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
TO THE EDITOR OF THE “NEWS”
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.