East anglian windmill

The vocabulary of East Anglian English

As well as influencing East Anglian grammar, the Dutch and French-speaking Protestant refugees also added some words to East Anglian vocabulary. There are a number of places in Norwich, and other urban areas, which elsewhere would be called ‘squares’ but which are called plainsBank Plain and St Mary’s Plain in Norwich are examples—which remind us of the identical use of plein in northern Belgium and the Netherlands. They also left behind a number of other words such as:

dwile
floorcloth (Dutch dweil)
fye out
clean up (Dutch vegen ‘to sweep’)
push
boil, pimple (Dutch puist ‘pimple’).

 

Certain other distinctive East Anglian words are due to the significant presence of Danes in the area for a couple of hundred years after the invasion of the Great Viking Army in 865:

staithe landing stage
dag dew
dow pigeon
grup small trench
stroop throat


And the ‘b’ in the spelling of Tombland, an open area outside Norwich Cathedral, is a mistake. No tombs are involved—tom is still the modern Scandinavian word for ‘empty’.

Most local dialect words though are of purely Anglo-Saxon origin and include:

dickey
donkey
dodman
snail
hutkin
finger protector
mawkin
scarecrow
mawther
girl
gays
pictures in a book or newspaper
milches
milts, the soft roe of male fish
pit
pond
quant
punt pole
ranny
shrew
sowpig
woodlouse
dene
sandy area by the coast (dene is related to dune but does not mean exactly the same thing—dene can refer to flat areas of sand as well as hillocks)

 

Bishybarnybeeladybird/ladybug’ is not an ancient word—instead it comes from ‘Bishop Bonner’s bee’. Bishop Edmund ‘Bloody’ Bonner, who had been vicar in the Norfolk town of East Dereham, became bishop of London in 1539 and was known as a ferocious persecutor of protestant martyrs during the reign of Queen Mary.

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