D.H. Lawrence and Dialect: The mardy bloke from Eastwood

The second artefact in the D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre is dialect. We’ve been slowly feeding an alphabet of dialect phrases through our Instagram account and producing videos like the above for our YouTube channel. The dialect essays are now on the project website too but will get a makeover as and when we get a chance. Below is some of the transcript for the above ‘mardy’ video. I guess the purpose of the video is to demonstrate (in a quick and accessible way) some of the ways in which Lawrence uses mardy in his work.

Although we’d love to claim mardy as our own, it’s used widely across the country – although it’s meaning varies. In Yorkshire and the Midlands, mardy means to be sulky or whining. This meaning is most likely derived from the dialect marred, which describes a spoilt, overindulged, or badly behaved child.

There are lots of mardy brats in Lawrence’s writing.

However, in the East Midlands, mardy can also mean to be non co-operative, bad tempered or terse in communication. By this definition, D.H. Lawrence was a gigantic sulk on legs. He raged against everyone and everything. And he had plenty of reasons to be mardy, particularly when his books were banned or censored. Take this letter to Edward Garnett in 1912 on finding out his manuscript for Sons and Lovers had been rejected by the publisher Heinemann.

“Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulse-less lot that make up England today.

Ouch.

There are three ways you can pronounce mardy in the East Midlands. Mardeh, mardee or mard. Lawrence was very much of the mard variety on account of growing up in Eastwood which sits smack bang wallop on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. In this region of the country, folk don’t like to fanny about with syllables and trim them off at any given opportunity.  

Lawrence flips between these pronunciations in his novels. ‘Mardy’ is mentioned in Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, and Mr. Noon whereas the harder sounding ‘mard’ appears more frequently in The White Peacock, the short story ‘Rex’, the play The Daughter-in-Law and the poem The Collier’s Wife

As you would expect from literature’s number one mard arse, there are lots of different words and expressions for being in a bad mood in Lawrence’s work. Here’s a few.

Most mardies happen when you have a row about summat. This is known as a shindy.

If during this shindy you persistently whine, you may be guilty of carneyin’.

Once you’re in a bad mood, you’re likely to go chuntering around the house.

Whining and whimpering is also known as pulamiting

If you are pulamiting in a particularly whining tone you may be accused of grizzling.

Too much grizzling might turn you mean, which can result in mingy behaviour. 

This is likely to annoy people, or naggle them.

Most people who have a mardy tend to slope off on their own. But if your mardy has enraged you so much that you start screaming or crying, you have entered the world of scraightin. 

Lawrence lived through World War One, survived the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, watched the landscape of his home destroyed by industrialisation, saw his books censored and banned, had his passport confiscated for marrying a German women, experienced persecution for his views, was labelled a pornographer, lived a nomadic life in self-imposed exile, and was plagued by ill health all his life. If anyone earned the right to be mardy, it was he.     

Further Reading