Audio: Suffolk voices saved for all time

DO you know what you're doing if you're manderin about? Do you know what jonnock or mawther means? What is a puck-a-terry?

James Marston

DO you know what you're doing if you're manderin about? Do you know what jonnock or mawther means? What is a puck-a-terry? JAMES MARSTON finds out more about our county's fascinating dialect.

PERHAPS we don't realise it but we all use a bit of Suffolk, don't we?

Even if you're not from round here the occasional word slips into conversation, the occasional phrase passes our lips - and often words that we use here in Suffolk are the remnants of an ancient dialect.

But as more and more people move into the county the Suffolk dialect has become more and more watered down, estuary English is taking over.

And in the last three or four decades the Suffolk dialect has been heard less and less.

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But you can still hear it.

At the Suffolk Records Office, which recently celebrated being awarded four star status, in Ipswich's Gatacre Road, there is a wealth of material.

Bridget Hanley, collections manager, said the office has about 850 recordings of the Suffolk dialect in conversation taken in the 1960s and preserved last year thanks to Heritage Lottery funding.

The recordings are one of the most comprehensive of their kind in the UK and a wide range of topics and aspects of Suffolk life.

Bridget said: “Suffolk Voices was launched in January 2008 to preserve our oral history and we've got hundreds of hours of recordings.

“Tapes made in the 1960s had already started to deteriorate and that would have meant an irretrievable loss of evidence and material. The project put the tapes into digital format and made them more accessible to new audiences.

“And this year we will be producing CDs for lending through Suffolk libraries. The project is not just about what life was like but also ensures people still know some of the sounds and words from the dialect and the way Suffolk people spoke.”

As well as the recordings there is a wealth of other documents, newspaper cuttings, and dialect dictionaries held by the records office.

Bridget said: “Spelling wasn't standardised until the 19th century so people wrote phonetically. Often documents contain words from the dialect that have fallen out of common usage and are unfamiliar to us today.

“We've got documents that if you read out loud you can get an idea of how Suffolk people sounded hundreds of years ago.

“For example in the will inventory of Robert Smalhethe you can see the word chayers - it's how Suffolk people say “chairs” to this day.

“And if you look in the letter from Henry Woodhouse you'll see the word “towen” - it is “town” but spelt phonetically, people still say “towen” today.”

-Which words do you use from the Suffolk dialect? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or send an e-mail to

Panel - How Suffolk sounded - to be read out loud

17th century recipe

To keepe Lettice or Purslen Stalkes for Winter Sallettes

Gather your Cabage Lettice & some of the great stalkes of lettice or purslen before it be seeded, cutt of the bigger leaves that will not hould the boyleing, & leave only the small tufted leaves on, and cutt them att such lengths as you think fitt; (and scald them a little in fayre water) which must be first made ready to boyle before you putt them in) and when you thinke them tender ynough, take them out, and lay them one by one upon a cleane boarde or cloathe till they be thorowe cowlde, then put them in a glass or earthen pott & lay a trencher or boarde on them to keepe them downe, and fill up your pott or glasse, with the best vergis you can gett, & soe they will keep all yeare, if you keep them close covered from takeing any ayre.

Letter from Henry Woodhouse to the Bailiffs of Ipswich 1570

After oure hartye commendacions where we have Receyved Letters dated the Twelthe of this instant monthe of Julye from the most honorable Lordes of the Quenes Maiesties prevye Councell Towchinge the staye of certeyne shippes and maryners for service of the Quenes heignes Theise shalbe therefore by vertue of the sayd Letters in her heignes Name straightlye to charge and commande yowe forthwythe to cause all suche shippes as doo preasentlye Remayne or shall or shall hearafter aryve within youre said porte beinge of the burden of Thyrtye Tonnes and upwarde to be stayed and to staye also all manner of Maryners within youre said porte or towen for her maiesties service until yow shall understonde her heighnes further pleasares

And futher that ymmedyately yow doo sygnifye unto us what number of shippes with ther names and of what Tonage yche of them are that belongeth to youre porte and towen and also as we maybe Make present certyfycate to the sayd honorable Lordes of the Councell accordinge to the effecte of the sayd Letters.

And fayle yowe not herof with all expedycyon as yow will aunswer to the Contrarye at youe uttermost peril.

Soo faire yowe well from Norwiche the xxi of Julye 1570

Youre Lovinge frende

Probate Inventory of Robert Smalhethe of Ufford 1583

A trewe inventore indented of all sutche moveable Goodes, Corne, cattell, utensyles of howseholde and husbondrye as late were Roger Smalhethes of Ufforde in the Countie of Suff deceased made the xxvith daye of the monethe of November, in the sixe and twentie yere of the Reygne of Oure Soveraygne ladye Elizabethe Quene that nowe ys and prysed by Robert Page Clekre Geffrye Pecke Robert Bugge and Roger Brightwell as followyth

The Hall

Item a table and the frame and one forme to the same table iis

Item one olde cubberd iis

Item one little square table xiid

Item fyve old chayers xxd

Item three olde cusshens xviud

Item one holberd and a gavelyn xxd

Item two hales xxid

The Kitchyn and Butterye

Item two speetes and one cobbyorne iis vid

Item one brasse potte and ladle of brasse and a payer of pothooks viiis

Item sixe little ketles, one brasse panne and a skimmer xvis item two

Fryeng panes and one latche panne iis

Item three pewter platters and nyne pewter disshes viis viiid

Item two furres for cartewheeles and two hoopes of iorne iiis iiiid

Some Suffolk words:-

THE Suffolk Dialect of the Twentieth Century by A.O.D. Claxton contains a wealth of words and their meanings from the dialect.

BILLYWITCH: The cock-chafer. Also called 'butterwitch” and “cock-horny-bug”

BLUFF: To cough. Said of a horse “That owd hoss is hully a-bluffin.”

BODGE: To mend clumsily, or as a temporary emergency. “Oi heen't mended it proper, only bodged it.”

BOR: (pronounced as 'boo', 'oo', as in foot). Term of familiar address usually to one of the male sex. Friend, mate. (Probably a shortened form of O. E. (Oxford English) neahgebur - neighbour, or L.G., bur - countryman).

JIMMIES: “T” hinges. Written on a slate in a blacksmith's shop at Needham Market, “Two pair of jimmies for the hoss-door.”

JONNOCK: Fair, honest, straightforward.

JUDDER: To rattle or shake. “Listen t' that owd winder a-judderin'.” A house might 'judder' when a heavy vehicle passes by.

JUM: A sudden jolt or concussions from encountering an unperceived object, or from a heavy fall.

MAGGOTY: Fastidious, full of fancies. “Dew yow ate ut up, don't' yow fare s' maggoty.”

MARDLE: To gossip, to waste time gossiping. (O.E., moedlan).

MARNDERIN (G) ABOUT: Wandering or meandering about aimlessly.

SMITHER: To rain slightly, to 'smur' (q.v.), to 'dinje' (q.v.).

SNAPSES: Snacks taken by field workers at about 8am.

SPADGER: The sparrow.

SPLUNGE: To plunge.

PUCK-A-TERRY: A person all hot and bothered is said to be in a 'puck-a-terry'.

PUGGY: Clammy, dirty, “Dew yow wash yar puggy hands afore yow set down for yar dinner.”

PUMBLE: To punch, to pummel.

QUACKLE: To have breathing interrupted, to choke, as when drink goes down the wrong way or when a mouthful of smoke is swallowed involuntarily. (Dutch., kwakken - to croak, to quack).

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