick up pins, pick up
sorrow, is a saying which is contradicted by other versions such as:
See a pin and pick it up, All the day you’ll have good luck; and: See
a pin and let it lie, You’ll want a pin before you die. Mend your
clothes upon your back, Sure you are to come to wrack. It is unlucky
to use elder-wood for lighting a fire; to burn bones, or evergreens;
to decorate a house with peacock’s feathers; to bring the eggs of any
wild bird into the house. When a child’s tooth comes out, it must be
dropped into the fire, and the following rhyme repeated, or the child
will have to seek its tooth after death: Fire, fire, tak’ a beean, An’
send oor Johnny a good teeath ageean (e.Yks.); or a little salt must
be placed on the tooth, which is then carefully put into the fire with
the words: Fire, fire, burn beean, God sen’ my tiuth ageean (Lakel.).
Another idea is that unless the tooth is burned, the one which grows
in its place will prove a dog’s tooth. If a baby’s first tooth appears
in the upper jaw, it is a bad sign, it may mean that the child will
die in infancy. The bairn at cuts its teeth abeen, ’Ill nivver see
its mairidge sheen, is an old Scotch saying. Similarly, if the teeth
grow with irregular spaces between them, the child will not be a long
liver: If a bairn teeathes odd, It’ll seean gan to God (e.Yks.). But
a gap between the two front teeth wide enough to pass a sovereign
through, is a sign of luck and wealth. It is unlucky to weigh a child,
or to let it see its face in the glass before it is a year old; or to
call it before baptism by the name you mean to give it. If an engaged
couple have undertaken to be godparents to a child, it is unlucky for
them both to stand at the font together, it would presage a parting
within three months. A local instance of this came to my knowledge less
than six months ago. The difficulty was solved by the godmother taking
her place in a pew at a little distance from the rest of the party
assembled round the font. In Cornwall they say: first at the font,
never at the altar. It is unlucky to sing early in the morning: If you
sing afore bite You’ll cry before night; to see the new moon for the
first time through a window; to have the Bishop’s left hand on your
head at confirmation. If you enter another person’s house with your
left foot foremost, you draw down evil on the inhabitants. A new broom
should sweep something into the house before it is used in the contrary
direction, otherwise you sweep good luck away from your threshold. Some
people hold that you must never sweep the dust out of doors, but always
into the fire, for fear lest you sweep the blessing out (Shr.). Friday
is proverbially an unlucky day everywhere. Friday’s a day as’ll have
his trick The fairest or foulest day o’ the wik (Shr.), cp. ‘Selde is
the Fryday al the wyke i-like,’ Chaucer, _Knightes Tale_, l. 681. It
is very unlucky to start out on a journey; to remove from one house to
another; to enter upon a new service; or to set a hen on a Friday, but
specially unlucky is it to begin new undertakings on Good Friday. If
clothes are washed that day some member of the family will die before
the year is out. A Yorkshire superstition holds that if clothes are
hung out to dry that day they will be taken in spotted with blood. On
the other hand, it is esteemed lucky to plant potatoes, and to sow all
kinds of garden seeds on Good Friday. Beans and peas, for instance,
sown on this day yield better crops than they would if sown any other
day. Moreover, it is the best day in all the year to begin weaning
babies. In parts of Devonshire it is thought lucky to break pottery
on Good Friday, because then the points of every sherd are supposed
to pierce the body of Judas Iscariot. If a bunch of quaking grass,
called maidenhair (Nrf.), is brought into the house it is sure to bring
ill-luck; trouble will also ensue if you cut down the house-leek, the
_sungreen_ (Sus.), which grows on walls and roofs. If you should happen
to dig up a mandrake, you must quickly burn it, for anybody that looks
at it will at once go blind. To pick flowers before they are full-blown
causes a _pouk_ (Wor.) or sty in the eye. Marsh-marigolds are called
_drunkards_ (Dev. Wil.) because if you pick them, or even look long
at them, you will take to drink. Poppies are called _ear-aches_ (Der.
Not.) because if gathered and put to the ear, a violent attack of
ear-ache will be the result. In parts of Yorkshire the poppy is known
by the name of _blindy-buff_, because if you hold a poppy to your
eyes it will blind you. North-country children deem it unlucky to
gather the flowers of the _cuckoo-spit_, the Lady’s smock, _Cardamine
pratensis_. To bring two or three primroses into the house of an owner
of poultry in early spring, before any chickens are hatched, means
bad luck to the sittings of eggs; but if the number of primroses is
thirteen or upwards, there is nothing to fear. Old Manx people held a
like superstition about daffodils, believing it to be unlucky to bring
them into the house before the goslings were hatched. This connexion
with geese probably accounts for the Manx name for the daffodil,
_Lus-ny-guiy_, the goose-leek. It is a sign of a parting if two bells
ring together in a house; if a loaf parts in two when it is being cut;
if a cake has a hollow cavity in the centre. To give a knife, a pair
of scissors, or a pin of any sort to a friend will cut love, unless
some coin is received in exchange. To stir the tea in the tea-pot is
to stir up strife. Other signs of a coming quarrel between friends
are: to cross knives; to put the poker and tongs on the same side
of the fireplace; to put a pair of boots on the table, but here the
quarrel may be averted if some one immediately puts the boots under the
table; to pass your friend on the stairs. If two persons kindle a fire
together; or dip their hands into the same basin of water; or together
wipe their hands on the same towel, they will inevitably quarrel. In
the case of the washing of hands, the sign of the cross made over or in
the water will prevent the quarrel.

[Sidenote: _Lucky and Unlucky Signs_]

When a woman’s hair grows in a low point on the forehead, it is
supposed to presage widowhood, and is called a _widow’s peak_ (n.Cy.),
or _widow’s lock_ (War.). If your eyebrows meet across the nose, You’ll
never live to wear your wedding-clothes, is a rhyme belonging to the
Midlands, but elsewhere this peculiarity is deemed a favourable omen.
In some Yorkshire districts the idea is that a person so marked will
never know trouble. A white speck on the finger-nails is called a
_gift_ (in gen. dial. use), and predicts certain events. A _gift_ on
the thumb indicates a present; on the forefinger a friend or lover; on
the middle finger a foe; on the fourth finger a visit to pay; on the
little finger a journey to go. A gift on the thumb is seer ti cum, Bud
yan on the finger is seer ti linger (e.Yks.). An irritation or tickling
in the nose is a sign that a visitor is coming. Sneeze on a Monday, you
sneeze for danger; Sneeze on a Tuesday, you kiss a stranger; Sneeze
on a Wednesday, you sneeze for a letter; Sneeze on a Thursday, for
something better; Sneeze on a Friday, you sneeze for sorrow; Sneeze on
a Saturday, your sweetheart to-morrow; Sneeze on a Sunday, your safety
seek, The Devil will have you the whole of the week (Lan.). A spark
in the wick of a candle is supposed to signify the speedy arrival of
a letter to the person to whom it points. If you kill a _miller_ [a
moth] while it is flying round a lighted lamp, you’ll get a letter
next day (Hmp.). A knot on the wick of a candle, which, when burned,
becomes large and red, is termed a stranger (Lin. Sus.), cp. ‘But of
lower consideration is the common foretelling of strangers, from the
fungous parcels about the wicks of candles; which only signifieth a
moist and pluvious air about them, hindering the avolation of the light
and favillous particles; whereupon they are forced to settle upon the
snast,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. V, Chap. XXIV. The same name is given to a
flake or film of soot hanging on the bar of a grate (n.Cy. War. Wil.);
and to a small piece of tea-leaf floating in tea (Sc. Lin. War. Wil.
Som. Cor.), both supposed to foretell the advent of a stranger. If a
bumble-bee comes into the house, it too is a sign of an approaching
stranger. To meet a load of hay is a sure token of a surprise, trivial
or otherwise.

[Sidenote: _Lucky Omens_
           _How to ensure Good Luck_]

It is considered lucky to be born on a Sunday; to have _lucken-toes_
(Sc.), that is toes joined by a web or film; to have a mole on the
neck, though some say if it is on the back of the neck it is a sign
that you will be hanged. If you’ve a mole above your chin, You’ll
never be beholden to any of your kin (Shr.); but a mole on the side of
the nose is a sign that the Devil has marked you for his own (Lan.).
A dimple in your cheek, Your living to seek; A dimple in your chin,
You’ll have your living brought in (Yks.). It is a lucky omen to put
on any article of clothing the wrong side out, but it must be done
accidentally, and not changed during that day. Any one making a first
appearance in new clothes should be pinched by a friend to ensure
good luck: Pinch you for your new dress (Shr.). My grandmother always
wished the possessor: Health to wear it, Strength to tear it, And money
to buy another, a formula still repeated in Northumberland, if not
elsewhere. It is lucky to put the left stocking on first; to stumble
on ascending stairs, steps, or ladders; to find a flint arrow-head,
known as a _thunder-bolt_ (Dev.); to find nine peas in a pod; to find
a four-leaved clover; to find an even-ash, that is an ash-leaf with an
even number of leaflets. When found, it should be put in the bosom,
or worn in the hat, for luck. It is lucky to meet a flock of sheep on
the highway when you are making a journey. Good luck for a grey horse
(w.Yks.) is a common expression of children, accompanied by the act of
spitting over their little finger, at the sight of a grey horse, an
action which is supposed to bring good luck. In parts of Lincolnshire
they spit for a white horse, in anticipation of a present to come. It
is a sign of good luck if a _cuddy_ [wren] or _cutty_ builds in your
hayrick (Dor.); if rooks build near the house; if a bird drops upon
you, especially if this should happen on Easter Day; if a spider crawls
over you, or falls upon your face from the ceiling. If a Cornish miner
should meet a snail as he is on the way to the mine, he would drop
before it a crumb from his dinner, or a bit of grease from his candle,
to ensure good luck. To find a toad in the tin-mine is an augury of
good luck to the miner. If when you hear the cuckoo for the first time
you turn a penny over in your pocket, you will never be without one all
the year. Some say that if when you first hear the cuckoo the sounds
proceed from the right hand, it signifies that you will be prosperous,
but if from the left, ill-luck is before you. If the first lamb that
you see in spring has its head towards you, it is an omen of good luck
for the whole year, but if the tail is towards you, misfortune will be
your lot. According to an old Scotch proverb ‘dirt’s luck’, so that in
moving from one house to another it is unlucky to get possession of a
clean house, swept and garnished by the outgoing tenant. An old usage
for bringing luck to a new house was for the incoming tenant to go
into every room bearing in his hands a loaf and a plate of salt. This
was termed the _house-handsel_ (n.Yks.). In the North-country dialects
_handsel_ is the name for a gift conferred at a particular season,
or on commencement of a new undertaking, to confer luck. The gift of
a coin, for instance, to the wearer of a new suit of clothes makes
the suit lucky. Sometimes money is returned for luck by the seller to
the purchaser, and is called the _turn-again_ (n.Lin.), _luck-penny_
(Sc. n.Cy. Nhp. War.), or _luck-brass_ (Yks.). Thus what is given back
to the buyer of a pig may be termed _penny-pig-luck_. The customary
payments in Lincolnshire were one shilling per head for a beast,
sixpence for a calf and a pig, two shillings per score for sheep above
a year old, one shilling per score for lambs; for horses varying sums
according to their value. As late as 1898, Lincolnshire auctioneers
were allowing _luck-money_ to purchasers, at the rate of one shilling
per head on cattle, and a penny per head on sheep and pigs.

[Sidenote: _Protection against Ill-luck_]

The dried tip of a calf’s tongue is called a _lucky-bit_ (Nhp.) and is
worn in the pocket, partly as a protection against danger, but chiefly
because it is supposed that the pocket containing it will never be
without money. The coracoid bone of a fowl carried in purse or pocket is
believed to bring money-fortune, whence the name _lucky-bone_ (Chs.
Shr.). This name is also given to a small bone taken from the head of a
sheep (Nhb. Yks. Lan. Nhp.), worn about the person to produce good luck.
Its form is that of a T cross, whence may perhaps have originated the
peculiar sanctity in which it is held. A _lucky-hole_ (Oxf. Brks.) is a
hole bored in a wayside stone or pillar, to blow through which is
considered to ensure good luck. A stone or pebble with a natural hole
through it is commonly called a _lucky-stone_. In Dorsetshire the finder
of such a stone picked it up, spat upon it, and then threw it backward
over his head, accompanying the action with the words: Lucky-stone!
Lucky-stone! go over my head, And bring me some good luck before I go to
bed. A hairy caterpillar, called a Tommy Tailor (Yks.), may also be
thrown over the head for luck. A black snail seized by the horns and
tossed over the left shoulder brings good luck to the performer of the
action. If it is done by a person who has within the last three days
become engaged to be married, the course of true love will run
considerably more smoothly than would otherwise have been the case. If a
person is setting out on a journey, one of the family sometimes turns
the fire-tongs for luck (Nhb.). To spit on a stone, and then throw it
away, is another means of ensuring a prosperous journey. To carry a
badger’s tooth in the pocket is a good thing to do, for it brings luck
at cards (Dev.). To kill a toad is said to make bees swarm; and to burn
an old shoe is a charm to help goslings to leave the shell at hatching

[Sidenote: _A Story of Noah_]

The following are a few miscellaneous legends, superstitions, and
popular beliefs: According to an old belief in Yorkshire, when a pot is
taken off the hooks or _kelps_ hanging in the chimney over the fire,
care must be taken to stop the vibration of the chain as soon as
possible, for whilst it is in motion the Virgin weeps. From Scotland
comes the explanation of the black spots on each shoulder of the
haddock: they are the marks left by the finger and thumb of St. Peter
when he opened the fish’s mouth to take out the piece of money, v. _St.
Matt._ xvii. 27. The dark marks across the shoulders of a donkey are
said to be the sign of the cross imprinted in remembrance of Christ’s
triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Shr. Oxf.). A Berkshire folklorist
relates the following curious legend which explains why a dog’s nose and
a woman’s elbow are always cold, where there is good health: ‘In the
days of the flood the Ark sprung a small leak, and Noah, who had
forgotten to bring carpenter’s tools on board with him, was at his wits’
end how to act. His faithful dog had followed him to the place where the
leak was, and stood watching the influx of water. In his trouble Noah
seized the dog and crammed his nose into the leak. This stopped it, but
in a few moments Noah perceived that the dog must die if kept in this
position any longer. By this time Noah’s wife had come up and was
standing by his side watching what was taking place. Noah thereupon
released the dog, and taking his wife’s arm stuffed her elbow into the
crack. The danger was thus averted, but a dog’s nose and a woman’s elbow
will remain cold as long as the world lasts.’ _Glossary of Brks. Words_,
&c., Lowsley, 1888.

[Sidenote: _Legendary Natural History_
           _Story of St. Catherine of Ledbury_]

Among the remnants of legendary natural history is the idea that an
adder can never die till sunset. Even if it be cut to pieces, the bits
will retain their vitality till the sun goes down. It is believed
of the hedgehog that he sucks the milk from cows; and that he rolls
himself on the apples in the orchard, or the crab-apples fallen in
the copses, and carries them off sticking on his spines. You’ve yer
back up to-daay like a peggy-otchin goin’ a-crabbin’ is a contemptuous
remark made to an ill-natured person (Lin.). Puck, or Puckeridge (Sus.
Hmp.), is a name of the night-jar, also applied to a fatal distemper in
calves, supposed to be caused by the attacks of night-jars. A certain
red beetle, _Telephorus lividus_, is called Sucky-blood (Cum.), from
a local belief that it lives by sucking the blood of cattle. The
Glastonbury thorn, or Holy thorn (War.), possesses a curious legendary
history. Tradition says that Joseph of Arimathaea came to England, and
visited Glastonbury. Being weary after climbing the hill, he halted,
leaning on his staff to rest. The stick sank into the soft ground by
the wayside, and took root, and grew, and became the famous thorn-tree
which is said to blossom on Christmas Day. Christ’s cross is supposed
to have been made of the wood of the aspen, and hence the leaves have
continued to tremble ever since. The berries of the mountain-ash are
called _cock-drink_, or _cock-drunks_ (Lakel.), because they are
reputed to possess the property of intoxicating fowls. The fungus,
_Nostoc commune_, a kind of white jelly often found in poor pastures,
is termed: Star-falling (Nhp.), Star-shot (Lin. Nhp.), Star-slubber
(Yks. Lan.), Star-slutch (Chs.), from a belief that it has fallen
from the stars. The fossil bones of the saurians, found in northern
Yorkshire, are called Fallen angels’ bones, being supposed to belong
to the angels who were cast out of heaven for their rebellion. The
fossilized remains of elephants’ teeth were said to be Giants’ teeth
(n.Yks.). Up and down the brooks and streamlets in the dingles round
about my old home in Herefordshire could be found stones bearing a
grooved mark resembling the print of a horseshoe, beside others marked
as with the oval ring of a woman’s patten. Geologists may have other
explanatory theories, but this is the local legend, and the evidences
for its veracity anybody may see. Once upon a time there lived a holy
lady of some renown, called St. Catherine of Ledbury. One day a mare
and a foal belonging to her were discovered to be missing. There was
no doubt they had been stolen. So the saint betook herself to prayer,
beseeching that the thief might be traced, and that she might recover
her property. But the thief had anticipated the probability of a
search, and had chosen the brook courses as being rocky and unlikely
to retain footprints. Howbeit, in answer to the saint’s prayers the
rocks did retain the marks, and there they are to this day, the
larger footprints of the mare, the smaller ones of the foal, and the
patten-marks of the old woman who stole them away.



Charms for warding off unseen harm and danger, and for curing bodily
ills were of course much more numerous, and more generally accredited in
the early decades of last century than they are to-day. But even now
some still survive, like the horseshoe, which people still pick up, and
hang over doors and chimney-pieces ‘for luck’, unconscious of the fact
that they are thus preserving an old superstitious device for
counteracting the power of witches. Another curious survival is the
placing of the poker against the top bar of the grate. People who do it
tell you in all seriousness that it draws the fire up by creating a
draught. It really is an ancient charm against witches, as Dr. Johnson
explained to Boswell: ‘“Why, Sir, do people play this trick which I
observe now, when I look at your grate, putting the shovel against it to
make the fire burn?” Johnson. “They play the trick, but it does not make
the fire burn. _There_ is a better (setting the poker perpendicularly up
at right angles with the grate). In days of superstition they thought,
as it made a cross with the bars, it would drive away the witch.”’ _Life
of Dr. Johnson_, Vol. II, p. 376. Again, many educated people habitually
‘touch wood’ if they have given vent to some expression of satisfaction
over their own good health or fortune, or that of any member of their
family. They say with a laugh, ‘I suppose I must touch wood,’ and do it
with no conscious thought of averting the evil eye, but if the trick
were omitted, the speaker would probably feel uncomfortable afterwards.

[Sidenote: _Devices to drive away Witches_]

The various devices for keeping off witches, and for defeating their
craft can only here be illustrated by a few instances. To drive away
witches by means of fire was part of the ceremony of _saining_ once
practised in Scotland at the birth of a child. A fir-candle was
lighted and carried three times round the bed, or if this could not
be done, it was whirled three times round the heads of the mother and
child; a Bible and bread and cheese were placed under the pillow, and
the following words were repeated: May the Almichty debar a’ ill fae
this umman, an be aboot ir an bless ir an ir bairn. In the Shetland
Islands when a woman suspected of witchcraft entered a house, the
inmates--on her leaving--would throw a firebrand after her, at the
same time saying: Twee-tee-see-de, doo ill-vam’d trooker. If ther’s
a witch onywheäre aboot, an ye’r scar’d at she’ll oherlook ye, you
mun goä an pull a dook o’ thack [handful of thatch] oot’n her hoose
eavins, an bo’n it, then she can’t do noht to ye (Lin.). A red-hot iron
thrust into the cream in the churn, or into the fermenting beer in the
brewing-vat expelled the witch that was frustrating the labours of the
dairy-maid, or the brewer. In 1882 a man living in Shropshire found in
a crevice in one of the joists of his kitchen chimney a folded paper,
sealed with red wax, containing these words: ‘I charge all witches and
ghosts to depart from this house, in the great name of Jehovah and
Alpha and Omega.’ A well-known plan for working mischief, practised
by malevolent persons, was to make a small figure in wax, and then
pierce it with innumerable pins. This was supposed to give the victim
severe stabbing pains in the limbs. To reverse this injury the victim
might hang in his chimney a bullock’s heart stuck with pins (Dev.). In
the Somerset County Museum at Taunton may be seen pigs’ hearts full
of pins. If a pig died owing to the _overlooking_ of some malignant
witch, it seems to have been a custom to take its heart, pierce it
with as many pins and thorns as it would hold, and then hang it in the
chimney, in the belief that as the pig’s heart dried up and withered,
so would that of the evil person who had bewitched the pig. I remember,
hardly more than twenty years ago, being told of a man then living near
Banbury, who earned a livelihood by making little images to be stuck
with pins for witchcraft purposes. To crook the thumb (n.Cy.), that is,
to double the thumb within the hand, is a charm against witchcraft; so
also is the use of the expression: It’s Wednesday all the world over
(Sc.). A bunch of ash-keys carried in the hand, or the left stocking
worn wrong-side out, were supposed to be good safeguards against the
power of witchcraft, but the favourite charms were horseshoes, silver,
spittle, and the sign of the cross. A witch who had turned herself
into a hare, for instance, could only be hit by a crooked sixpence, or
a silver bullet. In some districts it was customary to put a silver
coin, or a silver spoon into the churn when the butter would not come.
A newly-calved cow was formerly milked for the first time after calving
over a _crossie-croon shilling_ (Bnff.) to protect her from the evil
eye, a talisman which would seem to combine the efficacy both of silver
and of the sign of the cross. Many old brewers used to make with the
finger the sign of the cross on the surface of the malt in process of
fermentation; and the same sign is still made on the top of the dough
in the kneading-tub, though the origin of the custom may be unknown
to those who continue it in practice. Herrick has put this charm into
rhyme in his _Hesperides_:

    This I’ll tell ye by the way,
    Maidens, when ye leavens lay,
    Cross your dough, and your dispatch
    Will be better for your batch.

A writer in _Longman’s Magazine_ in the year 1898 records, as then
extant, a west-country custom of placing a neatly cut cross of birch
wood over cottage doors, on the eve of the 1st of May, to keep off the
witches. The common practice amongst market-women and hawkers of
spitting for luck on the first coin received in the day, is originally a
precautionary charm against witchcraft. It used to be said in
Somersetshire: Nif you do meet wi’ anybody wi’ a north eye, spat dree
times. To spit will avert the ill-luck consequent on passing under a
ladder. To make the sign of the cross with spittle on the sole of the
shoe was supposed to cure the sensation of ‘pins and needles’ in the
foot. We have already noticed the action of spitting in connexion with
the ill-omened appearance of magpies.

[Sidenote: _Protection against Witchcraft_]

Whilst silver was considered to be the efficacious metal for missiles
used against witches, iron and steel were held good for protective
charms. In Lincolnshire it was formerly the custom to leave under the
flag-stone at the entrance of an outer door a hollow place, which was
filled with broken bits of iron, intended to keep off witches. It was
necessary to protect the stable as well as the house, and this was
sometimes done by hanging up implements made of steel or iron, as was
customary in the time of Herrick, cp. _Charm for Stables, Hesperides_,

    Hang up hooks and shears to scare
    Hence the hag that rides the mare,
    Till they be all over wet
    With the mire and the sweat;
    This observed, the manes shall be
    Of your horses all knot-free.

[Sidenote: _The Horseshoe as a Talisman_]

More commonly, however, the horseshoe was the chosen talisman. In some
districts it was held that the horseshoe was only efficacious if
fastened up with the ends upwards; but this seems not to have been an
invariable rule. Many people to-day, who firmly believe that to find a
horseshoe is lucky, will tell you that the luck will disappear into the
ground if the shoe is hung with the ends pointing downwards; even
positive ill-luck may thereby be drawn upon the house. Others again lay
no stress on the method of preserving the charm. I recently questioned
two natives of Berkshire on this subject, and while one set firm faith
in the importance of fastening the shoe-ends upwards, the other was
quite content to see the charm ‘just slung up on a nail’. Even better
than the horseshoe as a charm to keep the witches out of the stable was
the _adder-stone_ (Sc. n.Cy.), a perforated stone, so called because the
perforation was supposed to be made by the sting of an adder;
_hag-stone_ (Lan.); _holed-_ (Nhb.), or _holey-stone_ (n.Cy.), cp. ‘to
prevent the _ephialtes_ or night-mare, we hang up an hollow-stone in
our stables,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Book V, Chap. XXIV. These holed stones
likewise protected the animals from diseases and the evil eye, but they
must be found already perforated, else they had no efficacy. When in the
course of time witches were forgotten, superstitious minds still
supposed these stones to have peculiar virtues in propitiating luck. As
_lucky stones_, they were hung to the street door-key, for prosperity to
the house and its inmates, and we have already noted that, down to
modern times, anybody who picks one up considers it an omen of luck.

[Sidenote: _Use of Plants as Charms_]

Certain plants were reputed to be noisome to witches, and hence
effective as charms. For example: _cow-grass_ (n.Cy.), the common purple
clover; _dill_, the anet, for: Vervain and dill Hinder witches of their
will (Lin.), an old couplet found in Drayton; pimpernel; and
_shady-night_ (Lin.) the nightshade, are all good for preventing
witchcraft. If a pig, for instance, had been bewitched, a collar made of
nightshade, and put round the neck of the sufferer, would at once cure
it. A _St. John’s nut_ (Sc.), that is two nuts growing together on the
same stalk, was formerly supposed to be a deadly missile against
witches. But most potent of all was the mountain ash, the _quicken_ or
_wicken_ (in gen. dial. use), or _rowan-tree_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy.), for
witches, it was said, have no power where there is rowan-tree wood.
Hence twigs of this tree were fastened over doors of houses; they were
tied to the horns of cattle, and affixed to their stalls; cowherds and
carters had goads and whipstocks of quicken-wood, to counteract the
witch who could bring the team to a standstill, whence the old sayings:
Woe to the lad Without a rowan-tree gad, and: If your whipstock’s made
of rown You may ride through any town. The churn-staff likewise was made
of this wood lest the cream might be bewitched and no butter be
forthcoming. Sprigs were nailed to the leaven-kits to keep the witches
out of the dough; and pieces of the protective tree were carried in the
bosom, or worn in the pocket as a sure defence against all forms of

The house-leek used to be planted on the thatched roofs of cottages
under the belief that it was a preservative against thunder and
lightning, and at the present time it is still cherished as bringing
good luck to the house upon the roof of which it grows. A piece of
hawthorn cut on Holy Thursday protects a house from lightning, because:
Under a thorn Our Saviour was born (Shr.). The slough of an adder hung
on the rafters is said to protect a house from fire (Cor.). Small tufts
of dried seaweed, known as Lady’s Trees (Dev. Cor.), were certainly as
late as the year 1891 to be seen on cottage chimney-pieces in fishing
villages as a charm against fire.

[Sidenote: _Remedies for curing Diseases_
           _Violent Remedies_]

By reason of the fact that many complaints were supposed to be due to
the malice of pixies, or witches, and to the _overlooking_ of malignant
persons, we find many of the remedies for curing diseases are closely
connected with the foregoing charms against witchcraft. For example,
a flint arrow-head was taken to be an _elf-shot_; if then a sick cow
was thought to have been _elf-shotten_ with one of these missiles,
the proper remedy was to touch her with the arrow-head, and then make
her drink water in which it had been dipped. The same idea no doubt
underlies the following remedy for _rewmatiz_: Take a thunderbolt,
boil for some hours, and then dispense the water to the diseased.
Further, we find the _quicken-wood_ worn in the pocket as a charm
against rheumatism (Cor.); and a double nut for preventing toothache
(Shr.). Even among the home-made herb medicines are some which partake
of the nature of a charm. The following, for example, is a recipe for
allaying a fever: Take a handful of dandelion, agrimony, verjuice, and
rue; mix with powdered crab’s eyes and claws, and some yarrow gathered
off a grave. Boil for some hours, and administer when the moon is on
the wane. Neither more nor less than nine leaves of Adder’s tongue,
_Sagittaria sagittifolia_, must be picked to make the daily cupful
of tea which is a good strengthening medicine. Similarly, nine must
be the number of frogs you must catch for making the frog-soup which
will cure whooping-cough. As, therefore, a hard and fast line cannot
be drawn between charms properly so called, and semi-magic remedies,
perhaps the readiest way to get a clear survey of the various rustic
methods of treating diseases and other afflictions, will be to group
them all under the names of the different diseases. Although many
of the superstitious remedies here to be quoted are now no longer
in use amongst us, yet the ignorant superstition behind them is by
no means dead, even in towns where on every side are doctors, and
nurses, and chemists plying their trades according to the latest
and most approved methods. The _Times_ of Feb. 24, 1911, commenting
on a Local Government Board Report, the material for which had been
furnished to the Department by Medical Officers of Health, quoted
the following statement in reference to Ireland: ‘Disease-charmers
and bone-setters are very prevalent, and cause much suffering and
deformity.’ The _rag-wells_ of Northumberland and Yorkshire are said
to be obsolete, but little more than five years ago there were still
to be seen hung round a certain well in County Kerry, bits torn from
the clothes of people who believed that they had benefited from the
curative properties of the water. An instance of the old practice of
passing a child suffering from rupture through the split trunk of a
growing ash-tree was reported to me from Devonshire last summer. Not
many months ago my gardener’s little girl on one occasion fell out of
bed, and grazed her back against a chair; by way of a remedy, she was
told to wet her finger with spittle, and apply it to the wound. In
October, 1910, a young friend of mine, then in lodgings in Liverpool,
had the misfortune to burn her hand. Her landlady--who held a post as
charwoman in a neighbouring church, and who, as such, received gifts of
old church linen--offered to bind up the wound with a piece of an old
chalice veil; and she subsequently attributed the quick healing of the
burn to the efficacy of her ‘holy linen’. About five or six years ago,
in a country vicarage in the Midlands, a girl I knew was nursing her
brother in the last stages of consumption. Replying to some questions
of mine as to her duties as nurse, she told me that every day she
carried up from the kitchen two buckets filled with fresh spring-water,
and placed them under the patient’s bed, to ward off bed-sores, because
a lady friend, who ‘really knew’, had said that this was a sure
preventive. These are only a few cases that have chanced to come within
my own knowledge, but no doubt numbers more could be found for the

[Sidenote: _Phrases denoting State of Health_]

Before passing on to a list of ailments and their cures, it may be
interesting first to look at some typical words and phrases used by
dialect-speakers in describing their state of health. It may be assumed
as a general axiom that a woman never admits to being perfectly well. At
most, she makes a reluctant confession to good health by saying: I’m
pretty middlin’. This one word _middling_, by the aid of a preceding
adverb, and by due adjustment of the speaker’s tone, may be made to
express almost any degree of health. _Middlin’_, _amongst the middlins_,
or _joost middlin’_ implies a moderate state of health; _nobbut
middlin’_ means rather poorly; and _very middlin’_, or _uncommon
middlin’_, means very ill: Sum daays ah’s middlin’, an uther sum as
waffy an’ waake as owt (Yks.). Thoo nobbut lewks varry wawey this
mooanin’! What’s matther wi tha? Ans. Whah, ah’s nobbut middlin’
(e.Yks.). Oh, her idn on’y very middlin’, eens mid zay, her’ve a-got the
browntitus shockin’ bad like.

The following are a few specimen remarks about health gathered from
the dialects: He’s a man that enjoy werry bad health; I bant very well
tü-day, this ’ot wuther mak’th me veel uncommon wangary [limp] (Dev.);
Thankee, I baint no ways marchantable like s’morning, I was a-tookt
rampin’ be-now in my inside (Som. Dev.); Ah feels weeak an’ wanklin’,
ah’s that badly, whahl ah can hardlins tthraal mysen across t’fleear
(Yks.); He’s sairly off on’t (Yks.), i.e. he is very ill; Aye, ah
think ah’s ommost gitten ti t’far end (Yks.); Owd Jim Batley’s varry
owd nah, he’s hung i’ jimmers (w.Yks.), i.e. he is ready to fall to
pieces any moment; Poor owd John’s gettin’ mighty simple [feeble],
’e can ’ardly get alung (w.Cy.); I dawnt zim yü be up tü tha mark
tü-day, Jack, yü lük’th cruel wisht, like a ’apperd ov zoap arter a
’ard day’s wash (Dev.); I be better in myself, Sir, but my poor leg
’ave got that swelth in um as I couldn’t get um along to the top o’ the
town, not if you was to crown mŭ (Wor.); I fare to feel kind o’ tired
like (Ess.); He wor badly, but is brave again now (in gen. dial. use);
She’s charmin’, thankee (sw.Cy.); He’s mending, but he’s not better yet
(n.Cy. Not. Lin.), i.e. not quite recovered from illness; How is your
wife, John, after her groaning? Ans. Finely, Sir, thankee (e.An.); Heaw
arto this mornin’? Ans. Well, awm weantly [hearty], thank yo (Lan.). To
have a pain at the heart (Yks. Lan. e.An.) is to have the stomach-ache,
cp. Fr. _avoir mal au cœur_; to be crippled with the pains (Sc. Nhb.)
is to suffer from rheumatism. A liver complaint was described thus: Dr.
Brown, he says to me, Mrs. Smith, he says, it’s ovverharassment o’ th’
liver at yer sufferin’ from. But the doctor was not always called in to
give an elaborate diagnosis of the case, cp.:

    What complaint had he, Betty?
    Says hoo, aw caunt tell,
    We ne’er had no doctor
    He deet of hissel.--Edwin Waugh.

[Sidenote: _Homely Prescriptions_]

For maintaining good health and keeping the doctor out of the house,
there are in use certain homely prescriptions. For example: Ait a happle
avore gwain to bed, An’ you’ll make the doctor beg his bread (Dev.); or
as the more popular version runs: An apple a day Keeps the doctor away.
Sometimes onion is substituted for apple, or, according to an Oxford
version, the apple should be eaten during the day, and an onion at
night. There is an old west-country proverb which bears further
testimony to the health-giving properties of the onion tribe: Eat leekes
in Lide [March] and ramsins [wild garlic] in May, And all the year after
physitians may play. The term _kitchen physic_ (n.Cy. Lin. Som.), food,
good living, is found in early literature, cp. ‘The country people use
kitchen Physick, and common experience tells us that they live freest
from all manner of infirmities that make least use of Apothecaries
Physick,’ Burton, _Anatomy of Melancholy_, 1621. Her don’t want no
doctorin’, ’tis kitchen physic her’s in want o’ (Som.). For a trifling
ailment may be recommended: A haporth o’ thole-weel [endure-well], an’ a
pennorth o’ niver-let-on-ye-hae-it (Irel.).

[Sidenote: _Medicines for General Debility_]

Amongst the medicines for general debility are: a decoction of
dock-root, the common mallow, known as dock-root-tea (Wil. Hmp.),
considered a great purifier of the blood; old-man-tea (Chs.), made from
southernwood; bog-bean-tea (Lakel.), a grand thing fer takkin’ fur off
yer teeth, an’ givin’ ye a stomach; medicines made from feverfew;
gill-tea (War.), a decoction of gill, i.e. ground ivy, heriff, and the
young shoots of nettles, given to children as a spring medicine for nine
successive days, a very bitter and horrible stuff. It cannot, however,
have been so nasty as a mixture formerly known in Durham, called Dean
and Chapter. This consisted of the remnants from every medicine bottle
in the house, poured together, and well shaken, and then administered to
the patient whatever might be the nature of his complaint. A common
ironical saying used in recommending a dose of anything specially
nauseous is: Sup, Simon, it’s excellent broth!

To wash in May-dew was supposed to strengthen the joints and muscles,
the reason given being that the dew had in it all the ‘nature’ of the
spring herbs and grasses, and therefore it must be wonderfully
strengthening. But the more general belief concerning May-dew was that
to get up early on May-morning and wash one’s face in the dew, ensured a
rosy complexion. A cosmetic for beautifying the complexion by removing
freckles used to be distilled from _fevertory_ (Wil.), the common
fumitory, whence the old couplet: If you wish to be pure and holy, Wash
your face with fevertory.

[Sidenote: _Charms and Antidotes_
           _Remedies for Boils, Burns, and Colds_
           _Cures for Cramp_
           _Dropsy and Sore Eyes_
           _Fits, Hiccups, Nettle-sting_
           _Quinsy, Rheumatism, Rickets_
           _Sciatica, Shingles, Sores_
           _Bad Legs, Skin-wounds, Styes_
           _Thrush, Teething_
           _Safeguards against Toothache_
           _Old Beliefs about Warts_
           _Types of Wart-cure_
           _Cures for Wens_
           _Remedies for Whooping-cough_]

For an Adder-bite: Apply the contents of two addled goose-eggs; a
poultice compounded of boiled onions and rotten eggs (Shr.); garlic,
the Churl’s Treacle (Chs.), or countryman’s antidote to the bite of
venomous creatures. As an amulet, a _milpreve_ (Cor.), or ball of
coralline limestone, may be worn; or it may be boiled in milk, and
then the milk administered to the patient as an antidote. To repeat
verses 1 and 2 of _Ps._ lxviii was supposed to be efficacious both as
a protection from adders, and as a cure for their bites. In an old
MS. book, once the professional note-book of a Cornish white witch,
occurred the following prescription: ‘A charam for the bit of an ader.
“Bradgty [spotted], bradgty, bradgty, under the ashing leaf,” to be
repeated three times.’ For Ague: Take wood-lice, the species which roll
up on being touched, and swallow them as pills (Nhp.); or wrap a spider
up in a cobweb, and swallow it like a pill (Sus.); place a spider in
a nutshell, and suspend it round the neck in a small bag (Sus. Lan.);
‘take the eare of a mouse and bruise it, then take salte and stamp them
together, and make a pultas with vinegar, and so lay it to the wrists,’
MS. book of recipes, seventeenth century; write this charm on a
three-cornered piece of paper, and wear it round the neck till it drops
off: Ague, ague, I thee defy, Three days shiver, Three days shake, Make
me well for Jesus’ sake; pass on the disease by means of this charm: I
tie my hair to the aspen-tree, Dither and shake instead of me (Lin.).
To stop Bleeding: Apply pulverized selenite, called _staunch_ (Nhp.),
because it is supposed to possess the power of stanching the bleeding
of wounds; or spiders’ webs (Sc. Yks.); for cuts when shaving, use a
_bull-fiest_ (e.An.), or puff-ball; repeat _Ezek._ xvi. 6 (Dev. Cor.);
or this charm: Christ was born in Bethlehem, baptized in the river of
Jordan, and as the waters stood still, so shall the blood stand still
in thee, A-- B--. In the name of the Father, &c. (Dev. Cor.). To cure
Nose-bleeding: Take one or two large toads, put in a cold oven, and
increase the heat till the toads are cooked to a crisp mass. Beat this
to powder in a stone mortar. Place the powder in a box, and use it as
snuff (Dev.); tie the patient’s left garter round the family Bible,
and put a key on the back of the neck (Shr.); repeat nine times these
words: Blood abide in this vein as Christ abideth in the Church, and
hide in thee as Christ hideth from Himself (Dev.). For Boils: Take a
quart of alder-tree berries, stew in two or three quarts of water, and
simmer down to three pints, add liquorice to give a flavour. Dose: one
wineglassful every morning (Glo.). Boils are also cured by creeping on
the hands and knees beneath a bramble which has grown into the soil
at both ends (Dev. Cor.). For Burns: Apply goose-dung, mixed with the
middle bark of an elder-tree, and fried in May butter (Shr.); repeat
three times: Three wise men came from the east, One brought fire, two
carried frost. Out fire! In frost! In the name of the Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost (Shr. Dev. Cor.). For a Cold: Drink balm-tea for a feverish
cold, or _organ-tea_ (Dev. Cor.), made from the herb penny-royal,
warranted to be specially efficacious when sweetened with honey, and
with a ‘drap of zomtheng short in’t-’; take at bedtime a hot posset,
made either with buttermilk, or onions, or treacle; or _buttered-ale_
(Nhp. Shr.) made thus: Boil a pint of ale with a lump of butter in
it, beat up two eggs with sugar and spices, then pour the boiling ale
upon the eggs while stirring briskly. For a cough _bramble-vinegar_
[blackberry-] (Lin.) is said to be an excellent specific; and for
a sore throat, let somebody read _Ps._ viii seven times for three
mornings in succession over the patient. For Colic: Stand on your
head for a quarter of an hour (Cor.); mix equal quantities of elixir
of toads and powdered Turkey rhubarb. Dose: half a teaspoonful, taken
fasting, three successive mornings (Dev.). Sloe gin is also to be
recommended. If the sufferer is an infant, administer in small doses,
_cinder-tea_ (Yks. Lan. Glo. Oxf.), that is, sweetened water into which
hot cinders have been dropped. For Consumption: Take herb-medicines
decocted from lungwort (Hmp.), the Jerusalem cowslip; or from _lungs of
oak_ (Hmp.), the hazel-crottles, _Sticta pulmonaria_; or from nettles;
and eat _muggons_ (Sc.), the mugwort, for as the old rhyme says: If
they wad drink nettles in March And eat muggons in May, Sae mony braw
maidens Wadna gang to the clay. Snail soup (Yks.), and broth made of
the flesh of an adder boiled with chicken (Lin.) are also valuable
remedies. My old nurse remembers when she was a young nursemaid, seeing
her master, who was consumptive, swallow baby frogs before breakfast by
way of a cure for his complaint. The treatment proved successful, for
these reminiscences had been called forth by a newspaper notice of the
gentleman’s death in 1910 at the age of eighty-eight! For preventing
Cramp: Wear eel-skin garters (Yks.), especially recommended for use
when bathing; when going to bed place your shoes under the bed with
the soles uppermost (Yks.), or with the toes peeping outwards (Lan.);
or cross your stockings and shoes (Shr.); sleep with your stockings
on, and with a piece of sulphur in each; or go to bed with the skin
of a mole bound round your left thigh; carry in your pocket, or in
a little bag tied round your neck, a _cramp-bone_ (Dur. Nhp. e.An.
Som.), either the patella of a sheep or lamb, or the top vertebra
of a goose, but beware lest it should fall to the ground, for if it
touches the ground, its virtue is lost. The real old historic talisman
is, however, the _cramp-ring_ (n.Cy. Yks. Lin.), a ring made out of
the handles of decayed coffins, and worn as a charm against cramp.
Formerly these rings were consecrated by the kings of England, who were
supposed to cure cramp, the ceremony of the consecration being solemnly
performed on Good Friday. That this faith in the virtue of a ring is
not yet dead is shown by the following advertisement, taken from a
modern periodical: ‘We know our marvellous GALVANIC Ring will cure
you as it has done thousands of others, and to prove this will send
you one on receipt of 1_s._ deposit.... Absolutely cures Rheumatism,
Neuralgia, Lumbago, Sleeplessness, Gout, Nervous Disorders, and kindred
complaints. They are also a certain cure for General Lassitude, no
matter from what cause arising. Worn by Royalty.... Why suffer? Delay
is dangerous. Send for one of our wonderful rings to-day and be cured.’
For Cuts: Apply a poultice made of comfrey. If the sufferer is a man,
use the red comfrey, and if a woman, the white variety (Shr.); or bind
the wound with _cut-leaf_ (Bck. Hmp.), the _Valeriana pyrenaica_, the
upper side of the leaf next the skin for a cut, and the under side for
a gathering. For Diarrhoea: Take a decoction of _slon-root_ (Lei.),
the root of the blackthorn; or raspberry-leaf tea (Wm.); or grate into
milk or brandy a biscuit or small piece of a loaf baked on Good Friday,
and kept throughout the year for this purpose (Yks. Wor. Sus. Dev.).
Good Friday bread is also a specific for the same complaint in calves.
For Dropsy: Drink _besom-tea_ (Som.), an infusion of the leaves
of the red heath broom; or try the following recipe: Take several
large fully-grown toads, place them in a vessel in which they can be
burned without their ashes becoming mixed with any foreign matter.
When reduced to ashes, pound them in a stone mortar. Place the ashes
in a wide-mouthed jar, cork closely and keep in a dry place. Dose.
One teaspoonful of ashes in milk, to be taken at the growing of the
moon for nine mornings (Dev.). For Sore Eyes: Take a handful of the
knobs called _pearls_ (Irel.), which grow at the base of button-grass
stems, crush them in a small quantity of water, and use the water as
an eye-wash; chickweed is also beneficial (Dev.); bathe the eyes with
rain-water caught on Ascension Day (Shr. Wor.); or foment them with
water in which club-moss has been boiled (Cor.), but this is only
efficacious if the moss has been gathered with all due ceremony. The
day for cutting must be the third day of the new moon, the hour must be
sun-down, and the operator, having first carefully washed his hands,
must kneel on the ground. The knife to be used must be shown to the
moon, and then the following words must be repeated: As Christ heal’d
the issue of blood, Do thou cut, what thou cuttest, for good! When
cut, the club-moss must be wrapped in a white cloth, and afterwards
boiled in water from the spring nearest the place where it grew. If
preferred, the club-moss may be mixed with butter made from the milk
of a new cow, and applied as an ointment (w.Cy.). For Fits: Drink an
infusion of _herb-of-grace_ (Lin.), the rue; go to the parish church
at midnight on June 23, and walk through each aisle, then crawl three
times from north to south under the Communion table exactly as the
clock strikes twelve (Dev.); place the foot of a toad in a small bag,
and wear it suspended round the neck (Cor.). As a protective charm
against fits the tongue of a still-born calf, dried and worn in such
a position that it touches the spine, is effective (Yks.); or a ring
made of a _sacrament shilling_ (Shr.), which must be obtained thus: beg
twelve pennies from twelve young unmarried men, and exchange them for a
shilling from the offertory alms. In parts of Yorkshire the _sacrament
piece_ was a half-crown, taken from the Communion alms in exchange for
thirty pennies collected from thirty poor widows. The half-crown was
then perforated to allow of a ribbon being passed through it, and it
was worn round the neck as an amulet. For an attack of Hiccup: Repeat
the following: Hiccough, hiccough, gang away, An’ cum ageean some udder
day When aw brew an’ when aw beeake, An’ than aw’l mak’ a hiccough
ceeake (Lakel.). For Measles: Give as a medicine a mixture called
_crooke_ (Irel.), compounded of porter, sulphur, and sheep’s dung;
pass the patient three times round the body of a live bear (Shr.). To
safeguard a child from the infection of measles, place it on the back
of a donkey, facing the animal’s tail, pull three hairs from the tail,
and hang them in a bag round the child’s neck, and then walk the donkey
up and down a short distance, a thistle being held the whole time over
the child’s head (Yks.). For a Nettle-sting: Rub the affected part with
a dock-leaf, and say the while: Nettle in, dock out, Dock in, nettle
out, Nettle in, dock out, Dock rub nettle out, repeating the charm
rapidly till the pain ceases. Other versions are: Nettle oot, dockan
in; Dockan, dockan, in, Nettle, nettle, out; Docken, docken, inward,
Nettle, nettle, outward; Dock go in, nettle come out; Out ’ettle, in
dock, Dock shall ha’ a new smock, ’Ettle zhant ha’ narrun [ne’er a
one]. The use of this charm was evidently a common custom as far back
as Chaucer’s time, for he introduces the words as a phrase meaning
first one thing and then another, cp. ‘But canstow pleyen raket, to and
fro, Netle in, dokke out, now this, now that, Pandare?’ _Troil. and
Cres._ Bk. IV, ll. 460-1. In this sense, the charm-formula is found
as a proverbial expression in North-country dialects as late as the
first half of the nineteenth century. For Quinsy: Drink an infusion
of _squinancy-berries_ (Lan. Ess.), black-currants, so called because
of their special efficacy in such cases, cp. O.Fr. _squinancie_,
quinsy. Once upon a time there lived on the borders of Worcestershire
and Shropshire a wise man who worked cures, whose method of treating
quinsy was this: he made the patient sit bolt upright in a chair, with
a poached egg on the top of the head, and a string of roasted onions
round the neck, and then he blew a mysterious powder down the poor
victim’s throat through a tobacco-pipe. For Rheumatism: Get a ha’porth
of mustard and boil it in a pint of beer; find a _dunderbolt_ (Cor.),
boil it in water for some hours, and then drink the water, and it will
prove a sovereign remedy. For external application use _viper’s oil_
(Nrf.); or _marsh-mallows-tea_ (Shr.), the latter is specially good
for the ‘swellin’ as comes from rheumatiz’. Charm-cures are: A potato,
preferably a stolen one, carried in the pocket (Shr. Nrf. Dev. Cor.);
or the shoulder-bone of a rabbit sewn up in brown paper (Shr.); or the
right fore-foot of a hare (Nhp.). A _sacramental sixpence_ (Chs.); or a
ring made of three nails taken from three coffins out of three several
churchyards (Shr.), may be worn as a protective talisman. A story is
told of an old woman who wanted to present herself for confirmation,
though it was known that she had been confirmed already at least
twice. When taxed with this she replied: Au knaws au has, but au finds
it good for the rheumatics. For Rickets: Draw the child through a
_holey-stone_ (Yks.), a large upright stone with a hole through it; or
cause the child to undergo the ceremony of _laying_ (Bnff. ne.Sc.), as
follows: the child must be taken before sunrise to a smithy in which
three men, bearing the same name, work. One of the smiths then takes
the child, first lays it in the water-trough of the smithy, and then
on the anvil. While lying on the anvil all the tools are, one by one,
passed over the child. It is then given back to the mother, or nurse,
who washes it once more in the water-trough. In some places the water
was first heated by plunging pieces of hot iron into it, and the child
was given a little of the water to drink, besides being bathed in
it, the anvil part of the ceremony being omitted. In Northumberland,
a _heart-grown_ child, i.e. one sickly and puny from a supposed
bewitchment, was subjected to a somewhat similar process, but in this
case it was important that the blacksmith should be of the seventh
generation in an unbroken line of blacksmiths. The child was laid on
the anvil, and the blacksmith raised his hammer as if about to strike
hot iron, bringing it down gently to touch the child’s body. This was
repeated three times, after which the child was expected to thrive
without further trouble. For Sciatica: The following charm was known in
use as late as the end of the nineteenth century: The patient must lie
on his back on the bank of a river or brook, with his head against the
stream, and a straight ashen staff between him and the water, and these
words must be repeated over him: Boneshave [sciatica] right, Boneshave
strite; As tha watter rins by tha stave, Zo follow boneshave (Dev.).
For Shingles: Burn some barley straw to powder, and put the ashes on
the part affected; or apply grease taken from the wheels of church
bells, called _dodment_ (Wor.), or _bell-coom_ (Bdf.). This is said
to be the sovereign cure. In Shropshire, under the name of _bletch_,
it is an approved remedy for ring-worm. In parts of Lincolnshire a
name for shingles is _cat-jingles_, and children are warned that they
will contract it if they habitually nurse cats. For Smallpox: Take
a bun from the shop of a person whose wife when she married did not
change her name, be careful not to pay for it, nor even say ‘thank
you’, and then give it to the patient to eat (Chs.). For Sores: Apply
crushed leaves of the greater periwinkle; _cut-finger-leaf_ (Wil.),
all-heal, _Valeriana officinalis_; the _vagabond’s friend_ (Lakel.),
the Solomon’s seal; _holy vervain_, _Verbena officinalis_. _Poor Jan’s
leaf_ (Dev.), the house-leek, also called _silgreen_, _singreen_ (Shr.
Oxf. Dor.), pounded and mixed with cream is good as a cooling ointment.
_Featherfew_ (Lin.); and _goose-grass_ (Hnt.), the silver weed, are
both recommended for allaying inflammation. For Bad Legs a _cow-sharn_
poultice (Shr.) is considered efficacious, and this is the recipe
for making it: Tak’ a ’antle o’ wutmil [handful of oatmeal], an’ as
much cow-sharn as’ll mix well together, an’ put it on the leg, it’ll
swage the swellin’ an’ mak’ it as cool as a cowcoomer [cucumber]. A
_foal-sark_ (Yks.), the membranous covering in which a foal is born,
when dried, is much valued as a remedy for sores and skin-wounds.
If you cut yourself, sticking the knife into a flitch of bacon will
prevent the wound taking bad ways (Shr.). A boy who had hurt his hand
with a rusty nail, was told by the Wise-man whom he consulted, to
have the nail first well filed and polished, and that then it must be
rubbed every morning before sunrise, and every evening before sunset.
By following these directions the wound was cured (Nhb.). For a wound
caused by the prick of a thorn the following is a Cornish charm: Christ
was of a virgin born, And he was pricked by a thorn, And it did never
bell [fester] nor swell, As I trust in Jesus this never will. For
Sprains: _crab-varjis_ (Shr.), the juice of the crab-apple, is said
to ‘swage the swellin’’ due to a sprain. An old Northumbrian remedy
was practised by the _stamp-strainer_, a person skilled in the art of
curing sprains by stamping on them. The limb ought afterwards to be
bound up with an eel’s skin. For Stitch in the side: Use an application
of saliva (Shr.), the common remedy for the painful sensation known as
‘pins and needles’. For a Stye in the eye: Rub it outwards from the
nose with a wedding-ring (Som. Dev. Cor.), some say this should be done
exactly three times, some say nine times; or it may be stroked nine
times with a cat’s tail, in which case, if the cat be a black tom-cat,
the cure is more certain. To draw out a Thorn: Apply the cast-off
slough of a viper (Nrf.). For Thrill in the foot: Make the sign of the
cross with your finger on the toe of your shoe (Yks.). If the foot
is ‘asleep’, make the sign of the cross with spittle on the sole of
the shoe (Shr.). For Thrush: Hold a live frog by one of its legs, and
allow it to sprawl about within the mouth of the child suffering from
_frog_, or thrush (Chs. Lin. Shr.), the frog thereby will become the
recipient of the complaint. Take the child to a running stream, draw a
straw through its mouth, and repeat the verse, _Psalm_ viii. 2: ‘Out of
the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because
of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger’
(Dev.); or take it, fasting, on three successive mornings to have its
mouth blown into by a person who never knew his father, that is to say,
a posthumous child (Cor.). A _left twin_, the survivor of two twins,
is thought to possess the power of curing thrush (Sus.). Teething: A
coral necklace round a baby’s throat will ensure easy teething, cp.
‘Though coral doth properly preserve and fasten the teeth in men, yet
it is used in children to make an easier passage for them: and for that
intent is worn about their necks,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. V, Chap. XXIV.
A necklace of beads cut from the root of henbane and placed round the
child’s neck is a Devonshire substitute for coral. Some ten or twelve
years ago I knew a baby that always wore a mysterious black velvet band
round its neck, which the mother said was a certain preventive against
teething troubles, for all her children had worn a like talisman in
infancy, and no one of them had ever had any difficulty in cutting its
teeth. For Toothache: Take a decoction of _elicompane_ (Chs.), the
horse-heal; mix two quarts of rat’s broth, one ounce of camphor, and
one ounce of essence of cloves. Dose: one teaspoonful three times a day
(Dev.); steal some lead from the church roof or windows, and place a
pellet of it in the hollow of the decayed tooth (Dev.); apply a mustard
plaster to the wrist (Shr.). If you light on a briar-boss [gall of the
wild rose] accidental wen yo’ ’an the tuth-ache, an’ wear it in yore
boasom, it’ll cure it (Shr.). To find a _loady-nut_ (Dev.), a double
nut, is lucky, for it will cure toothache; so does a tooth found in
a churchyard, if rubbed on the cheek over the aching spot (Yks.). A
spider enclosed in a nutshell, and worn in a bag hung round the neck
(Wor.); a dead person’s tooth carried in the left waistcoat pocket
(Dev.); and the paw of a mole (Shr.), are all good safeguards against
toothache. If you always put your left stocking and shoe on first, it
prevents toothache. If you cut your nails on a Friday you will never
have toothache, for, as tradition tells, when St. Peter once complained
of the toothache, our Lord told him to cut his nails on a Friday, and
he would be cured. It is well to remember never to perform this task
on a Sunday, for: A man had better ne’er be born Than on the Sabbath
pare his horn. St. Peter seems to have been a kind of patron saint of
sufferers from toothache. An old toothache-charm bearing reference to
him was once common throughout the country, as is testified by the
various versions of it which have been discovered by folklorists. The
charm had to be written out on paper, and worn on the person of the
sufferer, properly under a vest or stays. A Shropshire version is as
follows: ‘As Jesus passed through Jerusalem He saw Peter standing at
the gates and saith unto him, “What aileth thee, Peter?” Peter saith,
“Lord, I have the toothache that I can neither walk, lie, nor stand.”
He saith unto him, “Follow Me, and thou shalt not have the toothache
any more.”’ In Somersetshire it ran: ‘Peter sat on a marble stone,
When by here Jesus came aloan, “Peter what is it makes you for to
quake?” “Lord Jesus, it is the toothake.” “Rise, Peter, and be heled.”’
Scholars affirm that the original of this charm is a Latin one found
in the Anglo-Saxon _Leechdoms_, beginning: ‘Christus super marmoreum
sedebat; Petrus tristis ante eum stabat, manum ad maxillum tenebat....’
For Warts: Rub them with _Devil’s milk_ (Yks.), the great celandine,
also called the _wart-flower_ (Dev.), or _wart-wort_ (Glo. Wil.);
or with _wart-grass_ (Cum. Yks. Der.), the sun-spurge, also called
_wartweed_ (Cum. Yks. Glo. e.An.). These plants, and others which
likewise contain a milky white sap, are the most popular remedies for
curing warts. Other applications are: _frog-spit_ (Yks.), the white
froth deposited on plants by the insect _Cicada spumaria_; the slime
of a common snail (Dev.); fasting spittle (Shr.); and eel’s blood
(Nhb.). It is a common North-country belief that to wash the hands in
water in which eggs have been boiled will most certainly produce warts.
Dr. Christopher Wren, Dean of Windsor, and father of the architect
of St. Paul’s, in his marginal notes to Sir Thomas Browne’s _Vulgar
Errors_, makes the following quotation from Lord St. Alban’s ‘natural
historye’: ‘The taking away of warts, by rubbing them with somewhat
that afterwards is put to waste and consume, is a common experiment;
and I do apprehend it the rather because of my own experience.... The
English ambassador’s lady, who was a woman far from superstition, told
me one day, she would help me away with my warts: whereupon she got
a piece of lard with the skin on, and rubbed the warts all over with
the fat side; and amongst the rest, that wart which I had had from my
childhood: then she nailed the piece of lard, with the fat towards the
sun, upon a post of her chamber window, which was to the south. The
success was, that within five weeks’ space all the warts went quite
away: and that wart which I had so long endured, for company.... They
say the like is done by the rubbing of warts with a green elder stick
and then burying the stick to rot in muck. It would be tried with
corns and wens, and such other excrescences.’ This type of wart-cure
was formerly prevalent in very many parts of England. The following
are some of the best-known recipes: Take a large black slug, or snail,
rub it on the wart, and then impale the creature on a thorn-bush, and
leave it there to die and wither away, simultaneously with the decaying
of the snail the wart will consume away and disappear; rub the wart
with the inside of the husk of a broad bean, and then throw the husk
away or bury it in some place disclosed to no one, as the bean-husk
rots, so will the warts; perform the same ceremony with a piece of
stolen meat or bacon; take as many sprigs of elder as there are warts,
with each sprig touch a wart, saying: Here’s a wart, then touch a
place where there is no wart, and add: but here’s none, then bury the
sprigs; rub the warts with ears of wheat, an ear for each wart, then
throw away the ears of wheat to perish at a ‘four-lane end’; make as
many knots in a hair as there are warts, and then throw it away; take
as many stones from a running stream as you have warts, fasten them
securely in a clean white bag, and throw them down on the highway,
then wash each wart in strong vinegar seven successive mornings, and
whoever picks up the bag of stones will get the warts; wrap up in a
parcel as many grains of barley as there are warts, and lay it on a
public road, whoever finds and opens the parcel will inherit the warts;
count the warts over carefully to a passing tramp, and mark the number
inside his hat, when he leaves the neighbourhood, the warts will also
disappear; cut an apple in two, rub one half on the wart and give it to
a pig, and eat the other half yourself; on the night of the new moon,
let some one lead the wart-patient out into the garden, facing that
quarter of the heavens where the moon is, the patient must then stoop
down and rub the warts with soil, returning immediately afterwards to
the house without once looking at the moon, cp. ‘referring unto sober
examination what natural effects can reasonably be expected ... when
for warts we rub our hands before the moon, or commit any maculated
part unto the touch of the dead,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. V, Chap. XXIV;
repeat the words: Ashentree, ashentree, Pray buy these warts of me,
then stick a pin into the tree, and afterwards into the wart, and then
into the tree again, and leave it there. The belief in remedies of
this kind is apparently not yet dead, to judge from a reference in a
speech made last July at a Conference on ‘The Revival of the Gifts of
Healing in the Church’. The speaker, Dr. A. T. Schofield, is reported
to have said that: ‘There could be no doubt that all disease was
partly caused and partly cured by mind. As proof that mental healing
had power over the material diseases, he might instance the wonderful
power it had over the plebeian affliction of warts.’ For Wens: Take a
handkerchief which has been wrapped round the swelling, and throw it
into the grave at the burial service of a person of the opposite sex
to that of the sufferer, as the handkerchief decays in the earth, the
wen will disappear. Formerly the approved cure was the _dead-stroke_
(Nhp.), the stroking by the hand of a person who had just been hanged,
and numbers of people used to congregate round the gallows at an
execution in order to receive this cure. For Whooping-cough, or as
it is termed in the dialects, Chin-cough, or Kink-cough: Administer
medicines made from the juice of _Robin-run-in-the-hedge_ (Irel.), the
goose-grass, or cleavers, boiled with sugar; _golden-locks_ (Hrf.), the
common polypody; _Robin Redbreast’s cushion_ (Sus.), the rose-gall,
or bedeguar; or give wood-lice as pills (Lin.). Other remedies are:
fried mice (Chs. Nrf.); roast hedgehog (Chs.); owl-broth (Yks.); a
decoction made from _pushlocks_ (Sc.), sheep’s droppings, also known
as _lamb-trottle tea_ (Lin.); a few hairs taken from the cross on a
donkey’s back, chopped up fine, and placed between two slices of bread
and butter, and given to the child to eat (Chs. Shr.). Take a clean
pocket-handkerchief and spread it under the nose of a donkey, give
the animal a piece of white bread, take up the crumbs which fall, mix
them with milk, and give the mixture to the child to drink; make the
child eat its food with a _quick-horn_ spoon (ne.Sc.), that is, a
spoon made from the horn taken from a living animal. A woman who has
not changed her name in marriage can cure whooping-cough by giving
the patient something to eat, a cake, or a piece of bread and butter
(Chs.). If the child is fed with bread and butter from the table of
a family the heads of which bear the names of John and Joan, it is
likewise efficacious (Cor.). In a certain district in Staffordshire
children suffering from whooping-cough were often sent to an old couple
whose names were Joseph and Mary in hopes of a gift of food, which
if neither asked for, nor thanked for, was regarded as an effective
remedy. Any one riding a piebald horse has the power to prescribe an
infallible remedy for whooping-cough (Sc. n.Cy. Shr.), and cures are
said to have resulted from the simplest things, such as cold water,
honey, bread and butter, and tea, suggested by riders in answer to the
question: What is good for the chin-cough? Another approved remedy was
to pass the child a certain number of times, usually nine, round the
body of a parti-coloured horse, a donkey, a white cow or mare (Chs.
Shr. Dev.). A child that had ridden on a bear was believed to be proof
against ever taking the disease (Lan.). The bearward of former times
subsisted largely on the moneys given him by the parents of children
that had ridden on the bear as a protection against whooping-cough.
Carry the child into a sheep-fold, and let the sheep breathe on its
face, and then lay the child on the spot of ground from which a sheep
has just arisen, continue this daily for a week, and: ’Tes a zartin
cure (Dev.). Find a briar growing in the ground at both ends, pass
the child under and over it nine times, for three successive mornings
before sunrise, repeating: Under the briar, and over the briar, I wish
to leave the chin-cough here; or pass the child six times under and
over a bramble rooted at both ends, round and round while saying the
Lord’s Prayer, then take half a dozen leaves from the spray, and make
tea of them, and give them to the child to drink (Shr.). This ceremony
performed over a bramble which grows in three counties is considered a
still more potent charm. In parts of Scotland children were sometimes
put through the hoppers of mills. Catch a frog, open its mouth, let the
patient cough into it three times, and then throw the creature over his
left shoulder, and the cough will disappear at once (Chs. Yks. Wor.).
Another way of transferring the disease to a frog is to put the latter
into a jug of water, and make the patient cough into the jug, and this
_smits_ [infects] the frog, and the patient is cured. A woman relating
how she had cured her child after this manner, added: It went to my
heart to hear the poor frog go coughing about the garden afterwards.
The mountain-ash also figures as a remedy for the chin-cough. A small
lock of hair must be cut from the head of the patient, and then placed
in a hole bored in the trunk of the tree, and fastened into it with a
plug (Chs.). Or again, a certain number of _hodmidods_ [small snails]
were passed through the hands of the patient and then threaded on a
string and suspended in the chimney; as the _hodmidods_ died, the cough
would leave the child (Suf.). In Norfolk the mother of the sufferer
would be told to find a dark spider in her own house, and hold it over
the head of her child, repeating three times: Spider, as you waste
away, Whooping-cough no longer stay. The spider must then be hung up
in a bag over the mantelpiece, and when it has dried up, the cough
will be gone. Among curative charms to be worn by the patient are: a
hairy caterpillar, or a small wood-lizard stitched up in a bag, and
tied round the child’s neck (Yks. Shr.); some hairs from a donkey’s
cross sewn up in a strip of flannel, and worn round the throat (Chs.);
an _adder-stone_ (Lin.), an ancient spindle-whorl, believed to be
produced by adders; a string with nine knots in it (Lan.); the small
twigs of an elder growing in a churchyard, cut into lengths of about an
inch, and then threaded into a necklace; a godmother’s stay-lace, or
a godfather’s garter (Shr.), worn round the neck of a child suffering
from whooping-cough.

[Sidenote: _Supposed Powers of Healing_]

The seventh son of a family, born in succession without a girl, was
believed to be born with special aptness for the healing art (Shr. Som.
Dev.). An old man who died at Welshampton about 1868, used to cure
whooping-cough merely by contact with the patient. Sometimes as many as
ten or twelve children were brought to him on one day. He always gave
each child a piece of cake before going away, but he never received any
money from any one for the cures he performed. He attributed his powers
solely to the fact that he was the seventh son of three generations of
seventh sons. In former days it was believed that a seventh son could
_strike_ for the king’s evil (Dev. Cor.).

[Sidenote: _The Water-caster_]

A mediciner much thought of in parts of Yorkshire was the
_water-caster_. Perhaps none of them are left now, but certainly well
within the memory of the present generation a member of the profession
lived in a village near Bradford, where he was frequently consulted for
all sorts of diseases and bodily misfortunes. He pretended to be able to
diagnose the complaint from the _cast_ or appearance of the urine, and
to prescribe accordingly. On one occasion he told a woman that he had
discovered by this means that her child, on whose behalf she had come,
had injured himself by falling down some stairs. Whereupon the mother,
at first unable to trust this astounding perspicacity, put it to the
test by asking the number of the stairs the child had covered in his
fall. ‘Seven,’ replied the water-caster. ‘Your wreng, Mester,’ said the
mother, ‘it wor nine.’ ‘Then you didn’t bring me all the water,’ was the
calm rejoinder. ‘Your reight, Mester, there, ah didn’t bring it all.’ So
the woman went away satisfied that the water-caster was a man of
infallible skill. In reality his marvellous insight was the result of a
very simple expedient. He was only to be seen at certain stated times,
hence he always had several patients arriving at the same hour. He kept
them waiting all together whilst he himself remained behind a boarded
partition, where he was supposed to be occupied with his scientific
researches. Naturally the various sufferers detailed their respective
ills and symptoms to each other, whilst the attentive water-caster
secretly noted them down, to reproduce afterwards with some simple
medical advice in return for pecuniary considerations.

[Sidenote: _Charms against Cattle Disease_]

The best-known charm against cattle diseases in Scotland and the
north of England was the _need-fire_, a virgin flame kindled by the
friction of two pieces of wood. It was formerly raised in one village
and hurriedly carried on from one village to another. A correspondent
of _The Times_, in an article on the Coronation Bonfires, June 13,
1911, says: ‘These “need-fires” have continued in the north of England
within living memory. The writer has spoken with farmers in Cumberland
and Westmorland who in a time of cattle plague have not only seen the
“need-fire” carried from farm to farm, but cattle driven through the
smoke to stop the murrain.’ The word still remains in popular sayings,
such as: To be at a thing like need-fire, to do anything with great
effort or industry; to go like need-fire, to go with great speed;
to work for need-fire, to show great industry or restless activity
(Lakel. Cum. Wm.). Another charm-cure for cattle was the _shrew-ash_
(Lan. Sus. Hmp.). The affected part of the injured or diseased
animal was rubbed with leaves or twigs from an ash-tree in the trunk
of which live mice and shrews had been plugged up, and thus buried
alive. The _thunder-bolts_, and _awf-shots_, which we have already
noticed among charms against human ills, were also used for the cure
of disordered cattle. If an animal died of distemper, a portion of
its flesh cut out and hung in the chimney would serve as a protection
against a recurrence of the complaint (Lan.). For a _foul_ (Chs.), an
inflammation between the claws of a cow’s foot: Cut a sod on which the
diseased foot has stood, the shape of the foot, and stick it on a bush.
For Lameness in a horse, caused by a nail: Thrust the nail into a piece
of bacon, as it rusts, the wound will heal (Wor.). The _quarter-ill_ is
a disease which specially attacks young cattle, affecting them in one
limb or quarter, and usually ending in death. To prevent this, at the
birth of a calf, salt was sprinkled on its back, and an unbroken egg
thrust down its throat (Nhb.). A piece of wood, termed a _scopperil_,
was sometimes put through the dewlap of a beast, and an amulet
suspended from it as a defence against the quarter-ill. Another disease
to which calves are subject is called _speed_ (Yks.), to prevent this,
to nick the calf’s ears before it had seen two Fridays was believed to
be efficacious. A Shropshire method of preventing a cow from fretting
after her calf when it is taken away from her, was to cut a lock of
hair from the calf’s tail and put it into the mother’s ear. This
keepsake was supposed to console her for the loss of her offspring. Ef
your dawg du lose ’is ’air, yiew mix up some oil, gunpowder, and the
ashes of an old shoe--that’ll make ’air grow ’pon a boord.



[Sidenote: _Love Divination_]

The most prevalent of all the superstitious practices and charms
for divining future events are the ceremonies connected with
love-divination. Many of them are still in use, secretly practised
by the country maiden who is pining for a sweetheart, or having one,
doubts if he will prove constant; or if she is so fortunate as to
possess several admirers, she wonders which to select, and seeks this
aid to help her in her choice. Fortune-telling by means of plants
is mostly done by children, and is indeed little more than a game.
The plant most commonly employed for this purpose is the rye-grass,
called _aye-no-bent_ (Glo.), _what’s your sweetheart_ (Sus.), and
_tinker-tailor grass_ (Som. Dev.). The alternate seeds are picked off
one by one from the bottom upwards, to the words: Tinker, tailor,
soldier, sailor, Rich man, poor man, beggarman, thief, each seed
representing the occupation named at the moment it is plucked. The
list is repeated over and over again till there is only one seed left
standing at the top, and this is the calling of the future husband of
the girl who is trying to read her fate. The same game is also played
with the leaves of the _pick-folly_ (Nhp.), the lady’s smock, and with
the fruit-stones left on a plate after eating a helping of pie. The
date of future marriage is foretold by plucking off the petals of a
field daisy one by one to the words: This year, next year, sometime,
never. In Shropshire, children playing with a cowslip-ball toss it up
and say: Tissy-ball, tissy-ball, tell me true, How many years have I
to go through? Then, if they catch it as it comes down they count it
for a year, and so, on and on, as the ball is tossed up and caught
again. A love-divination game played by school-children in Berkshire
villages has been described to me thus: write out your own name in
full, and below it the name of your chosen sweetheart. Then cross out
every letter of the alphabet common to both names, and count over
the remaining letters by repeating: Friendship, courtship, marriage,
through each name taken separately, and the result will show the future
relationship between the two. Just lately, a young woman I know well
was feeling thoroughly depressed about her lover, for in spite of his
long-standing devotion, he yet seemed in no hurry to ‘get settled’;
when a friend of hers suggested putting the matter to the test of
this charm, which they used to work on their slates in school, and
exhibit over their shoulders to little boys behind, when the teacher
was not looking that way. Both names ran out with ‘marriage’, and
sure enough, within a very short time the young man announced that he
was looking out for a cottage with a view to the wedding this autumn!
The common yarrow foretells constancy in courtship. Take one of the
serrated leaves of the plant, and with it tickle the inside of the
nostrils, repeating at the same time the following lines: Yarroway,
yarroway, bear a white blow, If my love love me my nose will bleed
now (e.An.). If blood follows this charm success in love is certain.
Similarly apple-pips may be consulted on this point. The name of the
possible lover must be whispered, or thought of in silence, and then
the pip placed in the fire, or on the hot bars of the grate, and these
lines repeated: If you love me, pop and fly, If you hate me, burn and
die. This is also done with nuts, and with peas. In some parts of the
country the ceremony is only efficacious if performed on St. Mark’s
Eve, April 24, or Hallowe’en, Oct. 31. Apple-pips are also used as a
charm to tell in what direction the future wife or husband lies. The
pips are pressed between the finger and thumb until they fly, the
following verse being repeated meanwhile: Pippin, pippin, paradise,
Tell me where my love lies; East, west, north, south, Kirby, Kendal,
Cockermouth (Lan.). The potency of the _even-ash_, i.e. an ash-leaf
with an even number of leaflets, shows itself thus; the young girl who
finds one repeats the words: This even-ash I hold in my han’, The
first I meet is my true man. She then asks the first male person she
meets on the road what his Christian name is, and this will be the
name of her future husband (Irel. Dev.). It is considered as lucky to
find an even-ash as to find a four-leaved clover, for: Even-ash and
four-leaved clover, See your true love ere the day’s over (Nhb. Shr.
Dev. Cor.). If you find nine peas in a pod, and place the pod over the
door, the first person who comes in will bear the Christian name of
your future partner in life (Shr. Ken.), cp.:

    As peascods once I pluck’d, I chanced to see
    One that was closely fill’d with three times three,
    Which when I cropp’d I safely home convey’d,
    And o’er my door the spell in secret laid.
    My wheel I turn’d, and sung a ballad new,
    While from the spindle I the fleeces drew;
    The latch moved up, when who should first come in,
    But in his proper person, ---- Lubberkin.
            Gay, _The Shepherd’s Week: Thursday, or The Spell_.

[Sidenote: _How to discover a Lover_]

Other ways of discovering the name of the lover are: Cut through the
stem of a bracken fern, and the veins will show the initial letter
(Nrf.); examine the veins on the back of your left hand, and note the
letter they form; on May morning, take a small white slug termed a
_drutheen_ (Irel.), place it on a slate covered with flour or fine dust,
and the track it pursues in the dust will form the initial letter of the
name of the prospective husband; place a key at random in a Bible, and
note the letter to which it points (Oxf.); take an apple, pare it whole,
and holding the paring in your right hand, stand in the middle of the
room repeating the following lines:

    St. Simon and Jude, on you I intrude,
      By this paring I hold to discover,
    Without any delay to tell me this day,
      The first letter of my own true lover.

[Sidenote: _A future Husband’s Occupation revealed_]

Then turn round three times, and cast the paring over your left
shoulder, and it will form the first letter of the future husband’s
surname. A form of this divination trick was to my knowledge practised
by some of the kindergarten children at the Oxford High School in 1910.
A method whereby Berkshire damsels of to-day seek to discover the
name of a future husband is this: Split open an unused envelope, and
write three names of young men you know, or would like to know, one in
each of three corners, leaving one corner a blank. Place a piece of
wedding-cake in the middle of the envelope, and fasten it up firmly,
and then lay it under your pillow for three successive nights. Each
morning tear off a corner, and the name left on the fourth morning will
be the name of the destined husband, or if it is the blank corner which
remains, then you will die an old maid. The future husband’s occupation
may be revealed on New Year’s Eve by pouring some melted lead into
a glass of water, and observing what form the drops assume. If they
resemble scissors, they point to a tailor; if they depict a hammer,
then they foretell a carpenter, and so on (Lan.). Another similar
custom, belonging to Midsummer Day, is recorded as known in Cornwall:
Get a glass of water, throw into it the white of a freshly-broken egg,
and then put the glass to stand in the sunshine. You will soon see by
careful observation, the ropes and yards of a vessel if your husband is
to be a sailor, or a plough and team if he is to be a farmer. If when
you first hear the cuckoo you take off your left shoe and stocking,
you will find inside the latter a hair of the same colour as that of
the person you will marry (Shr.), cp. ‘Then doff’d my shoe, and by
my troth, I swear, Therein I spy’d this yellow frizled hair,’ Gay,
_Thursday, or The Spell_. Charms for procuring a vision of the beloved
are: on St. Thomas’ Eve, Dec. 20, peel a large red onion, stick nine
pins into it and say: Good St. Thomas, do me right, Send me my true
love this night, In his clothes and his array, Which he weareth every
day, and then place the onion under your pillow; on All Saints’ Eve
go into the garden alone at midnight, and while the clock is striking
twelve pluck nine sage-leaves, one at every stroke up to the ninth,
when you will see the face of the future husband, or if not, you will
see a coffin (Shr.); gather twelve sage-leaves at noon, keep them in
a saucer till midnight, then drop them one by one from your chamber
window into the street, simultaneously with each stroke of the hour,
the future husband will then either be seen, or else his step will be
heard in the street below (Yks.); on Midsummer Eve walk through the
garden with a rake over your left shoulder, and throw hempseed over
your right, repeating the while: Hempseed I set, hempseed I sow, The
man that is my true love Come after me and mow. The future husband
will then appear following with a scythe. This charm with variations
in the words used, and performed at different seasons, is widespread
throughout the country, cp.:

[Sidenote: _A Midsummer-Eve Charm_]

    At eve last midsummer no sleep I sought,
    But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought,
    I scatter’d round the seed on ev’ry side,
    And three times in a trembling accent cried,
      _This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow,
      Who shall my true-love be, the crop shall mow._
    I straight look’d back, and if my eyes speak truth,
    With his keen scythe behind me came the youth.
            Gay, _The Shepherd’s Week: Thursday, or The Spell_.

[Sidenote: _Rites on the Eve of St. Agnes_
           _How to ascertain if one will marry_]

Get up at midnight on All Saints’ Eve and stand before a looking-glass,
combing your hair with one hand, and eating an apple held in the
other, and as the clock strikes twelve you will see in the glass the
face of the man you will marry looking over your left shoulder (Shr.
Wor.). I can remember a schoolfellow of mine performing this ceremony,
but in her case the prophecy proved a false one, for according to
her description, the chief feature of the man in the vision was his
moustache, and the man she ultimately married had none, for he was a
clean-shaven clergyman. Perhaps the reason why the charm failed was
because she had no apple to eat! On the Eve of St. Mark (Yks.), or of
St. Agnes, Jan. 20 (Lan.), place on the floor a lighted _pigtail_, a
small farthing candle, which must have been previously stolen, or else
the charm will not work. Then sit down in silence and watch it till
it begins to burn blue, when the future husband will appear and walk
across the room. The following is a very simple plan: Spread bread
and cheese on the table, and sit down to it alone, observing strict
silence. As the clock strikes twelve your future lover will appear and
join you at your frugal meal (Cor.). On St. Agnes’ Fast, Jan. 21, you
can procure a sight of your future husband thus: Eat nothing all day
till bedtime, then boil an egg hard, extract the yolk, fill up the
cavity with salt, and eat the egg, shell and all, then walk backwards
to bed, repeating these lines: Sweet St. Agnes, work thy fast; If ever
I be to marry man, Or man be to marry me, I hope him this night to
see (Nhb.). Some say that the same result may be effected by eating
a raw red herring, bones and all, before going to bed; or by placing
the shoes, on going to bed, at right angles to each other in the shape
of a T, saying the while: I place my shoes in form of a T, Hoping my
true love to see; Not dressed in his best array, But in the clothes
he wears every day (Nhb. Dev.). Another more elaborate ceremony is
the preparation of the _dumb-cake_ on St. Mark’s or sometimes on St.
Agnes’ Eve (n.Cy. Nhb. Yks. Nhp. Nrf.); or, as in Oxfordshire, on
Christmas Eve, under the commonplace name of _dough-cake_. The cake
must be prepared fasting, and in silence. When ready it must be placed
in a pan on the coals to bake, and at midnight the future husband will
come in, turn the cake, and go out again. In order to dream of the
future husband: on a Friday night, when you go to bed, draw your left
stocking into your right and say: This is the blessed Friday night; I
draw my left stocking into my right, To dream of the living, not of
the dead, To dream of the young man I am to wed (Shr.), then go to
sleep without uttering another word; read the verse: ‘Lay down now,
put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with
me?’ _Job_ xvii. 3, after supper, then wash up the supper dishes and
go to bed without speaking a word, placing the Bible under your pillow
with a pin stuck through the verse previously read (ne.Sc.); or place
a Bible under your pillow with a crooked sixpence over the verses:
‘And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following
after thee....’ _Ruth_ i. 16, 17 (Lan.); take a blade-bone of mutton,
stick it full of pins, go upstairs to bed walking backwards, and place
the bone under your pillow (Yks.); get a piece of wedding-cake, carry
it upstairs backwards, tie it in your left stocking with your right
garter, place it under your pillow, and get into bed backwards, keeping
strict silence all the while (Cor.). In its simplest form of sleeping
with what Addison calls ‘an handsome slice of bride-cake ... placed
very conveniently under’ the pillow, this is perhaps the most widely
practised of all the dream-charms. Gather on a Friday at midnight nine
leaves of the she-holly, _Ilex aquifolium_, tie them with nine knots
inside a three-cornered handkerchief, and place them under the pillow
(Nhb.). A way of finding out if you will ever be married or not, is
to go into the farmyard at night and tap smartly at the door of the
fowl-house. If a hen first cackles, you will never marry, but if a
cock crows first then you will marry before the end of the coming year
(Dev.). The merry-thought of a fowl is frequently used to ascertain
which of two young people will be the first to enter the married
state. In some places the shorter piece of the broken bone denotes the
nearer marriage, elsewhere the longer piece is the coveted portion. In
Northumberland _scadded_ [scalded] peas were formerly eaten out of a
large bowl, and the person who obtained the last pea was supposed to be
the first married.

Beside these ceremonies--of which the above are a mere handful among
the hosts of examples of this popular form of divination which might be
quoted--there are the more serious and solemn practices for discovering
approaching death, such as _watching the kirk_ on St. Mark’s Eve (Dur.
Yks.). The watcher took up his post at midnight in the church porch,
and between then and one o’clock he would see pass into the church
one by one the figures of all the persons in the parish who would die
within the coming year. According to some, all the parishioners would
be seen to defile into the church, and then those destined to live
through the year would pass out thence, while the doomed would remain
behind and never be seen again. Another St. Mark’s Eve custom was the
_caff-riddling_ (Yks.), a mode of divination by means of a _riddle_
and chaff. The inquirer repaired at midnight to the barn, and leaving
the doors wide open, he there riddled the contents of his sieve, and
watched for portents. If a funeral procession passed by, or shapes of
men carrying a coffin, then the watcher would die within a year, but if
nothing appeared he was destined to live. St. Mark’s Eve was also the
night for _ash-riddling_ (n.Cy.). The ashes were riddled on the hearth,
and left there untouched when the family retired to rest, the idea
being, that if any of the inmates of the house were fated to die within
the year, the print of his or her shoe would be found impressed in the
soft ashes.

[Sidenote: _Divination to discover Theft_]

The ancient form of divination by ‘riddle and shears’ was used for the
discovery of theft. A sieve was held in a pair of shears, whilst the
names of suspected persons were uttered. At the mention of the culprit’s
name, the sieve was supposed to turn round. Similar to this are the
investigations made with ‘Bible and key’, though the details of the
performance vary slightly in different parts of the country. In
Devonshire the trial was conducted thus: the name of the suspected
person was written on a piece of paper and placed within the leaves of a
Bible, together with the front-door key, the wards of which must rest on
the eighteenth verse of Psalm 1: ‘When thou sawest a thief, then thou
consentedst with him.’ The left garters of two persons were then tied
round the Bible, and these two persons placed their right forefingers
under the bow of the key, repeating at the same time the above-mentioned
verse. If the Bible moved, the suspected person was condemned as guilty,
if it remained stationary, he was adjudged innocent.



As might be expected, very many ancient superstitious ideas have
lingered round the three great events of man’s life--his birth,
marriage, and death. They took shape in various customs which were
handed down from one generation to another long after the beliefs
underlying them had ceased to exist in the popular mind. But now the
traditional customs themselves are fast disappearing, whilst often their
original significance is a matter only to be explained by the most
learned folklorists. Here and there a new meaning has been grafted on to
an old practice, which makes the old usage sound rational, and prolongs
its life. For instance, in some districts, the first food given to a
newly-born baby is a spoonful of butter and sugar, administered as
wholesome, and even necessary medicine; but according to scholars, the
practice was in origin a religious rite, belonging to remote antiquity.
Again, it is popularly regarded as unlucky to cut a baby’s nails before
it is a year old, because if this was done the baby would most certainly
grow up a thief. If the nails need to be shortened, they must be bitten
or pulled off. The real reason why the baby’s fingers must not come in
contact with the scissors, is a fear respecting the baneful effect of
iron, which has its source in the Dark Ages of primitive man, cp.
‘Professor Rhys believes aversion to iron to be a survival of the
feeling implanted in man’s early life, when all metals were new, and
hence to be avoided.... The same dread of iron has doubtless given rise
to the custom throughout Europe regarding children’s nails. Everywhere,
including England, it is the practice to bite off the infant’s nails if
too long, and not to cut them, at least for the first year, or until the
child, who is peculiarly open to the attacks of all malignant
influences, has grown strong,’ F.T. Elworthy, _The Evil Eye_, 1895, p.
224. Further, Mr. Elworthy tells us that the habit of covering up a
new-born baby’s face whenever it is taken out of the house, said to be a
necessary protection against the rigour of the outer air, may be
referred to the ‘primaeval belief in the liability of infants to the
blighting effect of the stranger’s eye,’ _The Evil Eye_, p. 428.

[Sidenote: _Birth Customs_]

Much is supposed to depend upon which day of the week a child is born.
The following rhyme is well known, though it varies slightly in
different localities; this is a Devonshire version:

    Munday’s cheel is fair in tha face.
    Tewsday’s cheel is vull of grace.
    Wensday’s cheel is vull of woe.
    Thezday’s cheel hath var tü go.
    Vriday’s cheel is loving and giving.
    Satterday’s cheel work’th ’ard vur a living.
    Zinday’s cheel’s a gentleman.
    Cheel born upon old Kursemas day
    Es güde, and wise, and fair, and gay.

For Latin and O.E. versions of this v. ‘Wochentags-Geburtsprognosen,’
by Prof. Max Förster in _Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen
und Literaturen_, Band 128, Heft 3/4, June 1912. The cradle provided
for the baby must be paid for before it is brought into the house, else
the child that sleeps in it will die without means to pay for a coffin
(Yks.). Another curious superstition concerning a cradle is that should
any one rock an empty cradle another baby will shortly come to occupy
it (Shr. Sus. Cor.): Rock the cradle empty, You’ll rock the babies
plenty. When possible, a new-born child before being laid beside the
mother was placed in the arms of a maiden. This was thought to have a
beneficial influence on the development of its character. It is still
held important that the first time an infant leaves the mother’s room
it should be taken _up_stairs, not _down_. If there is no upper story,
then the nurse mounts upon a chair, or some other article of furniture,
with the baby in her arms; for if its first step in the world is a
descent, then its subsequent career in life will be a downward course.
This custom was observed in the case of a baby born a fortnight ago
in Oxford, June 3, 1912, in a highly superior family. In Cumberland a
child born on a Friday was always placed on the Bible shortly after
its birth, no doubt with intent to secure it against the power of
fairies. We have already noticed some of the ceremonies for warding
off evil beings. One of these observances, formerly in use in the
north of Scotland, was to turn an infant three times head over heels
in the nurse’s arms, and shake it three times head downwards, to keep
off fairies. Both in Scotland and in many parts of England a notion
prevailed that it was unlucky to wash the palms of a baby’s hands, for
if washed, they would never ‘gather riches’. Sometimes this rule was
observed till the baby was a year old.

[Sidenote: _Feasts at the Birth of a Child_]

In some districts it is still the custom to provide a feast on the
occasion of the birth of a child for all the friends and neighbours who
come to assist or to congratulate. This festive gathering is known under
various names, for example: the _bed-ale_ (sw.Cy.), the word _ale_ being
used in its old meaning of feast, cp. lit. Eng. _bridal_, from O.E.
_brȳd-ealu_, literally, the bride-feast. Sometimes, however, the term is
wrongly applied to the liquor prepared for these occasions, which,
properly speaking, is the _groaning-drink_. The _blithe-meat_ (Sc.
Irel.), where amongst the viands was always a cheese, called the
_cryin’-oot cheese_; the _cummer-skolls_ (Sh. & Or.I.); the _merry-meal_
(Chs.), where the chief items were currant cakes called Lord Ralph, and
spirits of which all must partake to bring good luck to the new arrival;
the _merry-meat_ (ne.Sc.), where was served the _cryin’-bannock_ made of
oatmeal, milk, and sugar, and baked in a frying-pan, and beside it the
indispensable cheese, or _cryin’-kebback_, of which each guest was
expected to carry away a piece for distribution among friends who were
not present at the entertainment; the _shout_ (Yks.), to which the
neighbours were summoned at the moment when the birth was about to take
place, and to which they came each with a warming-pan. After the event,
they stayed to spend a festive hour, when each guest was expected to
favour the child with a good wish. In more modern times this custom of
celebrating a birth by a convivial gathering is commonly spoken of in
northern England as: the head-washing, or: weshin’ t’bairn’s head, and
is not so much a feast as a free drinking.

The old north-country toast drunk at the birth-feast was: The wife a
good church-going and a battening to the bairn; or: Here’s good
battening to t’barn, and good mends to the mother!

[Sidenote: _Dainties belonging to Birth Feasts_]

The _groaning-cheese_ seems to have been everywhere a standing dish
at the birth-feast. Formerly it was the practice to cut it in the
middle, and so by degrees form it into a large kind of ring through
which the child was drawn on the day of the christening (n.Cy. Oxf.).
A slice of it laid under the pillow was supposed to enable a maiden
to dream of her lover. The remains of the cheese and cake were kept
for subsequent callers, and every visitor was expected to taste
them. A special Cumberland dainty belonging to birth festivities is
_run-butter_, or _rum-butter_, fresh butter melted with brown sugar and
rum, poured into china bowls, where it stiffens, and out of which it is
served, generally with _havver_ [oat] _breed_. The lady who first cuts
into the bowl is predicted to require a similar compliment. At one time
it was customary to hide the bowl of _rum-butter_ and allow it to be
searched for by boys, who, having found it and eaten its contents, made
a collection of money, which was put by for the baby in whose honour
the delicacy had been made.

A custom once common in nearly all the northern counties of
England--and still extant at the end of last century--was that of
presenting a new-born infant with three articles ‘for luck’, the first
time it visited a neighbour or relation. The gifts usually consisted
of an egg, a handful of salt, and a new sixpence, but sometimes a
piece of bread, or a bunch of matches was substituted for the coin. In
Lancashire and Yorkshire this ceremony was known as _puddinging_; in
Durham the gifts were termed: the bairn’s awmous, cp. O.N. _almusa_,
an alms. On the day of the christening somewhat similar gifts were
made by the parents on behalf of the child. Before the procession
started for church, a parcel was made up containing a slice of the
christening cake, some cheese, and a packet of salt. This was called
the _christening bit_ (Sc. n.Cy.), or _kimbly_ (Cor.). It was presented
to the first person met on the way to church, and it was considered
specially lucky if that person chanced to be of the opposite sex to
the infant. In parts of Scotland the receiver was always the first
male passer-by. He constituted the child’s _first-foot_, and if he
was a dark-haired man it augured well for the child’s future, but
if fair-haired, then the reverse. After the church service came the
christening feast at home, with its special cakes, and dishes such as
_butter-sops_ (Cum. Wm.), oatcake or wheaten bread fried in melted
butter and sugar. Then the child’s health would be drunk with some such
formula as the following: Wissin’ the company’s gueede health, an’
grace and growin’ to the bairn (ne.Sc.).

[Sidenote: _Omens drawn from Baptismal Service_]

The ceremony of private baptism is never considered equal to public
baptism in church. A child baptized privately is said to have been
_half-baptized_ (w.Midl. Oxf. Ken. Sus.), or _named_ (e.An.), e.g. He
wasn’t ever christened, only named. Indeed, the term _half-baptized_ is
sometimes used as an epithet applied to persons of deficient intellect,
equivalent to half-baked. It is held lucky for the baby to cry during
some part of the baptismal service, the utterance of one good yell being
the most favourable omen. If a male and a female infant are presented
for baptism at the same time, the boy must be baptized first, else he
will grow up effeminate, and play second fiddle to his wife; and the
girl will become masculine in face and mien (Yks.).

[Sidenote: _Marriage Customs_]

Most of the rural wedding customs belong to the days when, in
accordance with the popular maxim: Better wed over the mixen [dunghill]
than over the moor, the bride’s old home with her parents, and the
new one she was to share with her husband were both within walking
distance of the church where the wedding took place. Then all the
neighbours were the friends of both bride and bridegroom, they had all
grown up together with the same local traditions, and they all clung
to the observance of the same ceremonies. Now railways and bicycles,
newspapers and cheap magazines, have broken down the old order of
things. The bridegroom’s friends and relations are often complete
strangers to the bride’s kith and kin, their ways and beliefs are
unknown to each other. They cannot join together in some time-honoured
ceremonial when the newly-wedded pair enter their future home; instead
they wave hats and handkerchiefs in the wake of a train or a motor
which is carrying the couple to a distant dwelling-place. The bride,
too, has up-to-date ideas. She wants to make a sensation like Lady
Dunfunkus Macgregor’s daughter, a description of whose marriage she has
just read in the _Daily Mail_, or like Miss Gwendolen Fitzwilliam in
the current number of the _Family Journal_. Her dress and her doings,
and all the wedding festivities must as far as possible be modelled
on a fashionable pattern, till finally, modern conventionalities and
not ancient customs rule the day. Two or three years ago the _Weekly
News_ of a very small town in Herefordshire was sent to me in order
that I might read therein an account of a village wedding in which I
was interested because I had known the bride’s parents all my life.
Her father was the village blacksmith, and sexton of the parish, as
his father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather had been before
him. Here was described how the bride wore a ‘gown’, and how her
mother ‘held a reception in a marquee’, and how the bride changed
into her ‘travelling costume’, and how ‘the happy couple’ then ‘took
their departure in a motor-car’, to ‘spend the honeymoon’ somewhere at
the seaside. Indeed, from the newspaper report it might have been a
fashionable ‘Society’ wedding, except for one recorded detail: in the
list of wedding presents it appeared that the bridegroom’s father had
bestowed on the happy couple ‘a pig’! I am glad to say that the young
people did not continue to live up to the style of their wedding, and
the bride has since often spoken of the pig as the most valuable of
all their wedding presents, for within a year this exemplary animal
presented them with no less than twenty-eight robust and healthy

[Sidenote: _Names for publishing the Banns_]

The usual preliminaries to a wedding, namely, the giving in of the
banns of marriage, and the publishing of the same in church, can be very
variously expressed in dialect speech, for example: to put in the cries
(Sc.), or t’spurrins (Yks.), or the askings (Lan.); or to put up the
sibbritts (Chs. e.An.), or sibberidge, cp. O.E. _sibbrǣden_,
relationship; to be asked in church (gen. dial.); to be asked out (gen.
dial.), i.e. to have the banns published for the last time; to be called
in church (Lin.), or called home (Wil. Dor.); to be church-bawled
(Sus.); to be prayed for (e.An.); to be shouted (Lan.); to be spurred
(Yks. Lan. Der. Lin. Wil.). The word _spur_ in this sense is from O.E.
_spyrian_, to investigate, inquire into, but popular etymology has
connected it with the ordinary literary English substantive _spur_.
Hence the jocular remark when a person has been once asked in church:
Why, thoo’s gotten one spur on thee! In many villages (Lin. Hnt. Rut.)
it is customary to ring what is called the _Spur-peal_, either at the
close of the morning service, or in the evening of the Sunday when the
banns are published for the first time. Formerly in parts of Wiltshire a
man whose banns had been published for the first time was said to have:
vallen plump out o’ the pulpit laas’ Zunday, and he was asked how his
shoulder was, since it had been put out o’ one side. Parallel to this is
the remark: He’s gotten broken-ribbed to-day (Lin.); and further, there
are the expressions: to fall over the desk (w.Cy.); and to be thrown
over the balk (n.Cy.), _balk_ here signifying the rood-beam dividing the
chancel of a church from the nave. If after the banns have been
published the marriage does not take place, the deserted one is said to
hang over the balk; or, to be hung in the bell-ropes (Chs. Der. Wor.).
Tradition in Sussex says that if a man goes to church to hear his banns
read, his children will be born deaf and dumb. If a man withdraws his
banns after they have been given in, his projected marriage is spoken of
as a _rue-bargain_ (Lan.). Them at’s e’ a horry to wed gen’lins eats
rew-pie afoore thaay’ve been married a year is a Lincolnshire way of
saying: Marry in haste and repent at leisure. To get married is: to tie
a knot wi the tongue, at yan cannot louze wi’ yan’s teeth (Yks. Nhp.).

Formerly in Scotland and the north of England it was not uncommon for
the wedding-guests to contribute either in money or in kind to the
expenses of the marriage entertainment. Such a wedding was called a
_bidden-wedding_ (Cum. Wm. Lan.), _bride-wain_ (n.Cy.), or
_penny-wedding_ (Sc.). In Lancashire, when the couple to be married were
of the very poor, it was once customary for the friends to assemble on
the wedding-day, and build for them a house of clay and wood, termed
_post and petrel_; or _wattle and daub_. The relations provided a few
articles of necessary furniture, and when the _clay bigging_ was
completed the day was concluded with music and dancing.

[Sidenote: _Lucky and Unlucky Days for Weddings_]

In fixing the date of the wedding care must be taken to note on which
day of the week it falls, for each day of the week is supposed to have
its special influence on the future life of the wedded pair:

      Monday for wealth,
      Tuesday for health,
    Wednesday is the best day of all,
      Thursday for crosses,
      Friday for losses,
      Saturday no luck at all.

Leap year is looked upon as a lucky year for marriage: Happy they’ll
be that wed and wive Within leap year; they’re sure to thrive (Yks.).
Sunshine on the wedding-day is always a fortunate omen, for: Happy is
the bride that the sun shines on. It is very unlucky for the bride to
wear green at her wedding (Shr. Yks.), even in any part of her
clothing--Green and white, Forsaken quite--but opinions differ as to
blue for the colour of the wedding dress: Deean’t o’ Friday buy yer
ring, O’ Friday deean’t put t’spurrings in, Deean’t wed o’ Friday. Think
o’ this, Nowther blue ner green mun match her dhriss (Yks.); If dressed
in blue, She’s sure to rue (Yks.). On the other hand, in certain parts
of the country blue is a favourite colour for the wedding attire (Shr.).
The most lucky combination is to wear: Something old, and something new,
Something borrowed, and something blue. The something borrowed should if
possible have been previously worn by a bride at her wedding. In
Devonshire a bride is supposed to further her chances of prosperity by
carrying with her to church a few sprigs of rue, and of rosemary, and a
little garlic in her pocket.

[Sidenote: _Omens at Weddings_]

It is a very unlucky omen for a bride on her way to church if a cat or
a toad should meet her on the road; if a raven should hover over her; or
if a dog, a cat, or a hare should run between her and the bridegroom; if
the bridal procession should encounter a funeral; or if a cripple should
cross their path. It is unlucky for a widow to be present at the wedding
(Shr.); or for the clock to strike during the marriage service (Wor.).
When the ceremony is over, whichever of the wedded pair steps first out
of church will be ‘master’ in the home (Brks.). At a recent wedding near
Oxford, the bride’s mother-in-law stood waiting outside the church door
to watch for this important omen, and when she saw her son step out
first, she clapped her hands exultingly, greatly to the discomfiture of
the bride, who had heedlessly missed her opportunity. In parts of
Yorkshire the same superstition is connected with the leaving of the
bride’s old home after the wedding-feast; whichever of the two then
crosses the threshold first, will be the leader in their future life
together. For unmarried members of the wedding party to rub against the
bride or bridegroom is considered lucky, as by so doing they may hope to
catch the infection of matrimony.

Superstitious practices connected with the _first-foot_, such as we have
already noticed at christenings, are also to be found as part of the old
wedding ceremonies. In some districts it was the bride herself, on her
way to church, who carried in her pocket a small parcel of bread and
cheese to give to the first woman or girl she might meet after leaving
the church (Dev.); in others it was a friend who was sent on in front of
the wedding procession with the _kimbly_ (Cor.) to be given to the first
person met on the road to church. In Scotland two people preceded the
procession, one of whom carried a bottle of whisky and a glass, and the
other carried the bread and cheese. A man on horseback or accompanied by
a horse and cart was considered the most lucky _first-foot_.

[Sidenote: _After the Wedding_]

In the north of England, after the marriage service was over, the
bride on leaving the church had to jump or be lifted over the
_parting-stool_, or _petting-stone_ at the churchyard gate, after
which ceremony money was distributed by the bridegroom. In n.Devon
this custom takes the form of _chaining the bride_. Young men stretch
twisted bands of hay, or pieces of rope decorated with ribbons and
flowers, across the gateway. Then the bridegroom scatters handfuls
of small coin, the chain is dropped whilst the holders scramble for
the money, and the bridal party is free to pursue its way home. Money
demanded and forcibly exacted at the church gates from the bridegroom
is known as _ball-money_ (Sc. Nhb. Cum. Chs.), so called because
formerly the money was applied to buying a football for the parish;
_bride-shoe_ (Yks.); and _hen-silver_ (Cum. Wm. Yks. Lan.). Sometimes,
however, the _hen-brass_ is money privately given by the bridegroom
on the evening after the marriage to enable his friends to drink his
health. In Westmorland a gun used to be fired over the house of a
newly-married couple, and the _hen-silver_ was the present of money
given to the firing party to drink to the future health and good luck
of the pair. A wedding at which no _ball-money_ is distributed is
contemptuously termed a _buttermilk wedding_ (Chs.). On the way home
from church the bridegroom usually threw coppers to be scrambled for by
the children in the crowd; guns loaded with feathers were fired as a
sign of rejoicing (Yks.); and friends came out to meet the bridal party
bearing pots of warm ale sweetened and spiced, known as _hot pots_
(n.Cy.). In Cheshire it is still customary to ornament the approach to
the bride’s home with sand spread in patterns. The patterns are made by
trickling silver sand through the fingers, or through a large funnel.
Wreaths and floral emblems are thus traced out, and sometimes mottoes
are written, such as: Long may they live and happy may they be; Blest
with contentment to all eternity.

[Sidenote: _Wedding Sports_]

Among the ancient wedding sports was the _riding for the kail_ (Sc.
n.Cy.), which took place when the bride was on her way home. When the
party was nearing the future home of the couple, the unmarried men set
off to ride or run at full speed to the house, and whoever reached it
first was said to _win the kail_, or _keal_. The idea was that the
winner of the _kail_ would be the first to enter the married state,
_kail_ being the same word as _cale_, a turn in rotation. Some of the
accounts of this sport would however seem to show that in some places
the _kail_ meant a dish of spiced broth given as a prize to the winner
of the race. The race for the bride’s garter (Yks.) was formerly a very
popular wedding sport, and it continued in practice as late as the last
decade of the nineteenth century. The race was run from the churchyard
gate to the _bride-door_, where the winner claimed the privilege of
removing the prize himself as the bride crossed the threshold of her
home. It was valued as a potent love-charm, and was given by the winner
to his sweetheart: to binnd his luv. Later a ribbon or a handkerchief
was substituted for the bridal garter (Dur. Cum. Yks.).

The ceremony of _throwing the bride-cake_ existed in various forms in
Scotland and the northern counties of England. When the bride returned
from church, she was met on the doorstep and presented with a thin
currant cake on a plate, or it might be shortbread or oat-cake. Some of
this cake was then thrown over her head, or more commonly it was broken
over her head by the bridegroom. In cases where the cake was thrown over
the bride’s head, the plate was not infrequently thrown along with it.
In Scotland the cake provided was known as the _infar-cake_, cp. O.E.
_infær_, an entrance. The custom is not yet extinct in Scotland, for I
was told by an eye-witness that at a fashionable Scotch wedding only two
or three years ago, the bride’s mother-in-law broke a cake of shortbread
over the bride’s head on her return from church. The following is a
Yorkshire rhyme which accompanies the usual throwing of slippers after a
newly-married couple:

            A weddin’ a-woo,
            A clog an’ a shoe,
    A pot full o’ porridge, an’ away they go!

A curious saying applied to an elder brother or sister left behind
when a younger member of the family is married, is that he or she must
dance in the pig-trough (Shr. Suf.), or in the half-peck (Yks.), or
dance at the wedding in his (or her) stocking-feet (Shr.).

[Sidenote: _Riding the Stang_]

In olden days, when a marriage resulted in conjugal infelicity, and
the husband became a wife-beater, popular disapproval was expressed
by a method of punishing the offender known as Riding the Stang. This
custom with slight variations and under different names--such as:
Rantipole-riding, Skimmington-riding, or simply Riding--was once common
practically throughout England, and in many parts of Scotland. Cases
where it has been kept up in practice have been recorded as late as
the year 1896. The delinquent was caught and tied fast to a _stang_ or
pole, and carried round the village in the midst of a jeering crowd;
or he was represented by a straw effigy borne on a ladder, or drawn in
a cart for three successive nights, accompanied by horn-blowing and
shouting. When the procession reached the man’s house, a long _nominy_
or doggerel recounting his offences was recited, the verses varying
in different localities. A Lincolnshire _nominy_ runs: He banged her
wi’ stick, He banged her wi’ steän, He teeak op his naefe [fist], An’
he knocked her doon. With a ran, tan, tan, &c. On the third night the
effigy was burned in the street or on the village green. Sometimes
instead of an effigy, two men, one of them dressed in female attire,
rode in the cart, giving a dialogue representation of the quarrel,
and an imitation of the final beating. In some places the culprit
was merely serenaded with rough singing, and the noise of beating on
pots and pans. This ceremony was called Randanning, or Rough Music,
and is closely allied to Stang-riding, cp. ‘_Charivaris de poelles_.
The carting of an infamous person, graced with the harmony of tinging
kettles, and frying-pan Musick,’ Cotgrave.

[Sidenote: _Death Superstitions_]

According to a popular superstition once prevalent in many parts of
England, dying persons could not pass away peacefully if there were any
feathers of game-birds or pigeons in the bed on which they lay.
Instances have been recorded where some such feathers have been placed
in a small bag, and thrust under the pillow of a dying man to hold him
in life until the arrival of some expected relation; and further,
instances where, out of pure kindness, a sufferer at the point of death
has been removed from his bed, and laid on the floor to die ‘nat’rally’.
Formerly, when the moment of death was unmistakably nigh at hand, it was
customary to throw open all the doors and windows, so that nothing
should hinder the flight of the departing spirit. I myself can remember
what seemed to be a remnant of this superstitious observance in a
country parish in Herefordshire about twenty-five years ago. The widow
of an old farmer had just died, and her daughter told my father that it
was well that there was a bolt to the front door, for that the key must
not be turned in the lock whilst the body lay in the house. This we took
to be a preservation of the letter of the old law. In Yorkshire there
exists an idea that the door must not be locked for seven years after a
death in the house.

[Sidenote: _Death Customs_]

Immediately after the death had taken place, the fire in the room was
extinguished, and the looking-glass either covered up, or turned with
its face to the wall (Yks. Shr.). In Scotland a piece of iron used to be
thrust into all the eatables in the house, butter, cheese, meat, &c., in
order--as it was said--to prevent death from entering them. When the
corpse had been duly laid out, or _streeked_ (Sc. n.Cy.), a plate of
salt was placed on the breast (Sc. Nhb. Shr. Dev.), formerly with the
avowed object of driving evil spirits away, but towards the latter end
of the nineteenth century, where the custom was still in use, the reason
given was that: it prevents the body from swelling. This placing of a
plate of salt on the corpse had been part of the performances of the old
_sin-eater_ (Sc. Hrf. Cth.), a person who was called in when any one
died, to eat the sins of the deceased. He placed a plate of salt and a
plate of bread on the breast of the corpse, and muttered certain
incantations, after which he ate the contents of the plates, thereby
taking upon himself the sins of the dead person, which would otherwise
have kept his ghost hovering round his relations on earth. In
Northumberland it was customary to double the thumbs of the deceased
within the hand, to avert evil spirits. The candles kept burning round
the corpse were termed in parts of Lincolnshire _ghost-candles_, because
they were supposed to ward off ghosts.

The customs connected with the tolling of the Passing Bell vary
somewhat in detail in different localities, but they are substantially
the same. After the bell has tolled for some minutes there is a pause,
and then follow the _tellers_, thrice three successive strokes for a
man, twice three for a woman, and three strokes for a child. It has
been suggested that the old saying: nine tailors make a man, is a
corruption of nine tellers mark a man.

The ceremony of holding watch over the dead between the time of death
and burial was called the _wake_ or _lyke-wake_ in Ireland, Scotland,
and the north of England. The relatives and neighbours of the deceased
assembled at the house, and spent the night in the room with the corpse,
singing Psalms and dirges, chatting, telling stories, praising the
virtues of the departed, eating and drinking. This gathering usually
took place either the evening after the death, or the night before the

In due course somebody went round to invite friends and neighbours to
be present at the funeral. This was called _bidding_ (n.Cy. Stf. Der.),
_lathing_ (n.Cy.), or _sperring_ (Lan.), terms which are still in
use--e.g. Awm gooin’ a sperrin’, He’s gone a laithin’ o’ th’neeburs to
th’berrin’, Ah mun gan an’ see t’last on him, ah’s bid--though the
custom of sending a _bidder_ wearing a black silk scarf has long been
discontinued. In many places in the Lake district, two persons from
every house within a prescribed area were invited to the funeral.
Formerly the _bidder_ presented a sprig of rosemary to each invited
guest, and the latter was expected to carry it with him to the funeral
(Lan.). In Shropshire these sprigs were distributed to the mourners just
before the procession left the house. At the conclusion of the burial
service each mourner cast his rosemary into the open grave. In
s.Pembrokeshire a woman walked in front of the funeral procession
strewing sprigs of rosemary and box along the road--‘There’s rosemary,
that’s for remembrance.’

[Sidenote: _Funeral Cakes_]

A custom still practised in Yorkshire and formerly prevalent in many
other English counties, and also in parts of Wales, is that of
distributing _burying biscuits_, or _funeral cakes_, small oblong sponge
biscuits, which some think were originally intended to represent a
coffin. As each mourner arrives, he or she is presented with a biscuit
and a memorial card. Sometimes this is done by two women who are called
_servers_ (n.Yks.). In the Midlands the biscuits were folded up each in
white paper sealed with black wax, and so handed round to every guest;
in this form, too, they were sent out to any relations or intimate
friends not present at the funeral, just as wedding-cake is sent now.
Two generations ago this practice was commonly observed in middle class
families, as well as among the poorer folk. When my great-uncle--a
well-known Evangelical clergyman in Birmingham--died some twenty-five
years ago, his executors found among his papers a packet, yellow with
age, containing what had once been a funeral sponge biscuit. Together
with the _funeral cakes_ spiced ale used sometimes to be served, in a
tankard of silver or pewter; but in later, more degenerate days glasses
of spirits and water replaced the tankard of ale. Meanwhile the coffin
was still kept open, that one and all might take a last look at the
corpse before the time came for _lifting_ (Sc. n.Cy.), when the coffin
must be closed. Formerly in Northumberland the _lifting_ of the corpse
was the signal for the outburst of lamentation known as _keening_ (Sc.
Irel. Nhb.), a dismal concerted cry raised by the assembled mourners.

[Sidenote: _Funeral Rites_]

It is still a custom in some Midland counties for little girls in
white dresses and black sashes to act as bearers at the funeral of an
infant or very young child of their own sex, and for boys to carry
baby boys. The coffin is supported by white handkerchiefs or towels
passed underneath and held on each side by the young bearers. The
_funeral garland_ (n.Cy. Der. Lin. Shr. Hmp.), which marked the burial
of a young unmarried woman, has now long since become obsolete. This
_garland_ consisted of a coronal or wreath of ribbons, or flowers cut
out in white paper, with a white glove suspended in the centre, and
it was borne in front of the coffin, or upon it, to the grave, and
afterwards suspended in the church. According to a popular belief the
passage of a funeral over any ground establishes a right of way. Rain
at a funeral is a good sign, for: Happy is the corpse that the rain
rains on.

A beautiful old custom, well known in Shropshire in olden days, and
kept up certainly within living memory, is that of _ringing the dead
home_. When the funeral procession came in sight of the church, the
bell ceased tolling, and a peal was rung, as if to welcome the body to
its last resting-place.

There is a general feeling in country parishes against burial on the
north side of the church. The south side is considered the holiest
portion of the churchyard, where the cross stands, if such there be. In
a small parish, where there are few interments, the north side of the
churchyard may be quite empty. This points the moral contained in the
phrase: Thaay bury them as kills thersens wi’ hard wark o’ th’no’th side
o’ th’chech, applied to persons who complain unwarrantably of hard

After the burial came the funeral feast held in the house where the
deceased had lived, or provided at the village inn. In some places if
the family was poor, it would be a _pay-berring_ (Yks.), and each of the
invited guests would give some small contribution towards the expenses.
To provide a handsome entertainment on these occasions was looked upon
as a mark of fitting respect for the dead: Ah’ve nivver been at sike a
sitting-doon i’ mah leyfe; ther war nowt bud tea-cakes, an’ badly
buttered at that. Noo ah’ve sahded fahve o’ my awn, bud thank the Lord,
ah buried ’em all wi’ ham. It is on record that at the funeral of a
farmer who died near Whitby in 1760, meat and drink were provided as
follows: ‘110 dozen penny loaves, 9 large hams, 8 legs of veal, 20 stone
of beef (14 lbs. to the stone), 16 stone of mutton, 15 stone of Cheshire
cheese, and 30 ankers of ale; besides what was distributed to 1,000 poor
people who had 6_d._ each in money.’

[Sidenote: _Telling the Bees_]

One of the most interesting of all the ceremonies connected with
funerals is the superstitious practice known as _telling the bees_,
once common throughout the greater part of England. To _tell the bees_
is to inform them of the occurrence of the death of the head of the
house, or of some member of the family. If this is not done, they are
supposed to leave their hives and never return, or else they all die.
The right time for making the communication is either just before the
funeral leaves the house, or else at the moment when the procession
is starting. On the Welsh Border people say it must be made in the
middle of the night. The form of words used varies in different parts
of the country, but they must always be whispered words, or the bees
may take offence. These are some of the recognized formulae: The master
is dead; Your friend’s gone; The poor maister’s dead, but yo mun work
fur me; Bees, bees, bees, your master is dead, and you must work for
----, naming the future owner. This is accompanied in some instances by
three taps on the hive. The hives are ‘put into mourning’ by attaching
to them a piece of black crape. In some places it was customary to
give the bees a piece of funeral cake; and elsewhere, small portions
of every item of the funeral feast were collected in a saucer and put
in front of the hive. In Devonshire the popular belief was that if the
bees were not told of the death in the family, some other member of
the household would die before the expiration of the year. A writer
in _Lloyd’s Weekly News_, July 3, 1910, speaks of the superstition of
telling the bees as still extant; and at about the same date a girl in
Oxford told me that an uncle of hers--yet living--had lost all his bees
by neglecting to tell them of the death of his mother.

[Sidenote: _A Month’s Mind_]

In some districts is found the observance of the _month’s end_ (Hrf.
w.Cy. Wales), a certain Sunday after the funeral when the mourners
attend church. A trace of an old religious custom belonging also to the
days subsequent to the funeral has been crystallized in the phrase: to
have a month’s mind to anything (Chs. Midl. e.An. I.W. Som. Cor.). This
alludes to a pre-Reformation practice of repeating one or more masses at
the end of a month after death for the repose of a departed soul. In the
Churchwardens’ accounts of Abingdon, Berkshire, occurs the following,
among other similar entries: ‘1556. Receyved att the buryall and
monethe’s mynde of Geo. Chynche xxii_d_.’ The phrase, however, long ago
acquired the meaning it bears to-day, cp.: ‘I see you have a month’s
mind to them,’ Shaks. _Two Gent._ I. ii. 137; ‘I have a month’s mind to
be doing as much,’ Jervas, _Don Quixote_; ‘The King [Henry VII] had more
than a moneth’s mind ... to procure the pope to canonize Henry VI for a
saint,’ Fuller, _Church Hist._ Bk. IV. 23; I’d a month’s mind to a
knock’d un down (I.W.).



Beside the customs connected with the changes and chances of man’s
mortal life, which we have considered in the foregoing chapter, there
are those which belong to certain fixed days of the year, Saints’ Days,
and other church seasons and festivals. To give an account of each and
all of the customs and pastimes which would come under this category
would indeed be a tremendous task, so great is their number, and so
varied their nature. I shall only attempt here to give a small
selection, arranged according to the sequence of the dates to which they

We are all of us familiar with the usual ceremonies which usher in the
New Year--the sitting up to watch the Old Year out and the New Year in,
the ringing of the church bells immediately after the last stroke of
twelve, the handshaking, and exchange of greetings. But in England
generally, New Year’s Day is of little account as a festival, being
overshadowed by Christmas. In Scotland, on the other hand, New Year’s
Day holds the more important place, and consequently New Year’s Eve, as
a day of preparatory observances, ranks above Christmas Eve. New Year’s
Eve in Scotland is known as _Hogmanay_, a term which is also applied to
the customary gift for which children go round and beg on this day. The
name and the custom are not, however, confined to Scotland, being also
found in certain of the northern counties of England (Nhb. Cum. Wm.
Yks.). Much has been written about the history of this word, but beyond
the generally accepted statement that it is of French origin, its
precise derivation still remains obscure; cp. Norm. dial. _hoquinano_,
_haguinelo_, cries on New Year’s Eve; _hoguilanno_, a New Year’s gift.
On the last day of the year, children go in companies chiefly to the
houses of the better class, singing some such rhyme as: Rise up,
gude-wife, and shake your feathers, Dinna think that we are beggars,
We’re girls and boys come out to-day, For to get our Hogmanay, Hogmanay,
trol-lol-lay. Give us of your white bread, and not of your grey, Or else
we’ll knock at your door a’ day (w.Sc.); or in shorter form: Hogamanay,
hogamanay, Gi’s wor breed-an’-cheese, an’ set’s away (Nhb.). In earlier
times it was also customary for youths to go round dressed up as
_guisers_, performing at their neighbours’ houses a Hogmanay masque.
Sometimes they went round just after midnight to enter the houses in the
capacity of _first-foot_.

[Sidenote: _New Year’s Day_]

The superstitious practice of _first-footing_ belongs also to Scotland
and northern England. The first person who crosses the threshold after
midnight on New Year’s Eve is the _first-foot_ or _lucky-bird_, and the
prosperity or misfortune of the household during the ensuing year
depends on what manner of man is then admitted. On no account must the
_first-foot_ be a woman. In most places the luckiest kind of
_first-foot_ is a fair-haired man. A man of dark complexion, a
flat-footed man, or one afflicted with a squint brings bad luck. But in
some parts of Yorkshire where the _lucky-bird_ is the first person who
enters the house on Christmas Day, if it is a dark-haired man who thus
‘lets Christmas in’, he is welcomed as a bringer of good luck, whilst a
red-haired man is esteemed a harbinger of ill-luck. On the whole, the
safest plan was that of engaging some recognized lucky person to
undertake the office of _first-foot_, instead of leaving the matter in
the hands of wayward chance.

Another old Hogmanay-night custom was that of fetching the
_ream-water_ (Sc.) from the well. This could only be done by a woman,
in some places only by a spinster. As soon as the clock had finished
striking twelve, some female member of the household would hurry
pitcher in hand to the nearest well, in order to be the first to skim
off the water lying near the surface and bring it home; for whoever
could secure this, the _ream_, _crap_ or _floo’er_ of the water, would
bring in good fortune for the whole of the year.

A writer in _Notes and Queries_ for Jan. 3, 1852, quotes the following
song sung by children in South Wales on New Year’s morning, when
carrying a jug full of water newly drawn from the well:

    Here we bring new water
      From the well so clear,
    For to worship God with
      This happy New Year.
    Sing levez dew, sing levez dew,
      The water and the wine;
    The seven bright gold wires
      And the bugles they do shine.

    Sing reign of Fair Maid
      With gold upon her toe,
    Open you the West Door,
      And let the Old Year go.
    Sing reign of Fair Maid,
      With gold upon her chin,
    Open you the East Door,
      And let the New Year in.

[Sidenote: _God-cakes, Blessing-cakes_]

An ancient custom in the city of Coventry is the sending of
_god-cakes_ on New Year’s Day. The _god-cake_ is a particular kind of
cake sent by godparents to their godchildren. It varies in price, but
its shape is invariably triangular, it is about one inch thick, and
is filled with mincemeat. A similar custom exists in Kidderminster,
where the head of the family sends out packets of _blessing-cakes_
to the scattered representatives of the original stock, wherever
they may be. Each householder who receives a gift of cakes must
again distribute them among the members of his household, servants
included, so that every one under his roof may receive the family
blessing. The cakes are like long oval buns, rather thin, coated on
the top with melted sugar, and ornamented with seven sultanas. As my
father came from Kidderminster, I have eaten _blessing-cakes_ every
New Year’s Day as far back as my memory carries me, but I was never
clear as to the significance of the seven sultanas. I think they are
intended to symbolize a sevenfold blessing. The recipe for making the
cakes is supposed to be a trade secret in the possession of a certain
confectioner, though some of us think that the secret has been lost,
and that the _blessing-cakes_ now savour of the common penny bun
mixture. But we should never dare to carry the comparison further, for
from our earliest youth we were made to feel it almost a sacrilegious
offence to call a _blessing-cake_ a bun. After all, it is the sentiment
that matters, and that remains good and beautiful.[3]

[3] Mr. J. R. G. Aubrey of the Comberton Bakery, Kidderminster, to whom
I wrote concerning this custom, kindly furnished me with the following
information: ‘As far as I know round here the custom is dead or nearly
so. I make perhaps 300 to 400 ... I think up North the custom is fairly
brisk, but they call theirs the Twelfth Cakes. Coventry makes a fair
quantity.’ July 24, 1912.

A curious New Year ceremony observed in Durham is known as _crowning_.
The Mayor and Mayoress visit the Workhouse, and there _crown_ the eldest
of the inmates by placing a five-shilling piece in each hand.

[Sidenote: _Handsel-Monday_]

The first Monday in the New Year is called Handsel-Monday (Sc. Irel.
Nhb. Lakel.). Anything which comes into your possession that day, such
as a child, a calf, a lamb, or money, augurs good luck for the rest of
the year. Formerly it was the custom for presents to be given on this
day by mistresses to servants, and by parents to children. At the
Trinity House, Newcastle, on Handsel-Monday, every free brother who
answers to his name is entitled to five shillings in money, a quarter of
a pound of tobacco, a glass of wine, and as much bread and cheese and
ale as he pleases.

[Sidenote: _Wassailing the Apples_]

The sixth of January is Twelfth Day, or Old Christmas Day, the church
festival of the Epiphany. To this date belongs the ceremony--now nearly
obsolete--of _wassailing_ the apple-trees (Sus. Som. Dev.), also known
as _howling_, or _hollering_. In some districts the performance took
place on the day itself, and in others on Jan. 5, the Eve of the
Epiphany. Herrick mentions the custom among _Ceremonies for Christmas_:

    Wassail the trees, that they may bear
    You many a plum and many a pear;
    For more or less fruits they will bring
    As you do give them wassailing.--_Hesperides_, 1648.

Boys called _howlers_ used to go round _wassailing_ the orchards. Within
doors, toasted bread and sugar were soaked in new cider and made hot,
part to be drunk by the farmer’s family and the _howlers_, and part to
be poured upon the best bearing apple-tree. The tree was then encircled
by the _wassailers_, singing a special song. Mrs. Hewitt describes the
ceremony thus: ‘On Old Christmas Eve it is customary for farmers to pour
large quantities of cyder on the roots of the primest apple-trees in the
orchard, and to place toast sops on the branches, all the while singing
the following:

    Yer’s tü thee, old apple-tree,
    Be zure yü bud, be zure yü blaw,
    And bring voth apples güde enough,
        Hats vul! Caps vul!
    Dree-bushel bags vul,
    Pockets vul and awl!
        Urrah! Urrah!
    Aw ’ess, hats vul, caps vul,
    And dree-bushel bags vul,
        Urrah! Urrah!

When enough of this serenading has been accomplished, guns are fired
into the branches,’ _Peasant Speech of Devon_, 2nd edit. 1892.

[Sidenote: _Plough Monday_]

The first Monday after Twelfth Day is Plough Monday, once celebrated
throughout the greater part of England. A company of men wearing white
shirts over their jackets, decorated with ribbons, drew a plough through
the village or town. They were variously designated in different
localities as: _Plough-bullocks_, or _-bullockers_, _Plough-jags_,
_Plough-slots_, and _Plough-witchers_. Among them were usually two
special characters, the Fool, and a man dressed up in showy female
costume called the Bessy; but in some places there were two, and even
four female characters with names such as Sweet Sis, Old Joan, Maid
Marian, or collectively named Bessybabs, Ladymadams, Queens. This
troupe performed some kind of morris-dance or sword-dance, and collected
money from the onlookers. Gradually the old ceremonies fell into disuse,
the plough no longer appeared in the procession, and instead of the
original ploughmen, a band of children paraded the streets to keep up
the memory of Plough Monday, a day which Tusser includes among the
‘ploughmans feasting daies’, which no good housewife should forget:

    Good huswiues, whom God hath enriched ynough,
      forget not the feastes that belong to the plough.
    The meaning is onelie to ioie and be glad,
      for comfort with labour is fit to be had.

The _Daily Mail_ of Nov. 16, 1897, mentions the observance of Plough
Monday in Warwickshire at that date; and three years later the
_Standard_ of Oct. 11, 1900, has: ‘“Plough Monday” is still kept up by
children and “hobbledehoys”, who go round with blackened faces, and
ribbons, &c., in their hats, expecting that the heads of the houses
visited will “Remember the ploughboys”, though it is questionable if the
party are now following the plough.’

A convivial custom in Cornwall gives the name of Paul Pitcher’s Day to
Jan. 24, the Eve of the Conversion of St. Paul, a day observed as a
miners’ holiday. A water-pitcher is set up and pelted with stones till
it is broken to pieces. A new one is then bought and carried to a
public-house by the stone-throwing miners, to be filled and refilled
with beer till the whole company is drunk. On the other hand, some
people say that the name Paul Pitcher’s Day originates with the custom
of throwing broken pitchers against the doors of dwelling-houses.
Parties of lads used to go round to the different houses, shouting as
they threw the sherds: Paul’s Eve, and here’s a heave. A mischievous
game similar to certain Shrove Tuesday pastimes.

Candlemas Day, February 2, the festival of the Purification of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, was reckoned the termination of the Christmas
season. Herrick wrote: ‘End now the white loaf and the pie, And let all
sports with Christmas die.’ The same poet also tells us that all the
Christmas evergreens used for decorations must be taken down on
Candlemas Eve. This custom was observed in Shropshire houses and
churches within the last thirty years, if not still later. At this date,
according to a common proverb: gooid geese all lay; New Candlemas Day,
good goose will lay, Old Candlemas Day any goose will lay. There is a
saying in Kent: Candlemas Day, Half your fodder and half your hay,
meaning that the winter is only then half gone, and you ought not to
have exhausted more than half the keep for the cattle. The same saying
is also associated with Valentine’s Day. Old folks used to say that so
far as the sun shone into the house on Candlemas Day, so far would the
snow drive in before the winter was out (Sur.).

[Sidenote: _Valentine’s Day_]

Old Candlemas Day is February 14, better known as Valentine’s Day. The
custom of writing and of sending valentines is out of fashion, and there
remains little to mark the day. In some country places it is still said
that the first man you meet in the morning is your valentine; and it is
a common saying that the birds on this day select their mates for
nesting. Formerly it was customary for parties of children to _go
valentining_ (Nhp. Rut.). They went from house to house singing and
begging, their song being usually a form of salutation, differing
slightly in different localities: Good morrow, Valentine! Plaze to give
me a Valentine, I’ll be yourn, if ye’ll be mine, Good morrow,
Valentine!; or, Morrow, morrow, Valentine! First ’tis yours, and then
’tis mine, So please to give me a Valentine, Holly and ivy tickle my
toe, Give me red apple and let me go. In Berkshire the following words
were sung:

    Knock the kittle agin the pan,
    Gie us a penny if ’e can;
    We be ragged an’ you be vine,
    Plaze to gie us a Valentine.
    Up wi’ the kittle, down wi’ the spout,
    Gie us a penny an’ we’ll gie out [cease].

In the northern part of Northamptonshire sweet currant buns were
formerly made called _Valentine buns_, and given by godparents to their
godchildren on the Sunday preceding and the Sunday following Valentine’s
Day. A like custom once prevailed in Rutland, where a lozenge-shaped bun
called a _Shittle_ was given to children and old people on Valentine’s

For the farmer, Valentine’s Day means that half your firing and half
your hay is already consumed. In Rutland there is an old saying:
Valentine’s Day, sow your beans in the clay. David [Mch. 1] and Chad
[Mch. 2], sow your beans be the weather good or bad. Then comes Benedick
[Mch. 21], if you ain’t sowed your beans you may keep ’em in the rick.

[Sidenote: _Sports at Shrovetide_]

Shrovetide in olden days was a season of sport and feasting, the
occasion for a final burst of jollity before the beginning of Lent. As
the name records, it was originally a time for confession and absolution
in preparation for the Lenten Fast, whence also the name _Gooddit_ (Lan.
Chs. Stf. Der.), a corruption of _Good-tide_. Shrove Tuesday is Fasten’s
E’en (Sc. n.Cy. n.Midl.), the Eve of the great Fast of the
ecclesiastical year. There still remain in some districts traces of the
former carnival gaieties, whilst the popular eating of pancakes on
Shrove Tuesday keeps up the memory of the ancient feasting. The day
before Shrove Tuesday is Collop Monday (n.Cy.), that is, rasher-of-bacon
Monday, so called because the customary dish for this day is bacon and
eggs. In parts of Cornwall it is known as Pease-Monday, from the custom
of eating pea-soup that day, though such fare would seem rather to be a
foretaste of Lent than a festival dainty.

Chief among the Shrovetide sports which have lasted down to modern
times is the well-known pastime called _Lent-crocking_ (Som. Dev.
Wil. Dor.), or _Drowin’ o’ cloam_, which consists in throwing broken
crockery-ware in at doorways on the night before Shrove Tuesday, known
as Dappy-door-night, and Lentsherd-night. _Lead-birds_ (Pem.) is a game
played by boys as a substitute for the obsolete _cock-throwing_, a
barbarous old Shrovetide sport, which is perhaps further to be traced
in the name _Lent-cocks_ (Dev.) for daffodils. In the old Grammar
Schools it was customary for each scholar to contribute towards a
fund for Shrovetide cock-fighting. This contribution was called the
_cock-penny_ (Lakel. Yks. Lan.), and it continued to be a recognized
fee paid to the Head Master long after the sport itself had died out.
Shrovetide ball-games still survive, such as _bung-ball_ (Bdf.); and
_kep-ball_, the game of catch-ball which gives the name Kepping-day
(e.Yks.) to Shrove Tuesday. There is an old saying: if you don’t have a
kepp on kepping-day, you’ll be sick in harvest.

The bell once rung before noon on Shrove Tuesday to summon the
penitents to their shrift, came to be looked upon as a signal for
preparing the day’s pancakes, and hence it was termed the Pancake
bell. The practice of ringing this bell continued certainly into the
last quarter of the nineteenth century. In Worcestershire the Pancake
bell was said to ring out the words: Pot off, pan on; Pot off, pan on;
whilst in Warwickshire the message rung out was: Pan’s a-burning; Pan’s
a-burning. In Yorkshire a kind of pancake or fritter with currants in
it is eaten on Ash-Wednesday, and the day is called Frutters’ Wednesday.

[Sidenote: _Lenten Customs_]

In parts of Cornwall a straw figure dressed in cast-off clothes and
called Jack o’ Lent was formerly carried round and then burned at the
beginning of Lent. The effigy was probably originally meant to represent
Judas Iscariot. Now the term is applied to a scarecrow, and, as a
contemptuous epithet, also to persons (Nhp. Dor.).

The Sundays in Lent, beginning with the second Sunday, are thus
enumerated in an old north-country saying: Tid, Mid, Misera, Carlin,
Palm, Pace egg day. It is supposed that _Tid_ is a corruption of _Te
Deum_, and that _Misera_ is based on the opening words of the
penitential Psalm _Miserere mei, Deus_. The fourth Sunday in Lent is,
however, more generally known as Mothering Sunday, the day on which it
was always customary for the scattered members of the family to visit
the mother in the old home, carrying some small present for her in
their hands. Special cakes and dishes were associated with this
festival, the most popular being simnel cakes, and _frummety_, a dish
made of _hulled_ wheat, boiled in milk, and seasoned with sugar and
spice. In some places the usual fare was veal and rice pudding; and in
others _fig-pie_--made of dried figs, sugar, treacle, and spice--was the
standing dish. In Berkshire at the present time it is considered the
proper thing to eat fig-pudding on Palm Sunday.

Carl Sunday, or Carling Sunday (Sc. n.Cy.), takes its name from the
grey or brown peas prepared and eaten on this day. They must be steeped
all night in water, and then fried in butter. To account for this usage
one tradition states that it commemorates the action of the disciples,
who, going through the corn fields on the Sabbath day, ‘plucked the
cars of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands,’ _St. Luke_
vi. 1; whilst a second associates it with a famine in Newcastle, which
was relieved by the arrival of a ship bearing a cargo of grey peas or

[Sidenote: _Palm Sunday_]

On Palm Sunday village churches used to be decorated with the
catkin-laden twigs of the common sallow, or, as in Kent, with branches
of yew, according to the local interpretation of the word _palm_. _Going
a-palming_ (Ken.) meant gathering yew twigs on the Saturday before Palm
Sunday for this purpose. In some s.Midland counties Palm Sunday is known
as Fig Sunday, dried figs being largely consumed on this day. The
probable explanation of this practice lies in the fact that in the
Gospel narrative the cursing of the barren fig-tree is the first
recorded incident of the day following that of the triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, cp. _St. Mark_ xi. 12-14, with the result that in the popular
mind the events of two days were merged together, and the fig was
adopted as an appropriate part of the Palm Sunday festival.

[Sidenote: _Good Friday_]

An old Cheshire name for Good Friday is _Care Friday_, a preservation
of the original meaning of the word _care_, O.E. _caru_, sorrow,
trouble; cp. Germ. _Karfreitag_, Good Friday. In Lancashire it was
termed Long Friday, and also Crackling Friday, from a special kind
of wheaten cake given to children on this day. The custom of eating
Hot Cross buns is common even in towns, though probably nobody now
preserves them throughout the year as a specific against diarrhoea.
Up to the middle of last century people afflicted with eye-diseases
used on Good Friday to visit St. Margaret’s Well, near Wellington, in
Shropshire, a stone cistern containing spring water which was supposed
on this day to possess eye-healing virtues. A Good Friday sport called
_cock-kibbit_, practised in parts of Devonshire by boys, would seem to
be a kind of survival of the old Shrove Tuesday _cock-throwing_. A live
cock is put under an inverted earthenware milk-pan, and then cudgels
or _kibbits_ are thrown at the pan from a fixed distance until the pan
is broken and the cock thus released. The cock is then chased by the
whole company, and it becomes the joint property of its captor and the
breaker of the milk-pan.

The custom amongst farmers of sowing and planting on Good Friday to
ensure lucky crops we have already noticed in a previous chapter. For
the sowing of onion seed, however, a still more propitious day is March
12, the Feast of St. Gregory.

The day after Good Friday was formerly known in East Anglia as Shitten
Saturday, that is Shut-in-Saturday, the day on which the body of the
Lord lay shut in the tomb.

[Sidenote: _Pace-eggs_]

Eastertide is marked in the northern counties of England by the custom
of _Pace-egging_. The phrase itself is interesting, for we have in it
the preservation of the Latin name beside our English _Easter_, cp.
M.Lat. _pascha_, the feast of the passover. The form _Pace_ or _Paas_ is
found in English literature as far back as the early fifteenth century.
During Holy Week children, and sometimes grown-up persons too, go round
to the farmhouses begging for _Pace-eggs_. Some of the eggs are used for
special Easter Day cakes and custards, but the _Pace-egg_ proper is
stained and hard-boiled like the German _Oster-Ei_. On Easter Monday
these coloured eggs are trundled or rolled against each other till they
are broken, when they are eaten, and hence Easter Monday is termed
Troll-egg-day. Another form of this game is known as _jauping
paste-eggs_. One boy holds his egg, exposing the small end, and the
_jauper_, or striker, knocks the end of his egg against it. The egg
remaining unbroken is the conqueror, and the broken egg is forfeited.
Occasionally one or two _Pace-eggs_ are kept as ornaments. One such,
stained pink, and inscribed with a child’s name, and the date, ranked
among the ornaments on the parlour shelf in the Yorkshire farmhouse
where we were staying this August (1912). In the days when mumming was
still popular, the play of St. George was performed at Easter by mummers
who called themselves _Pace-eggers_. No doubt originally they collected
Easter eggs on their rounds; indeed, a writer on Lancashire customs says
the company included a personage styled Dirty Bet, whose duty it was to
carry a basket for the collection of eggs, but usually they played for
money only, so that _Pace-egging_ came to be synonymous with mumming. A
Lakeland play began with an introductory verse as follows:

    The first that comes in is Lord Nelson, you see,
    He’s a bunch of blue ribbons tied round on his knee,
    A star on his breast, like silver it shines,
    Ah hope you’ll remember it’s piase-eggin’ times.

An Easter custom once very common in Cheshire, Lancashire, and the
Midlands is variously termed _Heaving_, _Hoisting_, and _Lifting_.
Parties of men went round from house to house on Easter Monday carrying
a chair decorated with evergreens, flowers, and ribbons. Wherever they
came, they seized in turn every woman of the household, and made her sit
in the chair, which they then raised as high in the air as arms could
reach, three times in succession. On Easter Tuesday the women returned
the compliment to the men. A small fee was often paid by the lifted to
the lifters. Folklorists tell us that this strange practice was
originally designed to typify the Resurrection.

[Sidenote: _Easter-Day Observances_]

The prevalent practice of wearing some new article of clothing for the
first time on Easter Day is not confined to any particular district but
may be met with anywhere. A Lincolnshire name for Easter Day is
Crow-Sunday, from the belief that rooks let fall their droppings on
those that wear nothing new on that day.

_Herb-pudding_ (Nhb. Cum. Wm. Yks.) is a dish peculiar to Easter Day.
It is made of the leaves of the bistort, _Polygonum Bistorta_--the
so-called Easter-giants, or Easter-magiants--boiled in broth with
barley, chives, &c., and served as an accompaniment to veal and bacon.

The old tradition that the sun rises dancing on Easter morning, which
we remember because of Suckling’s allusion to it in the lines:

    But oh! she dances such a way!
    No sun upon an Easter-day
        Is half so fine a sight----

has been found lingering in some parts of the country. At the beginning
of the second half of the nineteenth century there were still some
people who would get up early on Easter Day and go out into the fields
to see the sun dance. The Rev. R. H. Cobbold, Rector of Ross, wrote on
October 13, 1879: ‘In the district called Hockley, in the parish of
Broseley, a woman whose maiden name was Evans, wife of Rowland Lloyd, a
labourer, said she had heard of the thing but did not believe it true,
“till,” she said, “on Easter morning last, I got up early, and then I
saw the sun dance, and dance, and dance, three times, and I called to my
husband and said, Rowland, Rowland, get up and see the sun dance! I
used,” she said, “not to believe it, but now I can never doubt more.”
The neighbours agreed with her that the sun did dance on Easter morning,
and some of them had seen it,’ _Shropshire Folk-Lore_, p. 335. According
to a Sussex version the sun always dances on Easter morning, but nobody
has ever seen it because the Devil is so cunning that he always puts a
hill in the way to hide it. Although Sir Thomas Browne included this
tradition in his lists of _Vulgar Errors_, he evidently felt that belief
in it was an outgrowth of popular religious feeling, and that as such it
must be handled with reverence: ‘We shall not, I hope, disparage the
resurrection of our Redeemer, if we say the sun does not dance on
Easter-day. And though we would willingly assent unto any sympathetical
exultation, yet cannot conceive therein any more than a tropical
expression,’ _Vulgar Errors_, Bk. V, Chap. XXIII. 14.

[Sidenote: _May-day Sports_]

Up to the middle of the nineteenth century the Eve of May-day was in
some northern districts known as Mischief-night, when rough practical
jokes were played by boys upon their neighbours, gates were pulled off
their hinges, and hung up in trees, tubs and mops left out of doors were
carried off and left in some inaccessible place, and other property was
wantonly damaged.

The original May-day sports and observances have long been dead and
gone, leaving only scattered traces few and far between, but at the
present time great efforts are being made to revive the old folk-songs,
dances, and mumming-plays, and children are being taught in Board
Schools how to celebrate May-day with the traditional songs,
processions, and flowers; so that we have consequently to beware of
mistaking a revival for a survival. The May-garland would seem, however,
to be a genuine relic of the past. As seen in Oxford, it is formed of
two willow hoops, placed transversely, and decorated with leaves and
wild flowers. It is suspended from a stick, which is held at each end by
a child, and carried thus from house to house on May morning. The
Jack-in-the-green, very common twenty or twenty-five years ago, was a
chimney-sweep enclosed in a frame of green leaves shaped like a bower,
who paraded the streets on May-day. He is still occasionally to be seen.
I myself saw one in Oxford in 1909. The name also lingers on in
figurative use as an expression of contempt, e.g. He looked for all the
world like a Jack-in-the-green. A Bedfordshire term for a scarecrow or a
slattern is _moggy_, a name which bears a reminiscence of the _maying_
company which consisted of: my lord and my lady, two moggys and a merry
Ander. The _moggy_ always carried a ladle.

To remind us of the revelry of May-day there is the custom among boys
of making _May-music_ with _May-horns_ (Oxf. Brks. Cor.), or whistles
made out of sycamore or willow twigs; cp. ‘Scores of youngsters, as
usual, celebrated the advent of the month of flowers in their own
peculiar way by creating a most hideous row with their May-horns,’
_Oxford Times_, May 5, 1900; and further, the use of the term
_may-games_ (Som. Dev. Cor.) for frolics, tricks, &c. In Cornwall, a
half-witted person is sometimes spoken of as a _may-game_.

[Sidenote: _Beating the Bounds_]

Near the beginning of May come the Rogation days, the Monday, Tuesday,
and Wednesday before Ascension-day, or Holy Thursday. These days are
marked in the popular mind by the ancient and well-known custom of
beating the parish bounds, whence arose the now obsolete name of
Gang-days (n.Cy.), and the name Rammalation-day (Yks.), i.e.
Perambulation-day, for Rogation Monday. The practice is also called
Processioning (Midl. Som.), and Possessioning (Nhp.). Among dialect
names for the milkwort are: Rogation Flower, Gang Flower, and Procession
Flower, showing that it was formerly much used in making the garlands
carried on these occasions. The reason why this perambulation of the
parish boundaries takes place at Rogationtide seems to be that
originally it was purely a religious observance, a procession of priest
and people through the fields to pray for a fruitful spring-time and
harvest. In course of time the secular object of familiarizing the
growing generation with their parish landmarks gained the upper hand,
but the date remained as testimony to the primary devotional character
of the custom. Another remnant of the religious side may be traced in
the term Gospel Tree, applied to some tree where the Gospel was read
aloud by the clergy on the occasion of these parochial perambulations.

It would seem, however, that recently some of the High Church clergy
have begun to revive in some form the old ceremonial processions. The
following paragraph appeared in the _Church Times_ of May 2, 1918, under
the heading Sheffield: ‘The Rogation procession, revived last year at
St. Matthew’s, again took place this year; a perambulation of the
parish was made, incense, lights, and the beautiful silver crucifix were
used, and the vicar in cope intoned the Litany. The choir and a good
number of communicants of both sexes took part, and the Rogation Mass
was afterwards sung in church. Another procession, with hymns and short
addresses at various stations, was announced for Tuesday evening.’
Similar processions were also made here in Oxford at the same date.

[Sidenote: _Whitsuntide Feasts_]

In former times, the season of Whitsuntide brought round another
parochial custom, namely, the holding of the _Whitsun-ale_ (Lin. Nhp.
Oxf. Hmp.). This was a village feast which, while it provided amusement
for the parishioners in the shape of sports and dancing, was also at the
same time made by the churchwardens a means of bringing in money to the
parish coffers for the maintenance of the church. In Oxfordshire a
similar festivity was known as a _Lamb-ale_, and with it was associated
the following sport: a fat lamb was chased by girls with tied hands; she
who caught the lamb with her teeth was styled Lady of the Lamb, and was
conducted home with her prize in a triumphal procession. The next day
the lamb was cooked and served up to the Lady and her companions.

Thirty years ago it was still customary in some west Midland districts
to decorate village churches on Whit Sunday with sprigs of birch stuck
in holes bored in the tops of the pews. I can remember this being done
by an old parish clerk in Herefordshire, but when he was gathered to his
fathers in the same profession, the custom died with him.

The north-country _Rush-bearing_ is an annual ceremony which usually
takes place concurrently with the village Wakes. It has come down from
the days when the bare earthen floors of churches and chapels were
strewn with rushes as their only covering. The parishioners assembled on
some special day, and went out to collect the rushes, which were then
piled on a gaily decorated cart, and brought back through the village to
the accompaniment of music and dancing. The custom has in many places
now fallen into disuse, but it is still kept up in Westmorland. Nowadays
the procession is formed of children who carry garlands and emblems made
of rushes and flowers, and entering the church they lay them along the
aisles. The rush-bearing festival at Grasmere takes place on the
Saturday next after St. Oswald’s Day, August 5, and the following Sunday
and Monday. A very interesting account of it entitled ‘Rush-bearing at
Grasmere’, appeared in _The Outlook_ of August 13, 1910. No doubt it is
the connexion with Wordsworth which has prolonged the life of this
particular custom, and spread its fame far beyond the country of its
birth. It is not given to all our ancient rural festivals to receive a
‘tributary lay’ from an immortal poet.

[Sidenote: _Michaelmas and Halloween_]

Passing through the village of Cuddesdon on October 11, 1912, I met
two or three big farm wagons going to the hamlet of Denton, loaded with
what was evidently a farm-labourer’s household stuff. On the top of the
last wagon, wedged in securely amongst bedding and chairs, were four or
five children, merry little people, obviously enjoying the ride through
country lanes on a warm, sunny afternoon. My companion who lived in
the village remarked to me, ‘You see how Michaelmas Day is kept here
according to the Old Style. They always make their Michaelmas moves

October 31 is Halloween (Sc. n.Cy.), the Eve of All Saints’ Day, a
night specially devoted to love-divination ceremonies, and other
superstitious customs such as we have noticed in a previous chapter.
The game of _hanch-apple_ (Cum. Lan.) is a favourite Halloween pastime,
so much so that in some districts Hanchin’-neet is another name for
Halloween. The game consists in biting at an apple floating in water,
or suspended by a cord.

In parts of Ireland a dish called _colcannon_, made of potatoes and
cabbage mashed together with butter, used to form part of the Halloween
dinner. In it was concealed a ring, the finder whereof would be the
first of the company to be married. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, the
popular name for Halloween is Colcannon-night, so named because
colcannon is generally eaten then.

[Sidenote: _All Souls and All Saints_]

November 2 is the Roman Catholic festival of All Souls, the day on
which the Church of Rome makes supplications for the souls of the
faithful departed. The ancient custom of going out _souling_ on this
day was preserved in the n.Midland counties well into the second half
of last century. Poor women, or companies of children, used to go round
to the houses of their wealthier neighbours singing certain doggerel
lines, and begging for gifts of cakes, apples, money, &c., &c. In some
districts this was done on All Saints’ Day, the Eve of All Souls, and
in others on All Souls’ Day itself. Formerly special cakes called
_soul-cakes_ were baked by housekeepers in readiness for the _soulers_,
but biscuits, apples, nuts--anything in fact given in response to their
request--would be accepted under the name of _soul-cakes_. There are
various versions of the traditional _souling-song_. This is a Cheshire
version: Soul, soul, a apple or two; If ye han noo apples, pears ’un
do; Please, good Missis, a soul-cake; Put yur hand t’yur pocket, Tak’
ait yur keys, Go dain i’ yur cellar, Bring what yo please, A apple, a
pear, A plum, or a cherry, Or any good thing That’ll make us all merry.
Or again, there is the simple cry: A cake, a cake, For All Souls’ sake

[Sidenote: _St. Clement, St. Andrew, St. Thomas_]

Similar customs belonging to November 23, St. Clement’s Day, and to
November 25, St. Catherine’s Day, were kept up in some s.Midland
counties. Children went from house to house singing verses and begging
for apples and pence, a practice known as _Catterning and Clemmening_
(War. Wor. Stf. Sus.). A Worcestershire version of the Cattern Day song
runs: Catten and Clemen come year by year; Some of your apples and some
of your beer! Some for Peter, some for Paul, Some for Him as made us
all. Clement was a good old man, For his sake give us some. Plum, plum,
cherry, cherry, Give us good ale to make us merry, Apples to roast and
nuts to crack, And a barrel of cider on the tap. Up the ladder and down
the can, Give us a red apple and we’ll be gone. The following is a
Warwickshire _Clementing_ rhyme: Clemancing, clemancing, year by year,
Apples and pears are very good cheer; One for Peter, two for Paul, And
three for the Man that made us all. Up with your stocking, and down with
your shoe; If you’ve got no apples, money’ll do. Clement was a good old
man, For his sake give us some; None of the worst, but some of the best.
I pray God send your soul to rest. This closely resembles some of the
souling-songs, in which the couplet: One for Peter, &c., also occurs
word for word the same.

St. Clement is the blacksmiths’ patron saint, and in parts of Sussex
blacksmiths used to hold a feast on November 23 in his honour. Over the
door of the inn where the feast took place a figure dressed up with a
wig, a beard, and a pipe, was set up, and called Old Clem. In Surrey it
was customary to _fire the anvil_ on St. Clement’s Day. This was done by
setting light to a charge of gunpowder placed beneath a wooden plug or
wedge driven into a hole in the top of the anvil.

November 30 is St. Andrew’s Day. In Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire
special cakes were formerly eaten on this day, called _Tandrew cakes_,
_Tandry cakes_, and _Tandry wigs_. They were plain dough cakes or buns
ornamented with currants and caraway seeds, made in honour of St.
Andrew, the patron saint of lace-makers. But since the lace trade has
become less profitable, to _keep Tandry_, i.e. to keep the festival of
St. Andrew, in this way has become less common.

Bricklayers in Sussex used to _go St. Andring_. This meant that they
went in gangs to the woods, and threw sticks at squirrels and game.
Afterwards they all repaired to the inn to drink, the squirrels being
carried home to be stuffed or eaten.

To December 21, the festival of St. Thomas, belongs the old custom
known as going _a-gooding_, _a-mumping_, or _a-Thomasing_, a practice
once common all over England from Cheshire and Yorkshire to East Anglia
and Cornwall. In some places it has been preserved up to quite modern
times. To go _a-gooding_ means to go from house to house on St. Thomas’
Day begging for money or gifts in kind wherewith to furnish the
Christmas table. This was generally done by poor widows, but also often
by people who would never think of begging at any other time of year.
Formerly every farmer set aside a sack of corn for the _mumpers_, some
of them needy widows, some of them married women with their families,
wives of the holders of cottages on the farm. These all went to receive
each a dole of corn. In course of time the doles given took the form of
money and food, including perhaps a pint of wheat for making frumenty.
An old _Thomasing_ rhyme runs thus: Well-a-day, well-a-day, St. Thomas
goes too soon away, Then your gooding we do pray, For the good time
will not stay. St. Thomas grey, St. Thomas grey, The longest night and
the shortest day, Please to remember St. Thomas Day (Stf.). In these
latter days children go _a-Thomasing_ for halfpence, singing hymns
instead of the old traditional begging rhymes.

[Sidenote: _Customs on Christmas Eve_]

Christmas is everywhere the most popular festival of the whole year,
combining as it does the religious and social sides of life in a way
none of the other ecclesiastical Holy-days do. The Church with its
message of ‘Peace on earth, goodwill towards men’, as it were, comes
down and takes the hand of the people and says let us unite together to
celebrate the mystery of family life at the altar of the home. Hence it
appeals more forcibly than any other festival to young and old, rich and
poor, town-dweller and country rustic, without distinction of creed or
class. Owing to this universal popularity, many of the old Christmas
customs are yet with us, and most of those which are dying or dead are
kept before our minds by writers of Christmas stories, and illustrators
of _Christmas Numbers_.

[Sidenote: _Mummings and Wassailing_]

Christmas Eve was the great night for the mummers who acted the play
of St. George and the Dragon; or again, there were men and boys who
carried round a wooden figure representing a horse’s head, the mouth of
which was made to open and shut by means of a string. Sometimes it was
the skull of a dead horse, decorated with ribbons, and supported on a
pole by a man concealed under a sheet. This figure was called Old Hob
(Chs.), Mari Lwyd or Merry Hewid (Wal.), and in Kent the performance
was known as _Hodening_. In some northern counties the mummers were
termed _guisers_, and in Sussex and Hampshire, _tipteerers_, or
_tip-teariers_. The children used to go _a-wassailing_ carrying a
decorated bough, or a garland which they called a _wessel-bob_, and
singing doggerel verses such as: Here we come a-wassailing, Among
the leaves so green; Here we come a-singing, So fair to be seen.
The _vessel-cup_, or _bezzle-cup_--both words being corruptions of
_wassail-cup_, due to popular etymology--was a box containing two
dolls representing the Virgin and Child, carried round by women or by
children who sang this carol: God bless the maysther of this hoose, The
mistheress also; An’ all the lahtle intepunks, That round the table go

There are some still living who can remember the time when people went
out at midnight on Christmas Eve to the cow-byre to see the _owsen_
kneeling in their stalls in adoration of the Heavenly Babe.

A quaint custom at Dewsbury in Yorkshire is the ringing of the
_Devil’s knell_ on Christmas Eve. The bells toll first a hundred
strokes, then a pause, then three strokes, three strokes, and three
strokes again, to signify that the Devil died when Christ was born.

It is still customary in the West Riding of Yorkshire to eat
_spice-cake_ at Christmas time. It is a rich cake containing currants,
sultanas, spices and candied peel, made only at this season of the year,
and eaten together with cheese. In Northumberland and Durham children
are given a cake called a _Yule-babby_, or _Yule-dough_, a figure made
in ginger-bread or dough, rolled out flat, and cut out with a head, arms
and body. The arms are folded across, and two currants put in for eyes.
In Shrewsbury and the neighbourhood it was customary to eat _wigs_ or
caraway buns dipped in ale for supper on Christmas Eve. An East Anglian
Christmas cake is the _kickel_, a flat triangular cake with currants and
sugar on the top, O.E. _coecil_, tortum, M.E. _kechil_, Chauc.
_Somnours Tale_, l. 39. A very favourite Christmas dish in the north of
England is--or used to be--_frummety_, a preparation of wheat which is
_creed_ or softened in the oven, and then boiled in milk, sweetened and
flavoured with spice. In some districts it is eaten with plum loaf and

[Sidenote: _Wren-hunting on Christmas Day_]

Wren-hunting was formerly a Christmas Day practice in Ireland. The
following day, St. Stephen’s Day, the slaughtered birds tied to a bush
decked with ribbons, were carried round by young lads, called
_wren-boys_, who begged for money, and sang a song, one version of which
begins thus: The wran, the wran, the king of all birds, St. Stephen’s
Day is caught in the furze; Although he is little his family is
great--Rise up, landlady, and give us a trate. Various legends are told
in explanation of the origin of this custom. According to one story, the
Jews were searching for St. Stephen, when his hiding-place was betrayed
to them by the noisy cries of a couple of wrens flying in and out of a
furze-bush where the saint lay concealed. The custom has also been found
in the Isle of Man, Wales, and parts of England, the song varying in
different localities, and in some places the wren being carried round on
Twelfth Day instead of on St. Stephen’s Day.

December 28 is Holy Innocents’ Day, popularly called Childermas Day.
In many parts of England, notably the northern counties and Cornwall,
this day has always been regarded as unlucky. People would refrain from
starting on a journey, or beginning a new undertaking, and housewives
would even forbear to wash clothes on this day. Indeed so forceful is
its evil influence that the day of the week on which it fell was marked
as a black one throughout the ensuing year (Yks.). Dr. Johnson gives
this superstitious belief in his definition of Childermas Day: ‘The day
of the week, throughout the year, answering to the day on which the
feast of the holy Innocents is solemnized, which weak and superstitious
persons think an unlucky day.’

[Sidenote: _Fairs, Feasts, and Wakes_]

Amongst the customs connected with corporate village life must be
included the observance of the local carnival variously termed the
Feast, Revel, Tide, Wake, &c., coupled with the name of the village, or
with that of the patron Saint of the parish church, as, for instance,
St. Giles’ Fair and St. Clement’s Fair here in Oxford. The Feast is
generally held on or about the name-day of the Saint to whom the church
is dedicated, or on the anniversary of the church opening or
consecration. It is everywhere the great gathering time for distant
friends and relations; the one important event of the year from which
all dates are reckoned, e.g. ’Twill be a year cum next Heetown Wake. In
the north of England the mills and workshops close during the Tide; all
is holiday-mirth and hospitality. People will pinch and scrape for weeks
beforehand in order to be able to afford a goodly joint of Tide-beef, or
Wake-beef, to provide which herds of fat oxen have been slain in
readiness; and every good housewife prepares a store of cakes, tarts,
pies, and pasties. Tusser felt the importance of this housewifely baking
when he wrote his lines on _The Wake day_:

    Fill ouen full of flawnes [custards baked in paste], Ginnie,
        passe not for sleepe,
    to morow thy father his wake day will keepe.

A certain sort of wake-cake in Staffordshire has passed into a proverb.
As short as Marchington wake-cake is applied figuratively to a woman’s

[Sidenote: _Mops or Hiring Fairs_]

Beside the purely merry-making fairs were the Hiring, or Statute
fairs, held usually in the autumn, often about Martinmas, Nov. 11; but
these, too, have mostly developed into pleasure fairs. The young men
and girls who came to seek places as farm-labourers and maid-servants,
used to stand, clad in their ‘Sunday best’, on either side of the
principal street, the men wearing emblems of service in their hats.
Thus the plough-boy or carter had a piece of whip-cord; the shepherd
a lock of wool; and the cowherd a tuft of cow-hair. It is said that
the name _Mop_ which is widely used in the Midlands instead of
_Stattis_ [Statutes] is derived from this old custom of carrying the
badge of office, and refers to the mop borne by the servant-girls.
The contracts made between employer and employed at the Mop were
binding for the following twelve months. A fee, formerly termed in
the northern counties the _God’s-penny_, but later more generally
the _fastening-penny_, was given by the employer to the servant as
earnest-money. It varied in amount from one shilling to a pound. If
the servant changed his or her mind before entering the service, he
or she returned the _God’s-penny_ to the employer; and on the other
hand, if the employer changed his mind and refused to take the servant,
he forfeited the fee. The relative merits of various ‘places’, and
warnings against ‘bad meat houses’, i.e. houses where scant rations
prevailed, were transmitted to new generations of servants in doggerel
verses repeated at the hirings, such as: Bradford breedless, Harnham
heedless, Shaftee pick at the craa; Capheaton’s a wee bonny place, But
Wallin’ton bangs [excels] them aa (Nhb.).

A Runaway Mop was a statute hiring-fair held a few weeks after the
customary ones, said to be composed of servants who had been hired at a
previous fair, and had run away from their situations. In the _Evesham
Journal_ of October 16, 1897, there appeared an announcement stating
that ‘The runaway mop [at Stratford-on-Avon] will be held on October
22nd’. A Mop Fair is still held in Stratford-on-Avon. In the _Daily
Sketch_ of October 14, 1912, appeared an illustration entitled ‘Roasting
the Ox at Stratford Mop Fair’, with this note appended: ‘The
Stratford-on-Avon Mop Fair, which dates from the reign of King John, was
held on Saturday. Six excursion trains ran from London, and specials
arrived from many towns. The ox-roasting in the streets was one of the
principal sights of the Fair, seven bullocks and a dozen pigs being

The children’s singing game: Here comes the lady of the land, With
sons and daughters in her hand; Pray, do you want a servant to-day?
&c., is probably an outgrowth of the Hiring-fairs, an imitation of
customs once in vogue on these occasions, either derived directly from
the Fairs or from dramatic representations of them acted at Harvest



Children’s games form a study in themselves. Nobody who has once
dipped into one of the two big volumes of that scholarly and intensely
interesting work by Mrs. Gomme, entitled _The Traditional Games of
England, Scotland, and Ireland_, can fail to be struck by the importance
of games as a mirror of real life. Indeed--to quote the words of Mrs.
Gomme’s closing paragraph--‘it is not ... too much to say that we have
in these children’s games some of the oldest historical documents
belonging to our race, worthy of being placed side by side with the
folk-tale and other monuments of man’s progress from savagery to

After reading her book I look back with a new sense of pleasure to the
village school-treats, where I joined in the singing games played on the
lawns of our old Rectory home in Herefordshire. It is a source of great
gratification to me to think that in: Nuts in May--which should properly
be read Knots of May, i.e. bunches of hawthorn-blossom--I reenacted
marriage by capture; that in: Here come three Spaniards out of Spain,
A-courting of your daughter Jane. Ans. My daughter Jane is yet too
young, She cannot bear your flattering tongue, I personated the
ambassador of a would-be bridegroom belonging to the days when marriage
by purchase had succeeded to marriage by capture; that when I adjured
the kneeling Sally Water to: Sprinkle in the pan, and then: Rise Sally,
rise Sally, Choose your young man, I was calling her to the performance
of a marriage ceremony the chief feature of which was some rite
connected with water-worship, a relic of the pre-Celtic inhabitants of
the British Isles; that when I formed one of a circle of little girls
playing the ever-popular Who goes round my stony wall to-night? Ans.
Only Johnny Ningo, I represented a primitive village, round which
prowled by night a thief from a neighbouring village, or a wild animal
from the forest, on a sheep-stealing expedition. But best of all I like
to think that as the centre player in: Wind up the old Yew-tree, I
personified a sacred Tree, encircled by a band of worshippers stamping
on the ground to arouse the sleeping Earth-spirit. London Bridge was
another very favourite game at those school-treats, but little did we
know that it originated in the barbarous custom of foundation sacrifice.
I cannot remember that we ever performed the game of: Mother, mother,
the pot boils over, with its traces of customs belonging to fire-worship
and the worship of the hearth.

[Sidenote: _Antiquity of Games_]

Of less hoary antiquity are the customs represented in Jenny Jones,
where Jenny dies, and her corpse is dressed in white and carried to the
grave by her maiden friends, weeping as they go. Our Herefordshire
version of the song was a decadent one, for we always called the heroine
Jenora, and we decided that commonplace ‘black’ is ‘for dead people’.
Here we enacted the funeral to the bitter end, till Jenora--or her
embodied ghost--rose up from the grave and chased the shrieking
mourners. But in Wallflowers and Green Gravel we lamented the death of a
maiden only by turning our faces ‘to the wall’ to indicate hopeless

Even those apparently mere baby games which we played with the infant
scholars, such as Mulberry Bush, accompanied by actions of daily life,
and Ring a Ring o’ Roses, with its allusion to the ceremonial use of
flowers, the bowing to the ground, and the sneezing, should probably be
regarded with the respect due to survivals of ancient sacred dances. We
learn, too, that the primitive element may also be traced in the simple
games of Touch and Tig, where ‘he’ or ‘it’ would seem to be a tabooed
person; and that in the game of Hoblionkers, so common in Oxford, may be
found ‘evidence of the early belief that the possession of a weapon
which had, in the hands of a skilful chief, done great execution, would
give additional skill and power to the person who succeeded in obtaining

Beside the games which exhibit traces of pre-Christian religion and
social custom are the later historical games played by boys, such as
Scots and English, and We are the Rovers, dating from the inroads of the
Scots, or from the threatened invasion of Napoleon, games which, by
comparison with the others, seem to be of mushroom growth. But it is
needless further to recapitulate what has been better said elsewhere,
and it would be hard to find a game of any sort which is not fully
described in Mrs. Gomme’s volumes.

[Sidenote: _Terms used in Marbles_]

A bird’s-eye view of the game of marbles as played throughout the
British Isles would probably show a larger and more varied vocabulary of
technical terms and phrases than almost any other game. To begin with,
there are the different dialect names denoting the different species of
marbles, for example: balser, bobber or dobber, bullocker, dogle,
dolledger, fifer, frenchie, kabber, ligganie, pot-donnock, &c., &c.;
then the names for the different varieties of the game, such as:
bungums, dab-at-the-hole, doorie, drop-eye, dykey, follow-tar, lag,
langie-spangie, nanks, plonks and spans, rackups, ringhams, rumps, &c.,
&c.; and lastly, there is the rich assortment of exclamations and
expressions used by the players, as for instance: A-rant! No custance!
Dubs! Fen keeps! Gobs! Heights! Layers! Lights up and no bird-eggs!
Lodge! No first my redix! Roonses! &c., &c.; to fub, to fullock, to
gull, to grumphey, to hagger, to murl, to plonk, to strake, to play
freezers, to play kibby, &c., &c.

Many of the good old nursery jingles appear in quaint guise in the
dialects. The following is an Isle of Wight version of This little pig
went to market, used when counting a baby’s fingers or toes: This gurt
pig zays, I wants meeat; T’other one zays, Where’ll ye hay et? This one
zays, In gramfer’s barn; T’other one zays, Week! Week! I can’t get over
the dreshel [threshold]. In Scotland they say: This ain biggit the
baurn, This ain stealt the corn, This ain stood and saw, This ain ran
awa’, An’ wee pirlie-winkie paid for a’. A Scottish version of This is
the way the ladies ride, used when dancing a child on the knee, runs:
This is the way the ladies rides, Jimp and sma’, jimp and sma’; This is
the way the gentlemen rides, Spurs an a’, spurs an a’; This is the way
the cadgers rides, Creels an a’, creels an a’.

[Sidenote: _Country Children’s Rhymes_]

Country children often repeat certain rhymes when they meet with some
particular insect or other creature; or when they hear the note of some
familiar bird. In the latter case, the words used are sometimes intended
as a gloss on the cry of the bird, as for example: Steal two coos,
Taffy, Steal two coos, which is what the wood-pigeon says, according to
the Welshman’s story, when he was asked why he stole the cows. When
Berkshire children hear the wood-pigeon they sing: My toe bleeds, Betty!
My toe bleeds, Betty! Northamptonshire children on hearing the
blackbird, sing: Draw the knave a cup of beer, Be quick, quick, quick!
In many dialects the generic name for a moth is _miller_, but the term
is more specially applied to large white moths. When children catch such
a one they sing: Millery, millery, doustipoll, How many zacks hast thee
astole? Vow’r an’ twenty, and a peck; Hang the miller up by’s neck
(Hmp.); Miller, miller, blow your horn! You shall be hanged for stealing
corn (Shr.). A woodlouse is called Granfer Grig (Wil. Som.), and the
following are the lines to a woodlouse to make it curl up: Granfer Grig
killed a pig, Hung un up in corner; Granfer cried and Piggy died, And
all the fun was over. There are several rhymes addressed to snails in
various localities, for example: Snarley-’orn, put out your corn, Father
and mother’s dead (Som.); Sneely-snawl, put out your horn, The beggars
are coming to steal your corn, At six o’clock in the morning (Lin.);
Snag, snag, put out your horn, And I will give you a barleycorn (Sus.);
Hodmadod, hodmadod, pull out your horns, Here comes a beggarman to cut
off your corns (Suf.). Children in Northumberland call a scarlet
ladybird a _sodger_. When they have caught one they throw it up in the
air and say: Reed, reed sodger, fly away, And make the morn a sunny day.
But the commonest rhyme addressed to a ladybird is: Cowlady, cowlady,
hie thee way whum! Thy haase is afire, thy childer all gone, All but
poor Nancy set under a pan, Wavin’ gold lace as fast as she can (Yks.).
There are versions of this rhyme in various dialects. To irritate
turkeys boys will shout at them: Bubbly Jock, Bubbly Jock, Bubbly Jock
the satter, Yor faithor’s deed, yor mother’s deed, ye canna flee nae
fawthor (Nhb.); or: Lubber, lubber-leet, Look at your dirty feet (Cor.);
or: What d’ye hang yer vather wi’? to which the turkey is supposed to
reply, Holter, holter, holter. When a Lincolnshire hen cackles she is
believed to say: Cuca, cuca, cayit, I’ve laid an egg, cum ta’ it.
Norfolk boys scare rooks and crows from corn by shouting: Bird, a bird,
a wook, Here come the clappers To knock ye down back’ards. Carwo!

[Sidenote: _Rustic Riddles_]

To wind up my chapter I will add a few rustic riddles: Tweea lookers,
twea crookers, fower dilly danders, four stiff standers, an’ a wig-wam
(Wm. Lan.). Ans. A cow. Clink, clank doon the bank, Ten again four;
Splish, splash in the dish, Till it run ower (Nhb.). Ans. The milking of
a cow. Creep-hedge, crop-thorn; Little cow with the leather horn (Yks.).
Ans. A hare. The bat, the bee, the butterflee, the cuckoo, and the gowk,
The heather-bleat, the mire-snipe, hoo many birds is that (Sc. Irel.)?
Ans. Two. So black’s my ’at, so white’s my cap, Magotty pie, and what’s
that (Som.)? This is a kind of jibe-riddle asked of very stupid persons.
The common dialect expression _to come to_, meaning _to cost_, gives
rise to the following version of a well-known arithmetical problem: If a
herrin’ and a half come to dree ’aa-pence, what will a hundred o’ coal
come to? Ans. Ashes. What’s the smallest thing as is sold alive in
markut? Ans. A mint [a cheese-mite].



     ‘There was no information for which Dr. Johnson was less grateful
     than for that which concerned the weather.... If any one of his
     intimate acquaintance told him it was hot or cold, wet or dry,
     windy or calm, he would stop them by saying, “Poh! poh! you are
     telling us that of which none but men in a mine or a dungeon can be
     ignorant. Let us bear with patience, or enjoy in quiet, elementary
     changes, whether for the better or the worse, as they are never
     Burney, _Boswell’s Life of Johnson_, G. Birkbeck Hill, vol. iv,
     p. 360.

In all ranks of life the weather is the one great topic for casual
conversations and salutations; and thanks to the blessed uncertainty of
our English climate we have a wide field, and seldom need to repeat the
same remark two days running. Dialect-speakers, however, have the
advantage over us of the standard language, in that they possess so many
good descriptive adjectives and metaphorical expressions which we lack.
The rustic, moreover, accepts the weather as he finds it, and puts plain
facts into words, he does not abuse unalterable conditions in the way we
are so apt to do, as if a cold wind, or drizzling rain were a personal
insult not to be borne. Sometimes we even descend to unadulterated
slang, as did the two charming and well-dressed maidens I once heard
greet each other in the street thus: ‘Awful weather, isn’t it!’ said the
one. ‘Beastly!’ retorted the other, and they passed on. One was reminded
of the girl in the fairy-tale who was condemned for her sins to let fall
a toad each time she opened her mouth to speak.

[Sidenote: _Phrases describing the Weather_]

For describing the weather in realistic and at the same time
picturesque terms, some of the dialect phrases would be hard to beat.
Take for example these: It’s a donky day, Ben! Ey, rayder slattery.
Varra slashy! Ay, parlish soft. Here’s a sharp mwornin’, John! Ey, as
snell as a stepmother’s breath. A tell you ’tis a day wud blaw the
horns aff the kye [cows]. It fare to be a wunnerful glosy morning,
leastways I sweat good tidily. It fair teeam’d doon, it stowered, an’
it reek’d, an’ it drazzl’d, whahl ah was wet ti t’skin, an’ hedn’t a
dhry threed aboot ma. T’weather wor seea pelsy, followed wi’ sitch a
snithe, hask wind. A cold snarzling wind. When the air is so cold that
it will not allow any one to stand idle: There’s a good steward about.
On the Cumberland Fells there is always a _bone_ in the air. When the
day looks bright and pleasant, but there is a chill nip in the air,
it is a _sly_ day; when it is cold and foggy, it is _hunch-weather_,
because it makes men and animals hunch up their shoulders; when it is
very cold with a piercing wind it is _peel-a-bone_ weather; and when
it rains very hard it is: Raining pitchforks with the tines downwards.
A raging, blustering wind goes _wuthering_ across a bleak moor, whence
the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling _Wuthering Heights_. When the
sky shows streaks of windy-looking cloud, and the weather seems
doubtful it: Looks skeowy; an unusually bright day is: Too glisky to
last; when a fine rain is falling: It hadders and roäks. A kind of
hoar-frost peculiar to Dartmoor is known as _the ammil_, a term which
is apparently a figurative use of _amel_, i.e. enamel (cp. ‘_Esmail_,
ammel or enammel’, Cotgr.), used to denote the thin coating of
transparent ice which covers every twig, and leaf, and blade of grass.
On a calm, hot day, when the air near the surface of the ground is seen
to quiver in the sunlight: The summer-colt rides, or: The summer-goose
flackers; the Northern Lights are the Merry Dancers; heavy masses of
fleecy white cloud are Wool-packs, or they are the Shepherd’s Flock.
The evening star becomes the Shepherd’s Lamp, whilst the moon, more
prosaically, does duty as the Parish Lantern.

[Sidenote: _Weather Rhymes and Sayings_]

To the countryman who lives by tilling the soil, or by tending sheep
and cattle, the prospect of fair days or foul is all-important; we
therefore find in the dialects a mass of weather-lore, in part based
on old superstition, in part on trustworthy observation. Sun, moon,
and stars, clouds and wind, the habits of animals, and the various
signs of the approach of winter, or the advent of spring, are all
observed and studied, and then, in course of time, the results of this
observation have become crystallized in popular sayings and homely

When the sky has a _cruddled_ appearance, that is, when it is covered
with small fleecy clouds called Hen-scrattins (Sc. n.Cy. Midl.), it
means that the weather will be: Neither long wet nor yet long dry. The
same is said of the long streaky clouds called Filly-tails (Sc. n.Cy.),
Mares’-tails (gen. dials.), and Goat’s-hair (Nhb.). When a thick band of
cloud lies across the west, with smaller bands above and below, it is:
Barbara and her barns [children], a sign of stormy weather (Yks.). The
name is an allusion to St. Barbara, whose father was about to strike off
her head, when a lightning flash laid him dead at her feet. Hence she
was supposed to command the thunderstorm, and was invoked as a
protectress. When dingy packs on Criffel lower, Then hoose yer kye an’
stuik yer duir, But if Criffel be fair an’ clear, For win’ or weet ye
needn’t fear (Cum.). A small dark cloud such as Elijah’s servant beheld
when he looked toward the sea from the top of Carmel, is called a
Dyer’s-neäf [hand], and betokens rain as it did in Ahab’s time, for: A
dyer’s neaf an’ a weather-gall Shepherds warn at rain’ll fall (Yks.). A
Weather-gall (n.Cy.) is the stump of a rainbow left visible above the
horizon. A Weather-breeder (n.Cy. n.Midl. e.An.) is a fine warm day out
of season, regarded as the precursor of stormy weather. When streaks of
light are seen radiating from the sun behind a cloud, the sun is said to
be _drawing wet_, for the Sun-suckers (Chs. Shr.) are sucking up
moisture from the earth, to form rain. Roger’s blast (e.An.) is a kind
of miniature whirlwind, which suddenly on a calm day whirls up the dust
on the road, or the hay in the field, high in the air, to herald the
approaching rain.

[Sidenote: _Signs of Wet Weather_]

It is a sign of coming wet weather if the moon is on her back (Sc.
Midl. e.An.), for she holds the water in her lap; if a halo is seen
round her, variously termed a _wheel_ (Brks. Hmp. Som.), a _bur_
(n.Cy. n.Midl. e.An. s.Cy.), and a _brough_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy.), e.g. The
bigger the wheel, the nearer the wet; If t’bur i’ t’muin be far away,
Mek heaste an’ hoose yer cworn an’ hay; A far-aff broch a near-han’
shoor, A near-han’ broch a far-aff shoor; or if the evening star _leads
the moon_, that is, if it is in front, or on the right-hand side of
the moon. A Setterda’s moon, Cum it once in seven year, it cums too
soon (Lin.), for: Saturday new, and Sunday full, It allus rines, and
it allus ool (Glouc.). If curleys whaup when t’day is duin, We’ll
hev a clash [downpour] an’ varra suin (Cum.). The guinea-fowl or
_come-back_ invokes rain (Nrf.); and the call of the green woodpecker
is the warning signal: Wet! wet! wet! (Shr. Som.). It is a sign of
rain when _th’ craws plaays football_, that is, when the rooks gather
together in large bodies, and circle round each other; when the ducks
_do squacketty_ (Som.), or when they throw water from their bills over
their heads (Yks.); when the swallows fly near the surface of the
ground; when the crickets chirp more loudly than usual; when a cat
scratches the table legs, or _makes bread_, or sneezes (Sc.), or in
washing her face, draws her paw down over her forehead; if a cock flies
up on to a gate, and there crows (Wal.); if a dog eats grass (Sc.); if
the _packmen_ [snails] are about (War.); If paddocks crowk in t’pow
[pool] at neet, We may expect baith win’ an’ weet (Cum.); if a peacock
cries frequently (Dev.); if you meet a _shiny-back_ (War.), or common
garden beetle; if you kill a _rain-clock_ [beetle], or _rain-bat_
(n.Cy. Wor.), an _egg-clock_ [cockchafer] (Lan.), or _God’s horse_ [the
sun-beetle](Cum.). If it rains on Friday it will rain on the following
Sunday (Cum.). The shooting of corns, or of an old sore, is a sign of
wind and rain (Yks.). If a rake is carried in harvest-time with its
teeth pointing upwards it is certain to rake down rain (Dev.). If the
cat frisk about the house in an unusually lively manner, wind or stormy
weather is approaching (Lan.). The shrew-mouse prognosticates in which
quarter the wind will prevail during the winter by making the opening
of its nest in the contrary direction (Nhp.). It is a very common
saying that: When the wind is in the east, It’s neither good for man
nor beast; but: The wind in the west Suits every one best (Lan.) A
streak of thin white cloud, somewhat in the shape of a boat, is called
Noah’s Ark (Sc. n.Cy. n.Midl. e.An.). If it lies north and south it
denotes rain, but lying east and west it denotes fine weather (Cum.).
Or again, it is held that if the Ark remains three days, the wind will
pass into the quarter to which the Ark points. South for rain; north
for cold; east for all that is ill; and west to everybody’s gain (Wm.).

[Sidenote: _Popular Meteorology_]

If a robin sings on a high branch of a tree it is a sign of fine
weather, but if one sings near the ground the weather will be wet
(Shr.). An old saying about the _wood-seer_ (Nhp.), the little green
insect found in the white froth deposited on plants, is that when its
head is turned upwards it betokens fine weather, and when downward, the

In changeable weather the rain is said to come and go _by planets_
(Der. Lei. e.An.), or if rain falls with great violence, but very
locally, it is said to fall _in planets_ (n.Cy.), phrases which must be
remnants of old astrological beliefs.

The presence of sea-gulls inland is generally taken as an indication of
stormy weather: Sea-mo, sea-mo, bide on t’sand, Theer nivver good
weather when thoo’s on t’land (Cum.); but this is not always the case. A
Devonshire rhyme runs: When the say-gulls cry by lan’, ’Tis time to take
the zellup [seed-leap, i.e. seed-basket for sowing] in han’; When the
say-gulls cry by say, ’Tis time to draw the zellup away. In Shetland
there is an old rhyme concerning the movements of the _rain-goose_, or
red-throated diver: If the rain göse flees ta da hill, Ye can geng ta da
haf whin ye will; But whin shö gengs ta da sea, Ye maun draw up yir
boats an’ flee. According to an old Cumberland saying: If’t cums on rain
when t’teyde’s at flowe, You may yoke t’plew on any knowe [knoll]; Bit
if it cums when t’teyde’s at ebb, Then lowse yer plew an’ gang to bed.

Perhaps the commonest of all sayings concerning the weather is: A red
sky at night Is the shepherd’s delight; A red sky in the morning Is the
shepherd’s warning. The wording varies slightly in different districts,
but the sense is always the same, cp. ‘When it is evening, ye say, It
will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be
foul weather to-day: for the sky is red and lowring,’ _St. Matt._ xvi.
2, 3. Another very common adage is: Rain before seven, fine before
eleven. Among the Yorkshire Dales people will tell you that when you see
the cattle on the tops of the hills, it is a sign of fine weather. The
early mist called the _pride of the morning_ (n.Cy. Midl. Dor.), _harr_,
and _hag_, foretells a fine day. A moorn hag-mist Is worth gold in a
kist; A northern harr Brings fine weather from far (Yks.).

[Sidenote: _Foretelling the Seasons_
           _The Farmer and the Weather_]

But popular meteorology does not confine itself to foretelling the
weather of the immediate future; there are plenty of prophetic
utterances concerning the seasons, and their effects on the crops of
weeks and even months ahead. For instance: If the ice will bear a man
before Christmas, it will not bear a mouse afterwards. If the sun shine
through the apple-tree on Christmas Day there will be an abundant crop
of apples in the following year. If the wind is in the west at noon
on Candlemas Day it will be a good year for fruit. If Cannlemas Day
be lound [calm] and fair, Yaw hawf o’ t’winter’s to come an’ mair; If
Cannlemas Day be murk and foul, Yaw hawf o’ t’winter’s geean at Yule
(Yks.). A January spring is worth naething. If in February there be no
rain, The hay won’t goody, nor the grain, All other months of the year
Most heartily curse a fine Februeer (Dev.). If the cat in February lies
in the sun, she will creep under the grate in March (Dev.). So many
frogs in March, so many frosts in May (Rut.). A peck of March dust is
worth a king’s ransom. When the oak is before the ash, The summer will
be dry and mash [hot] (Bdf.). If the oak before the ash, Then we’re
sure to have a plash, If the ash before the oak, Then we’re sure to
have a soak (Nhb.). When the hair-beard [the field woodrush] appear,
The shepherd need not fear (Nhp.). Rain on Good Friday and Easter Day
Brings plenty of grass but little good hay (Glo.). Cold May, Long
corn, short hay (Rut.). A wet May, Maks lang-tail’d hay (Yks.). A lecky
[showery] May, plenty o’ hay, A lecky June, plenty o’ corn (Nhb.).
A wet May and a winnie [windy], Makes a fou stackyard and a finnie
[plentiful] (Sc. n.Cy.). A dry summer never begs its bread (Som.). If
it sud rain on St. Swithin’s Day, We’re feckly sarrat [served] wi’
dwallow’d hay (Cum.). If it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, even if only
a few drops, the apples are _christened_, and early sorts may then
be picked. Very hot weather in July, August, and September breeds
hard frosts for January (Dev.). If the buck rises with a dry horn on
Holyrood morn, Sept. 14, it is a sign of a Michaelmas summer. A warm
October presages a cold February (Dev.). As the weather is in October,
so it will be next March (Dev.). Where the wind is at Holland-tide, the
Season of All Saints, it will be most of the winter (Glo.). If there’s
ice in November will bear a duck, There’ll be nothing after but sludge
and muck. Many hips, many haas, Many frosts, many snaas. When patches
of snow linger after the rest has melted, these are _snowbones_, and
more snow will come to fetch them away.

When children see the snowflakes falling they say: There’s the old
domman [woman] a-picking her geese, An’ sellin’ the feathers a penny
apiece (Oxf.); They’re killing geese i’ Scotland, An’ sending t’feathers
here (Yks.); The folk i’ the eas’ is plotin’ their geese, An’ sendin’
their feathers ti huz (Nhb.); Keelmen, keelmen, ploat yor geese, Caad
days an’ winter neets (Nhb.).

[Sidenote: _Tusser’s ‘Husbandrie’_]

From weather lore we are naturally led to turn to the farm and the
farmer, and here, at the outset, we are reminded of that father of
English ‘Husbandrie’, Thomas Tusser. Writers on Literature tell us that
he was one of the most popular authors of his time, judging from the
number of editions through which his work--_A Hundreth Good Pointes of
Husbandrie_, afterwards enlarged to _Fiue hundred pointes of good
Husbandrie_--passed in the first forty years after its publication in
1557. A further testimony to the popularity of the book lies in the
fact that copies of any one of the thirteen editions of this period are
very scarce, and nearly all imperfect. It certainly is a most attractive
handbook to farming, and one can easily imagine how the family copy
would be thumbed by father and son, consulting it on every occasion for
its practical advice, useful information, and homely maxims, till the
book fell to pieces. A glance at Tusser’s ‘Table of the pointes of
husbandrie mentioned in this booke’ will show that he does not confine
himself strictly to agricultural subjects. Here we find: ‘A description
of life and riches,’ ‘Against fantastical scruplenes,’ ‘A Christmas
caroll,’ ‘A Sonet against a slaunderous tongue,’ sandwiched in between
such titles as: ‘Seedes and hearbes for the kitchen,’ ‘A medicine for
faint cattle,’ ‘Howe to fasten loose teeth in a bullocke,’ and the
‘Abstract’ for every month in succession. His verses may not be
poetical, but they contain much matter plainly expressed in little room,
and their good rhythm and rhyme made them easy to remember. For example:

    Get into the hopyard, for now it is time,
      to teach Robin hop on his pole how to climb.
                                            _Maies husbandrie._

    When frost will not suffer to dike and to hedge,
      then get thee a heat with thy beetle and wedge.
                                        _Decembers husbandrie._

    Keepe [scare away] crowes, good sonne,
      see fencing be done.
                                           _Octobers abstract._

    Good dwelling giue bee,
      or hence goes shee.
                                         _Septembers abstract._

    By sowing in wet,
      is little to get.
                                            _Marches abstract._

    The better the muck,
      the better good luck.
                                         _Works after haruest._

Then there are everywhere the simple and kindly moral maxims, so
characteristic of their author, such as the advice concerning
trespassing sportsmen:

    To hunters and haukers, take heede what ye saie,
      milde answere with curtesie driues them awaie.
                                     _Good husbandlie lessons._

or concerning sick servants:

    To seruant in sicknesse see nothing ye grutch,
      a thing of a trifle shall comfort him mutch.
                                           _Afternoone workes._

[Sidenote: _Husbandry in Rhyme_]

‘Good husbandlie lessons’ stored up in rhymes in the manner of Tusser
may still be found in rural districts. For example: When the cuckoo
comes to the bare thorn, Sell your cow and buy your corn (Sus.). When
the slae tree is white as a sheet, Sow your barley, whether it be dry or
weet (Nhb.). When elum leaves are as big as a farden, It’s time to plant
kidney-beans in the garden. When the moon is at the full, Mushrooms you
may freely pull; But when the moon is on the wane, Wait ere you think to
pluck again (Ess.). Shear you sheep in May, and shear them all away
(Wor.). If you marl land, you may buy land; If you marl moss, there is
no loss; If you marl clay, you fling all away (Lin.).

There is an old farmer’s saying in Rutland: One boy is a boy, two boys
is half a boy, and three boys is no boy at all. According to a
Cumberland adage, the ‘good husband’--as Tusser would call him--says:
Come, goway to yer wark wid me, lads; while ‘unthrift his brother’ says:
Howay to yer wark, lads, and leaves them to go by themselves.

It is interesting to recognize familiar sayings under a figure taken
from farming. For instance: to have other oats to thresh, or another rig
to hoe, is equivalent to other fish to fry; to shear [reap] one’s own
rig, is to paddle one’s own canoe; to plough the headlands before the
butts, is to begin a thing at the wrong end. The _headland_ is the strip
of land left unploughed at the ends of a field on which the plough
turns, hence: to turn on a mighty narrow adlant, means to have a narrow
escape. _Pay-rent_ is a good practical synonym for profitable, e.g. A
proper pay-rent sort o’ pigs; A rare pay-rent piece o’ beans.

A _way-ganging_ crop is the last crop belonging to a tenant before he
leaves a farm, a phrase which is picturesquely applied to an old man
nearing his end.

[Sidenote: _Decay of old Farming Customs_]

Numbers of the old agricultural terms so common a generation or two
ago, have now become obsolete, since the implements to which they
belonged have given place to newer machinery. Twenty or thirty years
ago one was accustomed to hearing the thud of the flail resounding on
the barn floor, but now the threshing-machine does the work, and we
have to look in dictionaries if we want to understand what was meant
by a _dreshel_, and what parts of it were the _handstaff_, _soople_,
and _capel_, and what happened to the barley when submitted to the
_faltering-iron_. Reaping-machines, again, have superseded the older
methods of _shearing_ with the _sheckel_, the _badging-hook_, or the
_fagging-hook_. We seldom hear the sound of the mower whetting his
scythe, nor do we see Phillis hasting out of her bower ‘With Thestylis
to bind the sheaves’. These are sounds and sights to read of in poetry,
like the whilome glories of our wayside hedgerows, now cloaked under a
grey pall of dust thrown over them by the passing motor.

The decay of old customs belonging to farming is chiefly noticeable in
connexion with the ingathering of the harvest, and the celebration of
its completion. Many causes have combined of late years to make farming
an anxious and unremunerative industry, so that there is no longer the
real joy in harvest that there used to be; a fact which must be reckoned
together with the changes which have been wrought by the introduction of
machinery, and by the increase in means of locomotion which brings
hireling harvesters from distant parts, and carries away the young
people who used to grow up on the same farm where their fathers and
grandfathers had always worked.

[Sidenote: _The Harvest Home_]

In olden days, harvest time was the great social season of the year
on the farm, when master and man worked and rejoiced together in common
bonds of fellowship, and finally celebrated the festival of the Harvest
Home as one family. Tusser thus describes the old-time harvest:

    In haruest time, haruest folke, seruants and all,
      should make all togither good cheere in the hall;
    And fill out the black boule of bleith to their song,
      And let them be merie all haruest time long.

    Once ended thy haruest, let none be begilde,
      please [pay] such as did helpe thee, man, woman, and childe.
    Thus dooing, with alway such helpe as they can,
      thou winnest the praise of the labouring man.
                                          _Augusts husbandrie._

The principal reaper was in some districts named the _harvest-lord_
(Lin. e.An.). It was his duty to go first in the row, and to regulate
the motions of the rest of the band. Tusser, who was an Essex man, says:

    Grant haruest lord more by a penie or twoo,
      to call on his fellowes the better to doo:
    Giue gloues to thy reapers, a larges to crie,
      and dailie to loiterers haue a good eie.
                                          _Augusts husbandrie._

Next to him came the _harvest-lady_, the second reaper, who took the
_harvest-lord’s_ place if the latter were absent. In Shropshire the last
man of the whole band was termed the _lag-man_. Often three or four
reapers would each take a ridge and compete with one another as to who
should finish first. This was called _kemping_ (Sc. Irel. n.Cy.). The
_largess_ was a gift of money demanded by the reapers, either during the
harvest or at its conclusion. After receiving it, the custom was to cry
out three times: Halloo largess! This was the ceremony of _crying a
largess_ to which Tusser alludes in the verse quoted above. It continued
to be practised in parts of East Anglia till the latter half of last

[Sidenote: _The Last Sheaf of Wheat_]

When the reaping of the last cornfield was all but finished, a small
patch of grain was left standing. It was then tied at the top with a
piece of ribbon, or the stalks were roughly plaited together, to form a
sheaf, and then the reapers placed themselves a few yards off, and
threw their sickles at it, competing for the honour of winning the _last
cut_. This last handful to be reaped was the trophy of the harvest-home
feast. It was frequently dressed up to appear like a rude human figure,
gaily decorated, and carried home in triumph. Afterwards it was usually
placed above the door of the farm-kitchen, or over the chimney-piece, to
remain there throughout the winter to bring good luck, and ward off
witchcraft. The ceremonies connected with this last sheaf, and the names
by which it was known varied in different places. It was called: the ben
(e.An.); cailleach (Irel.); churn or kirn (Sc. Irel. n.Cy.);
claaick-sheaf (Sc.); cripple-goat (I. of Skye); frog (Wor.); gilach
(Irel.); granny (Irel.); hare (Irel. Dev.); maiden (Sc.); mell (n.Cy.);
or when made up into a figure it was: the corn-baby; kirn-baby;
kirn-doll; mell-doll; harvest-queen. But perhaps the best-known name of
all is the south-west-Country _neck_, a term originally borrowed from
Scandinavia, cp. Norw. and Swed. dial. _nek_, a sheaf. Much has been
written about the ceremony of _Crying the neck_. A full account of it is
given in Hunt’s _Popular Romances of the West of England_, and a long
correspondence on the subject was kept up in the _Western Morning News_
in August 1898. Mrs. Hewitt, writing in 1900, says the custom ‘still
obtains in some parishes in the west of England’. She describes it thus:
‘When the last sheaf of wheat is cut at the end of August, the reapers
take the very last handful of straw and plait the ends together, tying
them with lengths of bright-coloured ribbons; then, lifting it high
above their heads, wave their sickles frantically, and shout:

    We-ha-neck! we-ha-neck!
    Well aplowed! well asowed!
    We’ve areaped! and we’ve amowed!
      Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!
    Well-a-cut, well abound!
    Well-a-zot upon the ground!
    We-ha-neck! we-ha-neck!
      Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!’
                                 _Nummits and Crummits_, p. 96.

[Sidenote: _Crying the Mare_]

The exact manner of performing the ceremony and the words used vary in
different districts, the variations being mostly due to the fact that
this custom has been blended together with another called _Crying the
mare_ (Irel. Chs. Shr. Hrt.). Indeed, many writers have been hereby led
to confuse these two customs, which were originally quite distinct.
_Crying the mare_ was performed by the farm men who were first to finish
harvest in the neighbourhood. It was a mode of triumphing over their
neighbours by offering the services of an imaginary mare to help a
laggard farmer. The men assembled in the stackyard, or on some strip of
rising ground, and there divided themselves into two bands, and chanted
in loud voices the following dialogue. First band: I have her, I have
her, I have her. Second band: What hast thee? (Every sentence is
repeated three times.) A mare. Whose is her? H. B.’s (naming their
master whose corn is all cut). Where shall we send her? To C. D. (naming
some neighbour whose corn is left standing, and who therefore may be
supposed to need the loan of a mare). In parts of Shropshire it was
customary, some sixty or seventy years ago, actually to send a horse,
mounted by the head reaper.

The cart carrying home the last load was styled the Harvest-cart. It
was often decked out with ash-boughs and garlands, whilst on it rode
boys singing the traditional song appropriate to the occasion:

    Mester ... ’es got ’is corn,
    Well shorn, well mawn,
    Never hulled ower, yet never stuck fast,
    And ’is ’arvest-cart’s comin’ home at last.

Then came the harvest-home banquet, the _churn-supper_, _mell-supper_,
or _hockey_ (Hrt. e.An.), to which the labourers’ wives and children
were also invited. When the feasting was over, and the usual
harvest-songs had been sung, the rest of the evening was spent in
dancing and general rustic merriment.

The day when the farm hands resumed the usual order of work, which
would be paid for by the usual allowance of wages and drink, was known
in parts of Shropshire by the name of Sorrowful Monday.

[Sidenote: _Terms relating to Agriculture_]

Since farming is an industry covering the land, and not confined to
particular districts, like coal-mining or salt-making, it would be
possible to collect several different series of dialect terms relating
to land-tenure, haymaking, reaping, ploughing, &c., each belonging to a
specified geographical area. If we were travelling through the country
at the time of the _haysel_, or hay-harvest, we should have to call a
hay-cock a hay-cock wherever we met one, but it might locally be known
by the name of a _hatchel_, a _hob_, a _jockey-cock_, a _keil_, or a
_wad_, or by some other name equally unfamiliar to our ears. Or again,
later in the season, if we went into a cornfield and looked at the
sheaves set up to dry, each pile would be a yellow corn-stook and
nothing more to us with our limited vocabulary of the harvest field, but
it might stand there as a _hattock_, a _hile_, a _kiver_, a _mair_, a
_stitch_, &c., according to the district where it had been set up.

Farm labourers everywhere are accustomed to wear some sort of rough
gaiters to protect their legs from cold and wet, often it is worsted
stockings without feet, which serve this purpose, especially for walking
in snow. The various names for these gaiters in the different dialects
form a curious list. They are: bams, baffles, bofflers, cockers,
galligaskins, gamashes, hoggers, kitty-bats, loags, martyens, moggans,
scoggers, whirlers, yanks, &c. But one of the biggest lists of dialect
names might be found belonging to the slight refreshment taken by
labourers between meals, either at eleven o’clock or four in the
afternoon. Here is a selection of some of the names: bagging, bait,
bever, clocking, coger, dew-bit, docky, down-dinner, downdrins, elevens,
four-hours, jaw-bit, lump, nammet, i.e. noon-meat, O.E. _nōn-mete_,
nocket, nuncheon, undern.

If we turn to the animals on the farm, the sheep in its various stages
of growth and commercial value would probably be found to possess the
largest number of names. It would puzzle most people, other than those
to the manner born, to define all the technical terms in use, such as:
chilver, cull, dinmont, gimmer, he-der, shear-hog, wether-hog, theave,
thrinter, twinter, two-tooth.

[Sidenote: _Calls to Animals_]

More interesting, however, than mere names of the animals are the
words used by the farmer and his men in dealing directly with the
beasts under their control. A study of wagoners’ words raises one’s
notion of the intellectual level of cart-horses considerably.
All sorts of exact directions are conveyed to them through the
medium of interjections such as the following: Boc! Chee-eggin!
Come-other-whoa! Cubba-hoult! Hait! Hap! Har! Hauve! Joss! Kip! Mather!
Mock-mether-hauve! Ree! Ware-whoop! Weesh! Whet-gee! Wo-cum-huggin!
Woor-ree! Wug! The word _hait_ is found in Chaucer, cp. ‘The carter
smoot, and cryde, as he were wood, Hayt, Brok! hayt, Scot! what spare
ye for the stones,’ _Freres Tale_, ll. 244, 245. So too are _kip_, and
_joss_, cp. ‘Thise sely clerkes rennen up and down, With keep, keep,
stand, stand, Iossa, warderere,’ _Reves Tale_, ll. 180, 181.

Then there are all the mysteriously alluring cries which summon
creatures to the shippon, sty, or pen; and the authoritative words of
command which drive them in the way they should go. To take a few
examples. Cows may be addressed thus: Coop! Cush, cush!--cp. O.N. _kus!
kus!_ a milkmaid’s call--Hoaf! Hobe! Mull! or Mully! Proo! Proochy!
Prut! Calves: Moddie! Mog, mog, mog! Pui-ho! Sook, sook! Sheep: Co-hobe!
Ovey! Pigs: Check-check! Cheat! Dack, dack! Giss! or Gissy! Lix!
Ric-sic! Shug, shug, shug! Tantassa, tantassa pig, tow a row, a row!
Tig, tig, tig! Turkeys: Cobbler! Peet, peet, peet! Pen! Pur, pur, pur!
Geese: Fy-laig! Gag, gag, gag! Ob-ee! White-hoddy! Ducks: Bid, bid, bid!
Diddle! Dill, dill! Wid! Wheetie! Pigeons: Pees! Pod! Rabbits: Map!

It must be very confusing for animals transported to a distance to
understand the calls of a new and strange dialect. I have more than
once tried the effect of imitating the seductive tones of the Yorkshire
_Co-oop_ in addressing an Oxfordshire cow. But with her foot securely
planted on her native heath, she would either pay no heed whatever, or
else she would turn upon me the gently indulgent eye of a consciously
superior intelligence.

[Sidenote: _Sheep-scoring Numerals_]

In olden times it was customary among sheep-farmers and shepherds in
the Lake District and in the northern counties generally, to use Celtic
numerals for counting sheep. The traditional forms varied in different
localities, as may be seen from the various series which have been
collected and put on record by folklorists. The following are the
numbers up to ten formerly in use near Keswick: Yan, tyan, tethera,
methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dick.

The custom of counting sheep by means of such numbers has now been
obsolete for about a hundred years, but it is a curious link with our
Celtic predecessors, coming down as it does so near to our own times.
Our Anglo-Saxon forefathers never amalgamated with the Celts, and the
Celtic language never seriously influenced English. The Celtic
loan-words borrowed by the Anglo-Saxons are comparatively few, and those
few, chiefly names of places and things of no special importance. From a
linguistic point of view it is strange to find such an everyday
implement as a set of numerals persisting in the spoken speech of a
people who hardly knew another word of the language of which these
formed part, and who of course had their own numerals. It is perhaps not
too romantic an explanation to suggest that among the few Celts who
became subjects to the foreign invaders were the humble shepherds who
had always tended sheep on the north-country moors and fells. The new
settlers would doubtless find it useful to keep them on in their
hereditary occupation, and in taking over the shepherd, they also took
over his system of numeration, which in his mind was indissolubly
associated with the sheep under his care.



Anybody who has ever done any practical housekeeping in a provincial
town is familiar with certain anomalies in the buying and selling of
farm produce and other articles in common use. Why, for instance, is a
potato when young sold by weight, and when it is old by measure? Why are
gooseberries sold by measure and other small fruits by weight? Why are
eggs in Oxford sold at so many to the shilling, and in Sidmouth for so
much the dozen? Still, we can jog along with our preconceived notions as
to the proper means of apportioning out the goods we want to buy, and we
do not have to readjust or add to the Tables we learned at school. A
catalogue of the weights and measures in the dialects does however upset
a great many of our everyday ideas, and make our knowledge of Tables
seem surprisingly limited. For here we find familiar measures changing
their standard value according to locality, or according to the
commodity to be sold by measure or weight; all sorts of new measures
with queer names enter into computations where we had hitherto only
dealt with plain bushels, or pounds, or inches; liquid measures usurp
the place of dry, and vice versa; and indefinite terms like heap, bunch,
bundle become fixed quantities. Let us hope that compilers of arithmetic
books will never be allowed to stray into this field. What a fiendish
joy it would give to those tormentors of youth if they might add to
their nightmare sums about taps running into leaky baths, and men
ploughing fields by the week, and horses costing odd shillings and
pence, a few questions like this: If one man could plough an acre of
land in Westmorland in five days, working every other day, how long
would six men take to plough a field of 11½ acres in Cheshire? If a
Cornishman bought a mease of herrings in the Isle of Man and sold them
to his next-door neighbour at home, how many more herrings would he have
left for his wife to fry than if he took them to Clovelly to sell? If a
dish and a half of butter costs two shillings and twopence halfpenny,
how much butter would you get for four shillings and elevenpence three
farthings? Or nice problems on the Tables such as: If three men and a
boy could get thirty-six pankets of coal in four days and a half, how
long would it take two boys to get out a chalder? If A. bought a wash of
oysters and sold them to B. at so much per strike, what would be the
price of a prickle of whelks?

[Sidenote: _Variation in Weights and Measures_]

A gill in most of the north-country dialects means half a pint, in
Devonshire it means a quart, and in Cornwall, as a measure of tin, it
means a pint. A stone may be equivalent to any weight from 8 lb. to 24
lb., it would depend whether the article in the scales was beef, or
butter, or hay, or wool, and so on. A pound of butter used to weigh 18
oz. throughout Cheshire. In the Lake District butter was formerly sold
by the _long pound_, which was equivalent to 22 oz. A Northumbrian peck
is one third of a Winchester bushel, but a Craven peck is half a
Winchester bushel. A hundred may mean the _long hundred_, which is
usually six score, but in parts of Worcestershire, by machine weight it
is 112 lb., by count, 126. In Norfolk a hundred crabs is 240, because
crabs are counted by _casts_, and a _cast_ is a pair of crabs. According
to Brighton measure, 128 herrings make a hundred, but if it was mackerel
there would be 132. An old Cumberland rhyme gives: Five scwore to
t’hundred o’ men, money, an’ pins; Six scwore to t’hundred o’ other
things. A yard of land in Devonshire is 9 ft., but a Cornish land yard
is 6 yds. or 18 ft.

[Sidenote: _Local Terms and Customs relating to Weights and Measures_]

A _boll_ is a dry measure of capacity varying from two to six bushels.
At Alnwick, a boll of barley or oats was six bushels; of wheat two
bushels. At Hexham, a boll of barley or of oats was five bushels; of
wheat four bushels. A _trug_ (Hrf.) is a measure of wheat of which three
go to make up two bushels. A _fother_ is a cartload, in some places a
one-horse load, and in others a two-horse load. If it denotes a weight
of lead, it is equivalent to 21 cwt. and upwards. In Durham, as a
measure for coals, it meant 17⅔ cwt., cp. ‘With him ther was a
Ploughman, was his brother, That hadde i-lad of dong ful many a fother,’
Chaucer, _Prol._ ll. 529, 530. A _last_ is a dry measure, used for corn,
&c. A Lincolnshire last of oats = 21 sacks of four bushels each, but
used for rape-seed, turnip-seed, or oats the last = 10 quarters, or
eighty bushels. As a measure for herrings in East Anglia, a last of
herrings is said to be ten thousand, but if six score and twelve go to
each hundred, there would actually be 13,200. A _lug_ (War. w.Cy.) is a
measure of land, usually a rod, pole, or perch, but occasionally varying
in length, cp. ‘Eight lugs of grownd,’ Spenser, _F. Q._ Bk. II. x. 11. A
_shaftment_ is the measure of the fist with the thumb extended,
generally taken as six inches. A _bodge_ (Ken.) is an odd measure of
corn left over when the bulk has been measured out into quarters and
sacks, cp. ‘To the last bodge of oats and bottle of hay,’ Jonson, _New

In East Anglia a pint of butter would mean 20 oz. In parts of Kent
fruit, vegetables, and fish are sold by the quart. Bread also is sold in
pecks, gallons, and quarts. A peck in west Somerset may be used as a
measure for cider, one peck being equal to two gallons. In Cheshire and
Staffordshire pottery is sold by the _piece_. I have myself bought
flower-pots by this standard, the number of the pots contained in the
piece varying according to their size. Firewood stacked for sale is in
many districts sold by the _cord_, a measure varying in amount in
different parts of the country. In Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and
parts also of Shropshire and Gloucestershire, fruit and vegetables are
always sold by the _pot_, or _half-pot_; a kind of basket or hamper
without a lid. Hops are sold by the _pocket_, this latter being an
enormous bag some 7½ ft. long, holding about 168 lb. of hops. Bottom
might still express ‘a great desire to a bottle of hay’, and be
understood in any county. The common proverbial saying: To look for a
needle in a bottle of hay is known as far back as 1655. Peck is used
figuratively in the phrase: a peck o’ troubles. A very common way of
telling a Yorkshireman that he is judging or treating others by his own
standard of thought or action is to say he is: measuring a peck out of
his own stroke.

Any kind of indefinite measure of anything may of course be taken by
_scowl of brow_, or by _the skeg of the eye_, and things of minor weight
may be judged by the _heft_ or the _lift_.



A few of the dialect plant-names have been noticed in previous
chapters in connexion with superstitious beliefs, medical lore, &c.,
but there are a great many more, equally well worth considering. What
one feels about them--and herein lies their chief attraction--is that
they reflect the popular mind, and are not the result of mere peeping
and botanizing. The rustic sees in the flower something which calls up
in his mind a familiar object--a dish of eggs and bacon, the parson in
the pulpit, a hen and chickens; or something which reminds him of a
Bible story he has known from his childhood; or something akin to human
nature, which draws forth a responsive recognition.

We naturally expect to find in the different dialects different names
for one and the same flower, but it is strange to find up and down the
country one and the same name attached to different flowers. An Oxford
lady once pointed out to me some plants of the double garden daisy,
which she called Bachelor’s Buttons. I declared this was a misnomer, for
the Bachelor’s Buttons I had grown up with in Herefordshire were some
kind of double ranunculus. Subsequent research, however, supported both
sides of the argument, and showed further, that at least twenty more
plants also bore the name of Bachelor’s Button in different parts of the
country. Even a common name like Honeysuckle is not restricted to the
fragrant climber _Lonicera Peryclymenum_ with which we of the standard
speech always associate it. The following plants may all be called
Honeysuckle: 1. The purple clover, _Trifolium pratense_. 2. The white
clover, _T. repens_. 3. The bird’s-foot trefoil, _Lotus corniculatus_.
4. The dwarf cornel, _Cornus suecica_. 5. The great bindweed,
_Convolvulus sepium_. 6. The white dead-nettle, _Lamium album_. 7. The
lousewort, _Pedicularis sylvatica_. 8. The blossoms of the willow.

[Sidenote: _Plants associated with Biblical Names_]

The following are some of the names of plants associated with
Biblical subjects: Aunt Mary’s Tree (Cor.) is the common holly; Virgin
Mary (Lakel. Cor.), Virgin Mary’s Honeysuckle (Chs. Shr.), Virgin
Mary’s Milkdrops (Mon. Wil.), Lady’s Milk-sile (Chs.), are names of
the lungwort _Pulmonaria officinalis_, referring to the legend that
during the flight into Egypt some of the Blessed Virgin’s milk fell on
its leaves, as she nursed the infant Jesus. The same legend is also
told to account for like spots on the leaves of the Blessed Thistle
(War.), Our Lady’s Thistle, _Carduus Marianus_. Another legend says
that the Virgin Mary, when thirsty, met with a cow, and after using the
broad leaf of the thistle as a drinking-cup, willed that the species
should ever after be called by her name, and bear the stains of the
milk on its leaves. The lungwort is also called Mary’s Tears (Dor.),
and the spots are traced to the tears shed by her at the Crucifixion.
Legend tells that once the Virgin Mary plucked up a root of the crab’s
claw, _Polygonum Persicaria_, and then threw it away, saying ‘that’s
useless’, hence Useless (Sc.) has been its name ever since, and the
blotches on its leaves are the marks of her fingers.

[Sidenote: _Plants associated with the Bible and with the Christian

Gethsemane (Chs.), the early purple orchis, _Orchis mascula_, is said
to have been growing at the foot of the Cross, and to have received
drops of blood on its leaves, the marks of which it has never lost.
The same legend is attached also to the Calvary Clover, _Medicago
echinus_, the leaves of which are marked with dull red, irregular
blotches exactly like real blood-stains. The plant is much prized
as a pot-plant, both for the sake of its leaves and for its curious
seed-vessels, one of which was given to me a few weeks ago. It looks
like a little prickly ball, and when thoroughly dry it can be unwound,
spiral fashion, in two coils, an outer prickly one, and an inner smooth
one which encases the twelve seeds. The ends can then be hooked one
into the other, to form a miniature Crown of Thorns. The seeds, I
was told, must be planted on Ash Wednesday, though probably an older
version of the tradition would give Good Friday as the fitting date,
but I have never heard of the superstition before. In parts of Cheshire
Christ’s Thorn, _Crataegus Pyracantha_, is the accredited plant from
which the Saviour’s Crown of Thorns was made. In parts of Yorkshire
Christ’s Thorn is a name of the common holly, with its scarlet
berries typical of His blood. The fame of having been cut to make the
Crown of Thorns was given in Kent to the Jews’ Myrtle, the butcher’s
broom, _Ruscus aculeatus_. The Eye of Christ (Wal.) is the germander
speedwell, _Veronica Chamaedrys_, also known as Angels’ Eyes (Dev.).

The name Aaron’s Beard is applied to several plants; so is Aaron’s
Rod, the latter name being perhaps most commonly given to the mullein,
_Verbascum Thapsus_, because of its long, straight stem. The mullein
also goes by the name of Adam’s Flannel (Yks. Chs. Lin. Nhp. War.),
so called from the soft, flannel-like appearance of the leaves. The
Solomon’s Seal, _Polygonatum multiflorum_, is named David’s Harp,
from the resemblance of the long curved flower-stalk with its pendent
blossoms to the harp as it is portrayed in old pictures, where David is
represented playing on an instrument shaped like half a pointed arch,
hung with metal bells, which he strikes with two hammers. The Drops
of Abel’s Blood (Dur.) are unopened flower-buds of the red fuchsia;
Jacob’s Ladder is a name shared by various plants, garden-plants,
and wild; Joseph’s Flower (Sus.) is the goat’s beard, _Tragopogon
pratensis_, probably a reminiscence of pictures of Joseph as an old
man with a long beard; Joseph’s Walking-stick (Hmp.) is another name
for one of the Jacob’s Ladder flowers, _Polemonium caeruleum_; Lazarus
Bell (Dev.) is the fritillary, _Fritillaria Meleagris_, Saint Peter’s
Herb (Yks.) is the cowslip, the flower-head suggesting a bunch of keys;
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Lin.) is a name of the garden comfrey,
_Symphytum officinale_, as well as of other plants having flowers of
different shades of colour on the same stem; several plants bear the
name of Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel (Wil.) is the columbine, _Aquilegia
vulgaris_, and other flowers in other localities; Mary and Joseph
(Lin.) is the name of a garden variety of the forget-me-not; the common
Virginian stock, on account of its numerous small flowers, is called
the Children of Israel (Wil. Dev.); a kind of dark blue campanula is
known in Sussex as the Twelve Apostles; the Rose of Sharon (Lan. Chs.
Lin. War. Suf. Dor.) is the large-flowered St. John’s wort, _Hypericum
calycinum_; the name of Good-Friday Flower (Dor.), given to the
tuberous moschatel, _Adoxa Moschatellina_, is supposed to be due to the
four-cleft corolla of the topmost flower, which suggested the Cross,
and not to refer merely to the date of flowering, as is the case with
the Good-Friday Grass (Sur.), the field woodrush, _Luzula campestris_;
the Alleluia Plant (Dor.) is the wood-sorrel, _Oxalis acetosella_, so
called because it blossoms between Easter and Whitsuntide, when in
the Catholic Liturgy psalms ending with ‘Alleluia’ were sung in the
churches. It is a very old name, cp. ‘Allelujah, wood-sorrel, _Oxys_,’
Coles, 1679, and one which occurs in other European languages. The
name Epiphany (Cor.) for the hell-weed, _Cuscuta Epithymum_, is formed
by popular etymology out of the French _epithin_, ‘the weed Dodder,
especially that kind thereof, which grows twining about the branches of
Time,’ Cotgrave. In the same way anemone has been corrupted sometimes
into Enemy, and a single plant of phlox has been termed a Flock.

There is a touch of poetry in such names as: New Year’s Gift (Ess.),
the winter aconite, _Eranthis hyemalis_; Summer’s Farewell (Dor. Som.),
a variety of the Michaelmas daisy, _Aster Tripolium_; Fair Maids (Nrf.
Hmp.), or February Fair Maids (Wm.), the snowdrop, _Galanthus nivalis_;
Golden Chain (Midl. s. and sw.Cy.), the laburnum. The reminiscence of
the Northern god Balder in Balder’s Brae (Nhb.), a name for the wild
camomile, _Anthemis cotula_, is probably a borrowing from Scandinavia,
cp. O.N. _Baldrs-brā_. The same name occurs also in Swedish and Danish
dialects. ‘Thou may’st have some idea of the beauty of his hair when
I tell thee that the whitest of all plants is called Baldur’s brow,’
Mallet, _Northern Antiquities_, 1770.

[Sidenote: _Old Names of Plants_]

We may still hear the plant-names Shakespeare knew, such as:
Honey-stalks (War.), the blossoms of the white clover, _Trifolium
repens_; and Love in idleness (Midl.), the pansy, a name often corrupted
into Love and idols, or Loving idols; and many which Dr. Johnson
included in his Dictionary, for example: Ale-hoof (Yks. Shr. Sus. Dev.
Cor.), the ground ivy, _Nepeta Glechoma_, cp. ‘Alehoof ... Groundivy, so
called by our Saxon ancestors, as being their chief ingredient in ale’;
Ayegreen (Wm. Lan.), the house-leek, _Sempervivum tectorum_, cp.
‘Aygreen ... The same with houseleek’; Prick-madam (Cum.), the crooked
yellow stonecrop, _Sedum reflexum_, cp. ‘Prickmadam ... A species of
houseleek’; Herb of grace (Yks. Der. Lin. Som.), the rue, _Ruta
graveolens_, cp. ‘Rue ... An herb called herb of grace, because holy
water was sprinkled with it.’

    Here did she fall a tear; here in this place
    I’ll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace:
    Rue, even for ruth, here shortly shall be seen,
    In the remembrance of a weeping queen.
                                    _Rich. II_, III. iv. 104-7.

There are other old names which can be traced even further back, for
example: Way-bread (Sc. n.Cy. Wor.), the greater plantain, _Plantago
major_, O.E. _weg-brǣde_, literally way-breadth, cp. O.H.G.
_wege-breita_, the plantain; and Withy-wind (w. and sw.Cy.), the great
bindweed, _Convolvulus sepium_, and also the field bindweed, _C.
arvensis_, O.E. _wiþe-winde_, bindweed. ‘He bare a burdoun ybounde with
a brode liste, In a withewyndes wise ywounden aboute,’ _Piers Plowman_,
B. v. ll. 524, 525.

[Sidenote: _Miscellaneous Plant Names_]

The smell of the common buttercup was formerly supposed to induce
madness, hence the name Crazy (Midl. w. and sw.Cy.). In the same way
poppies are called Headaches (Irel. Midl. e.An.), because it is believed
that the smell of them will cause headache. Pick-pocket (Midl. Nrf. Sus.
Wil. Dev.), the shepherd’s purse, _Capsella Bursa-pastoris_, is so
named because it impoverishes the farmer’s land. Children gather it and
repeat: Pick-pocket, penny nail, Put the rogue in the jail. The same
plant is also called Pick your mother’s heart out (War.), or simply
Mother’s Heart (Sc. n.Cy. Midl.). Children play a kind of game with the
heart-shaped seed-pods. They get one another to pick one of these off,
which done, there follows the accusing cry: You’ve picked your mother’s
heart out. In parts of Yorkshire the derisive cry is: Pick packet to
London, You’ll never go to London. In Dorsetshire Break your mother’s
heart is the hemlock, _Conium maculatum_; and Pick your mother’s eyes
out is the field speedwell, _Veronica agrestis_. In the Lake District
certain curative properties are attributed to the Solomon’s Seal,
_Polygonatum officinale_, whence it is called the Vagabond’s Friend. It
is said to be a remedy for black eyes, bruises, and broken noses.
Courtship and Matrimony (Cum.) is the meadow-sweet, _Spiraea Ulmaria_,
so called from the scent of the flower before and after bruising, which
is thought to be typical of the two states in life.

[Sidenote: _Popular Names for Flowers_]

For the rest, the following miscellaneous list may serve as a fairly
representative sample: Babes in the Cradle (Wil.), the water figwort,
_Scrophularia aquatica_; Lords and Ladies (in gen. dial. use), the wild
arum, _Arum maculatum_; Milkmaids, or Milkmaidens (Yks. Midl. Ess. Wil.
Dev.), the cuckoo flower, _Cardamine pratensis_; Painted Lady (I.Ma.
Wil.), the sweet pea; Mournful Widow, or Poor Widow (Dev.), the sweet
scabious, _Scabiosa atropurpurea_; Ranting Widow (Chs.), the
willow-herb, _Epilobium angustifolium_; Pretty Maids (Brks.), the white
meadow saxifrage, _Saxifraga granulata_. Babies’ Shoes (Wil.), the
common bugle, _Ajuga reptans_; Bird-een (Cum. Wm.), _Primula farinosa_,
e.g. The lockety gowan [globe-flower] an’ bonny bird-een, Are the
fairest flowers that ever were seen; Bleeding Heart (Wm. Wor. Glo. Som.
Dev.), _Dielytra spectabilis_; Ear-drops (Sus. Som. Dev.), the flowers
of the garden fuchsia; Geslins, or Goslins (common), the blossoms of the
willow; Golden Knobs (Brks.), the marsh-marigold, _Caltha palustris_,
much used for May-morning garlands; Grandmother’s Bonnets (Som.), or
Grandmother’s Night-cap (Yks. Chs. Nrf. Ken.), the monkshood, _Aconitum
Napellus_; Grandmother’s Slippers (Hmp.), the bird’s-foot trefoil,
_Lotus corniculatus_; Money in both pockets (Lakel. Ken. Wil. sw.Cy.),
the common honesty, _Lunaria biennis_; Mother Shimble’s Snick-needles
(Wil.), the greater stitchwort, _Stellaria Holostea_; Puppy-dog’s Mouth
(Wil.), the yellow toadflax, _Linaria vulgaris_; Tailor’s Garters (Sc.),
the ribbon-grass, _Phalaris arundinacea variegata_; Two faces under a
hat (Sus.), the common columbine. Peace and plenty (Wil.), the London
pride, _Saxifraga umbrosa_; Pretty and little (Dev.), the Virginia
stock, _Malcolmia maritima_; Wink-a-peep, or Wink and peep (Lan. Chs.
Stf. Shr.), the scarlet pimpernel, _Anagallis arvensis_. Aunt Hannah
(e.An.), the white arabis, _Arabis alpina_; Bloody Warrior (common), the
dark-coloured wallflower; Bobbin Joan (Nhp.), the wild arum; Bouncing
Bess (Dev.), the red valerian, _Centranthus ruber_; Delicate Bess
(Dev.), the white valerian, _Valeriana celtica_; Bridget in her bravery
(Lin.), the rose-campion, _Lychnis chalcedonica_; Gill run by the ground
(Lin. Bck. Som.), the ground-ivy; Grim the collier (War. Shr. Glo. Som.
Sus.), the orange hawkweed, _Hieracium aurantiacum_; Jack in green
doublet (Stf.), a variety of _Primula vulgaris_ in which the calyx is
transformed into leaves; John go to bed at noon (Chs. Nhp.), the scarlet
pimpernel; Sweet Nancy (Lan. Chs. Nrf. Hmp.), the pheasant-eyed
narcissus; Pink-eyed John (Midl.), the pansy; Robin Hood (w.Cy. Dor.
Som. Dev.), the red campion, _Lychnis diurna_; Trembling Jock (Yks.), or
-jockies, the quaking-grass, _Briza media_, dried in bunches, and kept
on the mantel-piece, because it is supposed to be obnoxious to mice: A
trimmling-jock in t’house, An’ you weeant hev a mouse.

Names for the common pansy are: Jump up and kiss me (Sus. Hmp.); Meet
her in the entry kiss her in the buttery (Lin.); Kiss me behind the
garden gate (Wor. Nrf. Suf.), or Kiss me at the garden gate (Nhp.
e.An.); Kiss me John at the garden gate (Suf.); Meet me Love behind the
garden door. Kiss behind the garden gate (Brks. Glo. Wil.), and Meet me
Love (Dev.) are names also given to the London pride. Kiss me quick and
go (Dev.) is a name for lad’s love, _Artemisia Abrotanum_; Lift up your
head and I’ll kiss you (Wor.) is the _Dielytra spectabilis_; Kitty come
down the lane jump up and kiss me (Ken.) is the cuckoo-pint, _Arum
maculatum_; Granny jump out of bed (Wil.) is another name for the
monkshood; Welcome home husband tho’ never so drunk (Suf.) is the yellow
stonecrop, _Sedum acre_.

The hail-fellow-well-met spirit of the rustic towards the world of
Nature and all that is therein, which shows itself in plant-names like
Saucy Betty, is still more noticeable in his use of personal names for
living animals--toads, and even insects included. According to Dr.
Smythe Palmer in his book on _The Folk and their Word-lore_, some of
these names are due to popular etymology, as for instance, Isaac, the
hedge-sparrow, from _hay-suck_, O.E. _hege-sugge_, i.e. the
hedge-sucker. In the same way Sweet Alice is said to be a corruption of
_sweet allison_, _Alyssum maritimum_. But even if a few of the names
admit of this prosaic derivation, it does but enhance their interest, by
making them proofs of the common tendency towards individual names.

[Sidenote: _Personal Names for Birds_]

Amongst the names for the common sparrow is Philip (Chs. Nhp.), a name
of very old standing. Skelton wrote an elegy entitled _A litle boke of
Philip Sparrow_, being the lament of a nun for the untimely death of her
pet sparrow, slain by a cat. The hedge-sparrow is Betty (War.), and
Juggy (Not.), the latter name being given also to the wren (Lei. Sus.).
It is a derivative of Jug, formerly a favourite female name, cp. ‘Jug,
_Johannicula_’, Coles, 1679, and Shakespeare’s ‘Whoop, Jug! I love
thee’, _K. Lear_, I. iv. 245. The missel-thrush is called Charlie-cock
(e.Yks.); the starling, Jacob (Nhp.); and Joey (Oxf.), a name shared by
the green linnet (War.), and the toad (Ken.); the redwing is Jan Shewall
(Cor.); the goldfinch is Jack-a-nickas, or Jack Nicol (Chs. Wal.). A
curious little instance of the way in which Dr. Johnson’s knowledge and
love of his native dialect crops up in his Dictionary occurs under the
heading ‘Goldfinch’, cp. ‘Goldfinch.... A singing bird, so named from
his golden colour. This is called in Staffordshire a _proud taylor_.’ In
most of the Midland counties, including Staffordshire, and in others to
the north and south-west, the goldfinch still bears the name of Proud
Tailor. The redstart is Katie bran’-tail (Shr.); the owl is Josey (Wor.
Dev.); Madge-howlet (Wor. Nrf.), a name found in Jonson’s _Every Man_,
1598; and Billy-wix (e.An.). Maggie-monyfeet (Sc.) is a centipede. The
very common name of Maggot, or Magotty-pie, for the magpie is the same
word as Magot, a pet form, now obsolete, of the name Margaret, cp. Fr.
_Margot_, ‘diminutif très familier de Marguerite, nom vulgaire de la
pie,’ Littré. The heron is Moll-hern, or Molly-heron (Midl. Wil.),
pronounced in Oxford Mollern, with the accent on the first syllable;
Joan-na-ma-crank (Cum.); and Frank (Sc. e.An.), from its harsh cry which
sounds like Frank! Frank! The whitecap is Peggy-whitethroat (Nhp.); the
raven is Ralph (Chs. Nhp.): the cock bird in the poultry yard is Richard
(Som.); the pied wagtail is Polly-dishwasher (Wil.), or
Polly-wash-dishes (e.An. Dor. Som.). It is interesting to note in
connexion with the geographical distribution of this name in modern
times, that Dr. Johnson includes ‘Dish-washer’ in his Dictionary as:
‘The name of a bird,’ without being able to specify the kind of bird to
which it belonged. No doubt he had heard the name casually, but neither
he nor his Scottish assistants were familiar with its use.

[Sidenote: _Names for Birds and the Hare_]

The name Wat (Nrf. Cor.) for the hare occurs in Shakespeare’s _Venus
and Adonis_, cp.:

    By this, poor Wat, far off upon a hill,
    Stands on his hinder legs with listening ear.

In Cumberland the hare is Katie. In Herefordshire it was Sarah, so the
gardener said, that came in the early morning hours, and while men still
slept, browsed on the young green of the pinks in the big bed on our
Rectory lawn. In Norfolk the marshmen call her Old Aunt. The rabbit in
Cumberland bears the nickname of Johnny Wapstraw. A Berkshire mouse is
sometimes called Moses, a name given in Kent to a young frog. In parts
of Scotland the pig is familiarly addressed as Sandy Campbell. The toad
is Thomas (Chs.); the cockchafer is Tom Beadle (Cum. Lan.); the
guinea-fowl is Tom-pot (Dev.), so named from its peculiar cry. For the
same reason it is called Swap-hats (w.Som.), and Come-back, this last
being the most widely known dialect name for the bird.

[Sidenote: _Names given to Animals_]

The donkey goes by a number of names: Balaam (e.An.); Jeremiah (Suf.);
Peter Moguz (Cor.), &c.; a female donkey in Lincolnshire is a Jen-ass. A
tom-cat in Suffolk is a Jim-cat; and a she-cat is a Betty-cat. One is
tempted to suggest that this last name is due to association of
ideas--the domestic cat, the fireside, and the kettle singing on the
hob--for in East Anglia the kettle is nicknamed Betty, and the common
proverb takes the form of: That’s the saucepan calling the kettle Betty

When the author of that delightful book _The Rose and the Ring_ tells
us how Valoroso XXIV, King of Paflagonia, gave a small family
dinner-party in honour of Prince Bulbo, he writes: ‘You may be sure
they had a very good dinner--let every boy or girl think of what he or
she likes best, and fancy it on the table,’ with the added footnote:
‘Here a very pretty game may be played by all the children saying what
they like best for dinner.’ So here I will leave my readers to amuse
themselves by thinking of all the choice morsels of dialect lore, which
they specially love, and which have not been recorded in the foregoing
chapters; knowing as I do full well, that many a feast can yet be
spread before the store of good things is exhausted.

Transcriber’s Note:

The following addendum was printed at the end of the book, and has
been incorporated into the text: “To VIII on p. 149 add: The stressed
form of the nominative is generally _ðē_ or _ðeə_, but in some midl.
and s. dialects it is _ðai_ or _ðei_, and in Sh. and Or.I. n.Ken. Sus.
_dē_, rarely _dei_. The unstressed form is generally _ðe_ or _ðə_,
rarely _ði_.” The reference to the addendum “See p.342.” has been
removed from page 149.

In the original sometimes the abbreviation “c.” is italicized, and
sometimes not. They have been left as they were printed.

Some words have been abbreviated in more than one way (e.g. s.w. and
sw. for south-west). These have not been standardized.

In the original, citations for quoted poetry were printed on the last
line of the quotation if there was room, with a long dash between the
poem and the citation; if there was not room, the citation was printed
on the following line. This convention has been followed here, where,
for reasons of space, a citation has had to be moved up or down a line.

This book contains inconsistent hyphenations which have been left as
printed. A few minor changes to punctuation have been made without
comment, and the case of roman numerals in references has been made

Other changes that have been made are:

   Page 36: “ s” has been changed to “is” in “it is a Norse word”.

   Page 244: “tall” has been changed to “tail” in “To safeguard a child
   from the infection of measles, place it on the back of a donkey,
   facing the animal’s tail ...”.

The page headings from the original book have been transcribed as side
notes, e.g. [Sidenote: _Popular Meteorology_], and are normally shown
at the start of the paragraph in which they occur, but occasionally
after a quotation from a poem. The use of quotation marks in these page
headings does not appear to be consistent, however they have not been
changed. In some cases the left-hand page heading represents a division
of a chapter (e.g. “Accidence”), and the right-hand page heading a
sub-division (e.g. “Pronouns”), these have been combined with a colon,
(e.g. “Accidence: Pronouns”).

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