Philip Holland has sent me a copy of his book Words of the White Peak. The subtitle explains: 'the disappearing dialect of a Derbyshire village'. I've talked about the importance of documenting dialects in this blog before, so I'm happy to bring it to the attention of readers.
The village is Earl Sterndale, just south of Buxton, in the Peak District. He was a dairy and sheep farmer for some 40 years, but the book describes him as many other things besides - hotelier, pianist, poet, and now lexicographer. The present collection came out of a three-year course in creative writing as a mature student at the Devonshire campus of Derby University in Buxton. It's never too late to become a lexicographer!
Dialect studies always start small and then grow fast. In the end Philip interviewed over 150 people to get all the words and phrases which form his dictionary. But, as he says in his introduction, it's more than a dictionary: it's also a memoir of his life and work on his farm. Many of the words are local farming words, such as beldering, for the bellowing of a bull, or blareting, for the bleating of a sheep. But there are also several general words, such as crozzled 'dried-out, burnt up, withered', and discourse phrases, such as choose 'ow (i.e. 'how'), added to a sentence to reinforce inevitability - 'the outcome would be the same whatever you did'.
You have to be careful, when you're reading a dialect book about a particular area. The words it contains simply illustrate what is used in that area. It doesn't mean that they're all unique to that area. Several of the words used in Earl Sterndale are found in other dialects of the British Isles, such as cack-handed 'clumsy', chuntering 'mumbling disagreeably', and nous, 'common sense'.
Dialects always overlap in this way. What we see in Earl Sterndale is a unique constellation of usages, some local to the area and some part of a wider dialect community. Every village would probably have its own voiceprint. The pity is that so few have been studied. Philip Holland's book shows what can be done.
You can find the book through Derbyshire bookshope, including shops on the Charsworth Estate and the Farming Life Centre in Blackwell, near Buxton, price £8.95. Also via the publisher, Anecdotes Publishing (www.anecdotespublishing.co.uk).