Themes: Language / Housing

East Anglian dialect and local terms



East Anglian English is a dialect, or group of dialects. It is usually described as 'broader' in Norfolk than in Suffolk, and can be thought of as a combination of rural inflexion and marked differences in the pronunciation of certain words (eg. 'goo' for 'go', or 'shew' for 'show'). An interesting grammatical feature is the widespread use of 'that', replacing the subject pronoun 'it'. Accent is also characteristic; Suffolk dialect is often identified by its rising intonation at the end of a sentence as if asking a question. These features probably reflect the multilingualism of East Anglia due to its geographical uniqueness.


Regional names

Much of the regional flavour of rural East Anglia is carried through unusual terms for various things and places, often dating back to Anglo-saxon times. A 'crinkle-crankle' wall, for example, is used to describe the serpentine walls that are common in both Norfolk and Suffolk.  There are also regionally specific terms for tools and techniques in various rural trades.  The Suffolk term for a double-faced sledge hammer, for example, used in blacksmithing is a 'bout hammer', while a sheaf of reeds used in thatching is known as a 'shoof'. The names of towns and villages in the East Anglian countryside often reveal local histories and traditions that once thrived but may have died out. Camping Land in Swaffham, for example, refers to a once widespread ball-game, 'camping or 'campball', a popular alternative to football. Often a syllable within a place name tells its own story. The frequency of names ending in -by (Old Danish for 'farm' or 'village') in the Fleggburgh area, for example, demonstrates Viking settlement on the Isle of Flegg and therefore possible Scandinavian ancestory.


Aldeby village sign