Sunday, 17 October 2010

"Hoo's Ta Gaan On": The Traditional Dialect of Old Lakeland

As you might gather from the name of this Blog I am very interested in the traditional Cumbrian dialect, especially in the region of old Westmorland, and I would like to play a small part in the preservation and promotion of this fascinating, yet rapidly declining local dialect. I was lucky enough to learn the traditional sheep counting numbers first-hand when I was a child from my grandfather, Mr. George Henry Rowlinson Esq., when he worked as a dairy farmer in the Dales, and I've had an interest in the history of the local dialect ever since.

The Cumbrian dialect contains Norse and Celtic influences, and there are distinct variations in the dialect between the county regions; for example the North/West Cumbrian accent was greatly influenced by the Scottish and Geordie dialects, in contrast to the South which preserves aspects of both the Lancashire and Yorkshire dialects.

The beauty of the dialect is that it even varies from village to village in the same region. One of the most noticable features of the Cumbrian dialect is the dropping of vowels and the shortening of adjoining words, especially when associated with the word 'The'; for example instead of 'On the', a Cumbrian would say 'Ont'.

I would highly recommend a visit to the webpage of the Lakeland Dialect Society, which was founded in 1939 to support the preservation of the Cumbrian dialect, and to hear a reading of a poem entitled "Use It or Lose It" by the President of the Society, Ted Relph. An article of Ted's in the Cumberland News makes for an interesting read. Another entertaining recital of the dialect can be found in the form of a Bible reading in the traditional Cumbrian dialect by Rene Roberts on BBC Radio Cumbria.

One of my favourite choice of words has to be:

 "Brossen - Adj. Bloated and round with food particularly as applied to a cow, sheep or other herbivore (Think of a Thelwell pony)", taken from Low Nest Farm's website.


  1. It's good to hear another enthusiast for the Westmorland dialect. I was brought up in Kirkby Stephen and spent a lot of time on my Grandad's dairy farm near Brough. Brossened, clarty, scrow, gae, gaan, etc were all words we used as kids. Anyway, thanks for the blog!

  2. Hi thanks so much for your comment and for visiting the Blog, it's so nice to hear some of the words you used up in Kirkby, my family are mostly from Killington, Sedbergh and Yealand and I honestly still use 'clarty' and 'scrow' in everyday conversation and constantly get funny looks when no-one understands what I mean!

  3. Aas frae moresby neeya whitevven, bin in Nott'nam ferra few yeyaah na but aas still got us Cumberlan twang, Nivva lose it, issa heartstring tae Yem Marra


Yan Tan Tethera: A rhyme derived from a Brythonic Celtic language used by shepherds to keep sheep in many parts of England and Southern Scotland.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the Dales of the Lake District.

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