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Villagers: 750 Years Of Life In An English Village

 

 

A rewdimentry Gamgy glossry

The fine folk of Gamlingay do not speak a dialect; there are only a handful of words in the average person’s vocabulary which could be classified as true dialect words.

   Gamgy* talk is an accent. The dictionary defines an accent as an ‘individual, local or national mode of pronunciation’, and what is spoken in the village is certainly individual, most definitely local in character, but it’s surely much more than simply a mode of pronunciation.

   The way the vowels are pronounced is a major contributor to the authentic Gamgy sound, but other factors are also involved.

   In the past most of the male villagers were involved in agriculture as farm labourers and, since the middle of the nineteenth century, in market gardening. Land workers - at least the ones I knew when I was growing up - tended to speak from one corner of their mouths. Perhaps it had something to do with spending most of their lives bending over, or kneeling and bending over, eyes fixed on the ground. Talking out of the side of your mouth would be the only way to let others hear what you were saying. The habit, I believe, has resulted in the familiar lazy-sounding Gamgy drawl.

   Another factor is the habit of crashing words into one another. For instance, the words ‘that is a’ are usually uttered as one word, ‘thusser’, and the reader will come across many other examples of the practice here.

 

   Behind the mangled vowels and conjoined words, the glottal stops and the drawl, lies a long and honourable past. The documents that were written by native Gamlingay villagers from the sixteenth century onwards often reflect the way those villagers spoke, and that was not very far from the Gamgy talk recorded here. It probably wasn’t much different from the way people spoke in the late medieval village either.

   Like many other local accents Gamgy talk is slowly dying out, and the reasons for its demise are many. They include the influx of newcomers to the village, the steep decline in the numbers employed in agriculture, and the influence of the media, particularly of television.

   The wrinkles and folds of the Gamgy accent are gradually being smoothed out. Soon, no doubt, it will no longer be possible to fix a person by his accent to anywhere other than a very wide geographical area, so enjoy it while you can.  

Gamgy Talk logo

You can access the glossary through the menu pages under the heading 'Gamgy Talk' above. Words are listed alphabetically and spelled phonetically.

* 'Gamlingay' is invariably shortened to 'Gamgy', not just by the villagers themselves, but by people who live as far away as Potton.

 

My thanks are due to Alan Hibbitt, David Allen, Peter Wright and Rex Whitfield for reminding me of words and phrases I'd long forgotten, and to Christine Colbert for her helpful comments and the word 'chelp'.

 

Fenks, mole ducks.