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Old words and dialect

From Graham Barker

Friday, 27 August 2010

Thought I'd start a separate thread so as not to divert attention from the serious business of getting Ginnelgate resolved.

I'm originally from Leeds and the only ginnels I knew there were uncovered narrow alleys between houses or gardens, linking streets. They were all high sided, giving a sense of enclosure, so it's possible that high sides are the defining characteristic of a ginnel. I don't remember any snickets. Usage in cities though is probably a mess, because people move in from umpteen surrounding districts, each with different meanings for the same word, or vice versa.

But less of ginnels. Can anyone shed light on the usage of 'thoil'? It has always intrigued me. The normally given meaning is 'not worth the price', but my mother and her pals used it in a more complex way. They'd say of something: 'It was down to £20 from £30 but I still couldn't thoil it'. The sense was always that the price was a bit challenging but good value and they could afford it, but couldn't justify buying the item no matter how hard they tried. I can't think of a modern equivalent, so it seems a shame that a word with such a subtle meaning has been lost.

From Maureen Brian

Sunday, 29 August 2010

I'd always taken it for granted - with absolutely no specialist knowledge at all - that 'thoil' was the same as 'thole.'

That is as a verb meaning bear (a burden) or suffer or cope with something. I've met what I always assumed to be the same word in 3 dialects.

Thole as a noun now has a more specific but sort-of related meaning.

From Julie C

Sunday, 29 August 2010

I thought the Ginnel was in fact a Snicket!

From Patsy F

Sunday, 29 August 2010

What a great thread!

I remember an old lady in Brighouse using 'thoil' as 'justify' too. She used to say 'Do you want some spice, love?' Meaning 'sweets'. And what about the flavoured and coloured sugar crystals (in layers, in jars) - why was it called 'kali'? My mother forbade me from having it as she said I'd get spots! These days I think of 'Kali Phos' - the homeopathic remedy. And what about 'lakin' for 'playing' (at something)?

Now I've really got started. More, please?

From Zilla Brown

Monday, 30 August 2010

I would say the word "thoil" when I've heard it used, or used it myself, means "I can't bear to do that, in my judgement it's not worth it".
Eg. I can't thoil the money for it,its not worth it.

From Paul D

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

If you were to say that you 'sup in thoyle' I'd understand it more readily - thoil is can't bear as has been said, but it's too far into yorkshire for me

From Andrew Hall

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

To quote the late Dr Arnold Kellett (from his book The Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore): Thoil - to be willing to give, to affort, to endure, tolerate, put up with, allow (usually in the negative) "Ah can't thoil it"; a person who has no thoil or who will not "stand 'is thoil" is lacking in generosity. (West Riding, Old English 'tholian')

Incidentally, and for the benefit of our illustrious Geordie Methodist Minister, Dr Kellet has also written a book 'Eeh by gum, Lord! The Gospels in Broad Yorkshire' - might be useful on your missionary work in darkest Heptonstall, Tony!

From Christine P

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Funny enough I come from Leeds as well and where I lived in Cross Green we had a Ginnel, which had railway lines run over and snickets which were in Richmond Hill which ran between the houses they would leave a gap deliberately so people could visit neighbours without going all the way down the street and then up the next street.

The one that amuses me most is T-cakes, in Leeds a T-cake always has currents in it and a bread cake is plain. In Hebden it appears T-cake apply to both bread cake and T-cake. I look bemused as I always expect currents in a T-cake.

Fresh is another word, Fresh here means a bit drunk where as in Leeds it means some one was trying to chat you up or giving you unwelcome atention after a few drinks.

From Andrew Hall

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

And of course in this part of the world, close to the border of Lancashire, you'll often hear to bread buns referred to as 'Barm cakes', (barm being yeast).

I agree about tea cakes. They have to have some form of dried fruit in them. Well they certainly did in my childhood in Harrogate.

As for 'fresh' I think the Leeds and the local definition are fairly close. Also don't forget 'Owt fresh?' which means 'any news?'

From John Knapp

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

To put the record straight on teacakes.

In the upper valley you had 3 choices. You asked for a Plain teacake (made with plain white flour), Brown teacake (made with brown flour) or a Curran' teacake (white flour with currants but the 't' in currant was silent!).

If you went in to a shop and just asked for a teacake, it would have been obvious you weren't local.

As for barm cakes etc, asking for these would mark you out as from Lancashire even before you got back on the buzz!

From Graham Barker

Thursday, 16 September 2010

I know that 'luv' is a traditional northern term of casual address, but when I was a kid in Leeds, men would routinely say it to other men. Was that known round here? I've never come across it anywhere else. Big burly male bus conductors would quite unselfconsciously call big burly male passengers 'luv', and would probably punch your lights out were you to suggest that they were rather over-exposing their feminine side. As male-to-male address it seems to have died out, but the big question for me was always how it ever started.

And when I first came to Hebden Bridge, it was a novelty to pass a total stranger in the dark and be bidden a cheery 'Good night'. Quite startling at first, it soon became endearing. Is that a local habit, or is it more widespread? Sadly, it too seems to be dying out.

From Elizabeth O

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Where I grew up (Oldham, I'm afraid) a ginnel was a narrow alleyway. A wider alleyway between the backs of two rows of terraces was called a 'back'.

Snicket was a term unknown and belonged over the border. Interesting that in York the numerous ginnels and snickets are called snickleways. I'm no expert but I wonder if there's a Norse derivation , linked to 'sneak' as in to creep around fast and unexpectedly?

In Lancashire teacake usually meant the plain variety, and muffin meant oven-bottom muffin. Those puffed up white finger rolls were called 'bunnies'. Is that known over here? I loved for a while In Cimbria and they had a whole different vocabulary for baked goods!

It would be lovely to get some input from the Wonderful Women from Waites on this one!

From Barbara Shepherd

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

One expression I only paused to think about the other day was when I was wondering what time schools were "losing" nowadays.I said it without thinking when I said "schools always used to lose at 4 o`clock when I was young.

From M Phillips

Thursday, 24 March 2011

My grandmother used 'thoil' all the time and I still find it a very useful word which even my husband now uses.

I think that the use of the word (especially when times were hard) served to avoid any embarrasment when considering an item offered for sale (or jealousy when considering a purchase by a third party!) as it perfectly excused one from not making the purchase. Not necessarily because you couldn't afford it - which you probably couldn't - but because it did not represent good value in your view.

I believe the word should be reintroduced as much of the current overspending in the nation could be addressed if everyone - before reaching for the plastic - considered whether they could 'thoil it'.
Perhaps it is this good sense which has given Yorkshire its entirely undeserved reputation for meanness.

See also:

HebWeb Forum: Ginnelgate

Hebweb News - Tuesday, 17 August 2010