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