Is it Yoppul? The Fate of Island Speech, Ventnor Fringe Festival 8th – 13th August 2017

The Isle of Wight has its very own unique dialect….but it’s endangered.

The last 150 years have been characterised by huge changes in society, for example, through greater mobility, better education and improved access to information. Whilst worthy of celebration, the same factors have also tended to make places more uniform, standardise our way of life and erode cultural differences.[1]

In a dictionary of Island dialect from 1886, W. H. Long stated that similar factors were ‘rapidly sweeping away all vestiges of native Island speech’.[2] If this scenario is true then the Isle of Wight dialect has been shrinking for more than a century.

Is it Yoppul? The Fate of Island Speech explores the Island dialect in use today and acts as a warning for the future.

You will hear the voices of four generations of a Ventnor family, who between them share almost one hundred and seventy years of Island life.

Dialect words are handed down through the generations, but over time, younger generations have actively chosen to use standard English words in their place. Therefore the continued use, and understanding, of the widest number of dialect words is entrusted to the older generations of Island residents.

The words in the sound piece are included here and I urge you to learn them, say them, share them and bring them back to life.

Featured Words

Anywhen – anytime or place. A recent variation of somewhen

Asprawl – sprawling

Butt – a small enclosure of land generally near the house

Cham – to chew morosely

Chimbley – chimney

Daffydowndillies – daffodils

Drillen – dripping with sweat

Firk – a continual state of fuss or fidget; also to scratch

Gallybagger – scarecrow

Harpen – to talk continually on one subject

Jipper – juice or syrup of anything, pudding, meat or pie

Kurn – to turn from flower to fruit

Lewth – a sheltered spot from the wind

Mallishag – a large caterpillar, generally found in cabbage

Nammet – refreshment traditionally taken during the harvest at four in the afternoon, consisting of bread or cheese and a pint of strong beer

Overner – a non-native Island visitor

Pincherwig – earwig

Prenly – presently

Queal – to coil or curl up, to queal in, to go to bed

Roke – steam from boiling water

Somewhen – some time or place

Shute – a narrow road

Up tip – to overset

Varm – to clean, varm out, to clean out

Yoppul – useless talk

Zammer – to loiter, lazy

I discuss the piece in the Fringe Review podcast here.

A written interview about the piece and my connection to the Island can be found here.

Photography by Tobias Penner. 

[1] Kwon, M. (2002) One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity. USA: MIT Press

[2] Long, W. H. (1886) A Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect, and of Provincialisms used in the Island; with Illustrative Anecdotes and Tales. London: Reeves and Turner