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Norfolk dialect

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Norfolk dialect

The Norfolk dialect, also known as Broad Norfolk, is a dialect that was once, and to a great extent still is, spoken by those living in the county of Norfolk in England. It employs distinctively unique pronunciations, especially of vowels; and consistent grammatical forms that differ markedly from standard English.


Portrayal of the Norfolk dialect and accent in films and TV is often regarded as poor (it is notoriously difficult for 'foreigners' to imitate, and even an actor of the distinction of Alan Bates did not adequately achieve an authentic Norfolk accent in his portrayal of the character Ted Burgess in the highly acclaimed film The Go-Between) and the treatment of it in the television drama All the King's Men in 1999, in part prompted the foundation of the Friends of Norfolk Dialect (FOND), a group formed with the aim of preserving and promoting Broad Norfolk. The group campaigns for the recognition of Norfolk as a dialect, and for the teaching of "Norfolk" in schools. FOND aims to produce a digital archive of recordings of people speaking the dialect's traditional words. In July 2001 the group was awarded £4000 from the National Lottery in aid of recording equipment for this purpose.

Arnold Wesker's 1958 play Roots made good use of authentic Norfolk dialect.

During the 1960s, Anglia Television produced a soap opera called "Weavers Green" which used local characters making extensive use of Norfolk dialect. The programme was filmed at the "cul-de-sac" village of Heydon north of Reepham in mid Norfolk.

An example of the Norfolk accent and vocabulary can be heard in the songs by Allan Smethurst, aka The Singing Postman. Smethurst's undisputed Norfolk accent is well known from his releases of the 1960s, such as "Hev Yew Gotta Loight Bor?". The Boy John Letters of Sidney Grapes, which were originally published in the Eastern Daily Press, are another valid example of the Norfolk dialect. Beyond simply portrayers of speech and idiom however, Smethurst, and more especially Grapes, record their authentic understanding of mid-twentieth-century Norfolk village life. Grapes' characters, the Boy John, Aunt Agatha, Granfar, and Ole Missus W, perform a literary operetta celebrating down-to-earth ordinariness over bourgeois affectation and pretence; their values and enduring habits instantly familiar to Norfolk people.

Charles Dickens undoubtedly had some grasp of the Norfolk accent which he utilised in the speech of the Yarmouth fishermen, Ham and Daniel Peggoty in David Copperfield. Patricia Poussa analyses the speech of these characters in her article Dickens as Sociolinguist.[1] She makes connections between Scandinavian languages and the particular variant of Norfolk dialect spoken in the Flegg area around Great Yarmouth, a place of known Viking settlement. Significantly, the use of 'that' meaning 'it', described in the grammar section below, is used as an example of this apparent connection.

The publication in 2006 by Ethel George (with Carole and Michael Blackwell) of The Seventeenth Child provides a written record of spoken dialect, though in this case of a person brought up inside the city of Norwich. Ethel George was born in 1914, and in 2006 provided the Blackwells with extensive tape-recorded recollections of her childhood as the seventeenth offspring of a relatively poor Norwich family. Carole Blackwell has reproduced a highly literal written rendering of this, such that anyone familiar with the dialect can recognise an authentic Norfolk/Norwich voice speaking to them from the page.[2]

An erudite and comprehensive study of the dialect, by Norfolk speaker and Professor of Sociolinguistics, Peter Trudgill can be found in the latter's book 'The Norfolk Dialect' (2003), published as part of the 'Norfolk Origins' series by Poppyland Publishing, Cromer.


The Norfolk dialect is a subset of the Southern English dialect group. Geographically it covers most of the County of Norfolk apart from Gorleston and other places annexed from Suffolk. The accent of Norwich is (not surprisingly) similar but the vowels tend to be different.

The Norfolk dialect should not be confused with Pitcairn-Norfolk, a second language of the Pitcairn Islands, or with Norfuk, the language used on Norfolk Island.



Principal Characteristics

The Norfolk accent sounds very different from that of London and the Home Counties.[3] The main characteristics of the accent are set out below, usually with reference to the standard English accent known as Received Pronunciation or BBC Pronunciation (henceforth abbreviated as RP/BBC). Phonetic symbols (in square brackets) and phonemic symbols (in slant brackets) are used where they are needed to avoid ambiguity (brackets in IPA). Five characteristics are particularly important:

  1. The accent is generally non-rhotic, as is RP/BBC, so /r/ is only pronounced when a vowel follows it.
  2. Unlike many regional accents of England, Norfolk does not usually exhibit H-dropping. The phoneme /h/ is generally pronounced in 'hat', 'ahead' by most, though not all, Norfolk speakers.
  3. Norfolk speech has a distinctive rhythm due to some stressed vowels being longer than their equivalents in RP/BBC and some unstressed vowels being much shorter.
  4. The distinction between /ʊ/ and /ʌ/, often known as the foot–strut split[4] is maintained; the quality of /ʌ/ ('strut') is more back and close than that of contemporary RP/BBC.[5] It can be described as a centralized mid back unrounded vowel [ɤ̞̈]. A similar vowel, though somewhat lower [ʌ̈] can be heard from older RP/BBC speakers.
  5. Yod-dropping is common between consonants and /uː,ʊ, u, ʊə/ resulting in pronunciations such as /muːzɪk/ for 'music' and /kuː/ for 'cue'.


Monophthongs of the Norfolk dialect, from Lodge 2009, p. 168
  • Single-syllable words with the vowel spelt 'oo' such as 'roof' and 'hoof' have the vowel [ʊ] to give [rʊf] and [hʊf] respectively.
  • Single-syllable words with the vowel spelt 'oC' or 'oCe' such as 'boat' or 'home' may be pronounced with the FOOT vowel [ʊ].
  • Where RP/BBC has the rounded LOT vowel /ɒ/ in words containing the spellings 'f', 'ff', 'gh' or 'th' (such as 'often', 'off', 'cough', 'trough' and 'cloth'), Norfolk may have /ɔː/ as in the vowel of THOUGHT. This is a manifestation of the lot-cloth split.
  • The vowel /ɒ/ of LOT is usually realized as a long unrounded vowel [ɑː] as in many forms of American English. This is a manifestation of the father-bother merger.
  • The GOAT vowel /əʊ/ of RP/BBC generally has a quality that can be represented as [ʊu] in Norfolk: thus words with the spelling 'oa', 'oe' and 'oCe' such as 'boat', 'toe', 'code' sound to outsiders like 'boot', 'too', 'cood' respectively. An exception is that of words spelt with 'ou', 'ow', 'ol' such as 'soul', 'know', 'told' which have a diphthong quite similar to the RP/BBC /əʊ/. This is a preservation of the toe-tow distinction that has since been lost in most modern accents of English.
  • In the speech of older Norwich residents and in rural areas, a distinction exists which is absent in RP/BBC: where the latter has the FACE vowel /eɪ/, the former accent has [æɪ] in words spelt with 'ai' or 'ay' such as 'rain' and 'day', but [ɛː] (similar to 'air') in words spelt 'aCe' such as 'take', 'late'.[6] This is a preservation of the pane-pain distinction that has since been lost in most modern accents of English.
  • The distinction between the NEAR and SQUARE vowels /ɪə/ and /eə/ does not exist in Norfolk. Thus 'beer' and 'bear' sound the same, the vowel quality being [ɛː].[7] This may be considered to be a related case to that of smoothing.[8] This is a manifestation of the near-square merger.
  • Where RP/BBC has a sequence of two or three vowels in succession, Norfolk smoothing results in a pronunciation with a single long vowel; for example, 'player' is [plæː] rather than /pleɪə/. Where the suffix '-ing' is preceded by a vowel or diphthong, there is a smoothing effect that results in a single vowel. Thus 'go+ing' is usually pronounced as a single syllable [ɡɔːn] rather than as a two-syllable word ending in /ən/, and 'doing' is [dɜːn] rather than /duːɪŋ/.[9]


  • Yod-dropping after alveolar consonants (/t, d, s, z, n, l/) is found in many English accents, and widely in American pronunciation, so that words like 'tune', 'due', 'sue', 'new' are pronounced /tuːn/, /duː/, /suː/, /nuː/, sounding like 'toon', 'doo', 'soo', 'noo'. However, in Norfolk yod-dropping is found after non-alveolar consonants as well, and this seems to be unique. Yod-dropping therefore seems to happen after all consonants, so that RP/BBC [Cjuː] is pronounced as Norfolk [Cuː] (where C stands for any consonant). For example, 'beautiful', 'few', 'huge', 'accuse' have pronunciations that sound like 'bootiful', 'foo', 'hooge', 'akooz'. A parallel case involves the vowel of CURE: in RP/BBC the word is pronounced with initial /kj/, but Norfolk speakers omit the /j/ and smoothing results in /ɜː/ so that 'cure' sounds like 'cur'.[10][11]
  • Glottal stops [ʔ] are found widely in Norfolk speech. The consonant /t/ when following a stressed vowel is often realized as [ʔ] so that 'better' is pronounced as [beʔə]. Alternatively, /p, t, k, tʃ/ may be pronounced with the glottal closure slightly preceding the oral closure, so that 'upper' is pronounced as [ʌʔpə], 'better' is pronounced as [beʔtə], 'thicker' as [θɪʔkə] and 'butcher' as [bʊʔtʃə]. This pronunciation is also found when another consonant follows.
  • In contexts where RP/BBC pronounces /l/ as "dark L" ([ɫ]), some older Norfolk speakers have "clear L" so that the sound in 'hill' and 'milk' sounds similar to the clear L heard at the beginning of words such as 'lip'. The process known as L-vocalization (whereby, for example, the /l/ in 'hill', 'well', 'help' is pronounced as a back rounded vowel like /ʊ/) is not as widespread in this accent as elsewhere in England.[12]
  • The suffix with the spelling '-ing' found at the end of a word like 'coming', which has the pronunciation /ɪŋ/ in RP/BBC, is usually pronounced [ən]; 'coming' /kʌmɪŋ/ sounds like [kʌmən]. This is commonly known as g-dropping.
  • In older Norfolk dialect the spelling 'thr' may be pronounced as /tr/ and the spelling 'shr' as /sr/; thus 'three' sounds the same as 'tree' and 'shriek' is pronounced as /sriːk/.[13]
  • It used to be the case that words spelt with initial 'v' were pronounced with /w/, giving the pronunciation 'wicar' for 'vicar', 'winegar' for 'vinegar' and so on. This pronunciation is thought now to be extinct.[14]

Prosodic characteristics

No systematic study of the prosodic characteristics of Norfolk speech such as intonation and rhythm appears to have been carried out. There does appear to be agreement that the Norfolk accent has a distinctive rhythm due to some stressed vowels being longer than their equivalents in RP/BBC and some unstressed vowels being much shorter.[12][15] Claims that Norfolk speech has intonation with a distinctive "lilt" seem to have no scientific basis.


  • In the third person present tense, the s at the end of verbs disappears so that 'he goes' becomes 'he go', she likes > she like; she reckons > she reckon etc. Doesn't and wasn't become don't and weren't.
  • The word that usually denotes it when it is the subject of the clause, so that "it is" becomes "that is" and "it smells funny" becomes "that smell funny".[16] This does not imply emphatic usage as it would in Standard English and indeed sentences such as "When that rain, we get wet", are entirely feasible in the dialect. (Incidentally, it is almost never heard as the first word of a sentence in the speech of a true Norfolk dialect speaker, e.g. "It's a nice day today" is virtually always rendered by "Thass a nice day today".) It however, is used for the direct and indirect object, exactly as in Standard English, cf. "When that (subject) rain, I don't like it (object)"/"I don't like it (object), when that (subject) rain".
  • The word one when preceded by a descriptive word such as good or bad can become an "un" so that you have "good'un" and "bad'un". Some local sports papers in the Norfolk region have embraced this part of the dialect with the Pink'Un and the Yellow & Green'Un (a Norwich City FC supplement that comes with the Eastern Daily Press) being such examples.
  • The word 'do' has a wider range of uses and meanings than it does in standard English. The sentence "Do he do as he do do, do you let me know", meaning 'If he does as he usually does, then be sure to let me know', is perfectly possible and indeed correct grammar in Norfolk. The first 'do' replaces 'if' as in "Do that rain, git you under a tree " (If it rains, get under a tree). The second and third instances are examples of the normal third-person Norfolk conjugation of 'does' (see above). The fourth 'do' is exactly the same as it would be in standard English. But the fifth 'do' is an example of the Norfolk use of 'do' in the imperative. Rather than saying simply 'sit down', in Norfolk they might say 'sit you down', but to achieve emphasis 'do you sit down'. Equally 'keep you a dewun' might be rendered 'do you keep a-dewun'. This form is used particularly when urging someone, such as 'Do you hurry up'.
  • The same word 'do' has yet further uses in Norfolk. One of them renders the standard English form 'if that be the case'. The expression 'Do he dint know n'different' means the subject's actions could only be explained by his ignorance (e.g. of the circumstances). A near-translation into standard English would be 'If that was the case he did not know differently'. 'Do' in Norfolk, can also often mean 'otherwise', as in to someone doing something dangerous 'Be you careful, do you'll have an accident'.
  • The word 'yet', pronounced 'yit' in Norfolk, often has a meaning more like 'nor' or “neither’. For example if it is said to a Norfolk speaker that: 'I've never known such weather in January', the speaker might reply 'Yit hent I!', meaning 'Neither have I'. Or at a greengrocers the speaker could say 'There are no cabbages, yit n'carrots', meaning 'There are no cabbages, nor any carrots'.
  • The word 'any' is frequently abbreviated to n'. e.g. To a butcher, 'H'yer got n'sausages?' meaning 'Have you got any sausages?' 'He dornt know n'different', meaning 'He doesn't know differently'.
  • In Norfolk the word 'on' sometimes means 'of' such as 'One on yer'll hetter lead the hoss' meaning 'One of you will have to lead the horse'. In strict Norfolk 'of' is always 'on'. It gets a lot of use in the Norfolk dialect due to the tendency to include of (or in dialect 'on'), as in old English, as part of the verb form. e.g. 'He's a-sortun on em out', meaning he is sorting (of) them out; or 'She's a-mearken on 'em bigger', meaning 'she is making (of) them bigger'.
  • Some verbs conjugate differently in Norfolk. The past tense of 'show', for example is 'shew',[17] and of the verb to snow, 'snew', swam becomes 'swum'. The past of drive is 'driv'. e.g. 'I driv all the way to Yarmouth, and on the way back that snew.' 'Sang' is always 'sung' ('She sung out of tune'), and 'stank' is always 'stunk' ('After they had mucked out the pigs their clothes stunk'). Many verbs simply have no past tense, and use the present form. e.g. 'Come', 'say' and 'give'. 'When my husband come home, he say he give tuppence for a loaf of bread' meaning 'When he came home, he said, he gave tuppence...'. This even applies to a verb like 'go'. 'Every time they go to get the needle out, it moved'.[18] Verbs whose past participles differ from their active past tenses e.g.'spoken', are mostly ignored in Norfolk. e.g. 'If you were clever you were spoke to more often by the teacher', or 'If I hadn't went up to Mousehold that night'.[19]
  • The verb 'to be' conjugates variously in the negative. 'I'm not' can be 'I en't' or 'I in't', or often 'I aren't'. 'He/she isn't' is usually 'he en't'. 'We/you/they are not' is as elsewhere 'we/you/they aren't'. Ethel George says 'I in't going out no more'.[20] It could be that 'I in't' is the Norwich form of the Norfolk 'I en't'.
  • The relative pronouns, 'who', 'which' and 'that' are mostly replaced with 'what' in Norfolk. e.g. 'That was the one what I was talking about' or 'He was shaking Pimper Wiley...what lived a few doors from us'.[21] Adjectival use of 'those' usually becomes 'them'. e.g. 'I was as bad as them what done it'[22]
  • Adverbs are little used in the Norfolk dialect. 'She sung bewtiful' means 'she sang beautifully'. This even applies to ones derived from nouns. 'The gravy was too salt', simply means 'too salty'.
  • The word 'above' is much used in the Norfolk dialect when indicating 'more than'. e.g. when talking of a person's age, 'She could not have been above eight'; or 'I was not doing above 50' meaning 'more than 50 mph'.
  • The word 'never' has wider use in Norfolk dialect than in standard English where it only means 'not ever'. Norfolk people will frequently use never simply as a way of saying 'did not' as in 'he never went', meaning 'he did not go'. It is also used in Norfolk as an interjection. Someone who is suddenly shocked by some remarkable fact they have just heard may say abruptly 'Never!'. e.g. Person A says: 'They are expecting their 14th child'; Person B says 'Never!'
  • The word 'together', pronounced 'tergether' is widely used as a form of address in Norfolk dialect. When speaking to two or more people it is usual to say something like 'Come here, tergether'. This does not mean, 'come here at the same time', but 'both of you, come here'. Someone might say 'What do you think of this, tergether?' The term 'tergether' simply indicates that you are addressing everyone and not just one person. This is also the case in German, which is indeed interesting, as it seems entirely foreign to standard English.
  • The present participle, or, form of the verb, such as running, writing etc. is mostly rendered in the Middle English form of 'a-running', 'a-jumping' etc. 'She's a robbing me'.[23]
  • The word 'time' is often used to replace 'while', for example 'I go shopping in the city, time my husband's at the football' or 'Time you were fooling about, you could have been doing your homework'.

Some of these grammatical features are often present also in neighbouring dialects, in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire etc. Some of them are merely the retention of older speech forms, once more extensively used throughout the country. Expressions such as 'abed' meaning 'in bed' (see below), still used in Norfolk in 2009, was undoubtedly used by Shakespeare. At parting, Norfolk people often say 'fare yer well', a local version of the old English expression 'fare thee well'.


  • ar ya reet bor? (are you all right neighbour)[24]
  • at that time of day (in those days, e.g. beer only cost tuppence a pint at that time of day)
  • bred and born (used instead of "born and bred")
  • co ter heck (go to hell, an exclamation of amazement)
  • come on ter rain (starts to rain, as in "if that come on ter rain we shall get wet")
  • cor blarst me (oh blast me, when expressing, shock, surprise or exasperation)
  • dew yar fa' ki' a dickir, bor? (Does your father keep a donkey, mate?) (See Dickir/Dickie in vocabulary, below)
  • dew yew keep a troshin (means "carry on with the threshing" on its own but also means goodbye or "take care of yourself")
  • directly ("as soon as" or "immediately"), as in "Directly they got their money on Friday nights, the women would get the suits out of the pawn shop"[25]
  • fare y'well (goodbye)
  • finish, at the/in the (eventually, as in "he gave it to her at the finish";[26] or "You might as well have went in the beginning, 'cause you had to go in the finish".[27])
  • fumble fisted (clumsy)
  • get on to someone (to tell someone off, as in "They all went quiet, but they never got onto father no more"[28])
  • get wrong (told off)
  • good on'yer (good for you or good of you) [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians, though it is pronounced "Good on ya"]
  • he'll square yew up (he will chastise you)
  • The Fenians are coming (Phrase, typically referring to a commotion nearby. An old phrase originally referring to Irish travellers, who normally caused a commotion in towns they passed through)
  • he dint ortera dun it. (he ought not to have done it).
  • high learned (well-educated, clever)
  • hoddy-doddy (very small)
  • hold you hard ("hang on", or "wait a moment", from the practice of holding a horse's rein hard to stop it moving forward)
  • how much did you give for it? (How much did you pay for it?) [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]
  • I/we/you will hetter keep a dewun (no alternative but to keep going)
  • ill a bed an wus up (very sick)
  • lend us a lug (when asking someone else to listen in to a conversation for you)
  • lolloping along (strolling along)
  • mind how you go (good-bye)
  • mobbed a rum'un (made a lot of fuss)
  • my heart alive! (expression of surprise, similar to "good gracious me!", sometimes shortened to "my heart" as in "my heart thas dear" meaning "good heavens, that's expensive". When Norfolk people use the term "good gracious", they will sometimes say "good gracious on to me".)
  • my man, my woman (used when addressing children, especially when telling off, as in "look here, my man") [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]
  • Old Year's Night (New Year's Eve)
  • on the huh, ?on the moo (awry, slanted, not level)
  • putting on his/her parts (having a tantrum, or acting up – usually of a child)
  • put you in the mind of (to remind you of, as in "she put me in the mind of Irene", meaning "she reminds me of Irene")
  • slummocking great mawther (fat girl)
  • suffun savidge ("something savage" - very angry)
  • thas a rummun (it's very strange)
  • that crazes me! (that really annoys me)
  • that'll larn yer (that'll teach you) [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]
  • tergether One particular expression is the greeting of a couple with the phrase Mornin'/Evenin' together a form that is also used in German speaking countries. (This is extensively used in Norfolk; see under grammar, above)
  • titty-totty (very small)
  • two penneth, six penneth etc (two penny worth)
  • wus up?' (what's wrong?) [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]
  • yellow belly (person from the Fens; a Fenman)
  • "yesterdi", "Toosdi" (yesterday and Tuesday) as well as any other words ending in "-day" becomes "-di" [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]

The following exchange is a shibboleth for Broad Norfolk speakers.

Question : He yer fa got a dickey, bor? (Has your father got a donkey, boy?)
Required response : Yis, an' he want a fule ter roid 'im, will yew cum? (Yes, and he wants a fool to ride him, will you do it?)


Dialect words and phrases

  • abed (in bed)[28]
  • afore (before)
  • afront (in front)
  • agin (against, often when meaning 'next to'as in 'he live agin the Kings Arms')
  • ahind (behind)
  • ameant (meant, ought, supposed, or should)
  • arst (ask/asked)
  • atop (on top) [this is also common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians.]
  • a'smornun (this morning, as in 'I saw her a'smornun' also 'a'sarternun',and'a'sevenun'.)
  • atwin (between, as in 'He dornt know the difference atwin the two', or 'a rose atwin two thorns')
  • a-Friday, a-Wednesday etc. (on Friday, as in 'I see him a-Friday', meaning I saw him on Friday, or 'I shall go to Carrer Rud a-Saturday).
  • backards (backwards, 'I hetter keep goin' backards and forrards up to Norwich)
  • bishy barney bee (ladybird (from Bishop Bonner's bee))
  • blar (cry)
  • bor (pronounced 'buh' in West Norfolk) (a term of address, boy or neighbour often used as 'ah bor', an exclamatory confirmation, such as in the following exchange Jimmur -'Thas suffun hot today ent it', Arnie - 'Ah bor'.)
  • charleypig/barneypig (wood louse/pillbug)
  • chimbley (chimney)
  • craze (nag. e.g.he kept crazing me to buy him sweets, or 'I'd craze her and craze her her'[29])
  • crockin (crying)
  • deen (a 'sound', usually to emphasise that someone who was in pain did not cry out, as in 'when she bumped her head, she never made a deen'.)
  • dickey (donkey; however note that the word 'donkey' appears only to have been in use in English since the late 18th century.[30] The Oxford English Dictionary quotes 'dicky' as one of the alternative slang terms for an ass.)
  • dodman/dundmun/doderman (snail)
  • drant (drawl)
  • drift (a lane)
  • dudder (shiver or tremble. It is not unique to Norfolk. Appears in the OED as 'dodder'.)
  • dussent (dare not, as in 'he dussent do it')
  • dwile (floor cloth, sometimes dishcloth, from the Dutch "dweil" meaning floorcloth or cloth)
  • forrards (forwards)
  • fillum (film/movie) [this was once common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians, though is rarely heard nowadays.]
  • gawp (look or stare (what you gawpin at?)
  • guzunder (goes-under – another word for chamber-pot)
  • hap'orth (halfpenny worth)
  • harnser (heron or more usually, a goose for which the Latin name is Anser)
  • hant, hent, hint (have not)
  • hintut (Isn't it, as either statement or question)
  • hopp'n toad (frog)
  • hull(throw – from 'hurl'e.g. 'Hull us that spanner' meaning 'Throw me that spanner')
  • jasper (wasp)
  • jiffle (fidget)
  • jip (feeling, sense of pain, as in 'that give me jip')
  • jollificeartions (to have fun)
  • kewter (money)
  • larn (to learn, used in place of to teach: "he larned me how to ride a hoss",)
  • loke (alley; another word for lane)
  • lollop (progress slowly)
  • lug (ear)
  • lummox (clumsy or ungainly person)
  • mardle (to chat; village pond)
  • mawkin (scarecrow)
  • mawther (a young woman – usually derogatory)
  • mine (my husband or wife, as in "I shall see mine when I get home")
  • mob (to tell off. e.g. 'his missus mobbed him for going to the pub', also to complain e.g. 'he was always mobbun about suffun'. In Allan Smethurst's song 'Hae the bottum dropped out' there are two lines that run 'A fisherman's life's a rum ole job; the winter winds blow, and the women, they mob.))
  • pingle (to mess about with food, especially when talking to children - 'stop pingling')
  • pishmire (ant)
  • puckaterry (stress, panic)
  • pootrud (putrid, meaning awful, terrible, useless, particularly when applied to the performance of a sports player such as a footballer; 'the centre-forward was pootrud' means he had an awful game. This particular meaning of 'putrid' is, according to the OED, available in standard English, but it is rarely heard, the term almost always being associated with decomposition of organic material.)
  • push (boil, pimple, spot, from the Dutch "puist")
  • queer (ill, but not unique to Norfolk)
  • rubub, (rhubarb)
  • rum (odd or unusual)
  • shink (I should think so)
  • slummockun (this is difficult to translate into standard English and exceedingly incorrect politically! It suggests someone who is overweight, and perhaps inclined to idleness e.g. 'a slummockun gret mawther'.)
  • slar (spread – usually meaning spread thickly or crudely)
  • squit (nonsense)
  • stannicle (tadpole)
  • stingy (mean)
  • skew wiff (unlevel, not straight; not unique to Norfolk)
  • skerrick (a morsel of food)
  • suffun (something)
  • terl (towel)
  • ticker (heart as in "you got a dodgy ticker there bor?". But the term ticker in this context is by no means unique to Norfolk)
  • thack (push hard or hit – as in "you betta thack it koz i'is a bit stiff" - written on door of Fakenham post sorting office)

Accented pronunciation

  • diffus (difference)
  • gret (great, big, or significant)
  • loight (light) [this was once common in New England, an area that was originally settled by East Anglians, though is rarely heard nowadays.]
  • ollust (always)
  • occard (awkward)
  • shud (shed)
  • troshin (originally 'threshing,' now working in general)
  • warmint (varmint or vermin, troublesome person)
  • zackly (exactly)

Famous speakers

  • Sidney Grapes – author of The Boy John Letters
  • Bernard Matthews – turkey tycoon
  • The Nimmo Twins – comedy duo
  • Horatio Nelson – "I am a Norfolk man, and glory in being so"; also said to Captain Hardy "Do you anchor" (an order, not a question, in the Dialect)[31][32]
  • Singing Postman – aka Allan Smethurst
  • Keith Skipper – former Norfolk broadcaster and dialect expert
  • Peter Trudgill – professor of sociolinguistics, author of several books on the Norfolk dialect and currently honorary professor of sociolinguistics at the University of East Anglia
  • Maurice Wood – Bishop of Norwich, recorded the gospel in Norfolk dialect
  • The Kipper Family, exponents of comedy folk, whose traditions are being kept barely alive by Sid Kipper
  • Ida Fenn – author of "Tales of a Countryman", a collection of over 20 years Broad Norfolk writing of "Boy Jimma and His Family" published in the Yarmouth Mercury
  • Dr. Stuart Ashen aka Ashens – internet celebrity and comedian
  • Ted Snelling - Norfolk Dialect expert and narrator of his audio book "Grandfather's Norwich"

See also

  • Suffolk dialect – bordering Norfolk, the Suffolk dialect has some similar features


  1. ^ Writing in Non-Standard English, eds. Irma Taavitsainen, Gunnel Melchers and Paivi Pahta (Philadelphia 1999) pp. 27–44
  2. ^ George 2006.
  3. ^ Wells 1982, p. 337.
  4. ^ Wells 1982, pp. 335–6.
  5. ^ Lodge 2009, p. 168.
  6. ^ Lodge 2009, pp. 167–8.
  7. ^ Trudgill 2003, pp. 80–1.
  8. ^ Wells 1982, pp. 238–242.
  9. ^ Wells 1982, p. 339.
  10. ^ Wells 1982, pp. 338–9.
  11. ^ Trudgill 2003, p. 78.
  12. ^ a b Wells 1982, p. 341.
  13. ^ Trudgill 2003, p. 86.
  14. ^ Trudgill 2003, p. 84.
  15. ^ Trudgill 2003, p. 82.
  16. ^
  17. ^ see George 2006, p. 97.
  18. ^ George 2006, p. 155.
  19. ^ George 2006, p. 190.
  20. ^ George 2006, p. 189.
  21. ^ George 2006, p. 94.
  22. ^ George 2006, p. 129.
  23. ^ see George 2006, p. 75.
  24. ^ Bootiful' dialect to be saved"'", BBC News, 3 July, 2001, 
  25. ^ see George 2006, p. 74.
  26. ^ George 2006, p. 76.
  27. ^ George 2006, p. 142.
  28. ^ a b George 2006, p. 102.
  29. ^ George 2006, p. 113.
  30. ^ "donkey".  
  31. ^ Robert Southey The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson p205
  32. ^ Martin Robson A History of the Royal Navy: Napoleonic Wars p34


Further reading

  • Two papers by Prof Peter Trudgill

External links and references

  • BBC information about the FOND group
  • Norfolk Dialect Dictionary
  • Friends of Norfolk Dialect
  • Sound clips of the dialect
  • Norfolk Talk and Tales – plus Dictionaries, Terry's Norfolk and Norwich
  • English to Broad Norfolk machine translation
  • Norfolk Dialect Poetry
  • Lost in Translation – project supported by the initiativeLocal Heritage ; promotes projects in schools in Norfolk, looking at history, origins and current use of Norfolk dialect.
  • "Saving dialects: Dew you go down to Norfolk?" [by subscription]. The Economist, 31 Aug. 2006. – School pupils learn to speak as their ancestors did ...
  • English dialects by continent
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