Why Dumplinarea?

Well, we Norfolk people (people from the county of Norfolk UK, as opposed to those from any other Norfolk around the world) get called ‘dumplings’ (forget the ‘g’, when spoken here though, we will round that down to ‘dumplin’s’).  We get called that because of the world renowned (basic, cost effective but very tasty and filling) dumplings that apparently originated here (moreover so did the actual name dumpling, more on them below).  So, back in the 70’s when I was thinking of putting a Country Band together and was looking around for potential band members, I was struck by the amazing number of talented Country musicians there were actually based in this area us Dumplin’s come from (something that still holds good even now) so when I got to thinking about a name for this band, a combination of the words dumplin’ and area ‘Dumplinarea’ came to mind as an option that both described us – and where we came from, adequately.  Unfortunately the band never did get off the ground because I was working away far too much on oil rig construction and foreign contracts for that to work out but, having come up with it, that name has stayed with me for all of these years (and band or not I still quite like it as a description of Norfolk) so I thought I’d make a feature of it here on my site so it never ended up just a good description that never got used – even if it’s only ever use is as a headline on here under which to give some of us human Norfolk Dumplin’s and (the edible) dumplin’s a mention.

This Dumplinarea of Norfolk;

Known not only for being the place dumplings, Colman’s Mustard, Admiral Horacio Lord Nelson, Captain George Vancouver and that man Thomas Paine who contributed so much to early American views of Independence etc., etc., come from, but also of course for being the home of our version of grammar and speech which is as unique as those better known people and things.  The Norfolk dialect is one that actors never get right when depicting us in plays or movies! They always end up with a nothing effort that seems to resemble something more to the south west than to the east and we locals always refer to that misplaced effort as “talkin’ Momerset”, i.e. a bit like Somerset – but not (and absolutely ‘nothing like us’ at all). You’ll notice I said “talkin  Momerset” as opposed to the more correct “speaking Momerset”.  That is an example of our way of saying things I was ‘brung’ up with that is out of line with the more correct versions of English in general use (and that brought my teachers to a state of exasperation ‘while’ trying to get more correct English ‘acrorse’ to me – bless ‘em’).  While less widely and purely spoken now than in my childhood, the dialect and vocabulary can still be found being spoken by those with roots here and most especially as a means of bonding when in each other’s company. But people who come here tend to struggle with getting it right never mind adopting it.  To add to the problems of observers and potential adopters there are some localised variations and particularly Norwich, right in the heart of Norfolk is, to local people, quite entirely different to the rest of the county.  I’ll get to more on this subject below but meantime – back to the flour and water dumplin’s.

Actually there are two dumplings that apparently originate in this area, the plain, light Norfolk ‘swimmer’ and the heavier ‘diver’ that includes suet in the mix and sinks in the stew pot as opposed to floating on the top.  For all ‘the diver’ was always quite popular here (and still is to a certain extent, I have heard that the Sandringham Royal Kitchens for instance were forever ordered to make only the suet version) but nonetheless, county wide, it was always second placed in popularity to the swimmer).

Before we move on to more about our version of English, let’s finish this piece on the actual dumplings by describing how to make them. I must say that to my own taste they’re best when actually cooked in a good thick split pea (or lentil) chicken or beef stew.


The bonus is that unlike some things that require this type of flour or that, swimmers will be OK whichever type of flour you have to hand (plain or self-raising – probably any other fairly fine flour that lies handy).  Just use about a half pound of flour plus a little baking powder and salt (sieve it all into a bowl) and add enough water to mix it all to a good bread dough kind of consistency.


Take it out of the bowl and onto a floured surface and knead and turn it until well mixed then divide it into pieces and form into little round dumplin’s about two and three quarters to three inches (70 – 75mm) in diameter.   There are alternative methods of cooking them evolved over the years like doing them in a greased steamer for 20 minutes or placing them on top of vegetables or whatever, but as mentioned above my own favourite is the old traditional one of dropping them in an otherwise finished with chicken carcase (with just enough meat left on it to flavourit), lentil or split pea and vegetable stew which is already simmering away on the stove before the dumplin’s are added (as the name ‘swimmers’ suggests they will float, whereas the suet ones will sink, but don’t worry about that as that just proves you got the making of them right) and let them swim for about 25 minutes.  That is real food that ‘clings to your ribs’ as we say around here, that a child can grow on and a parent can work on!  I mean, I have nothing against a salad, in fact at times I quite like a salad, but about 20 minutes after I’ve had it I’ll be hungry again.  It’s not the kind of fuel for a body that proper food like stew and dumplin’s is.

With austerity still deepening for the least well off (probably working real hard but for less and less) perhaps the return of good cheap but filling food like good old Norfolk Dumplin’s and stew could yet reach a new high in popularity? I found online that the word ‘dumpling’ was born in Norfolk at the beginning of the 17th century, when our dialect borrowed and converted the low Germanic word for ‘lump’ to describe them (a name that perhaps robbed them forever of any possible dignity or glamour. But then again the ‘dumplin’, nice or not, has forever been a simple staple ‘filler’ when meat was scarce in the hard old days, so a ‘lump’ of tasty, nutritious and filling food on a tight budget, as opposed to a glamorous treat may not have been a bad name for it really).

Funny enough, when I searched online for Norfolk Dumplings the first thing that popped up was on an American site https://tenaciousgenealogy.com/norfolk-dumplings/ as follows:

Welcome back

As we’re getting on the fall season (and chillier weather),  a nice warm soup recipe is the perfect thing to try. Today’s post focuses on Norfolk Dumplings. This is another ‘frugal’ recipe from Juliet Corson’s cookbook on cooking cheaply for a large family. If you are curious to check out another recipe from her cookbook, click here to check out the…..etc.

(In her photograph I can’t help but see the left profile of an old male face in that piece of dumpling just below the M & P (cut off at eye level) not unlike Abraham Lincoln (whose ancestors, appropriately enough, had emigrated to America from Norfolk).          

So it seems that our dumplin’s are well known and revered in America – as is Colman’s (Norwich, Norfolk made) Mustard.  We here in the UK generally speaking are slow and unassuming about marketing compared to Americans.  A fact I’m always reminded of whenever I bump into a Tennessean friend of mine who always greets me with; “Hey, how’s my Mustard City buddy”.  If those in charge of pushing our County and especially Norwich as somewhere to visit over the years had had any gumption, they would surely have pushed that connection to that worldwide known product with a slogan like that! What an opportunity missed! Everyone should know it as Norwich! The Mustard City – It’s HOT! There’s some good stuff (including music) made in the Dumplinarea, but maybe marketing isn’t one of our strong points (too laid back and accepting of perfection as the norm I guess).

More about the Norfolk dialect then:

Lots of people try to write down words in the Norfolk dialect but it truly is impossible to get it accurately written down (though having said that it’s difficult to resist trying sometimes and in fact impossible not to try at others) though you would need to hear it as well (or know it already) to get the best translation of what was being said in anyones efforts to write it down. Sometimes I think it better not to try with the words and just concentrate on our unique version of grammar and the way we link or drop words or parts of words and yet will use more words sometimes than is necessary.  We ‘ramble on’ as they say, frugal with letters but generous with words – for the most part and will what we call ‘go all around the houses’ to get to a point. An example of that was put together by me when I once did a talk with children at Harleston school (which was broadcast on radio Norfolk) about our dialect and whether it was likely to be a handicap to them in the world at large? To put across that point of how we can make what could be a short few words into something akin to a full set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica,  I did a Norfolk version of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty which, in the hands of a true Norfolk person, can become about a fifteen minute saga.  I must admit I did that off the cuff and then when I heard it on the radio later I realised I had one word wrong – but too late now so forever I will have fluffed that heroic effort.

So here’s an example of our letter reduction and joining of words; ‘there are some’ becomes ‘there’some’ said as just the one word and even then other words may be blended in to make; ‘there are some lot of’ become; ‘there’som’lotta,’ or ‘seen so many’ could easily sound like one word ‘sin’sa’many’ to a foreigner (anyone who never came from Norfolk roots is referred to as a foreigner though usually said with mirth rather than with any sort of unfriendliness) and we have this curious word I’re (pronounced a bit like the beginning of Ireland) which is an abbreviation of ‘I have’. Example sentence using those words; ‘there’some’lotta’ apples on our tree this year, I’re never ‘sin’sa’many’.  Translation; I have never seen so many apples on our tree as there are this year.

Here’s where that word abbreviation and linking up can lead to humour at times even to us who use it by habit.  A while back I was trying to find a shortcut to friends in Briston (North Norfolk) from the Norwich to Fakenham road (A1067) and got a bit lost (easy for me to do in that part of Norfolk as I’ve never spent much time in that part of the county and they don’t seem to have heard of sign posts).  So, while looking for somewhere I recognised on the few sign posts as there were to keep me headed in the right general direction, we passed a little rough track and I said; “ well, there must be suff’n (something) up there cos there’s a sign ‘Poynton’uppat’ and my partner Kerry said; “is that near Briston then?” Ha ha, she was leg pulling at my way of saying ‘pointing up it’ that had made it sound like some little village (or suburb of somewhere that sounded like Poynton in Cheshire).

A limited dictionary of words and terms as used by us Dumplin’s:

As already mentioned it’s impossible to write down accurately some of our word pronunciations.  Good examples being the way we say ‘goat’, ‘goose’, ‘ghost’ or ‘nurse’ for a start would all defy any effort to spell them accurately.  Perhaps an expert in Germanic Umlauts along with a graduate in English and a few very older generation (almost all gone age group) Dumplin’s working together for about a year could come up with an agreed Dumplin’ pronunciation reference book that included those words?  But even then it would be interesting hearing someone who’d never heard those words spoken in ‘Norfolk’ read a few pages at the end of that year and see how close they got?

For a start those words ‘goat’ ‘goose’ and ‘ghost’ would need very small h’s as well as the Umlaut ü and may end up something like ghüt, ghüs and ghüst? Or maybe in the case of ‘goat’ the alternative to the Umlaut ü could be ue as is sometimes adopted by people of German descent living in English language countries, whereby Müller becomes Mueller in order to get a bit closer to the original pronunciation?  But even then it would be best if heard as well as seen. I’ll probably be corrected by any other Dumplin’ who reads this? As we have endless debate amongst ourselves on that subject.

Like Texans we say ‘hoss’ instead of ‘horse’ but here we may also use the name Dickey more loosely than in some other places where it only applies to a donkey.  Here (to a lot of us, though not necessarily all of us) a Dickey (local pronunciation Dicki) may, as well as being a donkey, be also be anything resembling an equine creature (be it a horse, mule, pony or donkey) they could all very well be referred to as a ‘nice little Dicki’ here. As in the age old saying: “ha yar far gotta dicki bor?” (has your father got a mule (or other equine creature) mate?) and there are standard local answers to that question like; “ar’bor he hev too, damn ol dicki look’a lot like you”. Over the border in Suffolk they say ‘buh’ instead of ‘bor’ but either way that’s just a friendly term like say ‘mate’ is – except to those scholars who have analysed it the way they do everything and have decided it evolved from the word brother.  If they’re right then the whole thing has gone round in circles as it is now more common here to say ‘bro’ than it is ‘bor’.

Ar’bor; (nothing to do with wood or special education needs)!  This ar’bor is all about agreeing, as in “ar’bor, tha’sa rummun” (“yes mate, that’s a rum one”.  Rum one = strange one, something that’s odd, unusual, a bit weird, a bit peculiar, an unexpected result, thing, person or happening or virtually anything that never turned out as it was thought it would have, should have, could have or may have been expected to.  In other words a widely used term of expression with multiple uses but you may have to be local to know things it couldn’t be applied to – and there are some.  As well as bor, we also say boy (call people boy – probably pronounced boi) and that’s any male not just ones that are young. So ‘how the devil are ya, long time no see, y’all roit boy or bor, would be equally acceptable greetings. There’s nothing derogatory in being called boy here even if you’re the oldest one in the room or conversation.

Mawcum; There is even disagreement about some words amongst us dumplin’s (both what they mean and their origin) so no wonder actors always get it wrong.  For instance the word we use for a scarecrow is to some people a mawcum and to others a mawkin.  I myself am from the mawcum camp (as are some of my most countrified friends) because that is what we learned from our fathers as kids.  But others (including the more scholarly amongst us who study and analyse us and the language we use in a pretty thorough way) are convinced it’s mawkin, saying it was brought here by the Danish in Viking days?  I stick with the mawcum line of thought because back in the forties when my father worked the land that’s what he called them (and that was before there was debate on the subject and anyway he never knew any Vikings).  I think it was all down to our Norfolk Dumplin’ wry, low expectation  and observational sense of humour leading to mawcum being simply spelt that way as an example of our corruption and combination of the words ‘more come’.  In other words; “there’s a few ol’ crows about bor, better put tho’l ‘maw’cum’ out!”  Rye observational humour that there’ll probably be ‘more come’ once you’ve put the scarecrow out than there was before.

So, although I have quite rightly said above that it’s impossible to write Dumplin’ phonetically with accuracy, it may be time to practise a little bit of verse using it with abbreviated and linked up words as described above.  See how you get on with reading my best efforts to get close and, if you like, let me know how you get on or where you need something translated or maybe can improve on my efforts via the contact link.

The Car

©Frank D Howe

Arh bor tha’s a rummun, tha’s got me deep in thort,

That look loike tha’sa heep’a crap; I’re gon ‘n’ went ‘n’ bought!

There’s oil ‘n’ automatic flurd; drippin’ orf the bottum,

Thas used a can’a’ bhüth; ‘n’ tha’s jus’ two days since I gotum!

Now, should I spend loads more ‘n’ try to put the damn thing roight?

Or should I gi’tut nicked n tell’um set the sod alight?

Tha’s well insured ya see so there is some temptation there,

ta drop someone a quid or two ‘n’ watch’ut dissappear :-)

Narh, I know that ent no good, Oi never whüz the sort

Who’d gih away with things like that, I’d only end up caught.

You’d shoot it if it whüz a horse, not spend more money on it

An’ I’m tempted! But tha’s bad enuf, without holes in the bonnet

I knew that needed weldun but; Oi can do ‘that bit’ fa free,

Thas all the otha stuff whüs wrong; whüs put the wind up me!

So, what I’d rearli loik ta find is another bloody prat,

As big as me ta buy the thing – but there’s no hope’a that,

They musta sin me commin; an’thasa matt’ra fact,

Whoever dun tha MOT? That bugger need the sack!

They told me thasa comfort zone, Thas fully air conditioned

Oi shink it is, there’s holes roit thru – from down in this position

That looked so gooda standin there; that seemed a bluddah bargun,

Oi shoulda bin loike my mate Bill, ‘n’ got a Voltsawargon.

Oi can’t believe that got me home – not all the way from Diss?

No wonda he whüz grinnun’ when I paid’um cash fa this!

Oh well; I sphuzz tha’s too leart now; Tha’s jus’tha way things are,

Is there anybody out there – who’d loik’tah buy a car?

I would imagine that’s enough description of our Norfolk variations of the English language (for now anyway) for anyone to absorb – but one final note on the subject: Apparently, so I’ve heard (probably due to her great deal of time spent at Sandringham throughout her life) Her Majesty The Queen is quite amused by the Norfolk dialect to the point that she has spent a fair bit of time perfecting her ability to use it like a true local.  If that’s true all I can say is; “well done Marm, you have excellent taste in dialects and, have mastered something no actor or actress ever has thus far”.

The Winkle He Do Come Out

Words & Music Frank D Howe ©&℗Flattnoffki Music Ltd (PPL/PRS for Music)

This song (written and sung in Norfolk dialect) is based on the true life story of two dear
(but sadly, since the writing of this song) departed friends of mine.

When Maureen married har dear Ray, they never had a lot!
They set up home in bus ya know, and shared what little they’d got
They lived orf of the land ‘n’ tide, and kept their wit’s about (and)
Har fearvrut time was supper time; when the winkle he do come out (Oh the)

Winkle he do come out! Oh the; winkle he do come out!
Har fearvrut time was supper time; when the winkle he do come out

She rearly love har grub ya know, she rearly, rearly do!
Ol’ Ray he love his cockles, them big ol’ stewki blues (but if)
Maureen whiff a winkle, she start ta twitch har snout (then)
Out come har pin ‘n’ she dive in, and the winkle he do come out (Oh the)

Winkle he do come out! Oh the; winkle he do come out!
Har fearvrut time is supper time; when the winkle he do come out

They’d go out on the mud flats, oh when the tides were right
And have a reark about ya know, in sarch o’ Rays delight
And then they’d move up to the creek, where winkle’ hang about
And Maureen dive har hand roit in, and the winkle he do come out! (Oh the)

Winkle he do come out! Oh the; winkle he do come out
You know tha’s true what I tell you; oh the winkle he do come out

There’s tarky’s livin’ wild ya know, if you know where ta look
And long tailed pigeons in the dark, my warrrd that gal can cook
They’d walk out with the pram ya know; ‘n’ catapult o’corse, (then they’d)
Come home with a tarky tucked, in the bottom o’ the silver crorse (Ray say)

“Leg or breast I dorn’t care less, come on le’ss git stuck in”
The parson’s nose is best when closed! A’corse o’ where tha’s bin
But in the back o’ Maureen’s mind, all she could think about
Is when that git ta supper time, and the winkle he do come out (Oh the)

Winkle he do come out, oh the; winkle he do come out
Har fearvrut time is suppertime; when the winkle he do come out
Har fearvrut time is suppertime  when the winkllllle he doooo comme ouuuuuut!

Oh the winkle he do come out!

Final words:

Stick by YOUR own local dialects and accents good people! No matter where you are in the world they’re under threat from the homoginists at the top, be proud and don’t let them win.