Our Guide to Poldark Parlance
The Cornish dialect can be a tad difficult to understand until you get your ear in – so to speak. There are even variances throughout the county.
We’ve focused on the South West Cornwall dialect – that of the irascible couple Jud and Prudie Paynter, the lazy rum drinking rogues in the employ of Ross and Demelza Poldark. Here are the top ten things you might hear them mutter:
TED’N RIGHT, TED’N JUST, TED’N FAIR
It’s not right, it’s not moral and it’s not fair. Often muttered by grumpy old Jud.
Dirty / filthy. “‘Er was ummin yew!”
To walk – sometimes a long march up a hill. “Goin’ for a stank up Tregonnin’.”
Hard-done-by, weak, faint, pale. “You’m looking wisht today.”
Where’m yo goin’ / Where’m yo to?
Where are you off to? / Where are you?
Thirsty / parched. “I’m chackin’ for a pint of Scrumpy.”
Yes – in agreement.
You’re talking rubbish.
Potato. An essential ingredient in Cornish pasties.
Here you go / here it is.
CORNISH LANGUAGE ORIGINS
The real Cornish language sadly died out in the 18th Century. The infamous Dolly Pentreath from Mousehole has long been considered the last fluent native speaker of Cornish. A fishwife and daughter of a fisherman, she became somewhat of a minor celebrity in Cornwall in her later years, scraping a living by telling fortunes and ‘gabbling’ in Cornish.
Of course, there are so many tales about her, we don’t know which are true and which are figments of Cornish imaginations. She was said often to curse people, including calling them ‘kronnekyn hager du.’ In plain English, this means an ‘ugly black toad.’ Nice.
The legend goes that her last words were “Me ne vidn cewsel Sawznek!” (“I don’t want to speak English!”) Strangely, a monument was erected to her memory by the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and the local vicar. This can be still be spotted set into the wall, outside Paul church.
Now you can practise your Cornish as you travel about the county – as we often welcome you to our towns in Cornish. Kernow a’gas dynergh – Welcome to Cornwall.
If you’d like to learn more about the Cornish language, please click here to explore the Agan Tavas society, here for the Cornish Language Partnership, here for the fellowship, or we recommend these books.