[From Manx Dialect, 1934]


English-Principal collections-Principal sources of this collection-The references.


English as it is spoken by most of the Manx people differs widely from any other English. From a purely linguistic point of view it has not the value of an unmixed English dialect, since it is not the modern representative of an early subdivisionof the language, as is a Midland dialect that derives from the ancient Mercian, or a Southern dialect descended from the speech of King Alfred's day. Nevertheless it has the compensatory charm of piquantly mingling two distinct languages, the exhilarating freshness of the idiom, vocabulary and intonation of the Manx being imposed to some extent upon the English gradually acquired during the 18th and 19th centuries.1 Resembling therein the dialects of other parts of the British Isles where a Celtic tongue prevailed till recently, like them it confesses to the source from which it has been learnt. We might therefore expect it to betray in its vocabulary and usages not only the locality from which English was popularized in the Island, but also the epoch at which the invading tongue became predominant, as is the case with the English of Ireland ; but I believe that that is not so, and probably the Island's close contact and ever-increasing traffic with the North-Western counties have kept it abreast of changes in the corresponding English dialects. Lancashire is the second home of the Manxman by virtue of centuries of intercommunication and intermarriage. From Lancashire, and to a lesser extent from Cumberland, he has learned much of his phraseology;2 he has adopted words and idioms from the Manx Gaelic, and from Irish and Scottish incomers ; perhaps, in his first efforts to express himself in a foreign language, he even coined a few expressions which are referable neither to Gaelic nor to English.

Manx English not only reflects a sun that has set for ever, but is itself steadily waning, and must in the course of no long time become almost as extinct as the Manx language. Its vocal inflexions are already responding to influences from England ; in Douglas especially, a South-West Lancashire intonation, itself not wholly Anglo-Saxon, has for many years been gradually subduing the native Celtic tendency to run up the scale. In country districts the dialect is still rich in sound, vocabulary and idiom, but it is reserved, at its raciest, for use among compatriots; for the stranger's benefit a politely modified form of speech is produced, the joint result of the efforts of schoolmasters and the example of holiday-makers and the more or less permanent settlers. To these must soon must be added the blighting effect of 'the Wireless.'


Of the dialect collections already published by far the fullest is A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect, begun by A. W. Moore and completed by Sophia Morrison and Edmund Goodwin. Moore intended to write a chapter on Anglo-Manx phonology, hence perhaps the inclusion in the work of many English words used in their ordinary English sense but mispronounced.

Manx Idioms, a humorous lecture by the Rev. T. E. Brown, was afterwards published in pamphlet form,3 An article by Mr. William Radcliffe in the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Antiquarian Society, 1927, based apparently on the Vocabulary of Anglo-Manx, contains a few additional words and expressions. Short glossaries are appended to several booklets of dialect verse and drama, notably those of " Cushag." A small number of Manx dialect words are scattered through the English Dialect Dictionary.


Much of the ensuing material has been rescued from the obscure writings of the late George Quarrie. Though of small literary worth, as a record of the dialect they are extremely valuable. In the work of Brown and Rydings the language is that of people in the presence of their social superiors, but in Quarrie's rough and ready rhymes they are talking among themselves, and only one of themselves could have written down their vernacular as he did. He was in fact one of them in his young days, and their speech was his. Yet the decencies of the printed page must have shut out, even from his rugged lines, a number of highly pungent expressions which now, I fear, will never see the light. The memories which he manufactured into his verses and sketches belonged to the middle of the 19th century, when a respectable proportion of people spoke Manx as well as English, and were more apt to slip Manx words into their English than their descendants are. His themes seldom cross the boundary of his native Kirk Bride and never get farther from it than the next parish, so that some of his expressions and pronunciations may have been unfamiliar, even then, in the more Southerly parts of the Island. Many of them have now gone quite out of use, and their exact meanings have been difficult to ascertain. It is fortunate for the present purpose that, although Quarrie's published verse is not without typographical eccentricities, its Manx and dialect words are so free from errors that they must have been plainly written or carefully corrected in proof.

So far as I am aware, only his " Melliah " has been separately published; viz., as the major portion of a pamphlet printed in Douglas in 1884 and reprinted in 1889, The rest of his dialect writings here quoted from appeared much later, and at irregular intervals, in the Manx Press-most of them, if not all, in The Isle of Man Examiner, from which they were off-printed in different numbers of The Manx Quarterly. " Jemmy from Jurby " and " Tittle-whack " (with the hyphen) were included in Isle of Man Short Stories, published by Broadbent of Douglas. The other " Tittlewhack " sketch appeared in No. 26 of The Manx Quarterly. Quarrie was even more of a Scotchman than T. E. Brown. His parents, I have been told, migrated to the Island from Galloway and built the present Ballavair house in Bride.4 There George was born about 90 years ago ; he removed to the United States in early manhood, and died in Brooklyn in 1926.5

Brown and Rydings have been more carefully combed by the compilers of the Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect. T. E. Brown, it need hardly be said, is the great storehouse of the written folk-speech. Out of it he fashioned for himself a brilliantly expressive medium, but in doing so modified some of the characteristics of the dialect and exaggerated others. In all the wealth of his vocabulary there is comparatively little to remind a reader that the vernacular owes many of its words and idioms to the Manx tongue, and at the time he wrote must have owed still more. His spellings, however, are more consistent and less tortured than Rydings' efforts towards phonetic fidelity in the. small volume of Lonan sketches which, as dialect, earned Brown's enthusiastic praise.

The more recent dialect poets and dramatists" Cushag," Miss Mona Douglas, Messrs. Christopher Shimmin, J. J. Kneen, " Juan Noa " and Clucas Kinley-have yielded among them many expressions not to be found in previous writers, which shows that completeness is no more attainable in this department than in the amassing of Manx place-names. " Cushag's " plays and poems were published by Johnson of Douglas and in Mannin and Ellan Vannin magazines. The other printed plays quoted from have also been published locally. The short stories and sketches referred to by title can be found in Isle of Man Short Stories and Manx Tales, Broadbent, Douglas.

Further material might be trawled out of old files of Manx newspapers and a few unpublished plays which have eluded me; Insular readers will be reminded of expressions which they will be unable to find either here or in the Vocabulary; and in the talk of the country people among themselves strange fish are still liable to rise unexpectedly.

From the present supplementary vocabulary mere mispronunciations are excluded. It would be very difficult to know where to draw a line, for the accent is all pervasive. In any case, the phonology of a dialect, with the necessary examples, appears to be a branch of the subject that calls for separate treatment.

For the purpose of this collection I have taken 'dialect words' to mean (a) English words used in a special sense, not merely sounded in a special way; and (b) words brought over from the Manx language with or without changes in their form. Not all of thesa words are to be found in the Manx dictionaries ; those that are show little modification in their present meanings. The 'dialect phrases' in Part III mostly owe their peculiar terms or syntax to the influence of the Manx language on the acquired English. Some of them are evidently direct translations by persons struggling to express themselves in a foreign tongue.

A few others must have resulted from comparatively moderrn contacts with English-speaking Irish people. Of words brought over from the Manx tongue, the dialect sense is not always quite the dictionary sense, and for these and others I have had to supply definitions or equivalents to the best of my ability. Mr. H. Percy Kelly, who is striving in a practical way to keep alive an interest in the old language, has been good enough to help me in several cases.

Though I may have heard an expression used in conversation, I have thought it best to quote when feasible one or more examples of its use from a written source. When no source for a word is specified the responsibility for the illustrative phrase is mine ; in such examples more than one stratum of the popular speech is represented, hence the varied spellings.


Titles of books, plays and periodicals are in italics ; titles of poems, short stories and sketches are in inverted commas. Some of the plays , from which quotations are made exist in manuscript only ; for these no page numbers are given. Some of the manuscripts are in the Manx Museum Library, others are in private hands.

The following abbreviations have been used in the text :-

'Brown' followed by a page number refers to The Collected Poems of T. E. Brown (Macmillan, 1900).

' Cregeen ' refers to Cregeen's Manx Dictionary (1838), reprinted 1910.

' Dinneen ' refers to Dinneen's Irish-English Dictionary, 1927 edition.

' E.D.D.' = Dr. Wright's English Dialect Dictionary.

' J.J. K.' =communicated by Mr. J. J. Kneen, of Douglas.

' J.T.I.' = communicated by Mr. James T. Irving, of Glen May.

' Kelly' refers to Kelly's and Gill's Manx Dictionary, published in 1866 but based on a much earlier work by Dr. Kelly.

' N.E.D.' = The New English Dictionary (" Oxford Dictionary ").

' Rydings ' followed by a page number refers to Manx Tales, by Egbert Rydings (Heywood, Manchester, 1895). "Our Kerree " is included in Isle of Man Short Stories (Broadbent, Douglas).

' T. D.' = communicated by Mr. Tom Dodd, of Peel.

' V.A. D.' = A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect, ommenced by A. W. Moore and completed by Sophia Morrison and Edmund Goodwin (Milford, 1924).


1 At a Convocation of the Clergy at Bishopscourt in 1703, presided over by Bishop Wilson, it was decreed that all parents, under penalty of a fine, must send their children to school until they could "read English distinctly " ; but exceptions were made (Statutes)

2 The debt to Lancashire has been pointed out by Edmund Goodwin in his Introduction to the phonetics of the dialect in A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect. A. J. Ellis, Early English Pronunciation, pt. v, p. 360, classifies the Manx dialect as a variant of the Mid-Lancashire.

3 Brown had a short Dialect Dictionary " well in hand," by his own statement, in 1895, with the phonetics based on Sweet's notation (Mannin, No. 9). Nothing is said of this in the Introduction to the Vocabulary; did it supply Moore with a framework or any material ? If not, where is Brown's manuscript now ?

4 Though the name is also native to the Isle of Man it is very Common there, and is invariably spelt ' Quarry.'

5 Literary estimates would be out of place here, but in fairness to Quarrie's memory his better moments should not be forgotten. " The Dance" section of " The Melliah," written in a Burns metre, has an appropriate vigour and spring in its latter half ; and there is a pleasing quality in the following passage from " Jemmy from Jurby" :-

The streakle unhitching, the oil and the sand
He daubed on it, then 'neath the scythe took his stand ;
First hitting the blade with a resonant bang
He drew on an edge with ' to-whing ! ' and ' to-whang ! '
'Tu-whing ! ' and ' to-whang ! ' that went floating away
Like music, o'er currachs and sweet meadow-hay
The matins of labour-that mingled so well
With half-wakened zephyrs of summery smell,
Which, drowsily dawdling o'er sallies and sedges
And kissing the tresses of fragrant old hedges,
Prolonged the sweet echo o'er billowy corn
Till it died in the whispering rustle of morn."


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