Friday, November 20, 2015

Snickelways, Twitchels, Wynds, etc., Anglophile Friday


I happened upon this photo that I took in Durham last spring, and wanted to make sure to label it correctly. After all, one can't simply call it a 'walkway,' for that's just too easy, it seems, and much less interesting. Evidently, in different parts of Britain, these narrow walkways or alleyways between two buildings have different names. And I'm never certain how to pronounce British words, for the pronunciation is often not at all intuitive and sometimes a total an American, at least. This is why we have Google.


I found an interesting article on a website associated with the Oxford English Dictionary (which sadly gave us 'Buttdial,' 'Awesomesauce,' etc. - check Wednesday's Hodgepodge. Right. I never thought the Oxford English Dictionary would stoop so low, butt...).

**Oxford Dictionaries Blog is the source for the article, which I've copied here, but the bold is mine - to make it easier to find the most relevant bits, for those of you in a hurry.




"It is striking just how many words seem to exist to denote this single, relatively specific, concept. A few (like alleyway, passage, and path) are used nationwide, but a plethora of more unusual words also seem to fit this slot in speakers’ vocabulary, and many of them have a distinctively regional distribution. Informants from the north west of England speak up in favour of the snicket, a noun of uncertain origin first recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in a Victorian glossary of the dialect of the Lake District. Another term, ginnel, is also widely used in Greater Manchester and parts of Yorkshire.

Some speakers use both ginnel and snicket, but for different kinds of passageway, reserving one term for a short, narrow covered passage between two houses and the other for a typically longer, wider, walkway running between two streets; although even here, there is disagreement about which is which. To confuse matters further, in 1983, Mark W. Jones ingeniously blended the two in the title of his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, and though the city’s tourist industry has been quick to take advantage of the marketing potential of his picturesque portmanteau, it has yet to make significant inroads into the speech of locals.

And all this time I thought it was a snickelway.

The Abominable Snowman


"Even for a single item of vocabulary, it is surprising how much variation can exist. In parts of Manchester and Derbyshire the variant gennel is preferred to ginnel, and while some prescribe a pronunciation with hard G (as in get) and a spelling guinnel, others insist on an initial affricate (as in jet), and a spelling jennell. In Warwickshire, Coventry, and parts of Leicestershire, an alleyway was often called a jetty or jitty: the word is reflected in the name of several streets in Rugby and Northampton. Around this area and further to the north-west, the term entry is also used, especially of the covered passageway in a row of terraced houses used to access the back yard (the Scouse word ennog seems to be a playful alteration of this). And so it goes on across the country. From the jiggers of Liverpool to the pends of Dundee, the ten-foots of Hull to the lanes and closes of Edinburgh, diversity is the order of the day.

"In parts of Scotland and Ireland, a narrow alley is not a gennel but a vennel, a word which was also once used in Northumberland for a conduit or open sewer: this seems to be a 15th-century borrowing of a medieval French word for an alley, venelle (or venele), ultimately a diminutive of the Latin word for “vein”. Similar semantic motivation seems to lie behind the use of gully (or gulley) as a word for a passageway in parts of the Black Country and Wales. Wherever you live, it seems, an alley can be a damp and smelly place.


"The east Midlands was the heartland of the twitchel: the word’s connection with this area seems to go back at least to the 15th century, when it is recorded in Nottingham. Twitchel seems ultimately to be a variant (with a different suffix) of the Old English word twicen, a word used in Anglo-Saxon charters for a place where two roads meet which may be related to twitten, the local word for an alleyway in Sussex.


"In County Durham and Newcastle-on-Tyne, a narrow passageway is often called a chare—the word survives in the names of a number of streets in the area and is first recorded in the 13th century in the name of Potter’s Chare, a former street in Gateshead. This term is thought to derive from the Old English word cierr “turning”, and so has a semantic parallel in another alleyway word, wynd, used in the same area and in Scotland."


 Much Wenlock

And now that you're thoroughly confused, there're also the nouns (yes, nouns, not verbs) 'close' and 'shut,' which also seem to mean the passageway between two streets or buildings.

Okay, friends, I better wynd this up.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


And I couldn't resist sharing this one with you:

The wee granddaughter
Left: Dressed up for the wedding
Right: Enjoying cranberry sauce


This post will perhaps be linked to
Mosaic Monday


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genie said...

Your wee graanddaughter has stolen my heart. What precious pictures...even a messy face is cute. I went to the Oxford site before reading down your post and I was awed by how many names there are for these little walkways. It is amazing. Loved your pictures with the info attached, and the mosaic was a great way to end the post That must have been a great trip. Wishing you a happy weekend from this displaced anglophile.

Changes in the wind said...

Love those "walkways" no matter what you call them. They make you want to know what is just beyond what you can see.

The Furry Gnome said...

Fascinating! Such diversity.

EG CameraGirl said...

I think it's great that even in this world so influenced by TV (seemingly homogenizing the English language) that we still have regional differences. LOVE that photo of your granddaughter covered in cranberry sauce. It made me laugh out loud!

Sandra said...

the first time i have ever smiled at cranberry sauce. adorable. i have never heard any of these words and also never seen waht i call a narrow walkway between buildings like these. i love them all and will be happy with any of the names, even nouns. when i see photos like this i always think Europe. i wonder if there are any of these in the USA,

Stephanie said...

Oh my, your granddaughter is just precious! How can I not help but smile and have a good day when I see such a sweet face :)

Beautiful pictures, Judy. Every time I see your photos from England it makes me want to hop on a plane and GO! Someday....

Enjoy your weekend. Hugs!

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Another great post, CM. I'm glad you got round to twitten in the end, a term more familiar to me until I emigrated to the frozen north, land of damp, flat vowels, ginnels et all. You should check out Kendal's yards..! Your granddaughter looks like she's having fun - show her that when she's 18!

Tired Teacher said...

Who knew. . . I'm kind of partial to snicket. ;o)

Your photos are intriguing.

Heide at ApronHistory said...

Loved the article and love the photos!

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

She is so cute! I did not know there were so many English words to describe an alley. Love all the words. xoxo Su

Terri D said...

Wouldn't it be fun to enjoy cranberry sauce like that?!! Adorable!

I enjoyed your post and (always) the photos. I like snickelway best!! It's fun to say!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, great post and images. I like the word snickelway, it just sounds cute! Your granddaughter is adorable, the cranberry shot is wonderful! Happy weekend to you!

DeniseinVA said...

Wonderful post with great narrative and your granddaughter, she is adorable.

Linda Kay said...

Love all the passageways in today's blog, Judy. That first one looks pretty steep!

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

The wee grand is so cute, Judy. Whatever the passage ways are called--I love them all. English is a facinating living language. Thanks for not leaving England...♥

Red Rose Alley said...

Judy, look at all these cool alleys. I loved this post! You know, alleys fascinate me, and that's one of the reasons why we named our blog red rose alley hahaha. Your granddaughter is so precious.

I must go back and look at these alleys again, they are mysterious and wonderful.


Jenny Woolf said...

I think they used to call them "snecks" in the West Midlands. I certainly didn't know some of the words you found.

The next thing for the granddaughter is surely a cranberry bath! :) and she is having a lovely time!

podso said...

You've got some great views there. What is it about a winding, narrow --- you fill in the name--- that draws our attention and brings out our cameras? No where are they as good as Europe and UK. Enjoyed this so much but I doubt I'll remember the right nomenclature. Meanwhile, have a good weekend.

Susie said...

Judy, as usual I loved all your pictures. The one of your g.daughter made me laugh. I really loved it. Blessings for a great weekend. xoxo,Susie

Karen @ Beatrice Euphemie said...

Wonderful photos of the alleys and interesting how many different words there are for them! I can imagine getting quite lost if I had to ask for directions through any of them! Love seeing your precious little granddaughter. Good idea to remove the clothing for cranberry sauce:) Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving! xo Karen

Judy S. said...

Enjoyed your England photos as always AND the GD ones as well. She's a cutie.

Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Love your narrative and images. Granddaughters are adorable. Have a lovely weekend

Anonymous said...

Oh my - what amazing shots of the snickets!

NanaDiana said...

Amazing information. Who knew a "walkwak" could go by so many different names? I love those pictures. They are fantastic.

Love your granddaughter---cleaned up AND messy. xo Diana

Vee said...

I like the new word best...snickelway. How confusing to have so many words for an alley. We have an area that we call Swan Way. I'll be changing that to Swan Snickelway. No, that would throw John for a loop. Don't look now, Judy! Your darling little granddaughter is losing her baby looks and becoming a toddler right before our eyes! A good weekend to you. Are you in the storm's path?

Theresa said...

Very interesting, I learned some things that I didn't know from your post:) CUTEST little one all dressed up and enjoying getting messy! Have a blessed day dear friend, HUGS!

Anonymous said...

I love your pictures. I have a question for you about your shop, so could you please email me soon at
I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Love your photos. And of course we loved the granddaughter poses. Good thing the cranberries weren't part of the wedding outfit.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend...

Denise said...

interesting post

Lowcarb team member said...

Thank you for sharing some lovely photo's. I visited York some years ago now,and it bought back many happy memories, thank you.

So pleased you included those last photo's of your grand-daughter, so lovely.

All the best Jan

J_on_tour said...

Very well researched post. I came across the word gennel for the first time a few years ago in Sheffield. Chare is a word very familiar word to me LOL.


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