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The Language of Stoke

“How you be on then?” said Herchie to Mushie. One of my first memories of Stoke over 40 years ago. Eric and Maurice would probably still use the same words to ask about each other’s health today, but we don’t hear the phrase so often now. Stoke is still a Saxon village, but it may have got a little diluted.


The Saxon Invaders came over in clans, each clan speaking a separate dialect of the same language, and the county dialects still mark, roughly, the districts in which each settled. Some tribes came from the east and others came up from the south coast through Devon. The Parrett had always been a significant boundary, and remained so, even during the period of Saxon dominance. East of the river ‘rhyne’ rhymes with green. On our side it rhymes with mine, although the plural rhymes with beans.


In his book, ‘Winter Harvest’ Eric Hembrow (Sue’s Father) gave us a list of words that he felt were not only ‘West Country’ but were maybe only in everyday use (1990) within a few miles of the village. My own recollection of those times is of the children leaving school in the afternoon. They had obviously been talking ‘proper’ English in their lessons, but on the way home they reverted to their ‘hearth language’ - a wonderful collection of phrases, but already being coloured by accents acquired from TV Soaps such as Neighbours and Eastenders. Eric offered these examples, with their meanings:

Colley - Blackbird

Homescreech - Mistlethrush

Lady Washdish - Pied Wagtail

Want - Mole (animal)

Emmet - Ant

Dumpsey - Twilight

Emt - To draw or to take everything out

Davered - A plant or flower past its best

Wasted - To spill

Haps - The catch on the door or gate

Beatle - A large mallet

Bisgy - A long mattock

Nosset - A delicacy

Dumps - Sweets

Sneery - Cold wet rainy weather

Sked - A light shower of rain

Suent - Regular

Slew - To move at an angle

Croupee down - To squat

Slumicky - Untidy

Stivvie up - To show anger

Directly - For us means later

Crandid Gutted - Refers to someone to someone fussy about their food

Leery - To feel tired, or machinery running in neutral

Guide it on - To make something last

Pokie on - To leave

Sloight - A section of land

Knapp - A small piece of land higher than the surrounding area

Shard - Broken crockery or wilful damage to a hedge

Varmit - A person misbehaving

Momet - A naughty child

Telty - Irritable

Poochie - Sullen or ill tempered

Boughten - Anything purchased as opposed to being home made

Thank you, Eric (Herchie)

One word not listed by Eric Hembrow was the verb to ‘hunt’, maybe because it was such a common term that it was not worth mentioning. If someone has access to the full OED please look it up, but I have had no success in finding the local definition of moving stock around, especially along droves and roads. The only reference I have found is an American childrens’ song about ‘Hunting The Cows’ as in bringing them in for milking. The song is HERE

For an explanation, and something different, go for this one HERE

If you have any ideas please get in touch HERE

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