button to main menu   West's Guide to the Lakes 1778/1810

3rd edn addenda - Provincial Words - pages 297-303

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Page 297:-

Provincial Words
THE language of any people, however refined it may become in time, has undoubtedly arisen from some rude original, and he, therefore, who wishes thoroughly to understand its genius and primary elements, must, if possible, make himself acquainted with its formation in its earliest stages. Now this knowledge is often best acquired from the mouths of the vulgar, who, living far removed from refinement, have probably retained a dialect nearly the same with that which resulted from the last casual admixture it underwent among their rustic ancestors; and which in England was the union of the Saxon with the ancient British. On this account the critic in our language would at present receive the best information concerning its principles and character, by studying the provincial dialects of the times in some of the most retired districts. And as they are now suffering a daily change from the rapid progress made of late in every branch of politeness, it is to be wished, that for this end our provincial historians had carefully attended to and preserved the peculiar terms and phrases of the vulgar dialects, current in their respective divisions.[1] Particularly this was to be wished
[1] It is also to be wished (and in this wish I have the concurrence of several judicious friends) that the ingenious in these parts would immediately set about making collections of the oldest words and peculiar phrases used by their common neighbours, and preserve them in case some learned and properly-qualified person should hereafter undertake to give us a complete dictionary of the Westmorland and Cumberland dialects, to whom they might be of the greatest service. Of such a work the list of words which has lately appeared in the Tour to the Caves, might be a beginning.
There are also in these parts (as in every other part alike retired) several stories of apparitions, witches, fairies, &c.- several traditionary tales of strange occurrences,- and many compositions of rural bards under the titles of speech plays, masking songs, &c. which if collected as much as possible in their provincial dress, and preserved in some public library, before they are likely to be lost in the more engaging amusements of these improving times, might be of considerable use to the future grammarian, historian, or investigator of the progress of society and manners. The poet too, might from these traditionary narratives, and superstitious ideas, gain more materials for some provinces of his fanciful art, than from the richest invention: For it is not easy to suppose he can form for himself as striking a combination of events, and association of ideas, as may have been furnished by the accidents of time, and the fruitfulness of superstition; and on account of which strikingness these fire-side tales have obtained so long and general a tradition as many of them can boast - But I am content with barely throwing out a hint, which if thought worth notice will not need any further enlargement.
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