Written in Black and Wight: B - Answers

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The following answers relate to words that are examples of genuine Isle of Wight dialect, with the correct definition shown in bold. Extracts from WH Long's A Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886) and other sources1 show the word in daily use, particularly in Victorian times.


  • A scrap of cloth used as a towel.
  • To use offensive language.
  • Flag flown from the top of County Hall in Newport.

Yes, to Ballyrag is to use offensive language and also to scold. Long provides the example,

Dedn't the wold dooman gimme a ballyraggen!

It should be noted that 'Wold dooman' [sic] means old woman, however 'old' in an personal way, similar to how a close friend is called an 'old friend' irrespective of their age and used as an affectionate term for 'wife'. Although possibly not so affectionate following the ballragging...


  • To be very drunk.
  • To be out of breath.
  • To be feeling sick.

Billus, also used for 'bellows', does indeed mean to be out of breath. Long provides the example,

Comin up that shute2 ded gimme a billusen, I can tell 'ee.


  • A double-ended cattle prod that can also be used as a rudimentary pitchfork.
  • The blue titmouse, a bird.
  • A harness and bit for a goat.

Yep, this is a blue tit.


  • A red squirrel, also small woodland mammals in general.
  • To flicker or shake.
  • A gluttonous person.

Long helpfully provides two examples, one in which it means 'shake' and the other meaning 'flicker',

I could see the lightnen bivveren about in the element.

I sims all of a bivver wi' the cooald.

These mean 'I could see the lightning flickering or flashing in the sky. I tremble or shake with the cold.


  • A woman's breasts.
  • A bee hive.
  • A broom.

Traditionally the sort made from a bundle of sticks.


  • Bluebell, a flower.
  • Blue titmouse, a bird.
  • Alcohol illegally smuggled from overseas.
  • A hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is.

This isn't in Long's dictionary but is listed in The English Dialect Dictionary and Jack Lavers states it is mentioned in Flora Vectensis (1856) by William Bromfield3. I'm not going to pay much attention to local names for plants and flowers but thought I'd make an exception in this case.

I checked and sadly isn't in the Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect. In fact, the closest Researcher name I could find was 'Gallybagger' which is vaguely similar to Galaxy Babe.


  • A sling or splint used to support an injured limb.
  • To drive too fast.
  • A short, thick, wooden stick used to bleed cattle.
I met wold varmer Taalor and hes missus in their new pony keert, gwyne bomeswish over Staplers.

Long reports 'I met old farmer Taylor and his missus in their new pony cart, going too fast over Staplers.' Over Staplers?!? Were they mad? What were they thinking? Incidentally, Staplers is just east of Newport and famous for Staplers Hill, with perhaps Isle of Wight Lavender the most noteworthy non-hill landmark in the area, useful for all your lavender needs4.


  • Lively or spirited.
  • Breast milk.
  • A loved one not on the Island.

Long uses the example,

That's a bonnygoo hoss o'yourn, varmer.

Which obviously means, 'that's a lively horse of yours, farmer'. I wonder if it is the same farmer as wold farmer Taylor, who was going bomeswish over Staplers? So you claim it is all the horse's fault, eh? A likely story - that's still three points on your licence, nipper.


  • Lumps of chalk used to make a drystone wall.
  • Small amount of leftover food.
  • Something brittle and easily broken.

Was it not WH Long who, in 1886, wrote?

Don't be fooled by the brocks that I got

I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the brock.

No, on reflection I think it probably wasn't. Still, he did actually write:

Wull ye hay zomethin to yet? But there, we onny got a vew brocks left from dinnertime to offer ye.5


  • A potentially dangerous cliff edge due to loose, unstable or crumbly soil underfoot.
  • A very silly person.
  • A muffler used to lower the volume of the militia's bugles for practice purposes so no-one assumes the calls are an invasion warning.

I think we are all in agreement that wold farmer Taylor was buffle-headed for going over Staplers bomeswish in his new pony cart.


As well as being a musical instrument, is this:

  • A shell in which you can hear the sound of the sea.
  • A metal horn that holds a quart of ale.
  • A young bull.

Yes, a Bugle is a young bull - and more importantly, the name of many a local Isle of Wight pub. It is quite unusual that the Island had a number of pubs called the Bugle (formerly at Carisbrooke, Newport and Ryde, with the Bugle in Brading and Yarmouth, which I popped into as part of last year's Beer and Bus Weekend, still going. 'Bugle' was derived from the Latin buculus and is popular because of the Isle of Wight's last king, King Henry I, Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick, who reigned 1444-1446 and his family emblem was the bugle. His grandfather, Thomas, Earl of Warwick, also spent time here, having been exiled to the Island in 1397 for taking part in the Fitzalan Conspiracy which aimed to imprison Richard II, although this banishment ended when Richard II was deposed by Henry IV in 1399.

Had Farmer Taylor been to one of the Bugle pubs when riding bomeswish over Staplers?


  • A very clumsy person who keeps dropping things.
  • A shepherd with extensive experience in lambing.
  • A milk maid who makes her own dairy products including cheeses.
  • A highly skilled archer whose arrows always hit the centre of the butt.

Nice and easy, obviously meaning 'Butterfingers', a widespread word in common usage everywhere. At least I think it is - as most of my closest family and friends are from the Isle of Wight, it's hard to tell.

Bargan Zadurday

Bargan Zadurday means 'Bargain Saturday', but what was special about it? Was it:

  • The day after Blaak Vriday and two days after Dankzgivun, when Crismus shopping traditionally starts.
  • The first fish market of the year held in the port and Kynges Towne of Brading, particularly famous for crab and mackerel.
  • The annual hiring fair in which farm labourers were hired for the following year, like at the start of Mort.

Yes, the three Saturdays leading up to Old Michaelmas Day on 11 October were known as Vust, Middle and Last Bargan Zaturday. The men gathered at the Beast Market, St James's Square in Newport and the women would gather in the High Street opposite the Vine Inn, everyone dressed in their finest clothes and the women particularly bedecked in ribbons and lace. After the bargaining in which everyone haggled over who to employ doing what for how much there was dancing, drinking and merry-making in many of the town's pubs, which often led to fighting.

Obviously no-one would have been fooled by Blaak Vriday or Dankzgivun (Thanksgiving - on the Isle of Wight?!) for a second, but you can be forgiven if you thought it was to do with fish. Ventnor has traditionally held a Crab Fair in May and there was a Mackerel Fair in Niton in June, although the Port and Kynges Towne of Brading is now landlocked, with Brading Harbour long since silted up.

Map of the Isle of Wight in words.
The Bluebottle Archive


12.06.17 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Others include Isle of Wight Dialect by Jack Lavers (1988), A Glossary of Isle of Wight Words by Major Henry Smith and Charles Roach Smith (1876), The Encyclopedia of Isle of Wight Words, Placenames, Legends, Books and Authors by Edward Turner (1900) and The English Dialect Dictionary ed. Joseph Wright (1906).2A steep hill.3Dr William Bromfield moved to Ryde in 1836 and began to write a comprehensive catalogue of all the Isle of Wight's flora, expanding on WD Snooke's Flora Vectiana (1823) which listed a small selection. His work was published posthumously as he died of Typhoid in 1850 while travelling across the Middle East on the road to Damascus.4Somewhere on the Island I've never actually been as somehow I seem to have survived without actually needing lavender. If at any time I discovered I did actually need lavender, at least I know exactly where to go to get some.5Will you have something to eat? But there, we've only got a few scraps left from dinnertime to offer you.

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