The Pearces of Wiltshire: The Way They Talked

A comic presumption
Larry Pearce
based on a poem by
Edward Slow (1841-1925)
interpreted by
Moonrakers Digest
Vol. 67, Issue 2
March 3, 2021MoonRakers – 3

British poet Edward Slow

I subscribe to an online site called “Moonrakers” that is based in the county of Wiltshire, UK. Members periodically send inquiries about family history, photos, stories about life in that southwestern part of England, and often times give some humorous interpretations of life there. I have posted articles on my webpage based on submissions from that site in the past as it may pertain to my Pearce ancestors there. One in particular stands out to me: “Up to Speed with Wiltshire’s Famous Poet, Edward Slow: The tale of the Moonrakers & other delights via YouTube”. Today another piece came through the air from over the Pond, and knowing that poet Edward Slow had contributed to the English Dialect Society through his works, I wondered if one particular poem may be an example of the way my family would have talked several hundred years ago. Known as the “Wilshire Dialect,” this manner of speaking is said to have all but disappeared. And you think the Royal Family talks funny! Below is an Edward Slow poem followed by an interpretation by a woman simply known as Jasmine. She says, “It’s difficult to interpret something that’s been written down when the Wiltshire Dialect I learnt [not a misspelling] as a child was purely through the spoken word.” Following that is a brief work sheet containing archaic words and phrases along with their meanings. Care to learn to speak Wiltshire and be my cousin?

“Grandfather shall not go into the workhouse”

Tho’ main scanty be me means, A shill have haf I got.
Var poor woold man he’s helpless quite, An veeble as a chile, His wants be vew, his heart’s content, Var ael he’ve got a smile. An shood er live a vew mwore years, I’ll do me baste ta cheer An brighten up his days a bit, As long as he be here.

In zummer wen tha days be warm, In archet he shill perch, Under tha girt elm tree an watch Tha voke goo inta Church. An wen tha evenins thay be vine I’ll vill his heart wie jay, An teak un out amang tha zenes, A rambled wen a bwoy. I’ll draa un out on top tha hill,

In Squire’s dree-wheel’d cheer, Zo’s he can look aroun wonce mwore On zenes that be za dear
An wen tha gloomy winter comes An vrost an snow be here,
He shall zit warm an cozy like In his girt big yarm cheer.

An while tha log is burnin bright Agean he shall goo droo

His oft twould tale a Wellinton An tha vite at Waterloo.
Zoo a shaant goo inta Wirkhouse,

While I’ve a crowst a bread An can manage var ta keep A roof auver me yead.


















Provided by Graham Horner:

Just thought I would offer this list of Wiltshire words passed on to me many years ago by my Uncle Doug who played Jonas in the children’s radio programme in the 1950’s, written by Ralph Whitlock (another relative). Douglas Horner also used to “give a turn” at local social events in his genuine Wiltshire smock with straw in mouth and a big hat, minus his teeth. Happy Memories!

Ahmoo – A cow. Used by mothers to children, as “Look at they pretty ahmoos a-comin’!”

All-a-hoh – Lopsided

Aloud – Smells very bad, as ‘That there meat stinks aloud.”

Birds’ wedding-day – St. Valentine’s Day.

Bittish – Somewhat, as ”Twer a bittish cowld isterday.”

Bobbish – In good health, as “Well, an’ how be ‘ee to-day?” or “Purty bobbish, thank ‘ee.”

Buddle – To suffocate in mud, as ‘There! if he haven’t a bin an’ amwoast buddled hisel’ in thuck there ditch!”

Butchers’ Guinea-pigs – Woodlice, also known as curly-buttons.

Cocky-warny – The game of leap-frog.

Cow-baby – A childish fellow, a simpleton. Cribble about. To creep about “as old people do”.

Crumplings or Crumplens – Small, imperfectly grown apples.

Dumbledore – A bumblebee, also known as a humble-bee.

Firk – To worry mentally, to be anxious, as “Don’t firk so,” or “Don’t firk yourself.”

Fitty – In good health, as “How be ‘ee?’ ‘Ter’ble fitty.'”

Flamtag – A slatternly woman. Wiltshire folk used several terms to describe women they didn’t like, including flib-me-jig, floppetty, he-body, huckmuck,hag-mag, yelding, and hummocksing.

Flowse – You “flowse,” or to splash the water over you in a bath.

Garley-gut – A gluttonous person.

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

Gossiping – A christening.

Hen-hussey – A meddlesome woman (another for the list of words to describe women!)

Hullocky! – “Hullo! look here!. This is usually pronounced “Hellucky,” and is a contraction of “Here look ye!”

Jiffle – At Bishopstone in the 1830s, an old bell-ringer was supposedly heard to accuse the younger men of having got into a regular “jiffle” while ringing.

Lady-cow – The Ladybird.

Maggots – Tricks, nonsense. “Her’s at her maggots again.”

Moonied up – Coddled and “spoilt by injudicious bringing up”.

Pissing-candle – The smallest candle in the pound, put in to make up the weight

Quanked – Overpowered by fatigue.

Rumple – To seduce as “He bin rumplin’ that wench o’ Bill’s again laas’ night.”

Shitsack or Shitzack – An oak-apple

Skug or Sqwug – A squirrel. Toad-stabber. A bad blunt knife.

Last revised 3/5/21

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