RIP, Cromarty Fisherfolk Dialect

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Most people have never heard of the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect. And now, it’s gone forever. Bobby Hogg, the last living speaker of the dialect, passed away last week. This unique dialect dies with him.

Cromarty is a small fishing community in Scotland with around 700 inhabitants, so the language was always vulnerable. As linguist Dr. Robert McColl Millar of Aberdeen University explained to the Daily Mail,

‘This was always going to be the danger of the Black Isle, as there were so few speakers even when it was healthy, when the fishing was still good. So Bobby Hogg’s passing is a very sad day. It was a very interesting dialect and was unlike any of the others.”

In the Daily Mail, Mr. Hogg himself described his memories of the community he grew up in and the language he grew up speaking:

“Our father was a fisherman and all his folk had been fishermen stretching way back. It was the same on our mother’s side too. When we were young, we talked differently in the fishertown to the rest of Cromarty. It wasn’t written down. It was an oral culture. We had this sort of patois, which I think had both Doric and Gaelic in it. There were words, a lot to do with the fishing, which nobody else could understand.”

According to a publication on the dialect from, at one time in Cromarty’s history, there were three different dialects: one for the farmers, one for the townspeople, and one for the fisherfolk.

To give you a feel for what’s been lost, here are some of the more interesting and evocative (in my opinion, at least) vocabulary words from the Cromarty Fisherfolk dialect:

  • ablach: odd-looking, awkward
  • belwar: layers of tangles
  • bronyach: poor creature
  • cosfeet, cosfit, cossetor cossits: starfish
  • carcle: to count, calculate
  • crockums or crockuns: refuse of fish livers after oil is extracted
  • droog-droogle: be engaged in wet, heavy work
  • foodge or fooge: to play truant
  • greenga or greengaw: slimy grass left after the tide has receded
  • lyeerin: green slime
  • tumblers: dolphins & harbour porpoises

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