In “Croopus! A Dido Twite Lexicon” I listed some of Dido’s colourful language in the Wolves Chronicles, some of it genuine — variously Cockney and from other parts of Britain — and some of it Joan Aiken’s own invention (which, oddly enough, often seemed perfectly genuine). There undoubtedly were the inevitable omissions and, as further novels in the series are read, there’ll naturally be additions. Here’s the first of what will probably be part of an ongoing exercise (expect more addenda as time goes by) listing terms used by Dido in Night Birds on Nantucket.
Dido’s Dictionary of Phrase and Lingo: addendum 9/2016
Cor, love a lily-white duck: amplified version of Lord, love a duck. [possibly Cockney, dating from the 19th century; I like to think it could be derived from Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury (1834-1913) who instituted Bank Holidays in Britain in the 1870s: Lord love us > Lord Lubbock > Lord love-a-duck]
Goshswoggle: empty-headed person. [perhaps related to swaggle, to sway or stagger as a drunken man, once common from Cumberland to Warwickshire and Suffolk, a compound of ‘sway’ and ‘waggle’; Crystal]
Jobberknoll: idiot. [jobbernowl is a dialect term from Scotland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk and Devon meaning a dunce, dolt or blockhead, possibly from French jobard ‘fool’ and Anglo-Saxon noll ‘head’; Crystal]
Sapskull: a stupid person. [Webster’s Dictionary 1913]
* Dido clearly has a wide vocabulary to express opprobrium of individuals
I ain’t bamming you: I’m not deceiving you. [perhaps from early 18th-century ‘bamboozle’ or its variation ‘bamfoozle’, common in Cornwall, Somerset and Yorkshire; Crystal]
Queer in the attic: utterly foolish.
And now a few terms from the pages of Night Birds that might flummox the casual reader: williwaw is a sudden blast of wind descending from a mountainous coast to the sea, such as might be encountered by a whaler off South America; the game called pachisi that Dido plays aboard the Sarah Casket is a pastime from the Indian subcontinent, ancestor of the once popular modern board game Ludo; and a terremoto is an earthquake, literally the land in movement.
- David Crystal is Honorary Professor of Linguistics at the University of Bangor and a prolific writer of the history and development of English. In this post I’ve profited from some of the entries in The Disappearing Dictionary: a treasury of lost English dialect words (Macmillan 2015 and Pan Books 2016).