Shropshire

The Way Things Were

WenlockFirst enfranchised in the 15th century and eventually abolished in 1885, the above map shows the boundaries of the Wenlock borough constituency and designates a) the major towns in it by 1832 and b) the various parishes (and sub-parish units in places!) that comprised it.

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Selected Clun dialect words

Clun is an isolated (and really very pretty) part of Shropshire just south west of Bishop’s Castle and just east of Wales. It’s the sort of place where you never have to pass through unless you want to. It’s basically the area highlighted in the map below, though as I’m not a local I can’t guarantee exact accuracy:

clunmap

It is seriously rural: like, 17% of adults employed in agriculture at the last census rural. And much higher in the seriously remote bits. ‘Clun’ refers to both the wider area, to the historic Hundred that covered most of it, to its largest town, and to the Clun Forest; its western – and particularly remote – half. Like many places in Britain called ‘X… Forest’ it doesn’t have that many trees.* The Clun Forest is (don’t sneer) best known as the home of a breed of sheep, pictured here in their native land:

clun

I could also throw in a fairly predictable Housman reference here, but I will resit the urge, whether a quieter place can be found or not. Basically it’s a fascinating area. And has a fascinating dialect. So, introductions over, here we go with a few words:

Bait – a meal between breakfast and lunch. The source notes a specific use for a ‘mid-morning break from farm work’.

Butty – a fellow worker, friend, or one of a pair of two things. This word – and subtle variants of it – is common to basically everywhere in the Marches and is particularly associated with the Forest of Dean.

Cakey – simple minded, apparently.

Coutch – a word with many meanings: it can mean to cuddle, to crouch close to the ground, an animals place of sleep and so on. Basically the same as the Welsh word cwtch.

Figairiment – embroidery or all kinds of decorative nonsense, etc. The source notes an alternative: Figairying.

Hisht! – shut up. Again, a very common word in other very rural parts of Western England. And a great one.

Kimet – daft or in some other respect strange and/or possibly mentally defective.

The Long Company – two definitions, the combination of which is… er…  telling: a) Gypsies and b) ‘Shady characters’.

Mawkin – refers to either a scarecrow or someone dressed stupidly.

Oont – Mole. And ‘Oonty Tumps’ means molehill. Elsewhere in Shropshire I’ve heard ‘ootty’ for the same, which sounds quite a bit like ‘sooty’, so…

Starve – to be seriously, seriously, seriously cold.

That’s enough for now… except why not add a phrase as well:

‘They’re not cousins’ – source states: ‘They are not on good terms’. I won’t comment on the implications of this.

‘A man from off’ – this means ‘a stranger’. In the part of Shropshire I grew up in, this was/is ‘a man from away’.

And the source, by the way, is the following: ‘Clun Dialect Words’, an excellent local publication from 1991.

*’Forest’ historically denoting a hunting reserve, rather than woodland.