Cheeselog (a woodlouse), to geg in (to butt in) and fam (meaning a familiar form of address for a friend) are among the distinctive local words that will be immortalised in 12 specially commissioned poems for this year’s National Poetry Day.
These examples of regional dialect are among hundreds nominated by BBC Local Radio listeners as part of the #freetheword project, which takes its cue from National Poetry Day’s 2017 theme - freedom. A partnership between BBC English Regions, National Poetry Day and the Oxford English Dictionary, #freetheword has been searching for unrecorded words used in everyday speech in different locations across the country.
12 poets, including spoken word artist Holly McNish and Forward Prize-winner Liz Berry, have now each chosen a word from a shortlist drawn up by experts at the Oxford English Dictionary. Each word represents a different BBC English region and illuminates its culture, habits and geography in unexpected ways: they include resonant phrases for creepy-crawlies, terms describing a particular time or place, words of complaint or praise, all of which identify their users immediately as belonging to a distinct community.
The poets, all with a link to the region they are writing for, will perform their finished poems for broadcast on the BBC on National Poetry Day on Thursday 28 September. Additionally, a poem featuring all 12 words will be performed by 19-year-old poet and spoken word artist Isaiah Hull as part of a major new poetry festival, Contains Strong Language, produced by the BBC in partnership with Hull UK City of Culture 2017, Hull City Council, Humber Mouth, National Poetry Day and a number of poetry organisations. The individual words will also be displayed at locations around the city – using templates created by Jackie Goodman, Associate Dean, Hull School of Art and Design, with a special spray paint visible only when it rains.
Among the word selections are cheeselog, nominated by BBC Radio Berkshire listeners, and bobowler from the West Midlands – meaning a woodlouse and large moth, respectively – which have been adopted as the subjects of new poems by Reading-born Hollie McNish and the Black Country’s Liz Berry.
BBC Radio Humberside listeners, and their poet-in-residence Dean Wilson chose to celebrate a didlum (a community savings scheme).
Elsewhere, characteristically local words for universal habits won out. BBC Radio Cumbria listeners have nominated to twine (to complain) for their local poet, Cumbrian-born Kate Hale, whilst BBC Radio Merseyside listeners wanted Liverpudlian poet Chris McCabe to write a poem featuring to geg in (to butt in).
BBC Radio Leicester listeners championed mardy (or moody) for poetry slammer Toby Campion, while BBC Radio Bristol asked poet, burlesque artist, and writer Vanessa Kisuule to get creative with gurt (great or very) and BBC Radio Suffolk listeners chose on the huh (lopsided, wonky) for local poet Rebecca Watts.
BBC Radio Leeds poet, Vidyan Ravinthiran, will take a poetic walk down a ginnel (alleyway), which is known by BBC Sussex listeners and their poet, James Brookes, as a twitten.
BBC Radio Devon’s listeners chose an evocative word for twilight – dimpsy - for local poet Chrissy Williams and BBC London is working with the capital’s first Young People’s Laureate Caleb Femi who has fam, a familiar form of address for a friend which has its origins in African-American hip-hop and is now spoken widely by London’s youth, to inspire his poem.
The #Freetheword selections in full are:
- Leeds - Vidyan Ravinthiran - GINNEL (an alleyway)
- Humberside - Dean Wilson - DIDLUM (a community savings scheme)
- WM (Birmingham) - Liz Berry - BOBOWLER (a large moth)
- Sussex - James Brookes - TWITTEN (an alleyway)
- Berkshire - Hollie McNish - CHEESELOG (a woodlouse)
- Cumbria - Katie Hale - TO TWINE (to complain)
- Merseyside - Chris McCabe - TO GEG IN (to butt in)
- Suffolk - Rebecca Watts - ON THE HUH (lopsided, wonky)
- Devon - Chrissy Williams - DIMPSY (twilight)
- Leicester – Toby Campion – MARDY (moody)
- Bristol – Vanessa Kisuule – GURT (great or very)
- London – Caleb Femi – FAM (a familiar form of address for a friend)
Read the first in a series of blog posts exploring each of the words selected from OED Associate Editor, Eleanor Maier: blog.oxforddictionaries.com/free-the-word-1
For further information, visit http://nationalpoetryday.co.uk
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