Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
The GonMad Cumbrian Dictionary and Phrase Book by Dan Gibson. No Original Thought. £7.99
It usually takes a team of philologists and lexicographers years to make a dictionary. They devise a methodology, do endless field research, collect real language, sample and collate and correlate it and then worry over definitions. What emerges is a heavy, worthy tome, which records many words people never use.
Dan Gibson had a different approach. He was feeling home-sick, stuck down south and longing to be back home in Cumbria. He went to the pub. There he met someone whom he could talk to, someone who understood him. He was from West Cumbria. And so, for old time's sake, they started to make a list of all the Cumbrian words, the slang and the dialect, they'd used before they were forced to live down south.
That was twenty years ago.
The book has grown out of his childhood.
"Zoff" is shouted in the classroom to indicate a fellow pupil's absence. "Yawwa" is either an expression of surprise or a request for something to be repeated. And "As gam yam" might be said at the end of the day.
Dan must have been keen on playing hikey dikey, which he defines as "the ultimate yat lowpin' practice." He claims it has been enjoyed by Cumbrian kids since time began. It involves running across gardens and hurdling the fences, hedges and gates encountered on the way.
When he looks for a definition of "hesta" he thinks of the phrase, "Hesta ivver sin a cuddy lowp a yat?" His illustration of "dike" requires more physical exertion: "If yur cannut fin a yat ter lowp, lowp a dike."
A "charver" is of course involved in the same activity. He instructs his readers to "Deek at that charver lowpin awer t'yat." and, in his drunken moments, he seems to spend his time collecting gates: "I chored a yat on Sat'day when I was gattered."
But Dan also recognizes that there are consequences if one constantly lowps over yats: "Y'll bust yon yat if ya keep lowpin awer it."
Of course, there are times when you just can't be bothered with such energetic exercise: "I can't be arrished lowpin awer t'yat today." And it is unwise to go jumping over anything other than yats. "Ya divn't wanna lowp into yon parney" warns Dan, and he informs us that Pa-a-nee was probably a Hindi word picked up by soldiers in Burma during the war. He does recommend that, "If yer cannut fin a yat ter lowp, yer can all'ers lowp tha beck."
His final word on Cumbrian athleticism is: "Ar like yat lowpin, it's barie".
It's easy to imagine the hard work involved, the furrowed brows, the struggle to find the exact definition, le mot juste, the scholarly thought, the years of research which have gone into this delightful book.
This is not the definitive Cumbrian Dictionary. It's just the words two lads remembered using when they were kids in Cumbria twenty or thirty years ago. A little alcohol has helped with some fluent definitions.
The GonMad Cumbrian Dictionary will bring back memories of childhood fun lowpin yats and other things and there may be some words you've forgotten.
But, who knows, in centuries to come, some furrow-browed philologist or lexicographer will stumble across this little gem, and all these gattered definitions will find their way into a serious dictionary.
The GonMad Cumbrian Dictionary is available from Bookends, 56 Castle Street, Carlisle, and 66 MainStreet, Keswick, and from www.bookscumbria.com.