Local words for local people...

Local words for local people...

​This month’s Wordsmith’s World is a tad bittersweet.

Because while I am celebrating the renaissance of a number of local words in the UK - including a phrase from my home county – I have also been saddened to read about a dialect dictionary in the US that is said to be dying out.

But first to the ‘gurt’ news and not just for Bristolians. For National Poetry Day, England’s poets are doing their bit for preserving regional dialects, with a series of poems celebrating local words.

All the words chosen by lexicographers are intended to represent a different region of the UK – a move guaranteed to leave Leicester’s locals far from ‘mardy’.

There are two words for alleyway (‘ginnel’ in Leeds, and ‘twitten’ in Sussex), as well as the rather delightful ‘dimpsy’ - Devon’s term for twilight.

Being born and bred in Ipswich I was especially pleased to see ‘on the huh’ included as the Suffolk term. Used to describe something that is askew or not level, it was a common expression I heard a lot from my nan and really reminds me of her.

As lexicographer and Countdown’s Dictionary Corner doyenne Susie Dent said: “Our local words and expressions are very much part of an oral tradition, and printed records are often hard to find.”

So I do feel the need to ‘twine’ (along with the complaining Cumbrians) about the news that the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) across the pond might soon be coming to an end.

For over half a century, US lexicographers have been documenting regional terms and phrases that were once popular in states like California, Kansas and Tennessee.

The six-volume compendium contains old-fashioned quirky terms from states such as Texas’ ‘oodlins’ (a great quantity), Maine’s ‘tunklehead’ (a fool) and Connecticut’s imaginary monster ‘glawackus’.

Sadly, due to lack of funding, DARE will be winding down its services by the end of the year. Any future funding will be used to continue to update the digital version of DARE, but the organisation will stop its fieldwork and in-person research.

Very sad news indeed for wordsmiths in and outside Wisconsin – inso?