Written in Black and Wight: D - Answers

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And now for the answers to this week's quiz on the Isle of Wight's dialect, now sadly in decline. Fortunately preserved for all eternity in a variety of publications including A Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect by WH Long (1886) and Isle of Wight Dialect by Jack Lavers (1988)1. I also discovered this week that I'm not the first person to bring the Isle of Wight's dialect to the internetsmiley - yikes, with 200 words published on the On The Wight website, although as far as I know I'm still the first to do a quiz.


This week's Written in Black and Wight has been brought to you by the letter D.

Isle of Wight


  • Someone who is dancing.
  • Someone who caulks the bottom of ships' holds to keep them watertight.
  • Someone who is proficient at something.

Someone who is a dabster or a dab hand at something is extremely good at it. Long provides the example 'You're a dabster at it' while Jack Lavers a century later wrote 'he'll git it, he's a proper dabster at it.'


  • The inhabitants of Sandown.
  • Daffodils.
  • Ducks and other birds commonly found on the downs.

I had assumed that Daffydowndillies was a fairly universal nickname for daffodils and not just for the Isle of Wight, but it is a fun-sounding name for the common flower that deserves to be in more common usage.


  • An exact likeness.
  • A horse, cow etc with a spotty coat of fur.
  • Gently applying ointment in order to alleviate pain.

This is a phrase that means identical. Long's A Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect (1886) provided the following example 1, while Lavers' Isle of Wight Dialect (1988) provided the completely different example 2:

  1. She's the very daps of her mother.
  2. She be the very daps of her mother.

Example 2 is all-but the very daps of example one, methinks...


  • An abandoned, derelict shipwreck.
  • This instant.
  • A (normally steam-powered) threshing-machine used at harvest.

Also spelt as two words, Dereckly Minnet or directly minute, this phrase means right now, without a moment's delay. As you know, Long the linguist liked to leave examples of these words and phrases in common usage, but in this case I hope that the following phrase wasn't actually said at all; 'D' is not supposed to stand for 'Domestic Abuse' after all...

If thee doesn’t come down from therence dereckly minnet, I'll take a rice and drap into thee ready to cut thee all to pieces.2

Devil's Dancen Hours

  • All Hallow's Eve.
  • The winter solstice.
  • Midnight.

Midnight, and the early hours following are the Devil's Dancing Hours. Long provides the example,

My wold man's gone to Nippert, and if there's a fiddle gwyne anywhere, I shan't zee'n hooam till the devil's dancen hours3.

This of course is self-explanatary, but I'll take any excuse to quote a bit of a poem by Percy Godard Stone, in this case 'A Christmas Party' from Legends and Lays of the Isle of Wight (1911). I'm doing this with the poor excuse that you need me to conclusively prove that 'dancen' means 'dancing'. We join the scene at a Christmas party following dinner just as the dancen is about to start

Then Jem tooned oop. Us kleer'd t' vloor

An' vooted it two hours or more.

Gad! Ligs did wurk an' dust did vly,

An' all our droats got ter'ble dry...

- To zee t' laike you var med go,

At vigger dancen Natty Loe

Wor proper zpry at heel an' toe


  • Food eaten before breakfast.
  • Leather reins connecting a horse collar to the mouthpiece.
  • Skin hanging beneath the neck of cattle.

Eating before breakfast, normally brencheese when the dew is still on the ground, is called having dewbit. And you thought that breakfast was the first meal of the day, eh?


  • To make holes to plant seeds in.
  • To cheat or swindle.
  • A large marble.
I’ve jest dibbled my taeties in.

In fact, in order to make the holes in the ground you would use a tool called a dibber. Blackburn, Lancashire must have been dibbled a lot for the 4,000 holes there the Beatles sang about to appear.


  • Wedge-like tool used to crack limestone blocks to the right size.
  • To break and destroy.
  • A thick, dark and dismal fog or sea mist.

Essentially a cross between destroy and demolish, a word with a nicely clear meaning.


  • A barmaid (sometimes used with implications of prostitute).
  • A fine, dry sand used to scour items, also sandpaper.
  • A bird.

A 'Dishwasher' is the local name for a pied wagtail. The various publications are full of countless local names for all manner of flora and fauna, far too many to mention and unlikely to be of interest to anyone if I did, yet I must admit that there's something amusing about seeing the word 'Dishwasher' in a Victorian dictionary as it seems so out of place.


  • Edible puffball mushroom.
  • Someone silly, clumsy or lacking in common sense.
  • A round cake filled with jam.

In 1886 WH Long used 'Doughnut' as an example of rare, Isle of Wight dialect and defined it with the words,

DOUGHNUTS Round cakes about the size of a cricket ball, made generally of the same ingredients as a cake, but boiled in lard instead of being baked.

Long is not alone, as twenty-five years earlier in 1861 this extract was published in The Queen's Isle by A Raine,

Now, I fancy you are wondering what a doughnut can be; you can never have tasted one if this is your first visit here, for doughnuts are peculiar to the Isle of Wight.

Jack Lavers' 1988 The Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect makes no mention of doughnuts, although local historian Adrian Searle in Isle of Wight Folklore (1998) states that doughnuts were originally locally nicknamed 'birds nests' and may well have been introduced to the Island by traders between the Netherlands and America.


  • A narrow passage between two buildings.
  • Netting used to get onto and off of ships berthed at the tidal Newport quay.
  • Small three-sided shelter found on medium-sized fishing ships.


  • Lace-making tool.
  • A child's spinning-top.
  • The bottom of a door.

Essentially a door's threshold. Long quotes a toe-based nursery rhyme to illustrate this, although the child in question seems to only have four toes...?4

This gurt pig zays, 'I wants meeat;'

T'other one zays, 'Where’ll ye hay et?'

This one zays, 'In gramfer's barn'

T'other one zays, 'Week! Week!

I can't git over the dreshel.'


  • A large stone with a hole in exposed at low tide in the tidal Newtown Estuary that women suspected of witchcraft were tied to.
  • A children's game in which a small stone was balanced on a large stone, the aim being to knock the stone off by throwing stones at it.
  • An egg.


  • Respected village elder considered quite wise.
  • A bumblebee.
  • Uneven surface or trip hazard.

Another fairly common word that surely isn't unique to the Isle of Wight by any means.


  • Currents and eddies.
  • Thighs, the bit of legs between hips and knees.
  • An object weighs dwyes when it is heavier than normal having become wet.

A word unique to the Isle of Wight. Lavers quotes one line of Mrs Moncrieff's 'A Dream of the Isle of Wight', first published in Charles Roach Smith's article Isle of Wight Vernacular in The Gentleman's Magazine (1863) – although you need to quote a bit more to understand that this part of the poem is about watching a family of ducks :

Fate hangs on a moment, while going they stood,

A waddling, clamorous pair and their brood,

From the dwyes of the withy-bed when they dived.

For a feast on the long earth-bread eaces5 arrived:

When, wo to the mallard! a death-dirge his quack,

With her younglings his mate a widow went back.

Then I said, 'Ducks will serve when one cannot get geese:'

He leered and slunk off, just drawling out 'Ees'

No witches were harmed in the making of this quiz.

Map of the Isle of Wight in words.A reader of the h2g2 Post
The Bluebottle Archive


26.06.17 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Others include 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).2Meaning 'If you don't come down from there this instant, I'll take a stick and thrash you to pieces'.3My old man's gone to Newport, and if there's a fiddle going anywhere I shan't see him at home until midnight at the very earliest.4Must be from Brading...5What are 'Eaces'? We'll ask that very question next issue!

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