Saturday, 31 October 2015

Brussen tha galuses


My beautiful mama grew up on a farm in a small Yorkshire village. Her father left it to her brother, and my childhood school holidays often included a journey up to Yorkshire to stay with my Grandma in her bungalow – the last house in the village, beside a field of red wheat – and visits to my uncle and auntie and cousins in the old farm. I remember it so vividly; the bullocks by the field gate, their breath steaming in the winter cold, the grain pouring down the hopper into sacks in the barn, dust rising in the slanting sunbeams.

It was a busy household when my beautiful mama was a child. Her mother did the books for the farm and kept the poultry; the care of the children and the household chores were undertaken by Suzy, a kindly, round person whom I never saw out of an apron, her hair combed back into a bun. Her face was like an Albanian’s. Her husband George did the hedges and ditches.

Besides Suzy and George, there were the horsemen. They lived in the outbuildings, and my grandfather went every year to the fair to hire the horsemen for the year. As well as them, prisoners of war worked on the land. And of course there were other men – shepherds and various merchants, who came to the farm. And there were the animals – dogs, cows, hens, sheep; but no pigs that I remember.

In my beautiful mama’s childhood, the people spoke broad Yorkshire; and still today the accent is pronounced in the Yorkshire branch of our family – and I love it. My grandfather, my father’s father, knew the words of broad Yorkshire.

But many of the old phrases have gone. There’s a word, brussen, which can mean ‘very full’ – like ‘bursting’. But my beautifl mama remembers it as they word they used for doing up, or fastening, braces (US suspenders). ‘Brussen tha galuses’ meant ‘fasten your braces’, she tells me.

Nowhere else have I come across that phrase, until recently when I was reading a book by a young man who left his Amish family for life in the mainstream. He commented that the Amish word for braces/suspenders was ‘galuses’.

I wonder how it travelled? The Amish broke away from the Mennonites, who originated in Switzerland. Switzerland has both French and German. Some of the tribes populating Old England were Germanic. So I wonder if the word is very old and started from Germany, infiltrating German Swiss and Old English?

I thought perhaps it originated from England and crossed the Atlantic with the Pilgrim Fathers, finding its was into American Amish in due course. Except that the Amish are so closed and separate a society that there may not be much cross-fertilisation with the language of mainstream culture. I’m not sure.


The roots and drifts and wind-borne seeds of language intrigue and delight me. And Yorkshire, even after all these years in the alien south, still feels like home. I grew up in the south-east, but all my family were Yorkshire people. I still miss it. The northern outlook, mannerisms and attitudes are very different from those of the south.


*        *        *


Afterthought. I’m just wondering – if ‘brussen’ generally means ‘burst out of’ or ‘very full’ or ‘burst’ – perhaps my beautiful mama misunderstood what she heard. She thought it meant ‘fasten your braces’, which would imply the braces were, or had come, undone. Yorkshire humour being what it is, and given the laconic dropping of unnecessary words, maybe ‘brussen tha galuses’ impied ‘tha’s brussen tha galuses’ – ie, ‘you’ve burst out of your braces’, ie ‘they’ve come undone,’ ergo, ‘do ‘em up’?

29 comments:

Jen said...

have you read Robert Macfarlen's Landmarks? All about local dialect in relation to countryside. Lovely!

Pen Wilcock said...

No - that's a new one on me - thank you! xx

Suze said...

My mother is from Yorkshire, and even though I have grown with her dropping dialect, I still become confused. To those from God's Own Country it would sound very strage as mum made herself adopt what she calls an Australian accent. This attempt means that we all speak in a an accent that locals call posh.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Daisyanon said...

We moved to East Yorkshire two years ago. It is a fabulous place. So friendly and down to earth. So beautiful with wide open skies and landscape and the North Sea. A very thin place. And such good locally produced food.
.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0)

My father's family came from the East Riding, my mother's from the West. I remember so vividly the holidays I spent as a child in the home of my grandparents on my father's side, in Scarborough, where my grandfather was the organist at St Martin's church (with the lovely Burne-Jones art in it). We went back there for my father's funeral.

Susan said...

My grandfather called his suspenders "galluses". He lived in St. Lawrence County in upstate New York and had French Canadian parents.

Pen Wilcock said...

Interesting! xx

Emilio Márquez said...

Hi, Pen. Dr Lynne Murphy provides the following clue:

'galuses' is marked in some dictionaries as Scottish + North American. So the Yorkshire folk are probably at the lower border of its usage, and it probably is in the mid-Appalachian region in US (where a lots of Scottish influence is found), which borders on Amish areas. Neither of her [ie your] data points are likely to be the most central users of the word.

(https://www.facebook.com/Lynneguist-245164738844505/–Visitor posts, left hand column, comment on Emilio Márquez’s message).

Cheers!

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh - that's interesting, Emilio! Thank you. This is turning into a very learned thread ...

Nancy said...

I don't know much abour how language spreads and developes, but I have noticed amongst friends how we pick up different phrases each other uses.
My friend Heather uses the word "skedaddle" to mean she is late and must leave right now, when I hear other friends say it I know they are good friends with Heather.
Myself I have a habit of saying "thank you lots, ta" which I think is from childhood when I was eager to make sure I said thank you. When I hear a friend say it it blesses me that they hang around me enough to pick up my phrases.

Rapunzel said...

Interesting. I do love language.
My grandparents on both sides used 'galluses'. (both the word and the object)

We're Scots-Irish-English-French-Cherokee altogether, but my estimate is it's about 80% Scots-Irish. Our earliest people to come over here immigrated in the 1600's and most of them came through what is now the Carolinas, so we're Appalachian from way back and it showed clearly in the speech of my grandparents and my father. Not in my dear mama though, who with great dedication taught my brother and myself to speak so that we "didn't sound like we came from here". I think she wanted us to sound American, not like 'the old country'.
I miss the speech of my grandparents, there was a poetry to it we don't find in modern generic media-speak.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thanks friends!

It's sounding to me as though 'galuses' originated in Scotland, seeing that many folk in the US have Scottish roots.

Rapunzel said...

The brains at Google say the galluses is Scottish and North American.
I guess I don't speak English,
I speak North American.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah, yes indeed. If a US friend announced that he would be going to the office wearing his new pants and vest, English listeners would look at first astonished and then start to laugh. Especially if he said, in his US accent, that he'd be wearing his khaki pants (UK readers, US pronunciation for khaki has a short 'a', as in 'black'). And if he further added that he'd be carrying his money in his fanny pack, all conversation would cease.
;0)

xx

Rapunzel said...

what was it someone called us back in the day...."two countries divided by a single tongue"?

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes! When my son-in-law moved here from Georgia to marry my daughter, it was very unnerving to discover if he went out he couldn't understand what the taxi drivers were saying to him. A difficult first few weeks!

Rapunzel said...

Sounds like a steep learning curve.

Our family moved from Indiana to Michigan when I was 13, and for weeks I couldn't understand the Michiganders because they talk Fast! Here in the US the further south you travel the slower people talk. Also they thought from our "accent" that we were from England, because we spoke clearly and tended to pronounce all the letters in our words. Ha! as if everyone in England speaks clearly !?!

What part of Georgia is your son-in-law from? I have kin there.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes - I think that was the problem he had. People here have a tendency to slur words. A popular phrase of farewell is 'See you later', which comes out sounding like 'sla'er'.
He comes from Athens.

Rapunzel said...

Looked up Athens, it's a mere 45 hours and 19 minutes walk from my cousins in Calhoun. Practically neighbors.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) He's a Hastings lad now! x

Rapunzel said...

A bit more of a walk then....

Pen Wilcock said...

LOL! Yes!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pen!

I'm from Barnsley, although live in Hertfordshire now. When I was growing up, 'brussen' meant a bit 'forward', or full of yourself. Not complimentary anyway!

Linda J

Southern Catholic said...

My mother used the word "galuses" and said she heard it from her grandparents. They all lived in a small farming community in eastern North Carolina. Ancestors on my mother's side of the family were English and Flemish. Fascinating thread.

Pen Wilcock said...

Linda - ah, yes - another take on the overfull/bursting meaning. Interesting!

Southern Catholic - Maybe that gives a clue as to the part of England your mother's family came from - Northern, by the sound of it.

xx

Southern Catholic said...

Yes, I meant to mention that in my post. They came from Yorkshire.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Justine - thank you for your comment! So good to hear from you. I deleted it rather than publishing it, because I got the impression you intended it as a private message, since you gave your name in full and your location, and you mentioned that you were writing in response to my invitation for people to contact me by leaving an email address in a comment so I could get in touch. Your note did not include your email address though - so do feel free either to comment again, this time with an email address, or just to join in with conversations on here.
Thank you for writing, and for your encouragement. I'm so glad you found the simplicity book helpful. Good luck with your exam!
x Pen