Monday, 4 January 2021

Ty o' Letch an Koornt Vleash : Some thoughts on Yola words for food and drink ...

Back in 1867 an Englishman called William Barnes published a book with the typical-for-the-time long title of 'A Glossary with Some Pieces of Verse of the Old Dialect of the English Colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, County of Wexford, Ireland', which included information collected by Wexford native Jacob Poole around 1823. At the time it probably didn't raise much of a ripple in the publishing world but in the intervening years it has been used as a reference book by many researchers into the nearly lost history of a small area of Wexford that was settled by a group of Norman/English, Flemish and possibly other groups back in the 12th century. Due to geography and perhaps an insular attitude they didn't mix much with the local Irish or other later 'settlers' and so retained their own old language and customs up until relatively recent times, although it seem the language is now practically dead, just surviving in a few borrowed words. The language was called Yola after the name for 'old' in that tongue.

Wiser minds than mine can tell more of the Yoles history and indeed have done so in various publications, as there are a few recent books published and some content online including a short documentary in the RTE archives, but here I want to look at some of their words for food and drinks that are to be found in the glossary in the above mentioned book, collected by Poole and added to by Barnes from writing by General Charles Vallencey, Edmund Hore and Richard Stanyhurst.

Barnes goes into great detail on pronunciation and origins of the language, suggesting it is closely connected to the language spoken in Somerset, Dorset and Devon in the past so you can read more about this in the link to the book posted below and in other online sources. (Another newspaper source from 1845 mentions a connection with Pembrokeshire in Wales and how a 'mixed old Saxon and Welch[sic] language was spoken up to recently'  in that area of Wexford but I didn't come across other mentions, although to my ear a Wexford accent and a certain type of Welsh accent are not a million miles apart!)  I am far from being a linguist but I'm going to look at some of the pronunciations briefly, albeit with that untrained eye and ear so take it all with a grain of salt or a gryne o' zall should I say! On the pronunciations suggested by Barnes in his book, later publications have raised doubts over some of his ideas and perhaps we'll never know for sure how to say certain words given that the language is practically lost and much of it is recorded as writing and very little as spoken word.

Before I dive in there is one comment that Barnes mentions which I think is quite noticeable even today, and that's the habit among certain Wexford people to speak slower than their neighbouring counties and to draw out certain vowel sounds, for example 'book' is often pronounced with a long 'oo' sound like the word 'shoe' instead of the clipped pronunciation others use that sounds like 'tuck'. I'm not sure if this way of speaking crept out of the Yola barony or into it but there may be a connection. In Yola too, by my reading of the linguistic text in the book, the letter 'a' is normally drawn to be less like 'bag' or 'cat' and more like the sound in 'father' or 'awe' but I'm unsure whether that too is in the modern tongue but I believe it is, as are other vowel changes. I'm prepared to be challenged on it but I think Yellow Belly would be pronounced (roughly) as 'Yalla Bahly' by some Wexford tongues, although all of these pronunciations are probably not exclusively just from that county.

I think all of this might be reflected in how some of the words listed below sound like colloquial pronunciations of words we say differently today in more modern 'new' English speech, but I'm wondering was the Yola way of speaking the original 'English' pronunciation? Possibly it was in some cases, as Irish-English would have possibly slowed or stalled in its evolution compared with what was happening in England and was so preserved here for longer, and still exists today in many of words of course. Again it's worth mentioning that I am very far out of my comfort zone with this post in regard to the subject matter and my own knowledge!


So here's the edited list of vaguely food or drink related words as it appears in the aforementioned book any comments by me are in square brackets afterwards:

Aalhouse - Alehouse ~ [From this we can presumably assume ale was 'aal', possibly pronounced 'awl' - closer to certain European pronunciations.]

Atheen - Eating ~ [Irish-English pronunciation of eating would often be close to 'ay-(t)en' with an almost non-existent 't' sound.]

Baakooze - An oven ~ [That drawn element of speech I mentioned is evident here, and in many others below.]

Baakoozee - To bake bread in an oven

Baarich, Barish - Barley ~ [Interesting word, I wonder about the origins. One 19th century glossary mentions 'Barliche' as another word for barley, which is close.]

Barrm - Barm

Bawkoon - Bacon ~ [Again we see the phonetics of the drawn sound with the use of a 'w'.]

Beasthès - Cows ~ [Isn't 'beastie' Scottish?]

Bidaades - Potatoes

Borde - A table ~ [Bord in Irish language but this is an Anglo-Saxon spelling and from which we probably get 'Bed and Board' or 'Board and Lodgings', as in getting fed from the table.]

Brandeyrons - Kettles, pots, etc. ~ [Related to Gridiron (cooking grate) possibly?]

Breed - Bread

Brekvast - Breakfast

Busk - A thick small cake of white meal ~ [Barnes thought perhaps the word 'biscuit' came from this - as in a diminutive of 'busk', and it's an interesting idea. I can't find anything about the word itself in this context but it's interesting that this would also describe the savoury scone-like American 'biscuit'. In the book 'Yola and the Yoles' (see below) Sullivan says Busk was a spiced corn bread.]

Caake - Cake

Cooanes - Wooden cups or vessels without handles ~ [ Possibly  and probably connected with the word cone, or maybe can. Do I detect a Welsh pronunciation in that spelling?]

Coorn - Corn

Correate - Carrot

Coshur - A feast ~ [Drifted in from the Irish Cóisir for a feast or banquet.]

Craueet - In danger of choking for want of a drink in eating ~ [This is one of my favourites, the words 'craw' and 'eat' are there but the thirst bit must be implied!]

Crewst - Crust

Deneare/Dineare - Dinner

Dhernapès - Turnips

Dhirtee - Thirsty

Gaubbach, Gubbauch, Gubbach/Kaayle - Cabbage ~ [Interesting that the 'C' sound is replaced by a 'G'.]

Geearth/Geearte - A she-goat ~ [Might explain why nanny goats are often called Gertie or Gerty!]

Graapish - Stale victuals ~ [Barnes suggests it's connected to another Yola word 'Graabache' which he says means 'Dirty Trash'  and, no, 'trash' isn't an Americanism but let's not go off on that tangent ...]

Greeleen - Young cod-fish ~ [Strange that this is like Grayling, a freshwater fish not native to Ireland. Herring below is similarly formed as 'Heereen' with -een being like -ing it seems in the Yola language and not like the Irish demunitive ending for words.]

Gryne - Grain

Gurth - A goat ~ [See nanny goat above.]

Gurthes, Gurt, Grut - Cutlings, coarse meal ~ [Coming from Dutch or Old English seemingly, for ground grain. Is this where American 'grits' come from too? Presumably via the word gritty...]

Hearesth - Harvest

Harnothes - Pignuts ~ [Hard nuts maybe? Certainly a pain to find and harvest it seems!]

Heereen/Hereen - Herring

Henee - Honey

Hulmogee - A small cupboard in the wall ~ [ Another nice word that I can't make sense of, but our author mentions a lady in Dorset who had a oak cabinet she called a 'Holmogen'.]

Hungherth - Hungry

Hyle - To pour, as liquor or rain ~ [Barnes again mentions a west of English word 'hele' as in 'Hele out the yäle' meaning  pour out the ale, and it meaning some leaning to one side. The strange thing is that my family would have used 'to heel' as a phrase meaning to empty something out, as in 'He heeled the box out on the floor' meaning it was tipped out on the floor. A 19th century glossary mentions it as a word for emptying a bucket in Gloucestershire. (In a quick poll on Twitter 81% of you thought I'd made it up, which surprised me. Of those who knew the word most were in the south-eastern half of Ireland, which does makes sense.]

Jock - The Belly ~ [Barnes suggests it actually meant the leather pitcher used for carrying ale.]

Kaake - A cake

Kappas/Knappas - Dumplings of meal ~ [Another odd one, the author suggests a connection with knobs which makes sense shapewise and Knappe/knop was Anglo-Saxon for button. Knapple meant to bite or nibble in the north of England and Knoppit was a word for the small lump in the east all of these are probably from the same root word..]

Keene/Khyne/Keeine - Kine

Keow - Cow ~ [I have heard the word being pronounced in this way, or at least as a key-ow - not sure it was in Wexford though...]

Khuingoke - A churn ~ [ This is from the Irish word Cuinneog.]

Khuinggokee - Churning

Kon - Can ~ [Again an typical - to me - pronunciation in Irish-English.]

Koorn - Corn ~ [Interesting how K is being used instead of C, does that hark back to old English of to Flemish? I don't know but it looks Dutch...]

Koornt - Salted ~ [From corns as in small pellets of salt I'd imagine, still used when we talk about pepper corns, etc. for example]

Koornt Vleash - Corned meat ~ [See Koornt above an of course flesh.]

Kraanberry - Gooseberry ~ [Something may be lost in translation here as in cranberry? Kraanberry is a named used for some wild relatives of it here too.]

Kruck - A crock, metal pot

Letch - Small beer ~ [This is another odd one, as it's not a word I've ever heard associated with beer or drink. The author suggests that it means 'what is moist or wet' as a connection and a 19th century glossary says letch meant a vessel for making lye (a soap ingredient) in the east of England.]

Lhauch - A griddle ~ [Another odd word that I can't connect with anything.]

Lhawm/Lowem - A lamb

Maate - Flesh meat ~ [Again the Irish-English pronunciation would sound like 'mate', and still does in certain accents.]

Mault - Malt

Meale - A feast, meal, as dinner ~ [Again, this would be pronounced even still as 'Male' in certain accents.]

Measkeen - A flat-bottomed basket for straining potatoes ~ [No ideas on this one, the -een here may be  from the diminutive used in Hiberno-English taken from Irish, or could be the -ing of Yola', but I've to idea on the first part.]

Mele, Mell - Meal, flour

Met - Food ~ [As in an old general word for food - meat - I assume.]

Met-borde - A dining table ~ [Remember my comment on 'Bed & Board' above...]

Mossaale - A morsel

Mulke, Melk - Milk

Muskawn - A large heap or lump (in relation to food) ~ [Yet another odd one, múscán in Irish means a sponge or spongey but I can't see a real connection.]

Muthon, Mothoon - Mutton

Neape - A parsnip ~ [Neeps are turnips, or probably swedes in Scotland but in fairness both vegetables end in -nip so this makes senses, nape meant knob-like seemingly.]

Palske - A kind of cake? ~ [The book's author was unsure of this one as he used brackets and a question mark around its entry. I certainly can't shed any light on it....]

Paug - The harvest ~ [Barnes suggests that it possible comes from the Irish for kiss - póg - and is back-formed from the word 'paugh-meale' meaning 'harvest-home' but coming from the 'kissing time', which was seeming harvest time...]

Pee - A pye ~ [A pie but oddly pronounced even to my Hiberno-English tainted ear!]

Pipper - Pepper

Pizzen - Peas ~ [Mentioned elsewhere as an example, according to Barnes, of the 'Friesic-English' plural en ending for words?]

Pocket/Pucket - A lump of bread ~ [Can't see a connection here in any way to any other words but my other old glossary also says its an obsolete word for the same thing. It's also the name for a measure of hops by the way.]

Puckawne/puckane - A he-goat

Puddeen - Pudding

Pultry - Poultry

Ree - Rye

Reem, Rhyme - Cream ~ [Cream is 'Room' in Dutch/Flemish so we perhaps see how this formed?]  

Risheen, Rusheen - An afternoon luncheon, a snack in the evening ~ [Yet another odd one to me, Barnes mentions the word 'Rushing' in south-east England meaning something similar.]

Risheeneare - A rusheen-eater, snack-eater

Saareth, sarrth - Served out, as food

Sheck - Ice ~ [Certainly odd but I've a nagging feeling I've heard this word before in connection with ice or frost...]

Shraanes, Shruanes - Shreds, slices of cake/bread ~ [Sounds Irish but I can't find a similar word.]

Sippeare/Seppeare - Supper

Skelpearès - Small pigs ~ [Barnes suggests it comes from the word skelp meaning to move quickly, which would make sense. It's a word I think I've heard or read in connecting with pigs but I'm not sure, I definitely heard and used 'Schkelp' as a slap ...]

Skudhelès - knives ~ [ Barnes mentions the word 'Scottle' from the west of England meaning to cut off, I'm not familiar of it in any way.]

Slug - To eat greedily ~ [The only way I've heard this word is when drinking, as in a slug of whiskey, but maybe there's a connection.]

Spone - Spoon

Strabut, Stirabout - Oatmeal porridge

Ty - A drink ~ [I can't think of where this has survived, which is surprising in one way, as drinking is such a common occurrence! I'm also unsure if it was pronounced 'tee' or 'tie'.]

Vaat - A dish, noggin, or small vessel ~ [Like vat we can assume I think?]

Vengence - Venison ~ [Another odd one, I'd suggest it's just down to the pronunciation and accent, becoming 'Venshen' and then 'Vengence'. i can't see how it would be connected to the word 'Vengance'...]

Veseal - Vessel 

Vleash, Vlesh - Meat

Vork - Fork

Whet - Wheat

Zall - Salt

Zar, Zarth - Served

Zed - Stewed ~ [Just a contraction perhaps?]

Zheep - Sheep

I would be interested in any observations on the words from anywhere on the planet, the people of this area spent time with the fishing communities of Newfoundland so maybe some words wandered that direction. I wonder have some of the more obscure survived in areas of England or indeed in Pembrokeshire? There may even be some words still in use of the other lost community and language of the Fingallians of county Dublin. 

The above mentioned book Yola and the Yoles has more insight into the Yola life, including a section on food and drink. (I must thank Charlie Roche, @charleymcguffin on Twitter, for pointing me in its direction.) It's also interesting that the author, Aidan Sullivan, mentions hops growing wild in the area, plus he mentions that the women were the brewers in the society, not that this is unusual in any way or course but I wonder did the practice survive longer there than elsewhere? It's mentioned in a number of old accounts that the ale was excellent too by the way, and that tobacco was also grown there, as it was in other parts of the country of course. A final snippet is that they people in this area of the county - and maybe beyond - were also known to take a siesta - a 'Noonteet' - in the afternoon!

It is worth mentioning that Barnes, our author and editor, never visited Wexford - or indeed Ireland - as far as I can see, but based his thoughts and writings on the research of others instead. That may mean nothing but it's important to note that he never heard the language first hand, or what remained of it by then. Keep that in mind as you read his book, which is available via Google Books here.


(All written content and the research involved in publishing it here is my own unless otherwise stated and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission, full credit to its source and a link back to this post.)


Phil said...

"Craueet" to me looks like "craw" (throat, gullet) with an "-ed" participle - compare "gutted".

"Brandyron" is an interesting one - it's "brand-iron", i.e. "brand" (fire) and "iron" (thing made of...), which was an English word but isn't recorded much after 1700 (OED).

Anonymous said...

Cnaipe is one of the few Irish words from old norse. Moaning lumpa, a button, Cnapach is a local Conamara lumpy island.