Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The boat that Guy built, and the English language

The new BBC tv series, "The boat that Guy built" is receiving a lot of interest among those interested in British canals presently. The series, which so far I personally find interesting, is not so much about canals or narrowboating, but more of a celebration of Britain and her achievements during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. The presenter, Guy Martin, goods vehicle mechanic, and world famous motorcycle racer, is something of a character, and perhaps seen by the series producers as some kind of Fred Dibnah replacement. He does however speak in a very broad accent, which doesn't suit a worldwide audience, as I have read about in one or two of the blogs I follow......
As I found out during my own family history research, my own family, from my Great Grandfather back, emanate from Cornwall, although I was brought up in Bolton, and now live in the Wigan area of the UK. During my research, I found that Cornwall had, just as Wales, Scotland and Ireland had, its own language, which over the years, with the exception of Wales, has been lost or at best diluted into local dialects or accents.
Up North, where we now live, the towns were heavily industrialised during the 19th century. Cotton spinning developed around Bolton due to its favourable climate for the processes involved in that. Weaving was widespread around Blackburn and Burnley, and coal mining around Wigan, St.Helens and so on. Each town as such developed its own dialects, and the people who lived in them kept themselves to themselves. People involved in weaving, spent their time in extremely noisy conditions in the weaving sheds, and the machine operators would lipread, as they couldn't hear themselves speak. Wigan had its own very broad dialects, and later you will see a "dictionary" of words I have that were in regular use as part of everyday language. You will, for example see the word "jackbit" which is a term for "food". It is said that this came about as a result of mine workers taking their food or lunch breaks during the time that the jack hammer, that was used for extracting the coal, was having its bit changed, as it had to from time to time. A natural break would be taken during the jack bit change, so no production, and therefore bonus would be lost. Many of these words are still used regularly today in general conversation.
In times now long gone, the community of people who worked canal boats also had their own dialects as a result of spending much of their time in effect isolated from the rest of the population. This meant that when they did come into contact with land based workers at factories and the like, they too could often not be understood. This is recent history. In my youth I remember older people talking in this way, and consequently I have no trouble at all understanding the likes of Guy Martin. However, next time you are on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and passing through Wigan, you might find the following dictionary of Wigan dialect useful....

These were taken, years ago now, from a very interesting website, Wigan World

Have a look, this is the area we live in.

On one last note. Local dialects are often the butt of club comedian jokes. Two that come to mind are: What time is it when there are two meat pies on the top of Wigan Town Hall? Answer Sommat to Ate (eight). For those who don't know Wigan is famous for its pies, and residents are often referred to as "pie eaters"!
Another is What does a Wigan kebab consist of? Answer: 5 meat pies on a stick!
A local delicacy among the lunchboxes, and at the rugby matches of Wigan is the "slapyed" (slap head), which consists of a meat and potato pie placed between a barm, (bread roll), and to make it manageable to eat, slapped between the hands to flatten it down!
There is a restaurant in Hindley, a suburb of Wigan called Summat to Ate, have a look here:

Would you believe it.........Chief!

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