Local HistoryProvincial Words

Glossary of Provincial Words used in North Hampshire – the introduction

Back in 1888 the village doctor Joseph Stevens published his book “Parochial History of St. Mary Bourne Hants with an an account of the manor of Hurstbourne Priors Hants“. This book in an invaluable resource for anyone looking at the history of the village. I was lucky enough many years ago to pick up a copy on eBay which includes his 1895 addendum, these days I mostly use the digital version that came with a CD I purchased some years back about the village which is full of resources from various authors and also some transcriptions.

Although Dr Stevens is not someone I will be getting into detail with any time soon (although I have researched him for my IHGS coursework) his work will get referred to. In this case this is the first post covering his “Glossary of Provincial Words”. Further A-Z posts to follow.

In framing a short glossary of local words in use amongst the peasantry of St. Mary Bourne, and the district immediately surrounding it, I have adhered to such as have from time to time come under my own observation. Many of the words comprising the list range over a large area outside of the county, and have probably been introduced by labourers and others, who have come out of other counties and settled in Hampshire. It is difficult to understand whence some of these provincialisms have been derived ; but they have probably come from several sources, Saxon, Danish, and in some cases from Celtic roots. By passing through the mouths of illiterate people the original words have undergone such corruption as to be scarcely discoverable. In some instances the words seem intended to represent sounds, as in ” blubbering”, which appears to mean snivelling or crying with pouting lips ; or they have been coined to express sensation, as in “quop”, a word intended to apply to the peculiar throbbing feeling attending superation. As an illustration of the way slang is made to convey an idea, a gipsy hawker of brushes, etc., which he carried on his back, was asked how he contrived to obtain so many halfpence in a scramble at an election at Abingdon, when he replied that ” he went in all mops and brooms”. The glossary is arranged alphabetically, and many of the words are spelt as they are or were pronounced. I am aware that some of the words are noticed in Halliwell’s Archaic and Provincial Words ; but I refer to them as I have understood their meaning among North Hampshire people. Some of the words are slang, and others are vulgarisms of well-known words.

Dr Joseph Stevens, A Parochial History of St. Mary Bourne1

I’m sure when reading the above extract you’ll have noticed the way he referred to the people of the village, the peasantry, the illiterate, the labourers, this is not unusual for the time. He himself was an educated man who was not only the local doctor but a prolific author and antiquarian. He studied the people like he studied anything else, and learning what they meant when they said words like “quop” which he mentions above would have helped him deal with his patients as well as we see here give him something else to write about.

  1. See the Bibliography page for more information ↩︎

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