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About A Week: Broad Yorkshire

Peter Hinchliffe delights in his mother tongue- broad Yorkshire.

Here's news to ruffle English feathers. The name of our summertime game was given to us by the French.

The raiding Normans didn't have bats and balls in their luggage when they arrived in 1066. They did bring the word criquet though. Criquet, which was most likely derived from the Old Flemish word krick, meaning a stick, referred to sporting pursuits.

They also brought wiket, meaning a small gate, and beil, a cross-piece. Wickets and bails?

Turning criquet into cricket is an example of what we're best at on this small island. We're the world's leading wordsmiths. We gather up words from here, there and everywhere, polish them up a bit, then set them to work in the most flexible and useful of all languages. It's not money that makes the world go round. It's English.

As you read this column airliners will be landing in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Buenos Aires. Their pilots will be talking to ground control in English.

Parliaments thousands of miles from London conduct their business in English.

The internet distributes a billion facts around the globe, spelling most of them out in English.

Our language is our great gift to the world, though some wish we were not quite so generous. For decades we've been getting our own back on the French for naming the game which is the epitome of Englishness. They are agitated by the spread of Franglais, the infiltration of our language into theirs.

Every day new words are recruited into the conquering linguistic army. Chad. Scooby Doo. Mommy-hacking.

After the vastly entertaining electoral show - I almost said a farce - put on by our American cousins we now know that a chad is a small circular fragment punched by a machine from a Florida ballot paper. Scooby Doo? Rhyming slang for clue. I don't have a Scooby Doo. Mommy-hacking refers to concerned mums and dads who try to track and control what their kids look at on the internet.

A friend of mine, David Bennett of Kirkheaton, had the good fortune to be born within sight of Yorkshire, and the bad luck to live on the wrong side of the county line. He was raised in a Derbyshire pit village. For years he has been puzzled by the way we speak in the Broad Acres.

Now that his home is in Yorkshire he is learning our language in the way someone would study a peculiar foreign tongue such as French.

A mutual friend of ours, Tom Hellawell of Holmfirth, once set David to solving a Yorkshire puzzle. What do the following sentences mean?

"Did ta get looads 'o neb meight dahn thi?

"Ah spect tha wor fair gizzened at after. Tha'd be reight thrussen up ahl be bahnd."

Freely translated they say:

"Did you eat a lot of poultry?

"I expect you were filled to the point of discomfort. Afterwards you would be very uncomfortable I'll be bound."

David was unable to make sense of the sentences. Sadly so would many younger Yorkshire folk. How sad that a flood of modern slang is washing away the fine edifice of Yorkshire English. Fortunately my friend Mike Shaw is doing his part to preserve the language of the Broad Acres with his weekly Yorkshire Dialect column in Open Writing.

So what if those conquering Frenchies did give us criquet? When you're in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower you don't hear the delightful sound of willow meeting ball.

They have to put up with that sad little game, boule. That's a version of kids' marbles which has grown too big for its boots.


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