Surveys will find out which Yorkshire words are still being used decades on from original study
Yorkshire pride may be styled in flatcaps and whippets but it’s the words that we use that might truly define us.
Dialect holds a history, in its long-held traditions, and the quirks of a language that come from only one place.
Now, decades after an army of fieldworkers first set out on a mission to capture a snapshot in time, new surveys are going on tour to Yorkshire’s summer shows.
Researchers want to know what words we use now, to see how they’ve changed – and where little pockets of tradition remain.
Claire Midgley is dialect and heritage engagement officer at Ryedale Folk Museum, taking the Great Big Dialect Hunt to Danby Show on August 10, and following on from Ryedale and Borrowby.
“We are trying to get as many people as possible to share their words,” she said. “We want all words, any words that they use –we want to see what the current picture is.
“Do we still use a ‘fuzzock’ for a donkey’?,” she asked. “Or ‘100 legs’ for a centipede? Is it a ‘ginnel’ or a ‘snicket’ or a ‘10ft’? A ‘dress’ or a ‘frock’?
“Some words that might seem obscure are still in use,” she added. “It’s a part of our identity. It connects us to a place or a family. It’s part of who we are. And it’s fun and fascinating – we just want people to share. It will be really interesting to see what has changed.”
The original Survey of English Dialects, from the University of Leeds in the 1950s and 60s, saw researchers travel to 300 places nationwide to make a record of how people spoke.
These fieldworkers, in tiny remote rural villages and bigger towns across Yorkshire, wove a fascinating picture of local language and the words that differ from place to place.
Now, under the university’s lottery funded Dialect and Heritage Project, work is underway to engage new audiences with museums including in Ryedale and at Dales Countryside Museum.
Here are the objects that ‘marry’ the words with pictures and farming traditions, from photographers of farmers ploughing in 1950, to an image entitled ‘lowance’, from 1948. This word lowance, a local phrase for a snack, might also be called ‘snap’ or ‘bait’ or ‘docky’, said Mrs Midgley, or ‘progger’, ‘tommy’, or ‘scran’.
In the original survey, she said, there were a lot of words for ‘sweets’, such as ‘dods’ or ‘suckers’. Now, she takes a jar on tours and asks people what they might call it.
She said: “In Yorkshire we have ‘spice’ and ‘goodies’. There are still pockets where people use these words. This is to find what there is still in use.
“A bread cake can be a roll or a bap, barn cake or bap. Is it blue milk, or full fat? There’s no right or wrong answers. All dialect is good. This is gathering words. All words. It’s so we can put it all back to the researchers, and find out what’s common and what’s no longer in use.”
Ryedale Folk Museum is taking the Great Big Dialect Hunt on tour to summer shows, having visited Borrowby and Ryedale and now Danby Show on August 10.
Special events are also to be held at Ryedale Folk Museum on August 18 and 25 with family friendly activities. The original surveys and recordings, meanwhile, housed at the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC), have also been digitised to make them accessible for the public.