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Sussex speak

Posted 25 October 2013 by Andrew Gardner google authorship button

The North Laines Brighton

Spending holidays in Sussex you might have noticed that we have a distinct dialect around here. To my ear it has a rural, laid-back sort of sound, as befits a largely rural county, that's not so far removed from the sounds of neighbouring Kent and Hampshire and in some parts influenced by 'immigrants' from London - Brighton has its own version of Cockney with a Sussex twang.

I've no doubt that some regional words are shared with other parts of the country. Twitten, meaning a little alleyway, is a good example as I've heard that used up north as well. And those tiny, winding streets in Brighton known as the Lanes are really called the Laines, with an i, the Sussex word for open land at the base of the downs - you'll still see that spelling on street signs.

Harry Potter fans might know that a Dumbledore is a bumble bee, while a reynard is a fox and a bat is a flittermouse, which isn't so far from a Fledermaus, as in the opera. Being a coastal county, it's not surprising that many old Sussex words and pronunciations show strong links with other European languages.

We also have a lot of words for mud. As someone who spends a lot of time trying to negotiate mud, whether on foot, on a horse or on a bicycle, that caught my imagination. So I'm thrilled to tell you that if you're trying to hike through a clay-based field after rain, that stuff clinging to your boots is truly clodgy; and if the cattle have been in it as well, it's a foul-smelling gawm. A bostal, or borstal, is a steep path over the downs, hence Bost Hill where you might encounter smeery while walking over totty. A slough is a muddy hole (no comment), stug is wet to walk through though at least you won't get stuck in it, but slob will really hold you back and do beware of swanks.

Honestly, you couldn't make it up.