The Lincolnshire dialect by Loretta Rivett

We enjoyed a very entertaining hour listening to Loretta Rivett, the acclaimed doyen of the Lincolnshire accent and dialect. As she explained, the Lincolnshire dialect is full of weird and wonderful words and phrases which she uses with great aplomb, but which left most of us ‘frimfoak’ (non yellowbellies) feeling completely flummoxed.

A true ‘yellowbelly’, Loretta was brought up in North Kelsey and spoke the broad Lincolnshire dialect just like everyone else there did however, when she went to the Grammar School in Caistor, she was ridiculed for her strong, local accent and her use of dialect words. Dialect, by the way, are the words used in language, whereas accent is the way people pronounce those words; they are related, but it is possible to have a strong local accent yet use few dialect words.

Lincolnshire has always been a county with strong links to agriculture. Farming and its associated trades were the predominant occupations, so sons inevitably inherited their father’s land or carried on in their father’s professions. As a consequence, for countless generations, people rarely strayed from their home village and their dialect and accent were perpetuated however, when farming became mechanised and the tractor replaced the horse, one man and his machine could do the work of twelve men; the death knell for conversation between farmers, tradesmen and field workers rang and many associated words and terms became redundant. As people moved away to take up jobs elsewhere, this mobile population brought people from all over together and, whilst some may have retained their accent, their use of dialect was further diluted and often lost altogether.

Although Loretta had to endure the initial scorn of her classmates and teachers at Grammar School, when she was introduced to the works of Chaucer, she soon went up in their estimation as she found she could easily translate his Old English verse as it was very similar to her Lincolnshire dialect. Her interpreting skills were eventually acknowledged as she also found no difficulty deciphering Robbie Burns’ Scottish dialect and the lesser known works of Lincolnshire’s very own poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Loretta’s interest in keeping the Lincolnshire dialect alive and kicking has involved her in many years of study and she can confirm that it is derived mainly from a blend of Chaucerian (or Old English), mixed with Scandinavian (Viking) and Anglo Saxon following their invasion and settlement in the area. In south Lincolnshire however, many words have a Dutch influence which was probably introduced when they came over to drain the fens.

All in all, this was not only a humorous talk but one which was particularly unique in its delivery. Although many of us struggled to comprehend Loretta’s very own Lincolnshire accent and dialect, it was nevertheless, a most interesting revelation to hear about the origins of many Lincolnshire words and she is to be applauded for keeping it in the public eye. It may frit Frim Foak or even give them a meagrim but Linkisheere’s traditional dialect is more than just chitter n’ jabber – it’s proud heritage.

About Nadia Dawson

Retired primary headteacher now working at Lincoln University
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