Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Arrrrgh, it's the Hoi Toiders!"...hearing early 18th century speech today

Blackbeard the Pirate by Joseph Nicholls, 1736
Having moved to the three-hundred-year-old northeastern North Carolina town of Edenton two years ago, in the area known as the Inner Banks (as opposed to the more well known Outer Banks,) I have come to discover the particular accent native to these parts. In many pronunciations I hear remnants of both Tidewater Virginia and Outer Banks/Southeastern North Carolina brogues. In turn, these accents with their hard "r's" sound similar to English and Irish accents, specifically of southwestern England in the Bristol area and the Ulster area of Ireland. So what does all this have to do with research pertaining to all things early 18th century, the primary time setting for my novel-in-progress? Quite a lot, actually, since I am beginning to hear the characters' voices in my head. And before you call for the men in the white coats, that's actually a good thing for a novelist!

450 year old map of Outer and Inner Banks by Gov. John White
I have been pondering how the speech of eastern North Carolinians, as well as Blackbeard the infamous pirate and his ilk, may have sounded in the year, 1718. I would surmise they sounded much like the parts of Great Britain from which they came. The unique accents still heard in pockets of eastern North Carolina are in areas where, for centuries, the people were somewhat isolated, particularly down around Ocracoke and Harkers Island. With the vast influx of tourists and people moving to "God's Country" from elsewhere, the strength of the accent is weakening but is still very present to the attentive ear.

Southwestern England including Bristol in red (Wikimedia Commons)
Knowing that Blackbeard was said to have come from Bristol, England, I went to YouTube to hear examples of current day Bristolian and southwestern English accents and, lo and behold, I could hear similarities between them and those of the "Hoi Toiders," the name sometimes given to speakers of the Outer Banks brogue since they pronounce the long "i" sound as "oi/oy." "High tide" becomes "hoi toide." I'm not the only one to hear the similarity of speech between them. When the noted English
dialectologist, Peter Trudgill, took recorded samples of Outer Banks speech back to England, most listeners agreed the origins were British, most likely from the West Country (southwestern England.)

Outer Banks of North Carolina, map by NOAA
I have heard this same accent on tiny Tangier Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, my own relatives from the Swansboro area of southeastern North Carolina, and even a friend whose family had fished the waters of southern New Jersey for generations. My ninety-year-old mother, growing up in Swansboro, remembers being called a "Hoi Toider" by outsiders. She has lived in many places up and down the east coast, from North Carolina to New York, and has lost much of her old accent but my cousins "down home," as mother still calls it, retain the strong brogue. It is apparent not only in the hard "r" and "oy" sounds but also in the way the  "ow" sound, as in the word "brown," becomes more of a long "o" sound as in "brone." It's hard to put it down in writing since the pronunciations are more intricate than I present here and often have more syllables pronounced than they would appear to have in print. "Toide" is more like "t-uh-ee-d." "Brone" is more like "breh-on" with a long "o." My husband Bill (a New Englander by birth,) likes to tell folks his name has changed since he moved to Edenton. Here he's called "Bee-al" by many of our dear, new friends

Regarding that hard "r" research shows that prior to the American Revolution, all of England, including the upper crust, pronounced the "r's" of their words (rhotic) and it was not until late in the 18th century that some began dropping the "r" (non-rhotic) in an attempt to distinguish themselves from the rabble. This became the fashion and made its way to America through its eastern port towns taking hold especially in the upper classes of southern society.

I think my characters may begin to take on speech blessed with the rich colors of both Old World Bristolians and New World Hoi Toiders. And if I need an interpreter I can just call my sweet cousins "down home" and they'll straighten me out I'm sure!

 Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Thanks to the following for today's resource information:

The North Carolina Language and Life Project:

Hoi Toide on the Outer Banks: The Story of the Ocracoke Brogue by Walt Wolfram and Natalie Schilling-Estes 

YouTube: (Bristol accent) (Outer Banks accent)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Uncovering Blackbeard's Treasure...historical riches from "Queen Anne's Revenge"

(Part 2)

Model of Queen Anne's Revenge
In 1718, Captain Edward Teach AKA Blackbeard the Pirate, ran his flagship, Queen Anne's Revenge, aground near Beaufort, North Carolina. The remains of the 200 ton ship rested undisturbed beneath twenty-five feet of water until its discovery in 1996. Since then, a treasure trove providing tens of thousands of 18th century sea-going artifacts has been brought to the surface. Many exciting discoveries still remain beneath the sea promising even more insight into nautical life during the Golden Age of Piracy. A special conservation and restoration lab has been set up on the campus of East Carolina University in Greenville for the sole purpose of caring for these historical treasures. Coincidentally, students and teams of the university are called the
Artifacts still encased in concretions

A traveling exhibit touring the state of North Carolina showcasing many of the artifacts enables residents and visitors alike the opportunity to see, firsthand, items actually handled by the infamous pirate captain and his crew. It's one thing to examine relics uncovered by archaeologists which were used by ancient, unknown people but it's quite another to see items last handled by one of  the most well known characters who ever lived.

My husband and I visited the exhibit while it was housed in the North Carolina History Center in New Bern.
Within the glass display cases we saw items ranging from pewter plates on which they ate their meals, to bits of clay pipes in which they smoked their tobacco, to a tantalizing scattering of gold grains and flakes. There were canon balls, grenades, canon long shot, and shackles on display, reminders of the violent nature of life aboard a pirate ship. Even small, personal items such as brass belt buckles, cuff links, and buttons have been rescued from the deep. The exhibit also contained several large display signs with information and illustrations about this turbulent time in American history and a very informative video ran on a continuous loop. The Beaufort branch of the North Carolina Museum of Maritime History houses a permanent collection of many other artifacts from the ship as well as items salvaged from other ship wrecks.

Some of the most interesting items brought to light are ones that were of medical or hygienic use and give us a real picture of day to day life aboard an early 18th century ship.
One of the more disturbing artifacts is a pewter urethral syringe with a curved funnel tip, still containing vestiges of mercury, used to treat venereal disease. Ouch! Another item was known as a seat of ease: a rolled piece of funnel shaped metal used as a waste tube and fitted in the far stern of the ship for the convenience of the officers.

Photographs of 95 of the artifacts can be seen on the Queen Anne's Revenge website

All photographs on today's blog post were taken either by my husband or myself during our visit to the exhibit earlier this month.
Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's a Pirate's Life for Me...discovering historical treasure from Blackbeard's "Queen Anne's Revenge"

(Part I)

"Cutthroat Kate" strikes a pose
My husband, Bill, and I took a Sunday drive down to New Bern, North Carolina (about two hours south of our home in Edenton) to experience the traveling exhibit of artifacts recently brought up from the wreck of Blackbeard the pirate's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.  Most of the photos on today's post are ones we shot at the exhibit and...yes...I had to include some of our silly shenanigans posing with the pirate statues and cutouts. The information garnered from this experience is just too much for a single post so I will divide into at least two segments. In today's post I will share with you the fascinating history of the ship and next week we'll take a look at the artifacts and the amazing efforts to preserve and, literally, bring them to light.

Blackbeard's Flag
The Queen Anne's Revenge's checkered past began long before she became the flagship of the infamous Captain Teach AKA Thatch AKA Blackbeard. Originally named La Concorde, she was owned by a French merchant by the name of Rene Montaudoin who used her as a slave trade ship from 1713 until her capture by Blackbeard in 1717. The ship's home port of operation was Nantes, France with ports of call on the west coast of Africa, to pick up enslaved Africans, and the French Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Saint Domingue, to sell the slaves. On July 8, 1717, La Concorde picked up her final human cargo in present-day Benin and, under the leadership of Captain Pierre Dosset, sailed the Middle Passage route toward Martinique. With 516 captive Africans, and seventy-five crew members, La Concorde endured nearly eight weeks of sailing in which sixty-five slaves and sixteen crewmen perished.
Models of Queen Anne's Revenge and Adventurer
Queen Anne and Prince George by
Charles Boit (1706) Note the Prince's Big Hair
(see blog post from 1-08-2014)
About 100 miles from their destination, La Concorde encountered Blackbeard with his two armed sloops and crew of 150. The French ship's surviving crew members were further handicapped with thirty-six of them suffering from scurvy and dysentery.  After Blackbeard fired two volleys at the ship, Captain Dosset surrendered. The pirates unloaded the ship's crew and slaves onto the island of Bequia in the Grenadines and sailed away leaving the French the smaller of Blackbeard's two sloops. The French cabin boy and three other crewmen volunteered to join the pirate crew and ten others including a pilot, a sailor, a cook, two carpenters, and three surgeons, were taken by force. The French named their new and much smaller vessel, Mauvaise Rencontre which translates in English to Bad Encounter. Blackbeard renamed his new 200-ton ship, Queen Anne's Revenge. The pirate captain learned his trade while a legal privateer in the service of England's Queen Anne during her war against Spain and France between 1701 and 1714.
After Blackbeard's May, 1718 blockade of the port of Charleston, South Carolina in which he secured medicine for his crew, he sailed Queen Anne's Revenge to Old Topsail Inlet (present-day Beaufort Inlet) on the coast of North Carolina. There his flagship, as well as the sloop Adventure, ran aground on a sandbar and, after removing any valuable cargo, were abandoned.

John Lawson's Map showing Topsail Inlet (1709)
There is some speculation the pirate captain did this on purpose in order to disperse some of his crew whose numbers had grown to, perhaps, an unwieldy size of 300 souls. Blackbeard marooned some of the crewmen and left Beaufort with a hand-picked crew and most of the plunder. Over the centuries, Queen Anne's Revenge remained in place and eventually crumbled in upon itself beneath the sea. It was not until 1996 that the wreck was discovered and research determined it to, indeed, be Blackbeard's ship. Since that time, divers have continued to salvage thousands of artifacts expertly and carefully restored to bring us an unprecedented look at not only 300-year-old nautical life, but at one of the most-renowned and storied characters of all time, Blackbeard.

(See the Queen Anne's Revenge official website at
"Wicked Will" before and after some PhotoShop magic
Next week:  (Part II) Queen Anne's Revenge offers us a tantalizing peek into 18th century pirate life.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Men with Big unfortunate 18th century fashion statement

"Portrait of a Gentleman" by Nicolas de Largillierre.(early 1700's)
Between 1700 and 1720, during the time in which my work-in-progress novel is placed, men wore wigs and women, generally, did not. While women's hairstyles were close to a natural, nearly negligent look, men wore tall, long curly wigs (albeit their own hair trimmed quite short beneath.) The time for women's outrageously tall wigs, complete with theatrical touches such as miniature sailing ships and flags was a thing of the future (1770's-1780's.)

Head lice was a normal part of life in the early 1700's and  shampooing the head on a regular basis was considered abnormal and unhealthy. Men found they could more easily maintain a comfortable scalp by keeping their own hair close cropped and wearing a wig which, upon necessity, could be fumigated for pesky critters. Men of all classes wore head coverings, most with wigs, but at least with close fitting caps which could be worn beneath hats. At home, at least, men could dispense with their wig and wear the little embroidered cap in its place. 

Although there is evidence of wig wearing since the time of the ancient Egyptians, apparently "modern" wigs came into popular fashion with 17th century King Louis XIII of France who used them to cover his balding
head. The first fashionably large wigs for men of the early 18th century were periwigs, full-bottomed hair pieces divided into 3 sections: 2 masses of curls falling in front of the shoulders and one down the back. Curls framed the face and extended above the forehead (often quite high above the forehead) parted down the center, sometimes giving the impression of great horns. As the years progressed and the inconvenience of so much hair became evident to all but the most leisurely of gentlemen, the wig was altered to be one length all the way around (although still shoulder-length) and sometimes divided in back with a ribbon securing the end of each section. As time passed and cooler heads prevailed, the wig decreased in size and the style of soldiers, which was to tie the hair back with one ribbon, became the fashion. The bag-wig, a pouch of gummed black taffeta with a matching ribbon was a style borrowed directly from the military. The man's wig hair was pulled back, stuffed into the bag and tied at the base. At first this was considered a form of "undress" but, later, attained popularity and obtained acceptance in more formal situations.

"Brook Taylor" by Hans Hysing, 1720
White or grey was the approved wig color denoting sophistication and, if the wig was not naturally white or grey, was powdered to achieve the effect. The powder was made of starch and was such a messy affair some wealthier homes had rooms set aside for the process ("Powder Rooms!") The wig-wearer held a large cone-shaped mask over his face while the powder was liberally applied.  

After this research, I must admit I am having trouble thinking of my romantic male lead character sporting a mass of powdered curls. Perhaps he will throw convention to the wind and his wig with it. Hmmmmm....we'll see.

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Auld Lang Syne...translating 18th century lyrics

By Prefeitura de Sete Lagoas (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0
(], via Wikimedia Commons
It's midnight, January 1st, and all over the world folks link arms and sing out the strains of a song written in 1788 by Scotland's Robert Burns. Often the words are mumbled and slurred, not just because of all the champagne toasts but because many (most) of us have no idea what we're really singing, much less what we're singing about. I had a general notion it's about not forgetting old acquaintances but that's about all! It did not become ubiquitous to New Year's until band leader Guy Lombardo struck up the strains just after midnight, January 1, 1929. Oh and, by the by, Great Britain and its dominions did not officially adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Before that year, the first day of each new year fell on March 25, the day of the Annunciation called Lady Day (not to be confused with the jazz singer Billie Holiday's nickname)  when tradition has it the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary she was carrying baby Jesus. Since most of Europe celebrated the New Year on January 1, the Brits and their colonists certainly did some extra partying December 31 even if it wasn't "official!"
"Robert Burns" by Alexander Naysmith, 1787

Below are the original lyrics of the entire song in Burns's Scottish dialect followed by an "English" translation.

"Auld Lang Syne"

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And auld lang syne? 

For auld lang syne, my jo, 
For auld lang syne, 
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet 
For auld lang syne.)

And surely you'll be your pint-stowp, 
And surely I'll be mine, 
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet 
For auld lang syne!
We twa hae ran about the braes, 
And pu'd the gowans fine, 
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit 
Sin' auld lang syne. 

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn 
Frae morning sun til dine, 
But seas between us braid hae roar'd 
Sin' auld lang syne.
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere, 
And gie's a hand o' thine, 
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught 
For auld lang syne! 
Keith Evans [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (],
 via Wikimedia Commons

Modern Translation:

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,

And days of long ago !

For old long ago, my dear
For old long ago,
We will take a cup of kindness yet

For old long ago.) 

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For old long ago.
We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since old long ago.
And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill draught (of ale)
For old long ago!
And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For old long ago!

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now...
and Happy New Year!