Guernsey French

Written by Louisa Lane Clarke for Redstone's Guide to Guernsey, first published in 1841. A copy of this Guide was given to Queen Victoria when she visited the island, and it was retitled Redstones' Royal Guide.  This extract is from the fifth edition, published in 1856.

'...not only British subjects, but Englishmen.'

The language of the Channel Islands is the old Norman French, differing but little even in the present day from that met with in the ancient metrical romances of the Norman trouvères, and the old law books still studied by English lawyers. It is remarkable, however, that the pronunciation of the language by the people of Guernsey and Jersey is so different as to strike the ear of the most careless observer. Many of the words used are very expressive; but the language, having long since ceased to be a written one, has not acquired polish or elegance. The facility with which English words are naturalized has been alleged as proof of the great poverty or great corruption of the dialect; but new ideas cannot always find corresponding terms, and even Parisian writers find it convenient in the present day to use such purely English words as speech, meeting, steamer, railway, drainage, &c. There are many words too which a stranger would suppose to be English, but which are in fact good old French from which our corresponding terms in English have been originally derived: such are the following:-

Destorbair To disturb
Se remembrer To remember
Cotte A coat
Gaone A gown; old French gonne
Choppe A shop; old French echoppe
Accointance Acquaintance
Tonnelle A tunnel
Courtine A curtain
Cornière A corner
Poure Poor
Hantair To haunt
Chenal The Channel
Confort Comfort, consolation
Darnair To darn
Caboche Cabbage

Many more examples might be brought forward in proof of our assertion, but these will suffice. In town, English is universally spoken, and but few of the peasantry are ignorant of the language, which is taught, together with French, in all the parochial schools. All proceedings in the courts of law are carried on in French, which is also the language used in the parish churches; but notwithstanding their attachment to the tongue of their Norman ancestors, there is no point on which Guernseymen are more sensitive than on the mistake commonly made by strangers in confounding them with their neighbours on the opposite coast of France. They think, and with reason, that an uninterrupted connection with England, dating from the time of the Conquest, entitles them to consider themselves not only British subjects, but Englishmen.