From toilets to wool… origins of Jèrriais names are revealed

From toilets to wool… origins of Jèrriais names are revealed

But Tchi Pitchi, a handy collection of Jèrriais phrases, owes its existence to weekly sessions of informal conversation that took place in The Adelphi Lounge, as part of an initiative to promote the Island’s historic language.

Regular attendees Jo Olszewski and Tracy Peters have produced a pocket guide to encourage readers to up their game when it comes to using language that reflects Jersey’s unique identity.

Ms Peters explained that they were looking for something to do one rainy evening and were attracted by Geraint Jennings’ conversation evening in the town pub.

‘Jo’s a fabulous linguist so I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist and what’s not to like about an evening in a warm pub?’ she said.

Their experiences have been condensed into 60 pages or so, which not only provide examples of Jèrriais with helpful guidance on pronunciation but also give a valuable insight into aspects of local culture, whether the agricultural past or the origins of some place names, which help connect the reader with the Island.

‘The more we thought about it, the more we realised that language and identity had been part of our lives for years,’ explained Ms Peters, who grew up in East London with rhyming slang a regular feature of her speech.

‘When I moved to the South West, I had to modify my language for people to understand me – teachers made clear their disapproval. The slang went and, looking back, I think I lost a part of myself,’ she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Olszewski grew up in Cornwall where she passed the home of Dolly Pentree, the last native Cornish speaker, daily on her way to school.

But although Tchi Pitchi has emerged from a number of initiatives to encourage interest in Jèrriais, the book feels less about preserving the language than it does about delving beneath the surface of things to understand better what it is that makes Jersey unique.

St Helier parishioners can call themselves ‘les clyichards’ in reference to the sanitary problems which required regular access to a toilet in the early 19th century.

Residents of St Ouen get off more lightly as les gris ventres – or ‘grey bellies’ in reference to wool from the area – something of which readers of the parish magazine will already be aware, and residents of St Martin are simply ‘les nordgiens’ or northerners.

A useful phrase to express frustration about something might be: nou n’y comprend ni tchu ni tête or ‘you can’t make head nor tail of it’ – though the tail bit needs to be understood in terms of human, rather than animal, anatomy.

Tchi Pitchi is dedicated ‘to those friends who have ever wondered out loud what to do on a rainy Tuesday evening’ and demonstrates how much fun and understanding can be obtained by tuning in to Jersey’s historic language.

The book is available from Amazon at a price of £5.99 and it is planned that it will shortly go on sale in local stores. Details are available on the authors’ Facebook page, Jèrriais Duo.

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