Ramona Marks



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Chimbley Sweep

Learned something new today: 'chimbley' is an alternative pronunciation and dialect form of the word 'chimney'. If you live in parts of the county of Norfolk, England or indeed in New England in the US, you may already know this. I thought it was a mis-pronunciation, similar to the way people sometimes say 'ambliance' (instead of ambulance), or pasghetti (instead of spaghetti). But no, chimbley is official.

The Norfolk dialect has a number of interesting pronunciation quirks, some of which have been connected back to Scandinavian influence, as the region was once settled by Vikings. But where the Norfolk dialect has traveled is also interesting.

The differences between the Norfolk pronunciation and, say, London pronunciations are quite obvious. Words like 'new' in much of England are pronounced 'nyew'. The same is true of 'due' (dyue). That 'y' sound is called a 'yod', and 'yod-dropping' is the term used to describe the way words are said in Norfolk; you get more 'noo' and 'doo' sounds.

If you're American, that is probably familiar and comfortable. American English follows the Norfolk dialect in some ways, especially if you listen to the accents of New England. The way someone from Maine or Massachusetts would say words like 'better', 'thicker', and 'butcher' is similar to the Norfolk dialect, as well. Glottal stops make the words sound more like 'betta', 'thicka', and 'butcha'. But some Norfolk dialect particularities are more like accents of the US south; word usage like 'good'un' instead of 'good one' is common to both regions. 

Chimbley is more than a pronunciation quirk, even though the spell checker disagrees with me. If I had a Norfolk dialect spell check option, would it allow the word 'chimbley'? My favorite discovery from these language meanderings is the alternative pronunciation and use of the word 'exactly' in the Norfolk dialect - zackly. I could be convinced to bring that one back into circulation.