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now in use there : and Poems and other pieces, exemplifying the Dialect. By JAMES JENNINGS, Honorary Secretary of the Metropolitan Literary Institution, London. London, 1825: 12mo. pp. 191.
From the long array of lexicographical works, placed at the head of this article, it must not be imagined, that we are about to enter into an elaborate, and necessarily dry and tedious analysis of the etymological portion of their contents; valuable as such an analysis would in some respects unquestionably be. Etymological researches, have, indeed, been too much neglected; and this has chiefly happened, from the prevalent but erroneous idea of the uncertainty which must ever attend them. To the authors of the works of this description before us, we are indebted for many important facts, adapted for supplying a chasm, which has existed in the history of many literary and Archaiological points. Let us take for example the Dictionary of the Scottish Language of Dr. Jamieson. Without such a key, many ancient British MSS. are totally useless, and many of the old Acts of Parliament, of the works written at an important period of British History, and which record the valiant deeds-delineate the manners, or exhibit the religious zeal of the periods of their production, would excite but little interest in our time, because they would be in a great measure unintelligible.
In such a work, too, many ancient customs, popular superstitions, &c., otherwise unknown or involved in obscurity, are explained and illustrated, under the words which refer to them; and, as the knowledge of ancient manners removes the obscurity of language, reciprocally ancient language often affords the best elucidation of manners. Thus the lexicographer, “ that harmless drudge,” as Johnson, himself one of the crast, has designated him that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words,” is of necessity an historianand Etymology becomes History.
If we inquire into the character of the various provincial dialects existing in Great Britain, we must be struck with the important illustrations which the history of our language is capable of receiving from them. These provincial or local words may be considered as constituting three great divisions ; the first, comprising the words, Saxon, Danish, &c. which may have become obsolete, partly from the introduction, from time to time, of terms considered more fashionable,-partly from disuse, and which are consequently retained, only, or chiefly, in counties remote from the capital, where modern refinements do not easily find their way, or are not readily adopted--instances of these we in the northern words-ar (Dan. ar) a mark or scar-stilh (Sax.) strong, hard. -Smiddy, or Smithy, (Sax. smiththa) a blacksmith's shop. — Prin (Dan. preen), a pin, &c. &c.
Hence many archaisms, occurring in our old chronicles, and in Chaucer, Spencer, Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, &c. now totally disused in other parts of the kingdom, are yet preserved in some of the provinces, and especially in those of the north. This can be easily accounted for. In those districts, until of comparatively late years, the inhabitants had little or no intercourse with the more southern counties; the means of locomotion were so limited, that, in the memory of individuals now living, if a person was desirous of visiting the metropolis from these, then considered, distant regions, he esteemed it prudential to settle his worldly affairs before undertaking so eventful a journey. From these causes, the inhabitants of the north of England have retained their ancient language, manners, and customs, unmodified by admixture. Since the condition of travelling, however, has been improved, these provincial distinctions have been gradually fading away, and sooner or later it must happen, that they will be entirely removed. Under such circumstances, the authors of the provincial glossaries before us, are entitled to the thanks of all, but especially of the philologist and the antiquary, for preserving many ancient and emphatic terms, in danger of total extermination. Unimpressed with the evident advantages that must necessarily, however, arise from the gradual amalgamation of all these provincialisms, and feeling that the remains of antiquity ought to be considered sacred objects—the author of the Horæ momenta Cravenæ-in other words, of the exemplification of the dialect of the Deanery of Craven, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, laments over the corruptions" which have of late years been suffered to creep into it.
“Pent up,” he observes, " by their native mountains, and principally engaged in agricultural pursuits, the inhabitants of this district had no opportunity of corrupting the purity of their language by the adoption of foreign idioms. But it has become a subject of much regret, that since the introduction of commerce, and, in consequence of that, a greater intercourse, the simplicity of the language has, of late years, been much corrupted. Anxious, therefore, to hand it down to posterity unadulterated, the author bas attempted to express, in a familiar dialogue, the chaste and nervous language of its unlettered natives."--Introduction, p. iv.
In a country like our own, where a free migration takes place from state to state, any great diversity of dialects is not to be expected; and accordingly we find, that although those of the eastern and southern portions of the Union may be discriminated, yet that the difference is a wide remove from that which exists between the dialects of the remote portions of England and that of the metropolis. Let us take as an example of variation from the correct English, the specimen of this « chaste and nervous language,”--the decadency of which the author whom we have quoted so ludicrously deplores, as given in the preface to his book, and we will venture to assert, that without the aid of a glossary, it would be unintelligible to all, except to a native of the West Riding, or of some part of Yorkshire; the mere inversions of sound, and differences of pronunciation, would of course be comprehended.
“To 'th Conner o' my Book. “ An this lile (little) book'n gi' the onny plezer efter a hard day's wark, I sall be feaful fain on't. Bud sud onny outcumlins, (Germ. Ankömmling, a stranger,) ivver awn (visit) this outside staany plat, it may happen gee'em some inseet into awyer plain mack o'talk; at they may larn, at awyer discowerze hez a meanin in't as weel as theirs; at they mayn't snert an titter (laugh) at huz, gin (as if) we wor hauf rocktons, (?) but may undercumstand, an bé insensed by this book, lile as it is, at ya talk's aqual to another, seeabetide it explains yan's thoutes. Sud t'lads o'Craven yunce git a gliff (glimpse) o'what a seet o’words I've coud togither (collected) it'll happen mack'em nut so keen, at iv'ry like, o’luggin into th' country a parcel of outlandish words, er seea shamm'd o'talking their awn. For, o'lat years, young foak are grown seea maachy (proud, Teut.) an see fecafully geen to knackin (speaking affectedly,) at their parents er ill set to knaw what their barns (Moes. Goth. barn, a child,) er javverin about.” p. v.
The above is a specimen of the language of the northern portion of England, in its “purity;" for, although the dialects of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, vary, in some respects, from it and from each other, we may place it antithetically with the following extract from Mr. Jennings's “ Specimens of the West of England Dialects," which is scarcely less discrepant from correct English, than the passage we have already cited. It is from a piece entitled “Mary Ramsey, a Monologue to er Scholards; the subject, however, is of little importance; and, if it were, Mr. Jennings has not afforded us much choice.
Now Miss Whitin, tha dunces be a gwon, let I hire how pirty you can read. I always zed that Pâson Tuttle's grandâter ood lorn er book well. Now, Miss, what ha ye a got there ? Valentine an Orson. A pirty story, bit I be afeard there's naw moril to it. What be all tha tuthermy (other) books you a got by yer good. hussey (threadcuse) there in tha basket? Gee's-zee-'em, (let me see them) nif you please, Miss Polly.--Tha Zeven Champions—Goody Two Shoes—Pawens vor Infant Minds.-Theäzamy here be by vur tha best. There is a moril to mooäst o’m ; ap thâ be pirty bezides.- Now, Miss, please ta read thic. Tha No. torious Glution-Pal Camel turn tha glass! dwont ye zee tha zond (sand) is all hirnd (run) out;-you'll stâ in school tha longer vor't nif you dwon't mine it. Now, all o' ye be quiet to hire Miss Whitin read.-—There now, what d’ye za to jitch radin as that ? --There, d'ye hire, Het Came! she dwon't drean (drawl)hum, hum, hum.--I shood like ta hire er vessy (read verses) wi' zum o'ye; bit your bad radin ood spwile her good.”—Jennings, p. 186.
The second division of provincialisms, consists of words derived directly from some foreign language, as from the Latin, French, German, &c.; but so corrupted by passing through the mouths of the illiterate, as to have their origin scarcely recognizable. The above quotations have afforded examples of this character; and the following are additional. Brownleemers-a word used in the North of England, and signifying ripe, brown, nuts, from the French bruns, brown, and lesmurs, ripe ones :- the Jackalegs, a large clasped knife, corrupted from Jacques de Liege, the Cutler—the word Riff-raff, from the Danish Ripsraps, the dregs of the people-Quandary, from the French qu'en dirai? what shall I say of it?--Bob Ruly, in the western country, corrupted from Bois brulé, burnt wood, so called by the French because of the quantity of burnt wood in the neighbourhood: or the sign of the Bull and Mouth, in Bull and Mouth street, London, corrupted from Boulogne Mouth, or Harbourand of the Bull and Gale, corrupted from Boulogne Gate-or of the Bell Savage, commonly represented by a black man and a bell, but really corrupted from the French, Belle Sauvage-the beautiful savage-or that of the Swan with two Necks, intended for, and corrupted from the Swan with two Nicks, or Notches, in its bill, as marks by which it might be known; or a thousand others, of the like nature, that might be enumerated.
The third and last division consists of mere arbitrary words, not accurately deducible from any primary source or language, but ludicrous nominations from some apparent qualities in the object or thing, being at first searcely current out of a district, but, by time and use, gradually extending themselves, such as, perhaps, Bridewain-applied to a wagon laden with furniture, which was formerly given to the bride, where the father could afford it, when she left his house-Devil's dung, for assafcetida, &c. &c.
But the portion of the works before us, to which we are more immediately desirous of drawing attention, is that which treats of popular rites and ceremonies ; on which points, each of them affords us some information, especially those of Dr. Forster and of Mr. Hone, which, indeed, as their titles import, are devoted almost exclusively to such inquiries. From the unconnected and consequently unsatisfactory manner in which the former of these is thrown together, the facts are frequently so vaguely detailed, as to be unavailable ; whilst the latter comprises only a few subjects, and these perhaps of inferior interest to the general reader : these deficiencies, it will be our endeavour, in the following pages, to supply; and, by pursuing the order adopted by Dr. Forster, in the Perennial Calendar, and tracing not only the observances of particular days by the Christian world to their sources, but also the popular superstitions connected with those periods—an investigation calculated to illustrate our ancient poems and romances, and to recall to memory the narrations to which, at different periods of life, each of us must have occasionally listened, either in the nursery, or when of larger growth, we trust that an historical sketch may be formed, which may be deemed not uninteresting. In some instances, it will be remarked, that the superstitions are of such remote antiquity, as to