A robust, educated, 100-year-old reprimand for people who decry the use of Cumberland dialect!


Another visit to Keswick Books (antiquarian book sellers) on Station Street, two days ago, turned up a Cumbrian dialect book I’d never heard of before but which I will now refer to frequently: A grammar of the Dialect of Lorton (Cumberland), Historical and Descriptive, With an Appendix on the Scandinavian Element, Dialect Specimens and a Glossary, by Borje Briliothe (PhD)…. How about that for a catchy title!

It is the aforementioned “Scandinavian element” that was of particular interest to me but the book, which is dated 1913 in the Preface, came with an additional bonus:  a newspaper clipping – regrettably not dated but perhaps from around 1950 – of a letter from Professor Briliothe, about the merits of the Cumberland dialect.  Here is an excerpt:

Letter from Sweden


Sir – Permit me to say a few words in reply to Tom Horrocks’ surprising attack on the Cumberland dialect printed in your paper.  R. Denwood and “Copeland” have already given excellent replies but as a student of the Cumberland dialect and as a fervent friend of the Cumberland people I would like to add a few words.

Mr. Horrocks’ assault is based on the most complete ignorance of what a dialect is and of the origin of the Cumberland dialect in particular.  He might just as well advocate the demolition of historic monuments or ancient buildings.  The Cumberland dialect is one of the most interesting, and, from a philological point of view, one of the most valuable sources of research of the philologists.  It represents to a great extent the ancient language spoken in the north of England and contains especially a rich element of Scandinavian loan-words introduced by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.

It is at the same time terse and expressive and reflects in a remarkable manner the staunch and fine character of the Cumbrian people….

The delightful and memorable months I was privileged to spend in beautiful Cumberland and amongst my Cumbrian friends belong to the most charming memories of my life.  I know that Mr. Horrocks’ regrettable attack on his native dialect, entirely unwarranted as it is, must be a blow in the face of every good Cumbrian.  It has been so to me, and I sincerely hope that those Cumbrian patriots who have undertaken the fine work of upholding and preserving their native tongue and the ancient and fine traditions and culture of Cumberland will keep up their good work.

BORJE BRILIOTH, Ph.D., Stockholm, Sweden.


A significant section of this website is devoted to Cumbrian dialects and the Lakeland dialect, including a large glossary of word meanings.  View it here.

Author: Steve

Steve Shearwater, the author of this series of books and admin of this website and blog.

5 thoughts on “A robust, educated, 100-year-old reprimand for people who decry the use of Cumberland dialect!”

  1. The book sounds fascinating, I’d love to have a copy but I suspect I would be unlikely to ever find one. Is there any chance you could scan it so an e copy could be available? A lot of work I know but at least then it would be preserved. I conduct Ghost Walks in Keswick & Cockermouth & recite an excerpt of “Branthet Neuk Boggle” by Alexander Craig Gibson as one of the stories. Fitting as I grew up in Branthwaite & love the Cumberland dialect.

    1. Hi, Jane, and thanks for your note. If you are talking about my own Cumbria novel (which includes some dialect), it is available at Bookends, in Keswick, and I will be signing copies there in three days time, from 11:00-11:30am on Thursday, 8 December, 2016. It is also available via amazon.co.uk (including the e-book version) but I’m one of those old fashioned people who believes that wherever possible we should support our local, independent book shops!

      Having said all that, I have to presume that you were, in fact, talking about the dialect book, in which case I recommend that you try:
      >> Keswick Books (at the bottom of Station Street)
      >> Bookends Carlisle
      >> Michael Moon’s bookshop at Whitehaven
      …all of which are excellent antiquarian bookshops.

    2. Incidentally, Jane, the original 1913 dialect book was published by the Oxford University Press so I would guess that it won’t be too hard to track down another copy.

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