Saturday, July 19, 2008

A bit of Yorkshire dialect

Diane B asks ...

How is 'tha' pronounced?

This is talking about Josiah Whitby's voice.

Now Josiah is from Yorkshire. What we have here is second person familiar, (thee or thou,) of course. This is conventionally represented 'tha' in writing Yorkshire dialect.

I'm leaning on that old convention.
I want to suggest the dialect. Folks familiar with Yorkshire speech will fill in the blanks. Folks who don't know it will not be annoyed.

I'm not making any attempt to be phonetic. That is an ocean without any bottom and I don't intend to fall in.

If you wanted to hear it ... the word I've represented as 'tha' appears in this recording.
It's near the beginning. Listen to the bit that goes ...

"Well, me lad, I said ... it'll be a bit before tha' does that again, maybe."

Though the speaker uses the familiar 'tha' in that spot, he uses 'ye' or "you' elsewhere. '
Tha' was only for intimates.

You can also hear the familiar usage in this long and completely incomprehensible joke. It seems to occur in a couple places. One is about three-quarters of the way though. There, it's pronounced, rather clearly, 'thou'.


  1. Tha' was only for intimates.

    That takes me back to The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett makes the same point: Martha Sowerby says "Tha' mun not" and so on, and the children are honored that she's so warm with them.

  2. What a gorgeous voice :-) However, if you find anyone who does understand the joke, please let me know! I couldn't make hide nor hair of it - I wish they had transcribed it; reading dialect is a lot easier than listening to it and Yorkshire dialect comes easy after having read James Herriott...

  3. Hi rfp --

    I love The Secret Garden. Great use of the themes of healing and growth. And that's what we're doing in Romance genre a lot of times.

    As to 'tha' ... Everything I come across says 'tha' is a 'close and intimate' usage. It's not traded lightly.

    The old story goes that the shepherd hears his boy 'thouing' some passerby. When the hiker is gone, the shepherd taps the boy upside the head, and says ... "Thee thous them that thous thee ..."

    You get this 'thee/thou' problem speaking French and German. They still have intimate forms -- in fact, they're moving towards common use of the intimate form. I never know when to switch over.
    I'm always waiting for the native speaker to make the first move ... and she's probably waiting for me to make the first move ...

  4. Hi Deniz --

    I read all the Herriott I could get my hands on, trying to get that Yorkshire into my head. Herriott is fun and interesting in his own right, isn't he? I hadn't read much of him before this.

    I have no idea what that joke was about. None. I listened to it a couple few times, too.

    Boy, I wished for a transcript.

  5. I think Lydia Joyce rendered the Yorkshire accent marvelously in her debut novel, The Veil of Night. Yorkshire equals Victoria Holt gothics or Judith Ivory's Untie My Heart. I'm interested to see this accent in your novels.

    But I have a question: the query letter. I've just been awakened to the fact that I am absolutely dreadful at them and I have no clue on how to fix it. Do you think you could post one of your queries, or have a little blog devoted to the writing of one (particularly when one writes a spy romance)?

  6. Hi La Belle Americaine --

    I could technical topic query letter ... and I might someday.

    But I'd feel very amateur in the face of these two resources.

    1) The Books and Writers Community. The link is on the sidebar to the right.

    There's a search option over on the right. Plug 'query' into that.

    You will get much advice, some of it mine.

    2) Miss Snark is gone, but her blog lives on. The link is on the right sidebar.

    There's some sort of search function on her blog, but I haven't used it for a long while.

    Miss Snark knows whereof she speaks.

  7. Anonymous10:00 AM

    I just started rereading MLAS, and am loving lots of wonderful phrases--like Sebastians thought about the distance between sober and drunk "Lots of good sailing on that sea"....
    I realized as I started though, that I don't know what happened to Jess's mom. Or why where Josiah went and why he didn't come back for her, when she was a kid--if I remember correctly, Jess' mom was still alive when she went to work for Lazarus.

  8. Here's an arcane MLAS question for you:

    The gray powder Sebastian sprinkles into Jess's brandy. The stuff he got in Alexandria.

    Ground-up mummy?

    (Because these are the places my mind goes...)

  9. Hi Claire --

    I'm not sure myself what's in that gray powder.

    There's a man in Alexandria who knows, a little fellow, built like a bundle of twigs. He wears an indigo head wrap and has skin the color of oiled mahogany.

    He doesn't talk much but he seems to understand most languages. His medicines always work.

    The local people say he's two hundred years old, but I think that's an exaggeration.