FEFNICUTE.

Conrad ran across this pleasing item on Google Books and promptly sent it on to me, knowing I’d enjoy it, and I similarly pass it along to you: O full true un pertikler okeawnt o wat me un maw mistris seede un yerd wi’ gooin to th’ Greyte Eggshibishun e’ Lundun, e’ eyghtene hundurth un sixty two … by O Felley from Rachde (Rachde, 1864). It took some googling to discover, via this helpful page [about an earlier and more famous Exhibition], that “Rachde” is Rochdale:

A humorous account of a visit to the Great Exhibition. Ormerod wrote under the pseudonym “O Felley from Rachde” (as on the title-page) or “A Rachde Felley” (in the frontispiece and on the front board), both of them dialect versions of “A Rochdale Fellow.” Indeed, the whole book is written in the Rochdale, Lancashire, dialect, which is really much easier to understand than first appears—it is heavily obscured by Ormerod’s method of phonetic rendering.
Beyond his intent to amuse, Ormerod is recording a dialect of a specific place and time, and appends a “Dikshunayre” of words like kowd = cold (phonetic spelling for the local pronunciation), brass = money (slang, used widely in the north of England), and feffnecute = hypocrite (feffnecute apparently not existing outside this dialect).

I particularly like the word feffnecute, for which Google suggests the more common spelling fefnicute; I say it’s worth putting back into circulation as a good all-purpose insult.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    Initially this reminded me of Mark Twain’s grumble about the dialect used by Artemus Ward or Josh Billings, but apparently it’s for real.
    Knut Hamsun had a fondness not only for Mark Twain, but also Bret Harte and Artemus Ward, IIRC.

  2. That Great Exhibition site mentions Thackeray, but not his dialect account.

  3. Interesting that the introduction should list “scoance”=lantern in its catalog of extinct terminology, next to “yepsintle”=handful. Scoance looks enough like ‘sconce’ that I can’t help but think them related.

  4. Arthur Crown says:

    …gooin to th’ Greyte Eggshibishun e’ Lundun, e’ eyghtene hundurth un sixty two…
    The Great Exhibition was in 1851.

  5. 1851
    1862

    Sum foke ‘ul be rayther gloppent, mich e they winnot, wen they yern obeawt me gooin to th’ Greyte Eggshibishun ogen, saime loike yo knone us aw did ofore theere e heightene hundurth and fifty-one.

    viz., here.

  6. Crown, A. says:

    Ah. Thanks, MMcM. I see ‘axed’ for ‘asked’ is older than I thought: Who ax’d thee fur to roide?

  7. The Great Exhibition was in 1851.
    Yes, and if I’d paid better attention I would have noticed, as MMcM points out, that he wrote one book about each, and the “helpful page” is about the earlier one. I’ve amended the post and links accordingly.

  8. Old English had both ascian and acsian.

  9. A Glossary of the Lancashire Dialect (1875):

  10. Crown, Arthur says:

    If I google the word, I get: “this fefnicute Lin Piao”. Why? Was someone from Lancashire doing the translating during the Cultural Revolution?

  11. Those pages say that Mme Chiang Kai-shek, who went to Wellesley and acted as her husband’s translator, was fond of such words and once said that in a speech.
    It also says that fefnicute is Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary, which means we have no excuse for not recognizing it.

  12. Arthur Crown says:

    Thank you, M, once again. How funny that she would have come across it, and then used it about him.
    By the way, do you know (pseudo-) Virgil’s Moretum? I’m sure you do, but I can’t resist asking. It’s about making a salad, and so sounds like something you’d like. I’m sure you must know it already, I just came across it for something I was commenting on at Language Log (color est e pluribus unus)

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