Stock History
By Charles Phillips
What is dialect? Dialect according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary 'A form of speech peculiar to a district or class'. Within the definition district will both a part of a county, a whole and a town or city. Dialect is not slang, which is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as 'Words or phrases, or particular meanings of these, that are in common informal use, but generally considered not to form part of standard English, and often used deliberately for picturesqueness or unconventionality'. Cockney rhyming slang is a very good example of this. Dialect is not a language which the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines as 'A vocabulary and way of using it prevalent in one or more countries'. Even within a language there are variations. English English and Scottish English are not the same for example. Nor despite its worst efforts to impose itself on the rest of the other variations of the English language is American English. It is to have both a local language and local English dialect as occurs in Cornwall.
.Stock and Buttsbury being part of Essex would have used the Essex dialect at one time. I say 'at one time' because although a few people in the village know it or part of it and sometimes use words they tend to be of the old families and not the incomers unless the latter come from a part of Essex where some of it is still spoken, which tends to be towards the Suffolk and Cambridgeshire borders.
Back in the 1950s and early 1960 my grandfather Frederick Such, who was born in Nevendon in 1880 and died in Stock in 1964 did use a bit of the dialect and I picked a few words. Ones that I remember are: 'Hodmedod' which is a snail, 'Oven Builder' which is a long tailed tit, 'Barn Work' which is a threshing machine, 'Bumpy Hole' which is a cess pit, 'Pollywagtail' which were tadpoles or other things found in water buts. 'Bor' which is pronounced 'Bo'' which how you address someone. Up until October 1990 I lived Tye Green. Tye is a very Essex word and can be fined as an outlier from a village, which is usually at a meeting of ways, such as footpaths or roads or footpaths and a road or roads or a footpath and a road or roads and often the site of a hamlet or a small group of houses.
In 1920 and 1923 the Rev Edward Gepp, who was the vicar of High Easter published his Essex Dialect Dictionary. The second edition of 1923 expanding on the first edition of 1920. This was reprinted and expanded in 1969 John S Appleby. I have a copy and find it a useful.
Dialect is only words though. It is also phrases and sentences and grammar is used in the spoken or written form. For example in the Essex dialect instead of using 'an' in front of words beginning with a vowel 'a' is used - thus a apple, a egg, a orange, a umbrella. In such instances a soft a i.e 'ah' as opposed to a hard a i.e 'ay' is used.
Dialect words were not the same throughout the whole county. Whilst someone from Stock in Essex would have difficulty in understanding someone from Sussex, Devonshire or Yorkshire they might have difficulty in understanding someone from Leigh or Saffron Walden.
Dialect did tend to be spoken by the ordinary people. Whilst the gentry and the clergy could or might understand it they tended to use proper English or English English. Equally the ordinary person would know proper English. This is not trying to demean them by the way. Another thing is that the ordinary person not only spoke in dialect but thought in dialect. When we read novels of the past we forget that often the ordinary person would not have spoken as they are given to speak in the novel. For example Thomas Hardy's novels would want a dialect dictionary for several counties. If we had a time machine and went back to Stock in 1809 or 1859 we would probably have difficulty in understanding a lot people. Well we might understand the squire and the rector. Well they might not understand some of us. I'm talking about the squire and the rector - never mind the ordinary people. Mind you I sometimes have trouble understanding people when they start using American English. Dumb means an inability to speak and not a lowering of the standard please!. Whilst a shop may be a general stores it is not a stores but a shop, again please! It is wireless not radio please! It is not a train station but a railway station please!
Going a slight(!) tangent you had local customs and games and sayings as well. A lot
Almost finally, it would be very easy to copy out a whole lot of dialect words from the Rev Gepp's book. But as there are about 120 pages of dialect words it would be a waste of space.
Finally it would be good to hear from anyone of any dialect words that they know and also customs, games and sayings. Please contact me on If you don't have the internet but someone has brought this to your attention please get them to send the information to me and so that it can be put on the web site.
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