1854: “the lower classes speak Jersey-French”

December 12th, 2010

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1854: “the lower classes speak Jersey-French”

Office du Jerriaishistory

A dictionary, geographical, statistical, and historical, of the various countries, places, and principal natural objects in the world, by John Ramsay M’Culloch (1854):

The vernacular language of the island is French, which is used in the churches and courts of law: the upper ranks speak it in its purity, but the lower classes speak Jersey-French, a patois compounded of old Norman French with Gallicised English. English, however, is becoming daily more prevalent, and most of the country people understand and speak it. “The Jerseymen, especially the lower orders, are characterised by blunt independence, often amounting to brusquerie, excessive love of gain, and unceasing industry. The minute division of property prevents them from acquiring an independence, while at the same time the actual ownership of land protected by legal privileges, gives them a freedom of sentiment which no tenant at will can enjoy. Their parsimony, however, is not only prejudicial to themselves, as leading them to begrudge provender to their most valuable cows, but is also injurious to others, whom they overreach in bargaining.” (Inglis) Their fare is simple and inexpensive, consisting principally of soupe-d-choux, a compound of lard, cabbage, and potatoes : conger-eel soup and pickled pork are rarities reserved for festive occasions. The chaumontelle pear is commonly eaten with tea: cider is the general substitute for beer. The higher classes seldom give entertainments or exchange civilities, and are much divided by party spirit. The old parties of Magot and Charlot have given way to the liberal Rose and the exclusive high church and state Laurel. Literature is forgotten amid Island politics ; and even the press, so powerful an engine in England, has scarcely any influence in Jersey. The English residents must be considered as a class quite distinct from the natives, with whom they have little intercourse; they amount to about 4,000, being chiefly half-pay officers with their families, attracted by the cheapness of living and the mildness of the climate.