The picture to the left shows Castleton in the Peak District, North Derbyshire. On the skyline is Peveril Castle. What has this to do with the word in the title? All will be revealed.

My friend JDL has a copy of a work in Derbyshire dialect written in 1870. It has been in his family for many years. Its title is Owd Sammy Twitcher’s Visit tu ‘t Gret Exibishun e Derby. You may be interested in a PDF version of the tale to be found in the Salamanca Corpus.

The story, which involves a Castleton farmer and his wife who visit Derby to see the exhibition, was written by Joseph Barlow Robinson, who at the end of his preface tells us he is:

A Darbysher Mon,
Whose Ansisters wor nashon big foaks i’t
Peke, moor than foar hunded yere sin.

The word nashon puzzled both JDL and me. It’s clear what it means, because the author kindly included a glossary in which there is an entry defining nashon grond as “very grand”. But how does it come to mean that? The OED comes to the rescue. It says that the word nation is a pared down version of the word damnation and was used as an intensifying adverb quite widely, but is now rare.

Photo credit: T Chalcraft. Used under this license.

6 thoughts on “Nation

  1. I forwarded the link to Owd Sammy to two Derbyshire-born friends (mother and daughter), the younger of whom responded “Ey oop mi duck, ta fer leering mi guerra squiz at this bonny bit o kompozishun. It raight tekks mi back a bit! It’s black oer Bill’s mother’s, so I wunner cast a clout yet.”

  2. Philip,

    Thanks for that. It’s interesting that Sammy Twitcher doesn’t use tek for take (or mek for make), which was the pronunciation in Derby in my youth, and probably still is. Sammy uses tae and mae, or tak on a couple of occasions. I never heard the word squiz in Derby. For what it’s worth, the Urban Dictionary says that is Australian slang. Gleg was a common word for look in Derby. The spelling guerra is interesting in your friend’s response. I would have expected gerra.

  3. She may well have travelled too widely after abandoning her Ilkeston roots ! I will forward your comments and let you know of any response, particularly w.r.t. “squiz” and “guerra” (it will also be interesting to find out if her mother — who still has a broad Derbyshire accent, despite now living on the outskirts of Baskingstoke — would also uses those two words/spellings.

  4. Philip – did you really mean “leering” or was that a typo for “lerring”? And does Derbyshire have a velar nasal -ing form, or as in Stoke, the alveolar?
    It’s interesting that in Derbyshire you’re called “mi duck”, while in Stoke it’s simply “duck” (from either male or female speaker to either male or female addressee).

  5. If it’s a typo (and I think it must be), then it is in the original; I did not transcribe from speech but simply copied-and-pasted from my informant’s e-mail. As regards “-ing”, I shall listen carefully next time I talk to the older of my two Derbyshire friends (her daughter has lost almost all trace of her native accent). And a question for John : in the image of Castleton (above), did you tip-in the blue tint to the sky using Photoshop ? I ask only because the only matching image that Google can find (embedded here) has a very boring sky indeed …

  6. Philip,

    Yes I did “improve” the look of the sky with Photoshop. Can’t get away with anything these days, can you? 😉


    Yes it’s definitely “mi duck” in Derbyshire. I have before me a work in three volumes entitled Ey Up Mi Duck. I’ll do a post on it soon.

    As for the -ing form in Derby and environs: you hear both ɪn and ɪŋɡ, but not of course ɪŋ.

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