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Dialect and Nature

contributed by Andrea Cooper

The Northamptonshire poet, John Clare (1793-1864) wrote in his native dialect and his work provided the source for a contemporary attempt to preserve aspects of local language which were felt to be fading away (Anne Elizabeth Baker, Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases 2 vols. London: John Russell Smith, 1854 – Facsimile, Thetford: Lark Publications, 1995). Over 5,000 words were preserved by this work, Clare providing about 2,000. Some are specific to Northamptonshire, but many are known elsewhere, having no doubt migrated in or out. It is interesting to compare them to local Yorkshire terms, e.g. brig for bridge and daw for jackdaw are very familiar. A selection is given below:

Arum – Lords and Ladies, Cuckoopint, Arum maculatum.

Bent – Twig, coarse grass.

Bess in her bravery – Double-flowered garden daisy with a mass of crimson tipped petals.

Blood Wall – Dark, double wall-flower.

Blue Cap – Blue cornflower, Centaurea cyanus.

Blue Hawk – Peregrine, Falco peregrinus, or Hen Harrier, Circus cyaneus.

Brig – Bridge.

Bum Barrel – Long-Tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus.

Charleses Wain – The Plough Constellation.

Clipping Pink – Common garden Carnation.

Cocks Stride – Short stride, used of the time by which the days lengthen in Spring.

Crizzle – Roughen, as water when it begins to freeze.

Crowflower – Buttercup, Ranunculus species, including R. arvensis.

Daw – Jackdaw.

Drops of Gold – Variety of Gooseberry or Plum.

Edding – Headland, strip of grass at the end of a field where the plough turns.

Eldern – Elder Tree, Sambucus nigra.

Fire Tail – Redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicurus.

Fore Horse – Leading horse of a plough team.

Golden Crested Wren – Goldcrest, Regulus regulus.

Head Ache – Common Poppy, Papaver rhoeas.

Hen BaneHysoscyamus niger.

Hodge – English agricultural labourer.

Holly Oak – Hollyhock, Malva rosea.

Horse Bleb – Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris.

Horse Tail – Cryptogamous plant of genus Equisetum, with hollow jointed stem.

Iron Weed – Knapweed, Centaurea nigra.

Jeniten – Jenniting, early sweet apple.

Jilliflower – Gilliflower, wall-flower, Cheiranthus cheiri.

John go bed at noonScarlet Pimpernel, Anagallis arvensis.

Jumping Flye – Turnip Fly.

Keck – Dried stalk of cow parsley.

Knat – Gnat

Knopweed – Knapweed.

Lads Love – Southernwood, Artemisia abrotanum.

London Tuft – London Pride, Saxifraga umbrosa.

Mawking thorn – Thorn tied to the last cow brought on to the pasture on May Day and thus a disgrace to the milkmaid.

Midgeon – Midge, gnat.

Pismire – Ant, Family Formicidae

Pooty – Land Snail, Cepaea nemoralsis.

Princifeather – Lilac, Syringa vulgaris.

Puddock – Kite, Milvus milvus.

Red Cap – Goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis.

Ring Dove – Woodpigeon, Columba palumbus.

Shocker – Person who ties up the sheaves.

Smell Smock – Cuckoo Flower or Ladysmock, Cardamine pratensis.

Struttle – Stickleback, Gasterostens aculeatus

Totter Grass – Quaking Grass, Briza media.

Wash Pit (Pot) – Dipping pool for sheep.

Writing Lark – Yellowhammer, Emberiza citronella, derived from the irregular black, zig-zag lines of the eggs, resembling writing.

Yoe – Ewe.

[We would welcome comments for the next issue on these names. Ed.]

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