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the origin of the word sheriff. I replied that I had always thought it was a shortened form of shire-reeve. "Nothing of the sort," was the confident reply, "it is an Arabic word: shereef is the head man." About the same time another gentleman asked if I knew our word soce, and what it came from. Previous experience led me to reply cautiously, but I was as confidently informed as by the first gentleman, that the speaker's uncle was a great scholar, and that "he always said soce came from the Greek Zwóg." A well-known writer some years ago pointed out to a friend of mine that Yarrow was a common name for river; "doubtless," he said "from the Anglo-Saxon carewe, an arrow, because they run straight and fast. Thus," he continued, "we have the Yarrow in Scotland, the Yarra in Africa, and the Yarra-yarra in Australia." In this way it is clear that there must be a close connection between the Goodwin Sands and Tenterden Steeple, for of course the termination le is a mere surplusage, and to steep means to place under water, while to tenter obviously suggests the idea of drying again, and thus the analogy is complete, if not obvious.
Although these were examples of identification rather than scientific etymology, I trust I learnt the lesson sufficiently to avoid at least anything like confident assertion. Indeed, I have arrived at the conviction that speculation as to the meanings and origins of words, is a luxury not to be even aspired to by any but those whose reputation is established, like the gentleman above referred to, and therefore, though advised by those whose opinion I deeply respect and value, to “give a good guess as to the origin of a word whenever you can," yet I have not done so, because expecting to be done by as I do, I accept with less reserve the statements of those who admit in these omniscient days, that there may be something in, on, or under the earth, which they do not know all about.
How old a habit dabbling in etymology has been, and how deep the pit-falls it leads people into, are shown in the following
Britones wer' long j clepud Cadwallesmē,
Bot Saxsous clepud hem 3ey3then Walshemē,
A.D. 1420. Chronicon Vilodunense, st. 24.
The Word Lists printed at the end do not profess to be exhaustive of the words in use by the people of the district, nor even to give more than a portion of the common ones, inasmuch
as different degrees of education involve the use of a larger or smaller vocabulary. They consist entirely of literary words, which are not pronounced in the usually received manner, and therefore it may be taken that any word not in the list would, if used at all, be sounded approximately as in standard English.
Of myself, it is enough to say that I have lived for more than fifty years in the district, and have had the best possible opportunities of hearing and of practising my native tongue, while for over twenty years I have been a diligent observer and careful noter of its peculiarities; the result of this observation is contained in the papers already published, and in the following pages. During the past ten or twelve years these special observations have occupied most of my leisure time, while for the past eighteen. months preparing and correcting for the press has left no time at all for any other occupation; whether or not the end accomplished is worth the very great labour bestowed must be left for others to decide. The work has, however, been a labour of love, and has brought me into closer contact with my humbler neighbours than any other pursuit could have done; so that I have become familiar not only with their forms of speech but with their mode of thought. No doubt in the plan adopted of giving nearly every word its setting in its own proper matrix, a great similarity and repetition of phrase will be apparent, while anything like humour will have to be hunted for. To this I say that the people we are studying are not specially humorous, but rather stolid, and that to represent their speech accurately, including dullness and repetition, is the end I have aimed at. There is much grim, rustic humour in the people, and it is hoped that at least some traces of it may be found herein. Of coarseness also there is and must be a good deal; and while I have felt that I could not but record it, I trust nothing offensive has been retained. Advisers have urged me to suppress nothing, and I have been told that the strongholds of a language are in its obscenities. I have in this taken their advice, I have not suppressed any, but yet the most fastidious will find nothing in this book approaching to obscenity, nor indeed greater coarseness of expression than is contained in our expurgated Shaksperes. The reason is that there is nothing to suppress; the people are simple, and although there is a superabundance of rough, coarse language, yet foul-mouthed obscenity is a growth of cities, and I declare I have never heard it, so it cannot be recorded by me.
It must be understood that in a book of this kind only generalities of pronunciation, or rather types, are possible, for in the first place no two individuals sound all words quite alike, while from village to village, in some slight peculiarity or other, there is a marked difference to an accustomed ear. A lengthening of a vowel, a slight stress in some common word, are quite enough to mark off people from others living not far away; but to attempt to write these fine shades of difference would be far beyond the scope of the most elaborate notation, even if the person who observed and recognized the peculiarity were able himself to define or imitate it.
I have been frequently struck with the inability of otherwise intelligent people, who would both speak and write conventional English correctly, to appreciate dialect; that is of course where they have been always accustomed to it. They seem to be strangely unconscious that hosts of words, phrases, and pronunciations which they hear daily are anything out of the common, or different to what they would use themselves in speaking to their own class.
Long practice in watchful observation has enabled me to detect variations which to ears equally familiar with the dialect of the district are often quite imperceptible. Many curious proofs of this have occurred during the past few years. I wanted with a friend to look round the Nothe fort at Weymouth, and on speaking to the sentry, the man replied in three words, "that's the door." Being in Dorsetshire, I of course was struck by the man's pronunciation of door, and said at once to him, "I see you are a Somerset man.” "Yes." "I think you must know Huish Champflower, do you not?" "Well, yes, I ought to-I was born and bred to Clatworthy." Huish and Clatworthy are adjoining parishes, their churches barely a mile apart. This was a trained artilleryman, with not the vestige of a clown left in him. On two occasions in London shops: I was a passive listener at Brandon's while a bonnet was being discussed, and when making the payment ventured to remark to the young lady, "You must have been a long time in London." "Oh, yes, ten years; but why do you ask?" "Only for information," said I; "and did you come straight from Teignmouth?" With much surprise at my supposing she came from Devonshire, she said at length that she was a native of Newton Abbott. I could not pretend to define the precise quality of her two, but it was only in that one word that I recognized her locality. Another young lady under like circumstances I fixed correctly at Exeter. Quite recently a Spiers and Pond young lady at a railway
bar said she came from South Molton, when I asked if she did not come from Barnstaple. It is not my practice to go about questioning people in this way; indeed, I do not remember having done so more than a dozen times in my life, those referred to included, but certain limited districts are very marked, though I could not attempt to define how.
A real Taunton man I should know in Timbuctoo, and a Bristolian anywhere, even if he were not half so marked as Mr. Gladstone is by his native Lancashire.
These remarks are by no means intended as a blowing of my own trumpet; and I desire to apologize for so much dragging in of my own personal experience-but upon this subject one can have had no other, except at second hand, which is worthless.
Many inconsistencies, many contradictions will be found by those who search for them, and I neither pretend to deny or to justify such. My reply in advance to such criticisms, is that the people are inconsistent and contradictory; that they have only been taught by rule of thumb, and have never been accustomed, in talk at least, to be curbed by anything at all like a rein of law.
Inasmuch as the Introduction here following is but a filling in -a gathering up of the fragments of the pronunciation, grammar, and syntax dealt with in the previous papers, it cannot but be somewhat disjointed and abrupt.
Lastly, I commend this fruit of many years' thought and study, with all its shortcomings, its repetitions and its mistakes, to the indulgence of those who in their own persons have tried to record and to define a dialect in any language whatever.
Foxdown, February 1888.
F. T. E.
THE following pages are intended to be the fulfilment of the promise contained in the first paragraph of the Grammar of West Somerset, written fourteen years ago, and so far as this Society is concerned, the work on this subject in my hands is completed.
The few remarks I have now to make are but supplemental to that paper, and to the one on the dialect previously published by this Society, so that the two together are to be taken as part and parcel of this Introduction. After twelve years', more or less, constant work on the subject, it is satisfactory to be able to confirm what has gone before, and to feel that there is nothing to be unsaid, although there is somewhat to be filled up, and perhaps now that my observations are mostly noted, it would be a good time for some other worker to begin, and to note the many facts which I shall have left unrecorded, or imperfectly dealt with.
One peculiarity of our pronunciation not before recorded, as a rule, is that long a after g, sh, or k, becomes long e, as in gable, again, cave, scarce, scare, escape, shame, shape, share, shave, pronounced always geeubl, ugecun, kee'uv, skeerus, skeeur, skee up, sheeum, shee up, shee'ur, shee•uv, &c.
Usually, in Teutonic words long ay keeps the same sound in the dialect as in literature-e. g. day, say, way, while in French, or imported words, the sound is much widened, as in pay, play, May (month), ray, pronounced paay, plaay, maay, raay.
Ea of lit. English pronounced long e, is in the dialect often long a, as sea, tea, deal, heal, meal, seal, read, lead, v., meat, wheat, pronounced sai, tai, dae ul, h)ae'ul, mae'ul, sae'ul, raid, laid, mait, wait, &c., but there are many exceptions-e. g. fear, beat, heat, pronounced fee ur, bee'ut (in Devon bait), yút, &c.
Ee, on the other hand, is frequently short i, as wik, wil, stil, for week, wheel, steel, &c.
Short is very often long e in the dialect, as bee'd, eef, beech, deech, steech, ee'nj, ee'm, pee'n, seen, skeen, for bid, if, bitch, ditch, stitch, hinge, hymn, pin, sin, skin, and many more.