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Barnsley Tales: Is the Barnsley dialect disappearing from our town?

Being a Barnsley lad born and bred I have always been fascinated by the way that we speak.

Credit: Katie Booth

I was always conscious of our dialect when I started to make films as I had a terrible stammer when I was young. However, I have never been criticised for my voice. It seems the way we speak is quite endearing to people out of the area.

I am told the onomatopoeia, or the sound of our words, comes over really well. In fact, we are always in the top ten of best liked regional dialects.

The Barnsley dialect is often regarded as one of only thirteen speech patterns that have retained the Anglo-Saxon root words.

I have tried going back in time to research our endemic speech pattern. I was reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Wife of Bath’ from 1390 and I was amazed at similar words to our local expressions.

Note Chaucer’s words;-

‘Housebondes at churche dore I have had fyve’ or ‘I have had five husbands at the church door’

I wonder if she was from these parts.

I have just read ‘The history of Silkstone’. It mentions the first balloon over Barnsley in 1855.

It had come from Leeds to celebrate the fall of Sevastopol in the Crimean War. Actually, the city had not fallen, it was false news. The balloon crash landed in Hoylandswaine. One onlooker called William Garnet said ‘tha knows that bloke hed top weight on to hod it darn’

Even the Yorkshire anthem ‘Ilkley Moor bart hat’ is sung about the wrong town.

It is us that speak of the ‘Bart hat’ or without the hat.

Their West Yorkshire dialect is totally different to ours.

The boundaries of the dialect are roughly in a five-mile radius from the town centre. From Rhyhill in the north to Hoyland in the south, Silkstone in the west to Wath in the east the speech pattern is word for word identical in verbatum. Royston is the anomaly with its Staffordshire words. This originated from the Staffordshire miners who came to work the coal mines. A ball ‘bosts’ not ‘busts’

However, the dialect is slowly disappearing. Endemic words such as ‘brussen’ from the adjective ‘brusque or sharp’ ‘ligged’ or ‘lay’ or ‘flit’ for moving are nearly extinct.

Even the ‘thee’ and ‘thar’ and ‘coit’ and ‘booit’ have been replaced by Middle England words.

In my opinion before the use of cars in the fifties and sixties we were stuck in our own locality, so the dialect stayed. Now we have a massive demographic movement of people.

My wife once bought a bottle of whisky in Spain. A Southern lady asked her if she drank it neat. I could not help myself. ‘Sup it neet. Sup it neet. She sups it in morning an all’

I must tell you of the pit deputy marking an electrical switch for directions. He marked it ‘R’ and ‘RR’. I asked him what it meant. ‘R’ is Reverse, he said, and ‘RR’ is ‘Reight Rooard’

You do not have to look far for comedy in our town!

To watch my film click; -

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