Ow’s Thee Didlin? It's not what you say, it's how you say it!
Updated: Jan 14
Effective marketing communication is about speaking the right language to the right audience at the right time. As a marketeer or creative you may find this article humourous, and informative as we broadly explore dialect and the change of expressions over the decades in and around the Wiltshire area.
The old man next door
Ow’s thee didlin? I would hear this frequently as a child. It’s what my neighbour would say as he greeted me in the garden. His name was Bob Collingborne, he was in his mid-eighties when he died in the early 1980s. I was just a child at the time, and I fondly remember climbing the white picket fence that separated our gardens to go and sit with him and be entertained by his stories as we tucked into his rich tea biscuits.
In the mid-1970s the old Wiltshire dialect spoken with a strong accent could still be heard on a daily basis. My father and Bob would drink together at the local pub called the Old Inn in Minety. Sometimes they were joined by the local school headmaster Mr. Davies who had suggested to my father he should record Bob's voice, stories and dialect for prosperity's sake – he never did. The language and its speakers now a part of history, long gone, watered down and fused with a more generic Wiltshire dialect.
I was reminded of this language whilst chatting with a work colleague who had similar experiences as a child. It’s hard to believe 30 years ago people spoke a dialect that sounded almost foreign. Some would say it made them sound like zammys (simpletons).
Wiltshire words of old
Here are some classic Wiltshire words, some you may have heard of and others you definitely wouldn't have. Thanks to Salisbury Journal for compiling the list...
Ahmoo. A cow. Used by mothers to children, as ‘Look at they pretty ahmoos a-comin’!’
Aloud. Smells very bad, as 'That there meat stinks aloud.'
Anan, 'Nan. What do you say?
Bat-mouse. The usual term for a bat, also known as a flittermouse.
Belly vengeance. Very small bottles of bad beer.
Birds’-wedding-day. St. Valentine’s Day.
Bittish. Somewhat. ''Twer a bittish cowld isterday.'.
Bobbish. In good health. 'Well, an' how be 'ee to-day?' 'Purty bobbish, thank 'ee.'
Buddle. To suffocate in mud. ‘There! if he haven’t a bin an’ amwoast buddled hisel’ in thuck there ditch!’
Butchers' Guinea-pigs. Woodlice. These were also known as curly-buttons
Cocky-warny. The game of leap-frog.
Cow-baby. A childish fellow, a simpleton.
Cribble about. To creep about "as old people do".
Crumplings, Crumplens. Small, imperfectly grown apples..
Dumbledore. A bumblebee (which was also known as a humble-bee).
Firk. To worry mentally, to be anxious, as 'Don't firk so,' or 'Don't firk yourself.'
Fitty. In good health. 'How be 'ee?' 'Ter'ble fitty.'
Flamtag. A slatternly woman. Wiltshire folk used several terms to describe women they didn't like, including flib-me-jig, floppetty, he-body, huckmuck,hag-mag, yelding, hummocksing... The list goes on.
Flowse. You ‘flowse,’ or splash, the water over you in a bath.
Garley-gut. A gluttonous person.
Glory-hole. A place for rubbish or odds and ends, as a housemaid’s cupboard, or a lumber room.
Gossiping. A christening.
Hen-hussey. A meddlesome woman (another for the list of words to describe women!)
Hullocky! ‘Hullo! look here!’. This is usually pronounced Hellucky, and is a contraction of ‘Here look ye!’
Jiffle. At Bishopstone in thee 1830s, an old bell-ringer was supposedly heard to accuse the younger men of having got into a regular ‘jiffle’ while ringing. There is no formal translation.
Lady-cow. The Ladybird.
Maggots. Tricks, nonsense. 'Her's at her maggots again.'
Moonied up. Coddled and "spoilt by injudicious bringing up".
Pissing-candle. The smallest candle in the pound, put in to make up the weight
Quanked. Overpowered by fatigue.
Rumple. To seduce. The full force of the word can only be given by example, as 'He bin rumplin’ that wench o’ Bill’s again laas’ night.’
Shitsack, or Shitzack. An oak-apple
Skug, Sqwug. A squirrel.
Toad-stabber. A bad blunt knife.
By the time I started my career in the early 90’s most of the expressions and phrases I had spoken at school had now been replaced with new terminology. Local dialect like a foreign language changes from county to county in the UK with slight or massive variations depending on where you visit. For example, the main phrase at school as a teenager in Wiltshire was ‘short ace’ which was pronounced 'shoooort ayce' which meant 'good' or 'very good' depending on how long you pronounced the O vowel. This word later transformed over time into ‘cool’, pronounced “cooool”.
I mean 'sick' not 'sick'
Back in the 1950s, the M4 motorway which runs from London in the east to Bristol in the West Country was built. In my opinion, it has had a major influence on the Wiltshire accent. I now call it the M4 gutter dialect. A London based twinge interspersed with the Wiltshire accent… Ooh Arr geezer. Another major influence includes American and Australian TV shows. I don’t eat sandwiches anymore at lunch, I eat sarnies, then occasionally I pop downtown for a walkabout. Teenagers or the youth of today use words like ‘sick’ which isn't the lumpy substance you see on the pavement on a Friday night in a major city but a word to point out something is cool.
It’s difficult to appreciate how intricate and expressive the English language is until you have travelled. I have found that whilst abroad I end up using a simplified version of English. Rather amusingly I heard an American woman on a plane talking to her travel companion about how she had no problem understanding the Brits. Maybe she should visit the east end of London and ask a local for directions. I’am not sure she would understand Jamaican patwa delivered in a Cockney accent… neither would I come to think of it.
Where's the pussy?
It’s difficult to appreciate how intricate and expressive the English language is until you have traveled. I have found that whilst abroad I end up using a simplified version of English. Rather amusingly I heard an American woman on a plane talking to her travel companion about how she had no problem understanding the Brits. Maybe she should visit the east end of London and ask a local for directions. I'm not sure she would understand Jamaican Patwa delivered in a Cockney accent… neither would I come to think of it.
As a Creative Agency, it’s important to keep abreast of trends, the way we communicate and terminology. It’s not too difficult finding a universal message that encompasses all the local and regional trends in your own language. For example, I had thought of a clever idea for a campaign the other day that used an English tongue-twisting rhyme. However, how do you explain to a German or Spanish customer that Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers? A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked? They literally wouldn’t see the funny side of it, nor would it translate correctly into their respective languages.
I remember explaining to a Swedish woman on a beach in India that I was feeling worse for wear having drunk too much alcohol the previous night. I told her I had a hangover. What is that she asked? I explained and she laughed. In Sweden, we call the 'Towing the red line' where one can have a drink or two sensibly without consequences, but if you take it too far you will overstep the mark and get a baksmälla.
We speak your language
Based 8 miles North of Swindon Source Creative Agency is perfectly situated between Cheltenham, Bristol, and Cirencester at the heart of the Cotswolds. Although local we won't great you by saying Ow’s thee didlin! Usually, we just say 'hello' 'hi' or when do you need that by?!
We understand the pressures of business and the demand to meet goals and sales targets. With a firm grasp on the zeitgeist whether that's local or global, we know how to speak a customer's language. We dial into their psyche, generate messaging fused with compelling creative to pack a punch. This cuts through the noise connecting customers to businesses, services, and products.
At Source, we pride ourselves on having that BIG creative agency thinking minus the egos. We have a wealth of experience in Creative Ideation, Branding, Graphic Design, Websites, Digital and Print Design. We are versatile, adept and more importantly not only do we speak your language, but we also listen.
If you would like to take your creativity to the next level then contact Source today.
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