The last native speaker of an obscure English dialect known as Cromarty fisherfolk died this week in a tiny fishing town on Scotland’s Black Isle, making his a recently disappeared rare world language.
“Bobby Hogg, who was 92 when he died, was the last person fluent in the dialect once common to the seaside town of Cromarty, 175 miles north of Edinburgh,” the AP reported.
While few people may mourn the demise of Cromarty specifically, it’s another example of the one language that dies every two weeks and a general trend toward linguistic standardization as the global population moves to cities. UNESCO expects half of the globe’s 6,000-plus languages to die off by the end of the century.
So what did Cromarty sound like?
The New Statesman has this excerpt:
"Am fair sconfished wi hayreen; gie’s fur brakwast lashins o am and heggs. (I’m so fed up with herring, give me plenty of ham and eggs for breakfast.)”
And the AP offers up even more:
“Holl tol / Very drunk
Foamin for want / Desperate for tea
At’s theer trouble? / What’s your trouble?
Theer nae tae big fi a sclaffert yet! / You’re not too big for a slap!”
You can listen to exerpts of interviews with Hogg and his (now-deceased) brother Gordon at the Scottish history site Am Baile, which has documented the dialect. In this excerpt, the Hoggs give a run-down of Cromarty fish names:
Bobby: When ye take the different names of fish, they're different in Cromarty to what they are everywhere else, like. Different names. So that's only the start, like. Same wi the line fishing an, ye know, all the things relative to it, right? These things have all disappeared now. Folk don't know what ye're talking about, even.
Interviewer: So what are some o the names?
Gordon: Well, a plashack - that's a big, a big flat fish. We call that a plashack.
Gordon: An we call others ones - there's one they call it - it's a biggar-man, an it's a, it's a flounder too. It's a flounder but it's -
Bobby: It's biggar-man - you'll find that in the Scottish Dictionary. It's a flounder, a black flounder, right? Say it's a biggar-man in Cromarty.
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