Tuesday 14 June 2016

On a dialect labour of love, and a Hopkins illustration

The Disappearing Dictionary (2015) has just been published in paperback. It was my attempt to celebrate the amazing English Dialect Dictionary compiled by Joseph Wright over a century ago - a dictionary that has been unjustly neglected. But not any more. Wright has been brought into the internet age by a team from the English Department at the University of Innsbruck (Dr Reinhard Heuberger, Dr Manfred Markus), who have put the whole work (all six volumes of it) online in a beautifully presented searchable website at EDD Online. It has taken them ages, but what a resource we now have! Anyone interested in English dialects will revel in it.

I revelled, a few months ago. I was asked to give the annual Gerard Manley Hopkins lecture at Liverpool Hope University, so I chose as my subject to follow up the clue seen in a letter written by Hopkins to his mother on 13 March 1888:

'I am making a collection of Irish words and phrases for the great English Dialect Dictionary, and am in correspondence with the editor.'

No copy of what he sent has been found in his collected papers. Several scholars, as a consequence, have tried to find them all, but with around 117,500 senses in the Dictionary as a whole, many of which take up many columns, it was not an easy task. Norman Mackenzie was one who began to wade through the EDD, but gave up. Norman White, in English Studies 68/4 (1987) found 89 locations. Did he find them all?

Hopkins must have impressed Wright, for he is not listed in the lists of voluntary readers or correspondents, but in the 'list of unprinted collections of dialect words quoted in the dictionary by the initials of the compilers'. A member of the dialect elite, in other words. And an early one: Wright wasn't approached to be editor until mid-1887 (there's a letter from Professor Skeat, 13 June, reprinted in his wife's biography, The Life of Joseph Wright), so Hopkins must have been one of the earliest contributors if he was in correspondence just nine months later.

Thanks to EDD Online, it proved an easy matter to find a named contributor. I simply typed the string G.M.H. into the appropriate search box, and up came the answer. There are 92 entries attributed to him. Norman White was almost right.

Wright used 49 of Hopkins' examples; the rest are shown simply as G.M.H. In one entry (become) it's unclear just how much of the preceding text came from Hopkins. In (chiuc) and (uncared), Hopkins is the only evidence for the entry.

Other points. The list shows an awareness of dialect grammar (containing grammatical words such as and, be, but), as well as lexical items. Two entries are observations rather than illustrations: avail of, hockey. Three entries show his personal background very well: bloody wars, boy, and especially (and amusingly) craw. And most of the entries relate to words beginning with A, B, and C. Evidently other events in Hopkins' life soon took him away from dialects.

able for, fit to cope with
Ireland. Ah, he'd never be able for the attornies, Paddiana (1848) I.28

admire at Limerick. 'Tis to be admired at - such a long distance traversed between Ireland and America so fast.

afraid, conj, lest, for fear that
Dublin. Run indoors, God bless you, for afraid the cows'd run over you [said to a child by a man driving cows]

after, prep, behind
Ireland. I left him after me.

after, when used with a progressive tense to indicate a completed action.
Ireland. I am after dining [I have dined]

to be after, (5) the word also conveys the idea of a state or condition in the immediate future, and (6) of a recently completed action
(5) Ireland. The child is after the measles. (6) I am after my dinner.

again, adv, at a future time, by-and-by
Ireland. I didn't do it yet, but I'll do it again.

alannah, sb, Ireland. my child
Alana, properly 'my child'; used as a friendly or affectionate word of address, especially to the speaker's junior

all out, adv, completely, altogether, fully
Ireland. Not far from sixty [years of age], if he was not sixty all out.

and, conj, to introduce a nominative absolute, sometimes with ellipsis of v.
Ireland. See all the people and they laughing! How could I say it an' me an me oath? [said by a witness before the Times Allegations Commission]
Kildare. I walked in the garden, and hid [it] in bloom [it being in bloom], Oral ballad.

any more, for the future
Northern Ireland. A servant being instructed how to act, will answer, 'I will do it any more'.

arrah, int, an exclamation of surprise
Tipperary. 'Arrah, sweet myself!' said a youth after making a good hit at cricket, as he thought, unheard.

at, prep, motion to, arrival at a place or condition
Ireland. To call at [visit a person].

at all, used in positive clauses; absolutely, altogether
Ireland. It's the greatest fun at all.

at all, at all
Limerick. GMH [no example]

avail of, to take advantage of.
Ireland. Used freely in all newspapers.

ballyrag, v, to abuse violently, to scold or revile in bad language
Ireland. GMH [no example]

bang, v, to beat, surpass, excel, outdo
Ireland. That bangs Bannagher, and Bannagher bangs the devil [Bannagher is a town in King's County]

be, prep, forming the first unemphatic syllable of oaths
Ireland. Begorra, bedad, begonnies. If your bees are as big as ponies and your hives no bigger than ours are, how do your bees get into your bee-hives? - Begob, that's their own affair, Pop. story. [also used as the example at begob]

become, v, in phr. it well becomes
Tipperary. Ironical phr. 'Well becomes me, &c., that is, 'And a fool I am for my pains.' It may govern a v. with to, expressing what it was that was foolishly done; as, ' 'Twell becomes me to have taken all that trouble.' (GMH) [unclear which bits are GMH's]

bedad, int, An exclamation, a disguised oath.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

begob, int, uses the same example as in be above

begonnies, int, an exclamation
GMH [no example shown here: see be above]

begorra, int [no example shown here: see be above]

behold, v, in phr. behold you, and behold you of it, mark you, do not overlook this point.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

bet, v, past tense of beat
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

better, adv, in phr, I am better to, I had better, it is better for me to.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

beyond, adv, yonder, outside
GMH [no example]

beyond, in phr, beyond the beyond(s), unexpected, incredible, out of the way; a very out-of-the-way place.
GMH [no example]

blarney, sb, persuasive talk, flattery, humbug.
GMH [no example]

Blarney-stone, in phr, to have taken a lick of the Blarney-stone, to have the gift of flattery or persuasiveness.
Ireland. A certain stone in the walls of Castle Blarney in Co. Cork, the kissing or licking of which is fabled to convey the gift of blarney.

blarney, v, to flatter, persuade; to wheedle
Ireland. GMH [no example]

blood, sb, in phr. blood or blur and ouns
GMH [no example]

bloody wars, adj, serious consequences; also used as an exclamation of annoyance.
Ireland. If the Pope makes Dr. X. Archbishop there'll be bloody wars.

bo, sb, in bo-man, a name used to frighten children.
Ireland. GMH N.I. [no example, and no other Irish example given]

bodach, sb, an old man; a churl
Ireland. GMH [no example]

bold, adj, Of children: naughty fractious, ill-behaved.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

boodie, sb, in boodie-man, a bugbear, a bogey
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

boreen, sb, a narrow lane, a byroad; a passage.
Ireland. He hasn't sense enough to drive a pig down a boreen.

bosthoon, sb, a big, awkward fellow; a witless, senseless, tactless fellow.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

bouchal, sb, a boy; a youth or young man.
Ireland. two instances of GMH [no example]; also buachailin [no example]

boy, sb, a male human being of any age and condition, esp, if unmarried
Tipperary. There's a boy over from the Pope, and Archbishop Croke went on his knees to him [said by a Tipperary man of Monsignior Persico, the Commissary Apostolic 1888]

bring, v, in bring and take, fetch and carry.
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

bugaboo, sb, a hobgoblin, ghost; an imaginary object of terror.
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

busy, adj, in to be busy growing, to grow fast.
Ireland. The corn is busy growing.

but, conj, just, only, though; used as an exclamation.
Louth. It is but! - It isn't but!

but, in phr, be done or damned but, actually, really; used as an exclamation.
Ireland. They won't send you a bailiff with the writ; no, but it's by post it would come, be done but.

cailey, sb, a call, friendly visit, chat, gossip among neighbours.
Meath, Dublin, Kildare. To go on caley [to go about gossiping]

call, v, in call to, to call on, pay a visit
Ireland. GMH [no example]

call, v. in call to, to check, chide
Ireland. Call to this fellow; he is hitting me.

care, v, to take care of, to tend.
Ireland. To care a horse or a room.

carry, v, to take, convey, conduct.
Ireland. 'If you are going out will you carry us with you?' said by schoolboys to their master. That is the wagonette we carried to Powerscourt.

castle-top, sb, a peg-top.
Galway. GMH [no example]

cess, sb, a rate, tax.
Ireland. County cess, borough cess.

cess, sb, luck, success, gen. used in comb, Bad cess, bad luck.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

chiuc, sb, Ireland. A hook or sickle to shear or cut grass with.
Antrim. Go and get me the chiuc till I shear some grass. [sole example for the entry]

clifted, pp, fallen or thrown over a cliff.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

clout, sb, a nail.
Ireland. Heavy shoe-nail.

coat, sb, in phr with his coat buttoned behind, looking like a fool.
Ireland. Here comes Paddy from Cork with his coat buttoned behind.

cod, v, to sham, humbug, hoax, impose upon, lie.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

cod, sb, a humbug; a hoax, imposition, lie.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

cod, v, to sham, humbug
Ireland. GMH [no example]

cod, sb, a simpleton, dupe.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

compliment, sb, a favour conferring an obligation; the obligation so contracted.
Dublin. 'He is not a man that I should like to be under a compliment to' - said of someone of whom it was proposed to ask a favour.

conacre, sb, to hire or let land 'in conacre'.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

conacre, v, the sub-letting of land to a tenant, who acquires the use of the land to raise one or two crops and nothing further.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

convenient, adj, near.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

couple, sb, a few, several, more than two.
Ireland. 'I cursed (or 'was drunk') a couple of times' means I have done so now and then.

craw, sb, in comp craw-thumper, a term of ridicule for a very devout person, who, in praying, beats his breast.
Ireland. Lit. one who thumps, heavily beats, the craw, the breast, in saying the confiteor or other prayers.

creel, sb, a turf-cart, crate
Ireland. GMH [no example]

creepie, sb, a low, three-legged stoool, gen. used by children.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

croft, sb, a glass water-bottle for the table or bedroom.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

cruel, adv, used as an intensive: exceedingly, very.
Dublin. I'm powerful weak but cruel easy [I am very weak but quite at my ease], said by a sickman. A cruel good lady.

cruiskeen, sb, a small jug for holding liquor; a pitcher.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

cry, v, in phr cry the mare, a ritual shouted by the first farm-workers in a parish to finish the harvest.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

go with, v, fall over.
Waterford. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

have, v, followed by a direct object and pp.
Ireland. 'I am sorry I have kept your book so long.' 'It is no matter: I had it read.' That woman has me annoyed. She has my heart broke.

hockey, sb, a harvest-home or supper; the last load in harvest.
Ireland. The game also called 'Hooky' and 'Crying the Mare'.

let, v, used as an auxiliary with the second person imperative, instead of do.
Limerick. Let you go this way and I will go that.

let, v, in let round a dicad, to recite a decade of the rosary.
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

let on, v, to pretend, feign; to make a pretence or show of.
Ireland. One of the conspirators who murdered Caesar 'let on to pleas for his brother.' 'I didn't let on to hear,' I pretended not to hear.

let, v, to give out, emit; to utter, give forth.
Ireland. He let a shout.

on, in phr to blame on, to lay the blame on.
Ireland. GMH [no example]

rise, v, to raise, cause to rise; to lift up; to rouse, stir up.
Ireland. They rose a cheer. God will rise me a friend.

shall, v, used in the 1st person to express will or intention.
Dublin. He should have his meat tender. His meat should be tender.

shall, v, used to express insistence or duty.
Dublin. 'Leave it in my room.' 'I shall, Ireland.'

times, sb, in phr a couple of times, occasionally; more than once.
Ireland. GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given]

uncared, adj, Ireland. Untended; uncared for.
GMH [no example, and no other Irish example given] [sole reference for the entry]

will, aux v. Preterite. Used instead of 'could'.
Ireland. They had fever on board and they would not be allowed to land [and the people on shore would not allow them to]

will, aux v. Used for 'should have'.
Ireland. 'I sat where I should have seen him' becomes 'where I would see him'

yees, pron, you; used when speaking to more than one person.
Dublin. How long did yiz get?

yerrah, int, an exclamation of surprise.
Limerick. Yerra, be aisy! [Come, be easy.]


@BobKLite said...

Marvellous list! I haven't trawled through it all yet – just the As (I wonder if Alan-à-Dale was Irish [!]). But I wonder whether I've made a mistake in my query – or maybe the digitization wasn't quite complete when you did yours. Today (I have a screen-grab) a search for "G.M.H." yields 94 hits.


DC said...

Sorry, I should have made it clear. There are 94 hits, but in two entries the GMH turns up twice, hence the 92 entries listed,.

Unknown said...

Perhaps this goes some way to representing the danger of dialects disappearing:
"Wisht as a winnard", an artistic representation of an old Cornish proverb - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37550178

DC said...

Nice article.