As I mentioned a little while ago, I am concentrating some energy on making sure that Gregory sounds sufficiently different to Sam – but when I get caught up in the plot and am steaming ahead with the action, there we are again with Sam. So I have taken a little break and have been researching suitable Norfolk and military words with which I can make Gregory sound like his own man. I don’t want to make him a comic figure – far from it – but a few choice words of dialect and we’ll soon having him sounding a world away from that metropolitan Londoner.
It seems that the Norfolk dialect – sometimes called Broad Norfolk – is itself a blend of many influences. Several words still in use today – such as spink, meaning finch (the bird) – are Anglo-Saxon. Others – staithe (landing place), flag (yellow iris) and grup (shallow trench) – are Danish in origin, left over from the Viking occupation of East Anglia in the ninth century. Still others have entered the dialect from the continent, brought in by the seventeenth century influx of Protestant refugees from Flanders and France. A good example of this type of word is plain, which in Norfolk is used to signify a town or village square. The same word (spelt slightly differently) is found in exactly the same context in Eindhoven in the Netherlands and in Beziers in France. More useful perhaps for Gregory’s everyday life will be blar (to cry or weep), loke (a blind alley) and – my favourite – fumble-fisted (clumsy).
Perhaps understandably, most of the period-specific military slang I have unearthed concerns insults, alcohol and army life. The different branches of the forces had a friendly rivalry: the cavalry called the infantry foot wobblers, while the navy called soldiers being transported on their ships shifting ballast – and everyone called the Grenadiers bacon bolters (it seems to be a reference to their greed). Drummers were sheepskin fiddlers, ensigns were rag carriers, and anything French was parleyvous.
It seems that my usual glossary at the end of each book is going to be a mixed bag, with words from the Regency period, and from Norfolk, and from the military – I shall have to devise a code to avoid confusion (of me, I mean, not of my savvy readers – and there’s another word from French).