An interesting Martin Wainwright story in the Grauniad:
A dialect so dense that it held up social reforms has been rescued from obscurity by the publication of its first dictionary [dead link as of 2017].
Thousands of terms used in Pitmatic, the oddly-named argot of north-east miners for more than 150 years, have been compiled through detailed research in archives and interviews with the last generation to talk of kips, corf-batters and arse-loops.
First recorded in Victorian newspapers, the language was part of the intense camaraderie of underground working which excluded even friendly outsiders such as the parliamentary commissioners pressing for better conditions in the pits in 1842…
The first Pitmatic dictionary, including pit recollections and analysis of the origins of the dialect’s words, has been compiled by Bill Griffiths, the country’s foremost Geordie scholar, whose previous work includes the standard Dictionary of North East Dialect. His new book reveals an exceptionally rich combination of borrowings from Old Norse, Dutch and a score of other languages, with inventive usages dreamed up by the miners themselves. “There’s been an urgency to the project, copying the handwritten diaries and songs stored away in family homes,” said Mr Griffiths, who also collected booklets, pit newspapers and magazines and spent hours interviewing ex-miners…
Part-financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, in a three-stage dialect study of the north-east called Wor Language, the dictionary reveals the deeply practical nature of Pitmatic. The dialect was originally called Pitmatical, and its curious name was a parallel to mathematics, intended to stress the skill, precision and craft of the colliers’ work.
Term after term is related to mining practices, such as stappil, a shaft with steps beside the coal seam, or corf-batters, boys who scraped out filthy baskets used for hauling coal to the pithead.
Other words are more earthy: arse-loop is a rope chair used when repairing shafts and a candyman or bum-bailiff is a despised official who evicts strikers from company-owned homes.
Many thanks to Kattullus and Maureen, who sent me the story simultaneously.