Here aem ceawering’ beawt custom from mornin’ to neet,
Aw wonder what’s th’ matter,there’s summat noan reet;
Heaw it [is] aw’ve now t’do aw conno weel tell,
Unless folk’s beginnin’ o’ shavin’ theirsel.
Aw should loike to do moor nor aw have done to-day,
For aw’ve one or two bills ’at awm wantin’ to pay;
An’ awm certain o’ one thing, there’ll be a foine row
Iv aw dunna pay Turner for gildin’ mi pow.
An’ then there’s th’ cigar chap – he’s comin’ this week;
An’ aw owe four an’ sixpence to Clay, for some breek.
Iv somb’dy does not come in an’ bring me some brass,
Aw shall very soon be in a pickle, bi th’ mass!
There’s th’ doctor reawnd th’ corner, he used to come here,
Never missed twoice a week, bein’ perch’d i’ this cheer,
But neaw he walks past, an’ ne’er gies me a co’ –
Aw wonder if he’s stopped for cotton an’ o!
As aw’rn comin’ past Morton’s front window at noon.
When aw’d in on to Jonny McKay’s wi mi shoon,
Aw’ll be blest iv th’ owd chap wur no’ cutting his hair
Wi’ a pair o’ big shears – it’s true aw declare!
Ah! tha’ll look a foine seet when tha’s finished, aw thowt,
Iv he’d come an’ ax’d me aw’d ha’ cut it for nowt.
It’s toime aw’d a job for mi lather an’ brush –
Hello! there’s a customer comin’ neaw, hush!
Oh, it’s only eawr Timothy bringin’ mi tay –
Aw shall eat a deal moor nor aw’ve getten to-day.
What’s th’ reason owd Jammie o’ Ned’s doesn’t come?
Aw wonder iv th’ woife pows an; shaves him awhoam.
Aw know why Bob Travis ne’er gies me a co’,
He’s lettin’ his beard an’ his mustashes grow;
He’s towd me this week ’at he doesn’t intend
To be shaved ony moor till trade begins t’mend.
Well, iv everyone does same as him an’ their Joe,
We shall ha’ to shut up, shall us barbers, [that's] o’,
For we conno pay taxes an’ rates eawt o’ nowt,
An’ then there’s these razors, they han to be bowt,
Beside other matters one has abeawt th’ place,
Sich as hair oil, an’ teawels for woipin’ their face;
There’s mi lather brush, hair brush, there’s soap an’ th’ glass,
An’ that great big wesh-bowl – they o’ tacken brass.
When one’s nowt comin’ in mich it acts very bad,
It’s enuff to make people in business go mad.
Neaw things wur no soa when aw oppen’d this room,
For aw couldn’t attend folk as fast as they coom.
Jem Thompson poor chap, he’s no better nor me,
He says he can hardly mak ends meet an tee;
An’ his used to do rarely, did Jem, he did so,
For he mends umbrellas, grinds razors an’ o.
Aw wish aw wur single, aw’d hook it fra’ here,
Aw’d sell o’ mi razors, mi strop an’ this cheer;
Aw’d soon steer mi bark on the ocean wave,
For aw’d go see iv the Yankees wur wantin’ a shave.
Iv aw didn’t succeed, an’ could get nowt to eight,
Aw could list for a sodger, an’ help ’em to feight.
But aw’ll go an’ shut up while there’s middlin o’ leet,
For there’s nob’dy wants powin’ an’ shavin’ to-neet.
Aw’ve waited an’ waited for folk till awm stowd,
But aw’ll noan stond it long, iv aw do aw’ll be blow’d.
The idea ov a chap ceawerin here bi hissel,
Singing “lather ’em shave ’em, shave ’em well.”
Iv aw’d somb’dy in here just to stick to mi coat,
Aw’d get howd ov a razor an’ cut mi throat,
An’ try t’ other world, for there’s nowt to do here –
Aw’d go see iv they’re wanting a barber deawn theer.

Title:Owd Barber Periwig's Solilokwy

Author:Samuel Laycock

Publication:Ashton and Stalybridge Reporter

Published in:Ashton-under-Lyne

Date:Nov 21st 1863

Keywords:dialect, poverty, work



This poem shows several phonological traits but fewer grammatical or lexical features. The writer adopts several non-standard spellings, which are in most cases represented in several words.

The spelling “ow” is represented in the words howd (hold), owd (old), and towd (told), which are pronounced with either [ǝʊ] or [aʊ] and no [l]. The phoneme [l] is typically vocalized into [ʊ] in northern dialects. This phonological phenomenon known as [l]-vocalization is commonly associated with northern dialects.

The non-standard spelling “o” substituting “a” in the words conno and stond for “cannot” and “stand” respectively involves some phonological shift. These two words are pronounced with the monophthong [ɒ] in the Lancashire dialect. This vocalic rounding is normally seen before nasal consonants such as [n] or [m]. This trait, which derives from the Old English times, is remarkably seen and represented in the Lancashire dialect and in the Lancashire literature.

The spelling “eaw” suggesting the diphthong [ɛʊ] is shown in the words abeawt (about), deawn (down), eawt (out), heaw (how), neaw (now), and reawnd (round). The spelling “eaw” is usually represented in the Lancashire literature and the pronunciation [ɛʊ] is usually recorded in the county of Lancashire. This pronunciation is not an old realization but a novel form as it is the variant of the standard diphthong [aʊ].

The form oppen’d (opened) suggests that the first letter “o” is not pronounced with the diphthong [ǝʊ] but with the monophthong [ɒ]. This is because the duplication of the consonant following a vowel is a usual technique to suggest that the previous sound is short. In Old English, this word contained a short vowel; in Standard English that short was lengthened and later diphthongized, but in the Lancashire dialect and in several northern dialects that vowel length did not take place. As a result, the original short sound remained almost unshifted in the dialect.

The word thowt for “thought” would be pronounced with the diphthong [aʊ]. This diphthong is an archaic pronunciation as it is the preservation of an old sound. Whereas this diphthong monophthongized into [ɔ:] in around the early Modern English period in the standard language, [aʊ] remained unshifted in northern dialects, including Lancashire. As a result, northern literature usually shows the spelling “ow” conveying the sound [aʊ] in words such as “thought” or “brought”.

The spelling “ee” in the words neet (night), reet (right), seet (sight), leet (light), and to-neet (tonight) suggests the sound [i:]. The digraph “gh” in “right” was represented by the consonantal sound [ҫ] in Old English, which later was vocalized into [ɪ] in the standard language and joined the previous [ɪ]. The resulting sound was [i:], which subsequently became the diphthong [aɪ]. On the contrary, in several northern dialects including the Lancashire dialect, the consonant [ç] did not change. When these words in northern dialects finally lost the consonant, the previous vowel lengthened as [i:] as compensatory lengthening.

As opposed to the archaic sound [i:] in words such as reet, we find the non-standard spelling “ey” in feight (fight) suggesting the diphthong [ɛɪ], which is a novel realization. This means, the pronunciation [ɛɪ] in words such as “fight”, “right”, “night”, etc. is a compromise realization between the old sound [i:] and the standard diphthong [aɪ].

The spelling “oi” in the words loike (like), foine (fine), woife (wife), toime (time), and woipin’ (wiping) suggests the diphthong [ɔɪ]. Although, this dialect diphthong is a variant of the standard pronunciation [aɪ], it is considered vulgar and associated with working-class and rural speakers. Therefore, this poem shows three different pronunciations, [i:], [ɛɪ], [ɔɪ], related to the same standard diphthong [aɪ]. This coexistence of sounds started to be usual during the nineteenth century, since old sounds were gradually substituted by novel realizations as a result of the pressure of Standard English.

The spelling “ee” in the word cheer for “chair” does not suggest the standard sound [ɛǝ] but [ɪǝ]. The principal difference between the standard sound and the dialect diphthong relies on the effect of the consonant [r]. Post-vocalic [r] hindered the sound [ɛ:] this word contained in Middle English from developing into [i:] in the standard. In the Lancashire dialect, this post-vocalic consonant did not have any effect and [ɛ:] could develop into [i:]. This means, the Lancashire dialect shows the analogical or the common development of the Middle English sound [ɛ:].

Finally, moore for “more” could suggest either [u:] or [ʊǝ] instead of the standard sound [ɔ:]. The difference between the dialect sound and the standard monophthong relies on the phonological phenomenon previously mentioned. The usual development of the sound [ɔ:] this word contained in Middle English was [u:] during the early Modern English period. However, post-vocalic [r] hindered Middle English [ɔ:] from shifting into [u:] and, consequently, it remained unshifted in the standard but not in the Lancashire dialect. We also suggested the short diphthong [ʊǝ] in this word as post-vocalic [r] normally triggered the glide [ǝ] and long diphthongs (i.e [u:ǝ]) are not found in English.

Concerning the grammatical features, this poem presents three remarkable traits. The first trait is the use of “nor” to substitute the conjunction “than” in comparative sentences, as exemplified in he’s no better nor me (he is no better than me). The use of “nor” in this type of sentences is commonly found in the Lancashire dialect and it is probably widespread to other northern varieties.

The second trait is the use of the -en ending to mark the past participle form as in the sentence Aw’ve getten (I’ve got). This mark goes back to the Old English times when the usual form to mark the past participle was by adding the -en prefix. Although this was lost in Standard English, the Lancashire dialect and, in general, northern dialects preserve this marker. However, this use is principally limited to the verb “get”.

The third trait builds on the use of the reflexive pronouns. Standard English formed the reflexive form with the objective case of the personal pronoun and the ending -self or -selves (in plural cases), as exemplified in “himself”. On the contrary, the Lancashire dialect forms the reflexive pronoun with the possessive form and the suffix -sel, as exemplified in theirsel (themselves) and hissel (himself).

Finally, we also find the reduction of the definite article as in an’ try t’ other world (and try the other world). This ellipsis is considered as one of the most stereotypical marker of Northern British English dialect, especially of those varieties belonging to Lancashire.

As far as the lexicon employed is concerned, the most outstanding forms are shoon and Aw for “shoes” and “I” respectively. The first word, shoon, is not a prototypical dialect word, since its form is related to the way of marking the irregular plurality in nouns. The -en suffix was the usual old form to pluralize the nouns. Over time, the old marker was substituted by the -s suffix to mark plurality and, nowadays, nouns with irregular plural in -en ending in Standard English are few and only found in, for instance, ox – oxen. Northern dialects, on the other hand, as they tended to preserve the old form to mark the plurality, the lexical stock comprising irregular plurals is larger. The form “Aw” to refer to the first person singular personal pronoun is frequently found in the Lancashire dialect. However, the form Aw does not have any clear explanation ascertained.