Unique North East words have been saved from extinction – thanks to a new exhibition.
As part of a two-year Lost Dialects initiative, visitors to The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, at South Shields, were invited to jot down words and phrases they rarely heard anymore.
Now, the collection is the focus of a new, Word Bank of Lost Dialects exhibition, which opened on 1 February.
Every one of the 2400 words and phrases donated by the public would once have been part of everyday language in the shipyards, mines and in street games and social gatherings.
And, while some of the words will be familiar, others – such as Fuddleskelly and dilk – have never been formally recorded before.
The exhibition, by artists Jane Glennie and Robert Good, enables visitors to view the full word bank, take a rubbing of some of their favourite Geordie words and vote whether they want to ‘use’ or ‘lose’ them.
The Word Bank of Lost Dialects also explores the histories of some of the most popular and some of the most obscure words and phrases donated; words such as ‘gruffy’, skin wrinkled from being in water too long; ‘budgie’, a half pint of beer and ‘spags’, or feet.
Among the discoveries made by Robert and Jane, as they collated and researched the donated words, is that spellings of some words varied enormously, suggesting they were spoken more often than they were written.
“Take, turnip, for example,” said Robert, “or snadgie. There are no fewer than 12 different spellings of that, from snadgi and snaggy to snadger and snaggie.
“But before dictionaries and schooling were the norm, many common words had multiple spellings until gradually the ‘right’ spelling became accepted and taught.”
The exhibition also highlights those words that give the Geordie language its unique sounds – words such as ‘gis’, short for ‘give us’; ‘alreet’ for all right and ‘gan’, for go.
And, because language is constantly evolving, the exhibition also features completely new words and phrases, such as ‘elephant’s ears’ to describe naan bread, grockles – tourists – and soogie; a long, hot, bubble bath.
Tania Robinson, Head of Culture at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, said the Lost Dialects project is one of the most fascinating ever undertaken at the venue, “because it is about capturing a language that is in danger of being lost forever.
“Increasingly we communicate via technology and spellcheckers don’t recognise dialect,” she said. “So, if you type the word ‘clarty’, (dirty) it will autocorrect it to clarity, for example.
“This will make it harder for written dialect words to survive, which is why this project is more than just a trip down memory lane – it is a record of our regional identity.”
The free, Word Bank of Lost Dialects, exhibition runs until September. For more information visit www.theworduk.org, www.facebook.com/worduk, www.twitter.com/theword_uk