**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Lake Dialect
by [?]

[Footnote 3:

‘And mighty Fairfield, with its chime

Of echoes, still was keeping time.’

WORDSWORTH–The Waggoner.

Meantime I pause, for the sake of saying that the derivation is mine. Thirty-seven, or it may be thirty-eight, years ago, I first brought forward my Danish views in a local newspaper–namely, The Kendal Gazette, published every Saturday. The rival (I may truly say–the hostile) newspaper, published also on Saturday, was called The Westmoreland Chronicle. The exact date of my own communication upon the dialect of the Lake district I cannot at this moment assign. Earlier than 1818 it could not have been, nor later than 1820. What first threw me upon this vein of exploring industry was, the accidental stumbling suddenly upon an interesting little incident of Westmoreland rustic life. From a roadside cottage, just as I came nearly abreast of its door, issued a little child; not old enough to walk with particular firmness, but old enough for mischief; a laughing expression of which it bore upon its features. It was clearly in the act of absconding from home, and was hurrying earnestly to a turn of the road which it counted upon making available for concealment. But, before it could reach this point, a young woman, of remarkable beauty, perhaps twenty years old, ran out in some alarm, which was not diminished by hearing the sound of carriage-wheels rapidly coming up from a distance of probably two furlongs. The little rosy thing stopped and turned on hearing its mother’s voice, but hesitated a little, until she made a gesture of withdrawing her handkerchief from her bosom, and said, coaxingly, ‘Come its ways, then, and get its patten.’ Until that reconciling word was uttered, there had been a shadow of distrust on the baby’s face, as if treachery might be in the wind. But the magic of that one word patten wrought an instant revolution. Back the little truant ran, and the young mother’s manner made it evident that she would not on her part forget what had passed between the high contracting parties.[4] What, then, could be the meaning of this talismanic word patten? Accidentally, having had a naval brother confined amongst the Danes, as a prisoner of war, for eighteen months, I knew that it meant the female bosom. Soon after I stumbled upon the meaning of the Danish word Skyandren–namely, what in street phrase amongst ourselves is called giving to any person a blowing-up. This was too remarkable a word, too bristling with harsh blustering consonants, to baffle the detecting ear, as it might have done under any masquerading aura-textilis, or woven air of vowels and diphthongs.

[Footnote 4:
It might seem odd to many people that a child able to run alone should not have been already weaned, a process of early misery that, in modern improved practice, takes place amongst opulent families at the age of six months; and, secondly, it might seem equally odd that, until weaned, any infant could be truly described as ‘rosy.’ I wish, however, always to be punctiliously accurate; and I can assure my readers that, generally speaking, the wives of labouring men (for more reasons than one) suckle their infants for three years, to the great indignation of medical practitioners, who denounce the practice as six times too long. Secondly, although unweaned infants are ordinarily pale, yet, amongst those approaching their eighteenth or twentieth month, there are often found children as rosy as any one can meet with. ]

Many scores of times I had heard men threatening to skiander this person or that when next they should meet. Not by possibility could it indicate any mode of personal violence; for no race of men could be more mild and honourably forbearing in their intercourse with each other than the manly dalesmen of the Lakes. From the context, it had long been evident that it implied expostulation and verbal reproach. And now at length I learned that this was its Danish import. The very mountain at the foot of which my Grasmere cottage stood, and the little orchard attached to which formed ‘the lowest step in that magnificent staircase’ (such was Wordsworth’s description of it), leading upwards to the summits of Helvellyn, reminded me daily of that Danish language which all around me suggested as being the secret writing–the seal–the lock that imprisoned ancient records as to thing or person, and yet again as being the key that should open this lock; as that which had hidden through many centuries, and yet also as that which should finally reveal.