Halloween language: Trick or treat? Lozengers or ballsers?

October 30, 2019 by admin

Get a Free Quote

Our Accreditations

  • ATA Logo
  • ATC Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • BSI 9001 Logo
  • DIN EN 15038 Logo

Recent Updates

Culture-bound syndromes and how language shapes illness

In her book Sleeping Beauties, neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan explores the phenomenon of culture-bound illnesses around the world. The conditions she is interested in are psychosomatic disorders which arise due to a complex interaction between the mind and body, but… Read More

Halloween language: Trick or treat? Lozengers or ballsers?

With Halloween just around the corner, this week’s blog is inspired by a tweet from the wonderful @tweetolectology. This language and geography focused Twitter account is the brainchild of an ESRC funded collaboration between the universities of Cambridge and Lancaster investigating the diffusion of morphosyntactic innovations using social media. The aim is to use Twitter to collect datasets for different languages (English, Welsh, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Faroese and Turkish) to identify language changes in progress as they spread through the relevant Twitter populations.

As well as collecting contemporary linguistic data, @tweetolectology takes a regular look at older data from the Survey of English Dialects. This was a ground-breaking survey of vernacular speech in England conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds between 1950 and 1961. The survey aimed to capture the most conservative forms of speech and so specifically targeted isolated, rural areas. Participants were predominantly male farm labourers and were generally over the age of 65. So the image you see below is a snapshot of terminology for a generation of English speakers who are no longer alive. It would be interesting to see whether changes in communication and mass media over the last 70 years have impacted on the degree of regional variation found in the original study.

I particularly love the fact that there seems to be a random green dot down in Cornwall representing goodies/goodie far away from its fellow green dots up in the north and east of England. And while most of the terms are recognisable as referring to sugary confectionary, I would never have guessed at the meaning of the delightful ballsers, bullets or cowshies. The term lozengers sounds like something Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant might have come up with, while spice and suckers have acquired very different meanings in modern parlance.

The practice of trick or treating is widely assumed to be an American import to British culture, but its roots go back much further. During medieval times in England, soulers would go from door to door seeking donations of soul cakes then singing and saying prayers for the souls of the givers and their friends in return. This tradition would have taken place during the period spanning All Saints’ Eve (All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween), All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (October 31, November 1 and November 2). A similar tradition evolved in Scotland with the practice of guising, where people donned a disguise to visit homes in search of edible or financial rewards. Guising requires the performance of a song or other recital before any reward is issued.

Although the custom of trick or treating is essentially European, the phrase itself is undoubtedly American in origin. There is little evidence of the term being used in the UK prior to the 1980s and even now it is seen by some as an unwelcome import. Perhaps people might feel less intolerant if they knew that the tradition, if not its name, was such a longstanding one.






Share This Post


Add Comment

Andreea Mohan

Taylor Wessing LLP

We are very pleased with the services provided by Rosetta Translations. They always send very prompt responses, transparent prices and deliver their work product at the highest standards.

More Testimonials

Jackie Brook, Sr Product Manager

American Express

Thank you very much for your prompt and efficient service.

More Testimonials

Conor McLarnon

Maximus Crushing and Screening

I have translated multiple projects with Rosetta now and I cannot emphasise how great the service they provide is; quality, turnaround time and pricing is the best I have found yet. The qualities of translations we receive are of the highest standard and communication from the start of a project to the end is consistent.

For a company looking into translations, I would highly recommend Rosetta as first pick, as the support and service they provide is first class.

More Testimonials

Get a Free Quote

© 2024 All Rights Reserved
Rosetta Translation, 133 Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QA · 0207 248 2905