Publication of the week: Professor Graeme Davis

Davis, G., “Arthur Ransome and the dialect of Norfolk”, Buckingham Journal of Language and Linguistics 8 (2015), 79-98. DOI: 10.5750/bjll.v1i0.1085.

It has been well-documented that Arthur Ransome was a British spy as well as a novelist but it has recently emerged that he has provided a crucial recording of Norfolk dialect. New research reveals Ransome’s unfinished book “Coots in the North” contains the longest credible example of extended dialogue in existence from the last generation who spoke it.

The findings, published in the Buckingham Journal of Language and Linguistics, indicate the dialogue is an honest reflection of Norfolk dialect as spoken by those born in the 1920s.  Norfolk Broads weather terms include a “rodger”  – a sudden squall which makes a hissing sound when it sweeps across the reeds. A bad storm is a “buster.”

Idioms and set phrases include “He ain’t got a head on him no better’n a squashed frog”, “Going to the bad, straight as the New Cut” – the New Cut is a long, straight canal on the Broads. “Yarmouth sharks’d grab the bottle from a baby” is a criticism of the sharp practice of the people of Great Yarmouth. Others include “rapscurry-hurrying”, hurrying very fast, and “gaumless dickup” for fool. “A plucked lad” is an honest boy.

Professor Graeme Davis said: “People today often have an affection for their regional dialect. Written sources for the dialect are scant and 200 plus lines from Ransome is a significant contribution. The Norfolk dialect is fast disappearing with the use of Standard English and these findings ensure these words are not lost forever.”

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