John Trotter Brockett.

A glossary of North country words, in use. From an original manuscript, in the library of John George Lambton, Esq., M. P., with considerable additions online

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Online LibraryJohn Trotter BrockettA glossary of North country words, in use. From an original manuscript, in the library of John George Lambton, Esq., M. P., with considerable additions → online text (page 1 of 17)
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Les mots sont le lien des societes, le v^hicule ties lumieres, la
base des sciences, les d^positaires des d^couvertesd'une Nation, de
son savoir, de sa politesse, de ses idees : la connoissance des mots
est done un moyen indispensable pour acque'rir celle des choses ;
de-1^ ces OuATages appelle's Dictionnaires, Vocabulaires ou Glos-
saires, qui ofFrent I'etendue des connoissances de chaque Peuple.









Albion Place, '6lst. December, 1821.



The eluciuation of language, and the improvement of lexico-
graphy, are investigations that have occupied t!ie attention,
and engaged the pens of many men distinguislietl for talents
and learning.

First impressions, and early associations, are difRcidt to re-
move. In our youth we are instructed to regard the Greeks
and the Romans as the greatest, the wisest, and the most
polished of Nations ; and to associate with the name of Goths
every thing that is ignorant, barbarous, and savage. To Gothic
ancestors, however, it should be remembered, we are indebted
for our existence, our language, and a i)art — perhaps the most
valuable — of our laws. We should also recollect that, when
these inunense hordes forsook their native forests, and settled
in the countries they subdued, the freedom of the individual
was resjiected and supported. The authority he acknow-
ledged, and the subordination he yielded, were not the will
of a tyrant, or the aggrandizement of a chief; bill the voice of


the nation at large, of which every member was a part : — a
system, though deficient in the elegancies of art, the researches
of science, or the ingenious labours of industry, was still
founded in friendship and benevolence, in protection and gra-
titude. That there is an extensive, and much more intimate
connexion than could have been imagined, between the lan-
guage of the Goths, and that which was first spoken by the
Greeks, and afterwards by the inhabitants of Italy, has been
satisfactorily proved in the Hermes Scythicus of the author's
friend Dr. Jamieson, a writer possessed of an accurate know-
ledge of the different Gothic dialects.

Amidst the contradiction, error, and conflision that prevail,
not only in regard to the peopling of Great Britain but of
Europe — involving early literary history in great obscurity —
it is difficult to draw any authentic conclusions, from which to
be enabled satisfactorily to trace the establishment of our pre-
sent mixed language, and the means and gradations through
or by which it was accomplished. The pure Saxon style
which at one period predominated, became greatly adulterated ;
partly by the barbarity and ignorance of the inhabitants, and
partly by the sanguinary conflicts with the Danes ; a people,
who, though of kindred origin, and using a dialect derived
from the same Northern source, were much inferior in civi-
lization to the Saxons. Harassed by these Danish incursions,
and often driven from their habitations, the people neglected
leui'ning, and a part of the language of their enemies gradually


became incorporated with their own. The courtiers of Ed-
ward the Confessor, priding themselves on the introduction
of a foreign idiom, prevented an}' attempt to restore the energy
of the original tongue ; and the system adopted after the
Norman conquest gave rise to those changes, which the acci-
dents of time, and the improvements of society, subsequently
effected in the literature of England.

To those acquainted with our literary history, it is evident
that we have to look for our old English, where it only exists
in its pure uncorrupted state, in the distant provinces of the
North ; however much the phraseology, in many respects, may
be disfigured by modern corruptions, cant terms, or puerilities.
The land of " Cockaigne," as some wits have lately called the
dwellers in the metropolis, has long lost its raciness of idiom ;
but among the lower classes tradition has been faithful to its
task ; and several of our vulgarisms are in fact the remains of
genuine English. Consequently, many aixhaisnjs occurring
in our numerous old Chronicles, and in Gower, Chaucer,
Skelton, Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson,
and other early writers — now totally disused in other parts of
the kingdom — are still preserved in the remotest places of the
North. This may be easily accounted for. In these districts,
until of late years, the inhabitants had little or no intercourse
with the more Southern counties. They, therefore, retained
their ancient manners, customs, and language ; unchanged by
a mixture with those of their neighbours ; and freed from the


arbitrary caprice of fashion — as much an enemy to, and work-
ing as great an inroad on a living language as barbarism itself.
The distinctions of local dialects are now, however, becoming
less conspicuous. The artizan and petty trader, no longer
able to stem an overwhelming competition, are often compelled
to emigrate from their native villages to larger towns ; neces-
sarily leaving this decreasing population to be supplied from
distant places. An interchange of inhabitants so frequent,
must ultimately, however imperceptibly, destroy all provincial
peculiarities of speech.

Under these feelings, and with a vieyv of preserung many
ancient and emphatic tenns, that were in danger of being
totally lost, the author was induced to commence a collection
of Provincialisms. In his earlier years he had frequent com-
munications with different parts of the North, and accustomed
himself to note down from time to time, all such words as ap-
peared worth}' of preservation, or were likely to afford an expla-
nation of former manners or customs. His first effort was a
mere outline, sketched solely for his own amusement, and with-
out any intention of ever bestowing upon it the labour in which
it has since involved him. In that state the manuscript passed
into the library of Mr. Lambton, a gentleman who feels a deep
interest in the preservation of whatever is connected with the
Northern counties. By those to whose opinion and judgment
the author is bound to defer, such an accumulation of ancient
dialectical words (when properly described) was considered


too interesting an addition to the hir.tory of our literature and
of our language, and too valuable a portion of our local anti-
quities to be withheld from the public.

Mr. Lambton accordingly, with his accustomed liberality,
again confided the manuscript to the care and revision of the
original writer. One step brought on another, until the first
compilation became so overwhelmed with new matter, and so
altered by new iirrangement, that few traces of the original
ai'e now discernible. The preparing of it for the press, in this
enlarged form, has been the occupation of such short inter-
vals of leisiu'e as were not incompatible with, and could be
spared from the almost unceasing duties of a laborious pro-
fession, — and which the author found it a greater relaxation
to employ in this than in any other manner.

To diversify the work the author has not confined it to an
explanation of mere words. Under the heads which necessa-
rily refer to them, he has occasionally inserted elucidations of
the vulgar rites and popular opinions, which tradition has
faithfull)' transmitted through many generations. In some
instances, however, it has been found that these superstitions
are of such remote antiquity, as to have actually outlived the
knowledge of the very causes that gave them origin. " The
"generality of men," as remarked by Brand, " look back with
" superstitious veneration on the ages of their fore-fathcis ;
" and authorities that are grey with time seldom fail of com-
"manding those filial honours claimed even by the appearance
" of hoary old age."


The reader will readily suppose that in compiling this Glos-
sary, the author was not unmindful of the labours of his pre-
decessors. Prior Dictionai'ies and Vocabularies have been
consulted to a great extent ; and references made to such of
them as aided his enquiries or illustrated his views. Ray ap-
pears to have been a man of learning, and a Saxon scholar —
Grose, a writer of a diiFerent description. Many of the words
contained in the work of the former are now out of use ;
while it is difficult to recognize several of those appropriated
to the North in that of the latter, from the distorted spelling
in which they are clothed — the compiler not having a sufficient
personal knowledge of the dialect he attempted to describe.
As to Pegge's Supplement, a number of his Provincialisms
are classical English, and very properly inserted in Mr.
Todd's elaborate edition of Dr. Johnson's work. The Doctor
himself was scarcely at all aware of the authenticity of ancient
dialectical words ; and having an unaccountable prejudice on
the subject, seldom gave them a place in his Dictionary. The
List of Ancient Words used in the mountainous parts of the
West Riding of Yorkshire, published in the Archseologia by
Dr. Willan, a native of that district, is a valuable contribution
to our philology. Most of these words being old acquaint-
ances, the work has been of great use to the author. There
does not appear to this intelligent writer, sufficient ground for
the idea entertained by Dr. Jamieson, and some others, who
maintain that the lowland Scotch and the English are difi'erent


languages. Any variations of accent, or in the mode of spel-
ling, he remarks, do not contribute to establish the point,
when we find on examination, that both the radicals and the
grammar are precisely the same. Hence, as he observes, a
person born in any of the Northern counties of England un-
derstands ancient and modern Scotch poetry, and enjoys it as
much as the Scots themselves. This is unquestionably true
to a great extent ; and it is equally certain that similarit} of
language is one of the most convincing documents of national
affinity. The reader, however, must decide for himself, after
he has perused and considered Dr. Jamieson's perspicuous
Dissertation on the Origin of the Scottish language. The
West Riding words are also preserved in a little work recently
published, under the title of Hores Momenta Cravence, or The
Craven Dialect Exemplified, in Two Dialogues, with a copious
Glossary ; a book that has not been overlooked. The only
other provincial Glossaries, from which the writer has derived
any material assistance, are those of, Cheshire Words by Roger
Wilbraham, Esq., 'and Suffolk Words by Major Moor; kindly
sent to him by the respective authors. Many of the terms in
both these publications, are radically the same as those col-
lected orally by the writer, though they appear to be different
from the dialectical variations which they have undergone.

The National work of Dr. Jamieson has been of use to the
author in almost every page. He is also materially indebted
to tliat learned writer for many etymologies that might other-


wise have escaped him. An enemy to all fanciful etymology, he
has endeavoured to guard against such fascination. Knowing
the extreme fallaciousness of the science when founded on a
mere simikunty of sound, however striking, he has abstained
from all attempts at derivation where the sources did not seem
clear and undeniable ; and he has, in particular, avoided any
display of dexterity, by refraining from a reference to languages
of which the people were entirely ignorant, or which bear no
affinity to their own. His chief researches have been among
the ancient Northern dialects ; where, if we are not always
able to trace the primary ancestor, we may discover a resem-
blance sufficient to satisfy us, that we are recurring to a very
remote primogenitor. It is much to be regretted that trans-
lators from, and interpreters of Saxon, should ever have pub-
lished their works in Latin ; there being no natural analoiry
between the two languages. An English version woidd not
only have preserved the original form, but have shewn the
propriety of the present speech. A contrary method has oc-
casioned many of our words to be consider'c d as barbarous and
obsolete, which, looking to the original tongue, are not only
genuine but significant. By those who are conversant with
the Saxon and Northern languages, the justice of this remark
will be readily appreciated — they who are ignorant of tiiese
philological treasures have slender pretensions to the name of
a grammarian or a critic, an antiquary or a historian.

In a few of his etymological speculations, and in some of


his definitions, the author has been under the necessity of
differing in opinion from friends, whose learning he admires,
and for whom he entertains a personal esteem ; but tlieir com-
mon pm'suit being the same, he consoles himself with the
pleasing anticipation that his observations, offered with due
respect, will be taken in the light they are meant — an anxious
desii-e to be strictly accurate ; however seemingly unimportant
the subject.

Several of the words acbuittcd into this collection are, un-
doubtedly, mere vicious pronunciation.s ; but they are, in most
cases, so truly charactevistical of a local peculiarity beyond
the mere corruption, that the author could not reconcile him-
self entirely to omit tliem. The plirases within inverted com-
mas, at the end of several of the explanatioi»s, are all genuine
expressions; which have been either heard by himself, or
communicated to him b\' friends on whose accuracy and
fidelity he can implicitly rely : — and in order to relieve, in
some degree, the dryness of a mere explanation of a vocabu-
lary of words, he has occasionally inserted illustrations from
ancient, as well as from modern local writers.

Although the author is a native of, and has spent the
greater part of his life in this part of the kingdom, he feels it
right to acknowledge, that he has often met with words, even
in common use, the true meaning of which he has had the
greatest difficulty to ascertain. Some were interpreted to
him one way and some another, according to the peculiar ideas


attached to them by different individuals ; and in consequence
of that indefinite character, which must always, more or less,
mark expressions merely oral. In terms thus doubtful, he
cannot presume that he has, in every instance, succeeded in
his explanations ; but whatever errors he may have com-
mitted, in this or in any other respect, he will, on their being
pointed out, be glad to rectify in another edition ; which has
become necessary in consequence of the demand for the pre-
sent far exceeding the number of copies printed. The author
takes this opportunity further to state, that he will be pecu-
liarly indebted to any of his readers, who may be kind enough
to transmit to him any authentic provincial words, which have
escaped his notice, or any particular local customs to which he
has omitted to allude, with the proper explanations. Such is
the copiousness of our Northern vernacular speech, that the
author is far from pretending that he has been able — even
aided as his own researches have been by the most liberal
communications both of friends and of strangers — to give by
any means a complete view of it.

It now remains to the author, and it is a pleasing part of
his duty, to testify his sense of obligation for the assistance
that has been afforded him ; and to return his acknowledg-
ments for the condescension and politeness he has received at
the hands of those — not less distinguished by their literary
acquirements than by their exalted rank — who have patronized
and encouraged the pubHcation, and favoiu-ed the author with
their advice and information on subjects connected therewith.


To one of the learned Judges, eminently versed in our lite-
rary history, whom the author had the honour of knowing
when at the Bm-, especial thanks are due for the partiality and
kindness that prompted him to direct the author's attention to
sources of infoniiation which were found highly advantage-
ous to consult ; and to a Right Reverend Prelate, a liberal
patron of literature, \\-ith whom the author had not the honour
of a previous acquaintance, he is under a particulai" obligation
for the imsolicited loan of a copy of Palsgrave, a work of ex-
cessive rarity, and a great typographical curiosity.

To the possessors of Collections of local words the author
stands indebted, with one single exception, for the confiden-
tial manner in which they intrusted to him their manuscripts ;
allowing him the unrestrained use of them. This liberal con-
duct, so gratif\'lng to the author's feelings, has not only, in
many instances, materially assisted him in the progi-ess of his
labours, but has enabled hiin to add several interesting paiti-
culars, which, without such unreserved communications,
would, in all probability, have escaped his observation. These
favours the author is desirous of acknowledging according to
the order in which they were conferred.

To the friendship of the Reverend John Hodgfion, Vicar of
Kirkwhelpington, and author of the History of Northumber-
land, now in a course of publication, the writer is indebtetl
for the use of a volume of memoranda connected with the
historian's own enquiries, but which proved highly useful on


the present occasion. The author is much obliged to his
learned friend, James Losh, Esq. for the loan of an extensive
list of words still in use in the Northern parts of England,
more particularly in the county of Cumberland, several of
which are marked as occurring in Chaucer, Spenser, and other
old writers. To the kindness of the Reverend John Brewster,
Rector of Egglescliffe, the author owes the perusal of a large
catalogue of Northern words collected by that respectable
clergjinan. From a Glossary obligingly put into the author's
hands by his intelligent friend, George Taylor, Esq. many im-
portant gleanings have been gathered ; nor has the collection
of Mr. John Bell, a pains-taking antiquary, with which the
author was favoured, been without its use. To the attention
and friendship of the Reverend Anthony Hedley, author of
the interesting Essay towards ascertaining the Etymology of
the Names of Places in the County of Northumberland, pub-
lished in the Archseologia iEliana, the writer is indebted for a
curious collection of local words made by the late C. Machell,
Esq. for Mi". Richardson, of Cheadle ; and intended by that
gentleman for the great work of the late Reverend Jonathan
Boucher ; which has hitherto, unfortunately, been confined to
the first letter of the alphabet; but the remainder of which,
there is every reason to hope, will soon be given to the public.
Inmimerable obligations lU'c due to the Rev. Henry Cotes,
"Vicar of Bedlington, for repeated acts of attention, and for
manv communications, which his extensive personal acquaint-


ance with the Northumbrian dialect rendered so acceptable.
For various other communications made to the author in the
course of the work, with great liberality and without solicita-
tion, he is largely indebted to a number of other friends ; par-
ticularly to Sir Cuthbert Sharp, Mr. Thomas Doubleday, Mr.
John Stanton, Mr. Edward Hemsley, and an amiable female,
whose retiring modesty leads her to derive most gratification
when in her power to confer a benefit unnoticed. Nor is the
author without obligation for some ingenious and sensible re-
marks, as well as for several words, which have been sent to
him without the writer's name.

To the uninterrupted friendship of his early preceptor, the
Reverend William Turner — a name with which every thing
benevolent is associated — the author owes the perusal of some
Danish books, which he could not obtain except through the
kind offices of that obliging individual ; to whom he is further
indebted for MS. notes on Verstegan's Restitution of De-
cayed Intelligence. The author's thanks are also due to his
friend, Mr. Murray, for the loan of an interleaved copy of
Grose's Provincial Glossary with MS. additions. And to the
liberality and friendship of his early associate, John Bowser,
Esq. the author owes the possession of some ciu"ious Dic-
tionaries, and several uncommon books connected with his

To Henry Ellis, Esq. of the British Museum, the author ten-
ders his thanks for pointing out to him. among the Lansdowne

xviii PREFACE.

Manuscripts, the very curious and select Glossary compiled
by Bishop Kennett, accompanied by the most obliging offers
of assistance, which writers at a distance from the larger
fountains of research and intelligence know so well how to

The author regrets that he has not, in this first edition,
been able to benefit by the MS. Glossary just alluded to; or
to avail himself of an " Explanation of several Terms made
use of in the Lead Mines, &c. in Alston Moor," which he owes
to the politeness of Anthony Easterby, Esq. of Coxlodge.
These additions, however, shall appear in a future impression,
incorporated with a " Vocabulary of provincial phrases used
bv the Miners in Teesdale," with which the author has been
favoured by his friend, the Reverend George Newby.

It still remains to mention the acknowledgments that are
due to IMi'. William Garret, not only for indefatigable atten-
tion to the work through the press, which, from the author's
other avocations, was confided to his management ; but for
many local words which his unwearied zeal enabled him to
collect in situations beyond the reach of, and from sources
inaccessible to the author, in addition to several Newcastle
expressions of which he was himself the living depository.

The author has to regret that death should have deprived
hun of the pleasm-e of expressing his gratitude to his much
respected friend, Matthew Gregson, Esq. for the interest he
took in this publication ; and for various acts of attention


and civility experienced at his hands. Acknowledgments
would also have been due to the late Reverend J. J. Cony-
beare, for offers of assistance, and for the promise of informa-
tion ; but that eminent scholar has also sunk into the grave.

Having already said so much of the mode and execution of
the work, it is now left to its fate. The author has en-
deavoured, by the means within his power, to be faithful and
accurate ; but he has no wish, by any apology, to screen him-
self from candid and liberal criticism.





Br Ancient British language.

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Online LibraryJohn Trotter BrockettA glossary of North country words, in use. From an original manuscript, in the library of John George Lambton, Esq., M. P., with considerable additions → online text (page 1 of 17)