Mind Your Language – Sarah Walker

by | May 31, 2021 | Community, Keepsake

There are the things everybody’s heard of – bishybarnabee for a ladybird and keep on troshin’ meaning keep going (literally it means to keep on threshing as threshing was hard, repetitive work) and howd you hard meaning hang on a minute. 

Then there are the special sounds which remind us of the history of Norwich. As Karen says, the names of churches such as Saint George’s or Saint Peter’s are pronounced Cint – a reflection of the Dutch influence, as Sint for Saint is pure Dutch. 

Karen, one of our amazing volunteers, was married in Saint Augustine’s, which has a handsome brick church tower. When brick was more expensive than flint, this was considered rather posh and people of that parish were known as Red Steeplers

Finally, there are the strange spellings of place names, designed to catch out strangers and incomers when they’re headin’ up the city (the city is always up). Some are inventions: Hautbois near Coltishall was always written, as it is pronounced, Hobbis on maps until the 1780s, when a squire decided, on no evidence, that it must be a French word meaning “High Wood” (it’s not high up and there wasn’t a wood)!

Perhaps the most unlikely spellings are found in this limerick (pronunciation in brackets)

There was a young fellow from Stiffkey (Stookey)

Who joined Royal Norfolks as a riffkey (rookie)

But his sergeant, from Costessey (Cossie)

Was so bitter and bostessey (bossy)

He left and set up as a biffkey (bookie)”

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