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Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010
Passing down old Devon dialect
By Laura Joint
BBC Devon

Some of the dialect
Many of the old words have rural origins

The discovery of a book full of old Devon words and sayings has prompted one Devon man to try and preserve them for future generations.

David Squire from north Devon was looking through some possessions which belonged to his late father when he stumbled on a book.

The book, Local History of Charles by EJ Cotsford, contains pages of old Devon dialect.

Although published in 1984, the dialect probably dates back to the 1800s.

Many of the words have rural or agricultural origins and would have been used in Charles and surrounding communities.

And some are still in use, according to David: "I hear a lot of them still, certainly in the farming community - I used to work in the agriculture industry myself.

"But I've never known how they are spelt.

Photo by James Ravilious
Rural life of north Devon, captured by the late James Ravilious

"I would say that a lot of the words would be local to this particular area and have been passed down by word of mouth over the years."

Among the sayings are tatie trap (mouth), tid'n vitty (ill fitting), scad (a few drops of rain), umby (later in the evening), yawning (lambing time), vake (sulky temper), zanny (daft in the head), angledog (worm), and belly like a Barnstaple man (a very stout person).

David contacted the BBC Devon website so that some of the words could get a wider airing: "It would be nice to keep these words out there," he said. "That's my hope anyway."

The book has 43 pages about Charles as well as the glossary of old local words and sayings.

"It was published by Gospel Press of South Molton," said David.

"There are about two houses and a church in Charles, so why he wrote a book about it I don't really know.

"But I shall keep the book. It was in my father's possessions and it has a letter inside it which was written by the author, saying he'd paid for the book to be printed," said David.

Help preserve Devon's old words and sayings by sending your contributions to the messageboard below.


I was at primary school in Uffculme, East Devon in the 1960s. The local children in the school always said "thiky" to mean "that one". The "th" at the beginning is hard, just like the "th" at the beginning of the word "this". I don't know if "thiky" is an established spelling: never having seen it written down, I used to think of it being spelled "thickee". Anyway, it rhymes with "tricky".
Lily, Exeter

During the last world war I was brought up by grandparents on a farm near Lostwithiel in Cornwall. I can recall my grandparents using some of the words and expressions you mention including "apple drain", "jibber", and "zummit" so these are not exclusive to Devon. I also remember the words "dreckley" and "dobeck" which may well be words used mostly in Cornwall.
Ray, Malta

A lot of these words are in use all over the country, these have just been said with a Devon accent.
NT, Plymouth

I'm glad someone is making an effort to stop the Devonshire dialect vanishing. I am filled with sorrow that when I visit Devon most people who are interviewed on the local radio and people working in the retail outlets speak with non Devonshire accents. Love to hear Tony Beard on Sunday's. I grew up in Plymouth.
Sue, Berkshire

What? I always thought Dimpsey was the "proper" word for getting dark... only now do I realise thats not the case!
Dan, formerly Buckfastleigh

Growing up in exmouth my dad(from exeter spoke with strong devon or 'debm'accent words like bed become 'bade', fish becomes 'faish', dish is 'daish' and of course boys are 'bays'. Other expressions like 'maze'=mad/crazy 'dope-ache'=bit simple as well 'in-err' (hasnt he) ev ee havent you.
Gary, Bristol

My father has a strong Devon dialect and often uses the following: zourzab (sour faced); larrapin (a good beating); dimpsey (the half light seen at dusk and dawn); mazed (acting crazy or silly)and 'up the pole' (very angry indeed). This is our heritage and our identity, there is too much homogeneity these days and what a dull world to live in where we are all the same! We need to preserve it by using it. I'm off now to get a tatty oggy to eat before dimpsey I hope you will join me?
Lulu, Devon

I am known for a strong Devon Dialect. I do think it would be good to preserve the Dialect not just of Devon all dialects. We are doing a leaflet on Hatherleigh for visitors and are including a page of old words still some that are heard locally. But not in our collection page is (Apple drane)which my farther used.
Dennis (Hatherleigh now (Black Torrington)

My grandmother, - Devonshire born and bred, - always used to call twilight Dimpse or Dimpsey. I can hear her now saying, "Oh, tis gettin Dimpsey". Is this old Devon dialect? Thank you.
Janet, Bovey Tracey

How lovely! What a fab find! A few words my family frequently use (I appologise for my lack of knowledge of the correct spellings)! How's the buy? (How is my son). T'will do it dreckly (later).You emt 'ev 'e? (An expression of shock - You haven't!... have you??!)
Josie, Crediton

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SEE ALSO
A-Z of old Devon dialect
05 Mar 10 |  History
Putting Devon on the map
07 Nov 09 |  History
From the archives: BBC news films
25 Jan 10 |  History
A-Z of Devon history
08 Oct 09 |  History


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