Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ow bist, owd jockey?

I won't go on for much longer about the destruction of my natal village under the vicious concrete of Telford New Town, but before I leave the subject, let me tell you about the dialect of that area. Today you are more likely to hear Bengali or Punjabi than Dawley dialect, so this might be the last time the latter will get an airing.
Traces of the second person singular - thou-thee-thy-thine - survived. The verb to be shows its Germanic origins, eg, German du bist, Dawley thee bist. Regular phoneme shifts occurred, eg, the /ou/ in "cold" becomes /ow/ "cowd".
The dialect had some unique vocabulary, eg, shommocks for legs (possibly cognate with French jambe?), larrup for beer, jonnock for honest.
Best of all, it had a range of colourful expressions, some of which make a sort of sense, eg, cowd enough for collar studs; others of which defy explanation, eg, as happy as an eight-day corner cupboard.
Along with the expressions came folk wisdom. The best advice you could give a friend who had to visit the police or the income tax office or any other daunting official institution was to tek on theesel soft, meaning, behave as if you were soft, ie, simple-minded.
One expression that has gained wider currency is All round the Wrekin, literally taking the long way round to get somewhere, and often used to describe the behaviour of someone who takes forever to get to the point; equivalent of the more widespread idiom "beat about the bush".
This was moreorless the language of my childhood years, until, after 11, I went to the local Grammar School, where my speech became, for want of a better word, normalised. But, never fear, I can still talk Dawley. The trouble is, like the man who spoke Hittite, there's nobody left to talk to.

Anyway, here is a selection. No translations unless requested!
Ow bist, owd jockey?
Thee cust say what thee't a mind
Shift thee shommocks
Wur'st bin?
Tek on theeself soft
I anna sid im
An any on ya got an onion on ya?
Cowd enough fer collar studs
Cowd enough fer bootlaces
Wur'st bin? Round the back o Notties on a nail
Wur'st bin? Thur an back to see ow far it is.
Gizza a pint a larrup.
Thee'st like a bloke I'm uncle to.

A couple of anecdotes to conclude this obituary notice.
It is said that in the bad old days of poverty and hardship, Dawley women going to buy a sheep's head from the butcher's would say: "Leave the eyes in, it's got to see us through the week"
The pride of Dawley was the Dawley Prize Band. It is said that Dawley people used to put their pig on the wall to watch the Band go by. And there is a story that on one occasion, the Band were playing in the street when a woman from a nearby house came out and asked them to play more quietly as her husband was ill in bed. So they took their boots off and played in their stockinged feet.
And finally, for your language homework, translate the following story, told to me by Timmy Deakin (the one whose sister became Mrs Lennie Price qv): I ad a big yalla farret. One day I put me ond in is cage, and the bugger bet me. But I fonged owd o im and gid im a right cloutin. I tell thee, I made the bugger owk.


Chris said...

Hi Jake,
I just came across your blog because I Googled 'tek on thee self soft', an expression my father used. I was quite surprised to get a hit on Google and quite enjoyed reading your page. May I offer you a couple that come to mind? The greeting 'addoo' and the time in Hadley County School schoolyard when we were all lined up to go back in after the dinner break when Bill Brothwell (?) the 'gaffer' asked where one of the pupils was. I can still hear the response today: 'Ee gon wum zur'. I must read more of your blog. I agree that 'Telford' is a poor replacement for what the area used to be. Cheers.

Old Scrote said...

Thanks for your reminiscences. All good stuff. The Headmaster was "Tommy" Brothwood, a Yorkshireman, hence the name of his house, Ebor. My teacher in the top class in the year when I took the 11+ was George Buttery.

Anonymous said...

Ne(o)w then Jockey lad thee cost think wot theest amind Thee wutst if the cutst, but thee cossner, cost?. Owd mon, 'ittites? aive wossernermed 'em. If theest a proper Dawley mon theest olluz gunner faind sumbuddy uz cun unnerstond thee.
Just thee 'emembur. Nuthin grert 's eezy.
Just gotter say thow, aive emmigreyrtted ter Dawley Parver cuz o' tew many Brummies. 'Alf on 'em bin ere since fiffty airt un the anner lost their acksint so aim bloody shewer uz we wuuner be loozin owerz.

lawleylad said...

Just came across this post old scrote whilest looking up shomocks. I am putting together a #Dawleydictionary on twitter if you want to join in @pete62jackson

lawleylad said...

Hi Old Scrote

Just came across your blog whilest searching for 'shammocks'. I am putting together a #dawleydictionary on twitter if you want to join in! @pete62jackson

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! the language of my youth and unfortunately less people I can talk to using it. I can talk 'proper' when I need to but often fall into my 'mother tongue' and love it when people don't know what I'm talking about!

L Colley said...

To claim that this is solely the language of Dawley is absolute arrogant rubbish! Whilst there are nuances which belong to and separate towns and villages from one another this is a local dialect and does not belong solely to Dawley. It can be found in Madley, Coalbrookdale, Broseley and Ironbridge at last and I assume further afield in the local area. To claim this accent belongs to Dawley alone is a lie. Get over yourself!