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On Language

Wiltshire Words

May 30, 2014 | by


Longleat, Wiltshire: Morris's County Seats, 1880. From Volume II of The County Seats of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, by Francis Orpen Morris.

In 1893, George Edward Dartnell and the Reverend Edward Hungerford Goddard published Glossary of Wiltshire Words—it is, as intuitive readers will have guessed, a glossary of words used in the county of Wiltshire. The “Folk-speech,” as the authors call it, is full of evocative terms, some of them familiar—jumble and caterpillar—and others entirely puzzling. (Evidence suggests that Wiltshire residents were often puzzled; they have about three dozen words for the condition.) The best entries tend to be common words with new definitions. Smart, for instance, used to mean “a second swarm of bees”; goggles was “a disease in sheep.”

Here are a few of the most novel words with annotations from the authors.

Ahmoo. A cow; used by mothers to children, as ‘Look at they pretty ahmoos a-comin’!’—S.W. (Som. bord.)

Afterclaps. Consequences, results. Atterclaps (S.).—N. & S.W.

All-a-hoh. All awry (A.B.C.H.Wr.); also All-a-huh. Unevenly balanced, lop-sided. A.S. awóh. ‘That load o’ carn be aal-a-hoh.’—N. & S.W.

Berry-moucher. (1) A truant. See Blackberry-moucher and Moucher (A.).—N. & S.W. (2) Fruit of Rubus fruticosus, L., Blackberry. See Moochers.—N.W. (Huish.) Originally applied to children who went mouching from school in blackberry season, and widely used in this sense, but at Huish—and occasionally elsewhere—virtually confined to the berries themselves: often corrupted into Penny-moucher or Perry-moucher by children. In English Plant Names Mochars, Glouc., and Mushes, Dev., are quoted as being similarly applied to the fruit, which is also known as Mooches in the Forest of Dean. See Hal., sub. Mich.

Birds’-wedding-day. St. Valentine’s Day.—S.W. (Bishopstone.)

Biver. To tremble, quiver, shiver as with a cold or fright (S.). Cp. A.S. bifian, to tremble.—N. & S.W.

‘Bless m’ zoul, if I dwon’t think our maester’s got the ager! How a hackers an bivers, to be zhure!’—Wilts Tales, p. 55.

Blow. Sheep and cattle ‘blow’ themselves, or get ‘blowed,’ from over-eating when turned out into very heavy grass or clover, the fermentation of which often kills them on the spot, their bodies becoming terribly inflated with wind. See the description of the ‘blasted’ flock, in Far from the Madding Crowd, ch. xxi.—N. & S.W.

Blue Cat. One who is suspected of being an incendiary. ‘He has the name of a blue cat.’ See Lewis’s Cat.—S.W. (Salisbury.)

Buddle. To suffocate in mud. ‘There! if he haven’t a bin an’ amwoast buddled hisel’ in thuck there ditch!’ Also used in Som.—N.W. (Malmesbury.)

Cag-mag. Bad or very inferior meat (S.).—N. & S.W.

Chinstey. n. The string of a baby’s cap.—N.W. (Clyffe Pypard.) A horse’s chin-strap.—S.W. Compare:—

‘Oh! Mo-ather! Her hath chuck’d me wi’ tha chingstey [caught me by the back-hair and choked me with the cap-string].’—The Exmoor Scolding, p. 17.

Crumplings, Crumplens. Small, imperfectly grown apples.—N. & S.W.

Daglet. An icicle (A.H.S.Wr.). See Daggled.—N. & S.W.

‘Thatched roofs are always hung with “daglets” in frost.’—Village Miners.

Dain. Noisome effluvia (A.B.C.H.Wr.). Formerly applied mainly to infectious effluvia, as ‘Now dwoan’t ‘ee gwo too nigh thuck there chap; he’ve a had the small-pox, and the dain be in his clothes still.’ (See Cunnington MS.). Now used of very bad smells in general.—N.W.

Dapster. *(1) A nimble boy.—S.W. (Deverill). (2) A proficient (S.). See Dab.—S.W.

Fashion. The farcey, a disease in horses (A.H.Wr.). Fr. farcin.—N.W.

‘An old Wiltshire farmer, when his grand-daughters appeared before him with any new piece of finery, would ask what it all meant. The girls would reply, “fashion, gran’váther!” when the old man would rejoin, “Ha! many a good horse has died o’ th’ fashion!”‘—Akerman.

Flowse. (1) v. act. You ‘flowse,’ or splash, the water over you in a bath.—N. & S.W. (2) v. neut. Water is said to be ‘flowsing down’ when rushing very strongly through a mill hatch. A horse likes to ‘flowse about’ in a pond.—S.W. (3) n. The rush of water through a hatch.—S.W. (4) n. Occasionally also applied to the narrow walled channel between the hatch gate and the pool below.—S.W.

Flucksey. adj. ‘A flucksey old hen,’ i.e. a hen who makes a great fuss over her chickens.—S.W. (Bishopstrow, &c.) Cope’s Hants Glossary has:—’Flucks, to peck in anger like a hen.’

Gaam. (1) v. To smear or bedaub with anything sticky. Gaamze (Village Miners). (2) n. A sticky mass of anything. See Gam.—N. & S.W. Many years ago, at a Yeomanry ball in a certain town in N. Wilts, the Mayor, who had done his duty manfully up to then, stopped short in the middle of a dance, and mopping his face vigorously, gasped out to his astonished partner, a lady of high position, ‘Well, I don’t know how you be, Marm, but I be ael of a gaam o’ zweat!’—N.W.

Garley-gut. A gluttonous person. Perhaps connected with gorle, to devour eagerly (see Halliwell).

‘“Let’s go to bed,” says Heavy-Head, “Let’s bide a bit,” says Sloth, “Put on the pot,” says Garley-gut, “We’ll sup afore we g’auf” [go off].’—Nursery Rhyme.

Glory-hole. A place for rubbish or odds and ends, as a housemaid’s cupboard, or a lumber room.—N.W.

Goggles. A disease in sheep (Agric. of Wilts, ch. xiv).—N.W. (Castle Eaton.)

Grammered in. Of dirt, so grained in, that it is almost impossible to wash it off. Grammered: Begrimed (H.).—N.W.

Hullocky! ‘Hullo! look here!’ exclamation denoting surprise, or calling attention to anything (S.). This is usually pronounced Hellucky, and is a contraction of ‘Here look ye!’ Also Yellucks.—N. & S.W.

Jiffle. At Bishopston, N. Wilts, an old bell-ringer was recently heard to accuse the younger men of having got into a regular ‘jiffle’ (? confusion) while ringing. We have not met with the word elsewhere, but Hal. and Wright have jiffle, to be restless, var. dial.

Long Eliza. A kind of long blue earthen jar, formerly often seen in cottages.—N.W. (Berks bord.)

‘The high black chimney-shelf was covered with crockery of a low type of beauty; pink and yellow china dogs shared their elevated station with “long Elizas” and squat female figures.’—Dark, ch. i.

Minty. Of cheese, full of mites (A.).—N.W.

Moonied up. Coddled and spoilt by injudicious bringing up. ‘Gells as be moonied up bean’t never no good.’—N. & S.W.

Pigeon-pair. When a woman has only two children, a boy and a girl, they are called a ‘pigeon pair.’—N. & S.W.

Nurly. Of soil: lying in lumps.—S.W. (Bratton.)

Parson. In carting dung about the fields, the heaps are shot down in lines, and are all of much the same size. Sometimes, however, the cart tips up a little too much, with the result that the whole cartload is shot out into a large heap. This is known as a ‘Parson.’—N.W. (Clyffe Pypard.)

Pissing-candle. The least candle in the pound, put in to make up the weight (Kennett’s Paroch. Antiq.). Cp. Norman French peiser, to weigh.—Obsolete.

Quanked. Overpowered by fatigue (A.). Compare Cank.

Rumple, v. To seduce. The full force of the word can only be given by futuere, as:—’He bin rumplin’ that wench o’ Bill’s again laas’ night.’—N.W.

Shitsack, or Shitzack. An oak-apple (H.Wr.). Oak-apple and leaf (S.).—N. & S.W.

Skimmenton, Skimmenton-riding. A serenade of rough music got up to express disapproval in cases of great scandal and immorality. The orthodox procedure in N. Wilts is as follows: the party assembles before the houses of the offenders, armed with tin pots and pans, and performs a serenade for three successive nights. Then after an interval of three nights the serenade is repeated for three more. Then another interval of the same duration and a third repetition of the rough music for three nights—nine nights in all. On the last night the effigies of the offenders are burnt. Housset is the same thing. The word and the custom have emigrated to America.—N.W.

Smart. A second swarm of bees.—N.W.

Spurl. To spread dung about the fields (S.). Also Spear, Spur, and Spurdle.—N. & S.W.

Taffety. Dainty in eating (S.).—S.W.

Tiddlin’ lamb. A lamb brought up by hand (A.). See Tiddle (1).—N.W.

Toad-stabber. A bad blunt knife (S.). Commonly used by boys about Clyffe Pypard.—N. & S.W.

Vamplets. Rude gaiters to defend the legs from wet (A.H.). Cf. Bams. Also used in the New Forest. See Cradock Nowell, ch. xviii, ‘Not come with me ... and you with your vamplets on, and all!’ where the word is applied to shooting gaiters.—N.W.

Zam-zodden. Long-heated over a slow fire, and so half spoilt. This and the last two words belong to Som. rather than Wilts. A.S. sām-soden, half boiled.—N.W. (Malmesbury.)



  1. Drew Byrne, Esq. | May 31, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Ha, ha, all good fun! But is it English, I ask you?

  2. Arthur J. Stanley, Esq. | June 2, 2014 at 8:27 am

    This, in a nutshell, and as intuitive readers will possibly have guessed upon close examination, is a glossary of wiley “locally produced” neologisms from Old London Towne. This brief collection of common or garden neologisms, is full of evocative terms; some of them are even resplendent with them, often with an air of jumbled familiarity about them, while others are entirely puzzling. Anecdotal evidence suggests that when complete strangers in the street are asked if they can produce a neologism on the spur of the moment, they are often puzzled by their own knack for creating neologisms to describe the world being newly revealed around them. Often, indeed often more than not, they could have about three or four different words for the same thing, or something similar, and which often amuses the one who has asked them to produce one to no end.
    The best entries here tend to be commonly mispronounced words with new definitions, while others are of a more esoteric, or publicly hidden origin. All, however, need to be recognized as being part of a process of lateral thinking that produces a novel word, phrase, or description in language, in this case, apparently, it is English, or, more precisely, slang-like English.

    Here are a few novel nuevo-neologisms, with descriptive annotations from the author:

    Autodidactination: Learning that it is wise to learn how to use useful tools before use.

    Azhoole: Someone irritating who has just had his glasses knocked off by a left-hook.

    Biveration: To tremble and shiver as with a cold or with fright.

    Eekeralism: Gathering together to make fun of an underdog.

    Fizzleglotination: Making the worst possible mistake that it is possible to make.

    Fluggered: Surprised by joy produced by someone unknown in the street.

    Fuzzywigga: A women that has insanely curly hair, usually parted in the middle.

    Groggles: A disease caught from close contact with sheep.

    Kneekerbreekers: Loud young men dressed inappropriately.

    Lalaoralation: Holding an impromptu discussion with a policeman about civil liberty.

    Nabbleglotism: Doing everything wrong in a public place.

    Narism: Holding an opinion that is contrary to the obvious one to hold.

    Snoggles: An ill-disciplined rabble.

    Snook: A flake of chocolate in an ice cream cone.

    Sloppylots: Overconfident incompetents behaving incompetently.

    Thron: Dour and difficult to deal with.

    Trounceredized: Overpowered by intellectual fatigue.

  3. Ian Whittingham | June 2, 2014 at 10:18 am

    The Glossary notes the reference to the ‘blowed’ sheep incident that afflicted Bathsheba Everdene’s flock in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ but omits to mention the public humiliation of the ‘skimmington ride’ meted out to Michael Henchard and Lucetta Le Sueur in Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’

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  1. […] Paris Review’s blog On Language has a post about a glossary of ‘folk-speech’ from Wiltshire from the 1890s – I’m not sure how many of these are still part of everyday usage around […]

  2. […] Paris Review s blog On Language1 has a post about a glossary of folk-speech from Wiltshire2 from the 1890s I m not sure how many of these are still part of everyday usage around these parts […]

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