The editor of a dictionary of Yorkshire colloquialisms that took over a year to compile says she’s on a mission to find out how many traditional phrases are still in use today.
Alexandra Medcalf, who put together the compendium of over 4,000 Yorkshire words and sayings, told Matthew Wright on talkRADIO that some of the words were still in use as recently as the 1980s.
Ms Medcalf, an archivist at Borthwick Institute for Archives, discovered a collection of Yorkshire phrases on postcards in boxes in the office of historian Dr George Redmonds, who spent years studying the Yorkshire dialect and died last year aged 82.
On the origin of the dialect, Ms Medcalf said: “It’s really because people didn’t move as much, they stayed in one place and got this way of talking that’s in their community.
“Historically every part of the country would have had its own way of speaking, and Yorkshire’s has lived on. There’s definitely a recognisable vocabulary still in use today.”
'Some people still use them'
“How many of the 4000-plus words [in the dictionary] are still used today?” asked Wright.
“It’s an ongoing project of mine to try and figure that out,” Ms Medcalf explained.
“More than I think, because I’ve only got my own experience - but then I’ll put a tweet out, and people will say ‘we still say “give back word” in Leeds for “break a promise”.
“There are some that I really hoped would still be used but aren’t, like ‘winter hedge’ for a clothes horse.
“Because in the summer, you’d dry your clothes on the hedge, but in the winter you’d bring them in and dry them on the winter hedge.
“We know that was still in use in the 1980s, because George found a newspaper advert for someone selling one and calling it a winter hedge. I’d love to know if anyone still uses it.”
“My favourites vary,” she continued.
“My favourite I’ve found today is urgent, which is for a shortcut to somewhere.
“Day gate for a sunset I think is really pretty.”
How’s your Yorkshire?
Day gate - a sunset
Winter hedge - a clothes horse
Urgent - a shortcut
Ginnel/snicket - an alleyway
Ale-draper - an ale-seller
Laking - playing
Bray - to hit someone
Fettle - to improve, put in order