16/09/2021

Bristol Ls

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Bristolian usage has a lot of Old English buried within it – ‘who bist thee’, ‘casn’t’ and ‘gert’. Then there are a number of rather lazy expressions such as ‘Where’s ee too?’ ‘Hark at ee’, and several unique expressions ‘Alright me lover?’ (how are you?), to ‘coopie down’ (crouch), to ‘scrage your knee’ (scratch it), the ‘snow is pitching’ (it’s settling). Perhaps the oddest is that we called trainers or plimsolls ‘daps’, bizarre in the very city where Samuel Plimsoll was born and came up with his famous Plimsoll line for ship loadings.

But the strangest phenomenon is our adding an ‘L’ on the end of words ending with a vowel. BBC’s Nationwide show (an early One Show) went around the city getting people to read two signs and most read them as ‘The Primal Donnal of the Costal Rical’ and ‘Africal is a malarial areal’ … but denied adding the L.

Bristol’s coat-of-arms

Even the city’s Latin motto Virtute et Industria (By Virtue and Industry )isn’t safe:

Now we be Bristol kiddies, we comes from Bristol City,
Where all the boys be ‘andsome, and all the girls be pretty
We’m proud of our ‘ome town, we never lets’n down
We got this little motto what we sings up Be’minster Down!

Chorus: Oh, Virtute et Industrial, long live all the brewers,
Build more pubs and bettin’ shops, don’t waste’n on the sewers!
Virtute et Industrial, let’s ‘ave another drink
Virtute et Industrial, an’ never mind the stink!


Let progress be our watchword, hooray for all the planners
They keeps the traffic movin’, and never minds the tanners
From Lulsgate thees can tear, off to Paris, now, by air,
But the buses down Old Market street’s enough to make thee swear!

With one-way streets and flyovers, we know which way we’m facin’
Hast seen our brand new bridge, up there in Cumberland Basin?
The cars go by like thunder, and up and round and under,
Where they goes, nobody knows, tain’t no bleedin’ wonder!

Highlights from (Adge Cutler and) The Wurzels’ ‘Virtute et Industrial’
described as Scrumpy & Western music

Adge Cutler and
the Wurzels

There is still a subroutine in my head when I confront the word idea or ideal. In Bristolian there is an expression, ‘That’s a good ideal’ when it means of course ‘idea’. My subroutine runs and hopefully I don’t add the ‘L’ where it is unnecessary, using it only when it is required. I mentioned above that my Mum always said fruneral and she also changed chimney into chimley. I claim it is only when I’m tired, though Jane accuses me of doing it more often, when I say call for coal and pall for pole. What is it about those Bristolian Ls?

ASIDE: When being dismissive my Mum used three distinct words ‘san, fairy’ and ‘Anne’ to mean it does not matter. It was only when I started to learn French that I realised this derived from ‘ça ne fait rien’. It was WWI English soldiers who created my Mum’s version, they also renamed Ypres as Wipers.

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