Thursday, August 01, 2013

Some Odd Words for Yorkshire Day

August 1 = Yorkshire Day! The white rose is Yorkshire's symbol, the red rose is Lancashire's - hence the Wars of the Roses, when two royal houses fought for the throne of England. Friendly rivalry exists to this day between Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Female lines of my family history, on both sides, are rooted in Yorkshire, stretch back there for as far as records reach, and at least into the 1500s but for sure, undocumented, well beyond that. People didn't move around a lot back then - at least not yer humble peasant class. I was born, bred and lived in Yorkshire for much of my life, so although the male lines of my family (via both grandfathers) are rooted in the south of England, I can still lay claim to being a Yorkshirewoman.

Hat-tip to photocartoon 
I'll not waffle on about Yorkshire history - there's a perfectly adequate Wikipedia page for that. Enough to say that Yorkshire, in many ways, equates to Texas in the USA. It's the biggest county, it has lovely landscapes, beautiful coastline, a thriving port, interesting cities, a tradition of industry, sadly mostly long gone (cotton and wool mills, coal mines, steel mills, fishing trawlers, farming). Locals once gave it the nickname "God's Own Country".

My roots are in East and North Yorkshire. The area has strong links to the Vikings who came along after the Romans, Angles, Saxons and Jutes had done with us, sometime around around 793 AD. (See more on that HERE)

The Viking influence lives on, even now, in some local dialects. I found reminders of it at this website: Yorkshire Dialect Words of Old Norse Origin. I remember clearly my grandmother, and my parents, using these terms, plucked from the much longer list available at the link above. I guess a few of these old Norse words could possibly have bled through into parts of the USA too, arriving with early immigrants.
sken: to look at something/someone with screwed-up eyes, peer intently - Swedish sken (to glare), Norwegian skinne (to glare).

slocken: to quench thirst, to drink greedily - Norwegian slokke (to quench), Swedish sluka (to swallow); also Icelandic slökkva (to extinguish, put out) in the sense of quenching. (I also understood this as meaning to have eaten or drank too much and sickened oneself - "I was slockened")

sile, siling : to rain heavily, as in "It's siling down" - Norwegian dialect sila. Also Norwegian and Swedish sila (strain, filter). There is a suggestion here of liquid running quickly through a strainer or filter.

sackless: ineffectual, simple-minded, lacking in energy or effort; also innocent of wrong intent - Old Norse: saklauss.
When I noticed this word I LOL'd. Very early in my time in the USA, in a supermarket with my husband, at the checkout he was asked by the check-out lady if he had a sack ready (sack in US supermarket lingo meaning brown paper or plastic bag). He said "No, I'm sackless"....and I started to giggle, had to wander off outside. I later had to try to explain what had amused me so much - was never quite sure that he understood though.

throng/thrang : very busy. From the Icelandic þröng(narrow, tightly pressed; compelled, forced). Swedish trång (narrow, tight); probably related to the Standard English throng (crowded, to form a tightly-packed crowd, etc.)

thwait(e) village or small settlement - Old Norse tveit. Found now as an element in place names (e.g., Linthwaite, Micklethwaite, etc) . Also thorp(e), t(h)rop village or small settlement - Old Norse þorp Now an element in place names (e.g., Priesthorpe, Knostrop, etc) and as a family surname.

lop :flea - Danish and Norwegian loppe ( flea)

laik, leck : to play. Old Norse: leika. The verb laikin' is used in some parts of Yorkshire (West Yorkshire mainly) for days off work or having no work to do ("He's laikin' today" = "He's not working today").
I well remember this word coming up from a witness at employment tribunal hearings during my 23 years working in that Department, in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and the tribunal chairman gleefully pouncing upon the word and explaining its meaning to those assembled for the hearing.

gimmer: an immature female sheep (before it first gives birth to lambs). Old Norse: gymbr.
I've heard this also used as a rude term to describe an elderly female.

gaum, gawm : heed ("Ee taks noa gawm" = "He takes no heed, pays no attention"); common sense (gormless = lacking in sense) - Old Norse: gaumr

Ah well, I'd best get me sen thrang skenning a few news stories - no more laikin' today.


mike said...

You included a reference to Wiki, which states, "...perpetuating stereotypes of whippets, black puddings, and flat hats." Explain that...what does that mean? LOL

This is also Lammas Day, festival of the first harvest, aka festival of the wheat harvest. Did Yorkshire Day originate to mutually celebrate the harvest, or to compete by having an entirely different celebration? The Wiki reference indicates that it is an entirely different occasion. Did you partake in Lammas Day, too?

I had no idea where the term "war of the roses" came from other than a popular Hollywood movie by that name...thanks for the enlightenment.

I often watch PBS' "Rick Steves' Europe" and have viewed a number of programs from your old neck of the woods. Very beautiful and full of tradition. One of the recent programs included pub hopping...hard cider ale isn't allowed in many pubs due to the probability of inciting drunken violence. Rick Steves usually attempts to explain the local dialects and phrases. Twilight, you must feel linguistically challenged here in the U.S.!

Twilight said...

mike ~ "whippets, black puddings and flat caps"....LOL! Those are stereotypical symbols of some parts of Yorkshire - West and South mainly I think.
Whippet - a breed of dog, was very popular with Yorkshire coal miners for some reason; black puddings (YUK-ish!) a type of blood sausage - actually does taste better than it sounds when you find a good, well seasoned one; flat caps a popular headgear for men throughout the north of England

I think Yorkshire Day was more of a PR exercise than anything else, and I don't know how widely it's being kept these days. As far as I know there was never a connection of Yorkshire Day to Lammas.

Lammas, for me, brings to mind the Quarter Days In Yorkshire Martinmas (pronounced locally "Mart'mas) used to be the "big one" - rather than Lammas. It was when agricultural workers would trek from one county or town to another looking for work for the following year.
Mart'mas Fairs were held in market towns throughout the land when farmers and landowners would gather to sort out likely employees from the hopefuls assembled. Both my grandfathers probably arrived in Yorkshire, from the south, due to having travelled, mostly on foot, to a Mart'mas Fair hundreds of miles from their homes.

I haven't come across Rick Steve on PBS - will watch for him.

Re my being linguistically challenged here in the US: not too badly. The challenge often seems to be for the person to whom I'm speaking - unless it's someone I know (family). First reaction is often a puzzled stare followed by "excuse me?" I then repeat my message and if a further blank look follows husband jumps in with a translation. I find this really hard to understand, as I seldom have trouble understanding people hereabouts when in general conversation (apart from a few purely local expressions or references). Husband thinks it's because not many people from England, especially northern England, have been around this part of the US, so a different kind of accent comes as a shock to an unsuspecting listener.

The most extreme elements of regional dialects in England tended to fade with the coming of TV and wider ability to communicate. We've kept regional accents though, but those odd old Norse words and expressions are/were used mostly by elders, and knowledge of 'em will eventually die out altogether I suppose, with my generation or the one immediately following.

JD said...

...and you didn't say "eeh bah gum" once :)

"whippets, black pud and flat hats"
not just Yorkshire but most of the north. I have worn a cap ever since my hair started to disappear. It is welded on late october and surgically removed come springtime :)

and as for 'sackless' LOL
Used to work with somebody who kept saying "they can't sack me coz I'm sackless"
(sacked being fired in USparlance)

good post - I didn't know it was Yorkshire day today, I would have had some Yorkshire pudding if I'd known :)

Twilight said...

JD ~ No - I think "ee bah gum" was/is a bit more common in West Yorkshire than East or North. It's not something I've ever said, far as I recall - maybe as a joke is all.

East Yorkshire has a peculiar accent, one which I didn't find in the least attractive, and tried to modify - just a little - once I left the area. I do usually love regional accents though.

Flat caps - yes they are pretty much ubiquitous in the north of England for gentlemen of a certain age. My Dad never did wear one though - nor did his Dad - they favoured the trilby-style, smart felt early on then devolving to either battered grey or nice and tweedy, with age.

Sackless is a lovely expression - pity there isn't an opposite - "sackful" meaning alert, with it, highly intelligent etc.

Rossa said...

Hi Twilight.

I used to live on a Priestthorpe Road until 6 years ago and now in Micklethwaite which is indeed on the site of an old Viking settlement


Rossa said...

JD, yorkshire pudding actually originated in Normandy! Them Frenchies always getting in on the act before us poor northern tykes ;-)

Rossa said...

Wonder if to slake your thirst came out of Slocken. And maybe lackadaisical from laik.

'ecky thump!

Twilight said...

Rossa ~ 'Ow do lass!? :-)

(1): Interesting! Yes, lots of -thorpes and -thwaites. I haven't noticed many such names/place names having made the journey across the pond - maybe there'd be a few in states further east than where we are.

(2): I bet they didn't have that good scrumptuous gravy made with best beef drippings though! They probably laced 'em wi' garlic and served 'em wi' chicken livers or suchlike.

(3): Slake/slocken? That does seem likely. I looked up lackadaisical. It's said to come from lackaday, which in turn came from alack, as in alas and alack. So it seems laik wasn't involved.