Word for Wednesday: All Things Spice

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My home county, the green and historic county of Yorkshire seems to have an inexhaustible repertoire of wonderful phrases, idioms words and expressions.

If the dialect weren't tricky enough to comprehend, (in certain parts of Yorkshire the intricacies of their vocabulary might warrant a separate language!) the accents across Yorkshire vary incredibly.

My mother grew up in West Yorkshire, where some of the most wonderfully exaggerated idiolects can be discovered and so my sister and I have visited our family there throughout our childhoods.

I remember one day browsing the comic book shelves of a newsagents with my Mum, the kindly shop-owner wanted to advise me on which comic book to buy. He spake thusly: “Why in’t thee gerrin tha’ one? Thee gets some free spice wi’ that”. I remember Mum having to translate for me – (“Why don’t you get that one? You get free sweets with it”) of course, in this area ‘spice’ was a colloquialism for sweets or candy – with hindsight maybe this comes from the phrase ‘Sugar, spice and all things nice’ but as a child I was totally befuddled.

I grew up with a lot of exposure to different Yorkshire accents, words like kali (sherbert), thisen (yourself), laiking (playing) and ginnel (alley-way) were absorbed into my vocabulary. It must be odd for someone to hear a broad Yorkshire accent for the ‘fust’ (first) time and be bombarded with dozens of new words and accents – It must be the same for other counties? Is our beloved Yorkshire accent just the most distinctive?

Perhaps the northern regions merely hold on to older language roots, Old English, Gaelic, Scottish and Germanic. For example, the Yorkshire words ‘owt’ and ‘nowt’ (anything and nothing, respectively) come from Old English. But even these words are pronounced differently – ‘oh-t’, ‘noh-t’, ‘ort’ and ‘nort’.

Such are the intricacies of dialect even the word ‘our’ is substituted from region to region. From my experience a Yorkshireman might replace ‘our’ with ‘us’ as in shall we get us coats on? whereas the Geordie tongue prefers ‘wuh’ – ‘shall we get wuh coats on?’ The differences between dialects are innumerable, and I’m sure it’s the same across the world. Heck, in Spain they even have two versions of Spanish!

Hugh MacDermott


04 Sep 2013
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