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What are the locals saying? A crash course in Cornish dialect

What Are the Locals Saying? A Crash Course in Cornish Dialect
It is well known that Cornwall has a separate language that died out in the eighteenth century and is being resurrected by some of the population. Examples can be seen on road signs and place names. Many visitors however, are not prepared for the great Cornish dialect that is alive and kicking and widely spoken and if you are camping or staying in the rural areas you are highly likely to come across the spoken word.

In fact until I went to university I had no idea that people in England spoke differently which caused havoc in places like the East End of London when I tried out my best Cornish dialect phrases.

A few words of advice

If you arrive at your holiday cottage and the lights aren’t working the owner might say he will fix it “dreckly“. This is the great Cornish “mañana” and means it will be done later. “See you dreckly” is the Cornish way of saying ciao as in “see you later”. “Alright my handsum,” does not mean you are necessarily attractive but is the Cornish way of saying, “My dear”, particularly to females. Men may find they could be called “Pard“.

Dearovim” means how nice of him to do something. You might be lucky and be invited for “croust” which is a tea break. I remember as a little girl helping my aunt take croust up to the men harvesting hay in summer. On the farm we might have a widden which is the smallest animal of a litter of pigs, and I may have encouraged hens to lay eggs with a cloam (china) egg.

In Cornwall very chatty people might be referred to as someone who, “Talks the hind leg off a donkey“, whilst a bad tempered person could be, “as teasy as an adder“. An aapath is a daft person or you may hear that something or someone is “as rough as rats“, which indicates an unkept nature. If someone is pleased with what you have done they might say, “Proper Job“, and if they want to know what is happening you could hear, “Wasson?“.

The Cornish talk about the weather like the English and you might be asked, “Piddledowndidda?” which translates as, “Was it raining?”, which it will probably do at some stage during your stay in Cornwall. Pizen dawn means there is very heavy rain. “Pasty diddy“, is not someone asking whether you would like the great Cornish specialty but someone is asking whether you were overtaken in a car for example.

Of course the Cornish person may not understand your way of speaking, in which case you might hear, “Gusson“, meaning, “I don’t see your point”.

Preserving the heritage

Enjoy the Cornish dialect and take the time to learn a few words if and when you chat to local people. If these phrases disappear from existence because no one uses them or they are replaced by bland English standardised expressions the rare heritage that Cornwall has that has been passed down through the generations will be gone forever. Use it or lose it.

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