STRING THEM ALONG β€” OR GIVE THEM A NIP N’ TUCK? (Part Two) ... by Rachel Borg

behngetstefnet/behngaistefenet (bang it and stiffen it/bang me and stiffen it) – ‘Hi orlwes plieyenap orn her, hi baeta mainaut bembeya wan’dems haspen behngetstefnet’ (He is always playing up on her, he had better be careful in case one of their husband’s bang him and stiffen him).

faayadendaayet (further than that yet) – this one has caused a raised eyebrow or two, mainly for its length, and in a sense it is also quite prescriptive.  You could write it as ‘faaya den daa yet’ but there is good cause to write it as a compound because like English ‘upward’ and ‘downside’ ‘faayadendaayet’ has a specific directional or spatial function ‘F’ dem baes hihi yorlye gwen want’ gu faayadendaayet’ (For the best periwinkles you will need to go a little further than that again).

siken’wohmet (sick and vomit) – the word alone is enough to make one feel a little queasy but I have always loved it because it is so uniquely Norf’k. ‘Orl mais letl salan bin gat’ siken’wohmet’.  (All my children have been sick and vomiting).  Some years ago now a very broad Norf’k speaking child had a great deal of trouble getting his English-speaking teacher to understand exactly why one of the other students was away from school – he could not understand why she did not understand what he was saying; and she simply had no idea of what it was that he was trying to convey to her.

stiewelaut (stay well out) – this phrasal verb is used in a number of ways in Norf’k; to stay well out (of an argument for example), to sit quietly, or silently (often directed to a child), or to sit still and relax ‘Kam stiewelaut, orl em thing el wiet tal morla’ (Come and sit down and relax, everything will wait until tomorrow).

talstoli (tall story) – used to denote a lie, an exaggeration, an untruth, fib or a tall story ‘Ef yu nor dan’ talstoli ai gwen iin deya laan’ yus Mam’ (If you don’t stop making things up I am going in there to tell your Mum)

laembutiet (lambaste and boot it) – ‘Oe es hi tuu want’ laembutiet’ (He is in need of a lambasting and booting)

hiiwetwieh (heave it away) ‘Es truu dem thing kaaduu, hiiwetwieh’ (Seriously, those things can’t do, heave them away)

graab’lieg (grab-your-legs) – this is about the quaintest phrase in the Norf’k vocabulary, elsewhere this troublesome and rather painful burr if often known as the bindi, on Norfolk they are called ‘grab-your-legs’.  ‘Aklans yaad s’ fulap f’ graab’lieg’. (Our yard is full of ‘grab-your-legs).

gud’tan/goodatun (good as a tonne of gold) – this phrase is said to have come to the Island during the Second World War ‘Dems skuul yia s’ mus’ dan en gud’tan’ (The school year is almost finished and that will be good as a tonne of gold).

lorngtang/lorng-tongue (long-tongue) – a tattle-tale, unable to keep a confidence ‘Oe yeh, hi orlwes bines lorngtang, gaerentii hi gwen likiet’baut’ (Oh yes, he has always been a long-tongue, you can guarantee he will leak it everywhere).

sornek (sore-neck) – to not get an invitation ‘Dem sornek her’ (They sore-necked her ie she didn’t get an invitation)

kaaduu (can’t do) is an interesting one because although we usually write it as one word, is it also sometimes written as two words eg kaa duu.  ‘Dem thing kaaduu f’ dorg iit’ (Those things can’t even do for dogs to eat)

Perhaps special mention should also be made of one of the most frequently compounded root words miek (make) from which we get miekagli (make-ugly), miekies(make-haste), miekmiek (make-make), miek’tan (make-a-turn), miekaut (make-out), miekbig (make-big) and other similar terms....

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STRING THEM ALONG β€” OR GIVE THEM A NIP N’ TUCK? (Part One) ... by Rachel Borg

In English there are many constructions where words are tied together directly into compounds, some of them are so ingrained in our psyche that we probably don’t even realise that they were once separated out. ‘Tomorrow’ might once have been expressed as ‘on the morrow’.  We also see new or emerging trends in compounding ‘thank you’ is now often written as ‘thankyou’ – some might well say this is just bad English and perhaps in the past many emerging compounds also had similar bad publicity in their infancy.     

Other examples of compound words in English, and there are thousands, include words like myselfmakeshiftelsewhere, bittersweet, and hindsight.  These words probably tied the knot long before you and I were born and now live together quite happily.  We think of them as belonging together and can’t imagine they might ever have been apart; they have merged so solidly in our collective conscience.

In English there is also a tendency to use hyphens to join words like twenty-onetime-outgod-send, and forget-me-not.  Joining them back to back or with a hyphen implies that one word has an intimate association with the other—if we separate them they might inevitably lose their impact and contextual power; it is almost akin to dismemberment  ie ‘god send’ does not have the same meaning or inference as ‘god-send’.

There is a very high prevalence of word-joining or compounding in the Norf’k language.  Writers such as Beryl Palmer-Nobbs chose to use hyphens as well as running words together to represent this characteristic, while Alice Buffett simply runs the words together in strings—instinctively both writers recognised compound words or phrases as being very specific markers of Norf’k.  Here are some of my favourites:-

kechwaili (catch and wind around) – ‘Em taatramor es riil kas ef yu kechwaili iin’ (The tartramor vine is a real curse if you catch in it and get wound around the vine)

kaaw’said (can’t or don’t know where) – ‘Kaaw’said dem tuu s’ gorn’ (Don’t know where those two have gone)......

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OE LIKI BOET, LIKI BOET! (Part Two)... by Rachel Borg

In its most literal sense liki refers to anything which might be leaking such as a roof, guttering (hawai) or  a bucket or vessel ‘Ef yus baket gat wan hoel iin gwen’ liki, en iin Norf’k ef yus baket likien wi tal aa baket s’ boelet’.  (If your bucket has a hole in it then it’s going to leak.  In Norf’k if your bucket is leaking we say it has been ‘boled’).  Kaa duu ef yus boet begen’ liki; yu gwen want’ hed iin kwikstiks. (It is not good if your boat starts leaking; you will need to head in to shore quickly).  When we were growing up we  heard liki whenever the rain fell heavily on the kitchen roof and the wind came up in a certain direction ‘Aa ruuf likien gien, pat kapl’ baket andaret’ (The roof is leaking again, put a few buckets underneath it). 

Before the advent of plastic guttering, silicone sealers, and imported pre-fabricated tin guttering the metal hawai or guttering was fabricated on the Island and it was very prone to developing leaks, especially at the joins ‘Yorlyes hawai aut gen aa tehnk likien, yu laik ai gedap deya sohldaret f’ yuu?’ (Your guttering out near the tank is leaking, would you like me to get up there and solder it for you?)

If you are crying you are also likien (leaking).  Aewa sins ai ya daa shi s’ died es truu ai kaa dana liki, ai daa sohri f’ dem.  (Ever since I heard that she died it is true that I can’t stop crying, I am so sorry for them); Ai kaa ya daa Pitkern Aentham en nor liki.  (I can’t listen to the Pitcairn Anthem without crying).

A person who cannot keep a secret or a confidence is also prone to liki (leak).  ‘Oe es du laan’ her enithing shi gwen’ liki et rait krors Norf’k’ (Oh don’t tell her anything she will leak it right across Norfolk) or ‘E’e daa liki; du talet enithing bembeya hi teket ran’ (That person over there is so loose-tongued don’t tell him anything or he might take it and ran with it). 

This word seems to have first been collected by Shirley Harrison and published in ‘A Glossary of the Norfolk Language’ in 1980.  Shirley’s primary informants were born between 1900 and 1910 so this term has been a part of the Island’s vocabulary for well over one hundred years and more.  I would wager a pretty penny however that many of the children born and raised on the Island over the last twenty years will have not heard the term liki (sometimes pronounced like); and even more will not know the full extent of its usage.  Perhaps I am overly sentimental about the past, perhaps we don’t need to hold on to these things; perhaps we should just let language live and grow and change but as it does will Norf’k simply become more anglicised, and in doing so lose its quaintness, its uniqueness and its attachment to its dual origins. 

Does it matter?  Perhaps only the children of tomorrow will be able to answer that one; let’s hope the answer is yes, it matters.  Nor gwen’ pieh doh f’ liki wen s’ gorn; kos wen s’ gorn s’ gorn.

Daaset f’ des wiik yorlye. 

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OE LIKI BOET, LIKI BOET! (Part One)... by Rachel Borg

Every earth angel has a slightly crooked halo and sometimes the very best earth angels might occasionally feel the urge to fib or fabricate.  I recently discovered an old broad Norf’k term ‘liki boet’ (leaking boat) which is used to draw attention to the fact that someone is saying something which is untrue or as unsound as a leaking boat ie fibbing or fabricating.  It’s not to say that I never told a fib when I was growing up, because I’m sure I did, it’s more that perhaps that I didn’t get caught out too often.  I vividly recall the feeling of being blamed for something of which I was completely innocent and all protestations that ‘ent mii d’ wan brek aa klok’ (it was not I who broke the clock) fell on deaf ears—apparently I was ‘likien’ (fibbing).  In our house where Norf’k was not used when speaking to children this conversation was of course an English one.  The following is a little example of how the idiomatic phase ‘liki boet’ might be used in Norf’k:-

W’said yu bin? (Where have you been?)

Ai bin ap orn aa muum iten em chiis. (I have been up on the moon eating the cheese)

Oe liki boet, liki boet! (Oh leaking boat, leaking boat!)

This is a lovely idiomatic way of transmitting the fact that someone is perhaps stretching the truth or even at worst telling an outright lie.  In fact, if I were ever to be called a liar, it’s just about the nicest way I could ever imagine it being done.  Other ways of suggesting that a person is not being completely truthful in Norf’k are ‘dana talsoli’ (stop telling tall stories), ‘oe estohli’ (it’s a story) or ‘daa es lai thing’ (that’s a lie-thing).

It all led me to thinking about just how multifunctional and apt the Norf’k word liki (leak, leaks, leaking) actually is in the range of circumstances in which it is used; and yet again how it harks back to a central or core concept being applied in a number of different, but mutually intelligible ways.   

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Telling ghost stories is a characteristic marker of Island life and culture.  Islanders love a good ghost story and to be able to tell a good ghost story it helps first of all to believe; and second of all to have actually seen one.  But neither is paramount to enjoying ghost stories - anyone who simply enjoys a good story can enjoy ghost stories.

One of my favourite ghost stories is the Government House violin player.  Here it is told in Norf’k and translated into English.


Mini M’Kohneki bines wan’ Kohmandaant M’Kohnekis letl salan.  Hi bin gat siks letl salan en hem en his waif kam t’ Norf’k iin 1840 f’ lukaut f’ dem kohnwik uya iin aa Sekan Setlment.  Dem lew ap iin aa big oel said orn’ hil daun’taun – daa es d’ wan dem korlet Gawament Haus.

Kam’taim en Kohmandaant M’Kohneki s’ want Mini f’ lern watawieh f’ plieh daa vailin en soe hi gu fain wan kohnwik tyuuta f’ tiich her.

Simis’ thing dem tuu geten’ lorng kwait guud, mait bi tuu guud.  Kaa tal hau mach praektes shi bin gat bat simis’thing dem tuu masbi stideya tinai orn wan’nedha en for yu nowet dem s’ iin forl iin lauw lorngf’ wan’nedha. 

Wael wen Minis daedi fainaut wathing gwen orn dem tuu s’ hichap en mai werd hi garet.  Prohblem es Mini uni fortiin en wasa den daa - shi s’ habuu.  Wieh shi kechet fram hers faadha f’ wathing s’ gorn orn.  Hi sen her wieh orn aa neks shep t’ Skotlan iin disgries en es yu el imaejen wen em nyuuspiepa ap orn’ mienlaen kech win o wathing gwen orn dem haed’ fiil dieh lorngfaret.

Wi yuus’ daa sohri f’ Mini en her mien kos dem naewa aewa si wan’nedha gien.  Shi died nort lorng aafta shi get baek t’ Inglan en aa kohnwik naewa get baek iin taim f’ si her.

D’ faniest thing es gat wan oel flor t’ siilen worta klohset iin aa big oel haus gen aa laibri said dem bin yuus’ gu praektes en plenti plenti salan bin tal dem bin ya wan vailin plieyen iin aa laibre kabad said dem bin yuus’ plieh.  Salan tal es hi painen f’ his toela.

Salans haat el mus’ brek f’ dem tuu anieh.

Dem tal for shi liiw dem gu plant wan roes agaeda en ef yu prik yus haan orn em thorns naewa aewa gwen’ dan’ blad.  Liis daa es wathing dem tal ….


Minnie Maconochie was one of Commandant Alexander Maconochie’s children.  He had six children and he and his wife came to the Island in 1840 to oversee the convict population during the Second Settlement.  They lived in the big house on the Hill in Kingston known as Government House.

There came a time when Commandant Maconochie desired that Minnie learn to play the violin and in time he found a convict tutor to teach her.

Apparently they were getting along quite well; perhaps too well.  It’s difficult to say how much violin practice she got but it appears they must have sat there making eyes at each other because before anyone knew what was happening they had fallen madly in love with each other.

When Minnie’s father discovered what was going on they were already deeply enraptured and Captain Maconochie was very angry indeed.  Unfortunately Minnie was only fourteen at the time and far worse than that – she was now pregnant.  Minnie was sternly chastised by her father who sent her way on the next ship back to Scotland in disgrace.  When the mainland newspapers discovered what had happened they had a field day with it.

We must feel very sorry for Minnie and her sweetheart because they were never to set eyes on one another again.  Minnie died not long after she arrived back in England and the convict never got back in time to see his beloved Minnie.

Here is the strangest thing; there is a large floor to ceiling water closet or cupboard in the library of that big old house where the star-struck lovers used to practise and while away the hours and over the years many people have claimed to have heard the sound of a violin playing mournfully from inside the cupboard.  People say that the convict wanders aimlessly still and is pining for his lost love.  It’s enough to break any person’s heart.

They say that before she left they planted a rose together and if you prick your hand on the thorns it will never stop bleeding.  At least that is what they say …. 

Daaset yorlye, tek keya tal nek wiik.

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