Sunday 14 June 2009

That’s what it semt to be

Peter Roach wrote:
I heard a Rotherham man being interviewed on Radio 4 earlier today about the effects of the recession. I thought I heard him say 'It semt to come on suddenly' ('semt' where 'seemed' would be expected). If I heard that correctly (I wasn't listening carefully at the time), it would be presumably be analogical to /dremt/ - /dri:md/. Have you ever heard this? Or did I mis-hear?

I answered
I’ve never heard it, but it seems entirely plausible. The OED has a past tense semde, sempt, semt in the 13th-16th centuries.
You could possibly check in the Leeds Survey of English Dialects.

Peter then reported
I consulted my cousin-in-law, who knows the area well - he used to be Head Teacher of Grimethorpe Comprehensive. I remember him telling me of hearing one of his teachers saying to a boy “don't tha thee-thou me!”. His reply concerning semt:
Yes semt (I'm not sure exactly how it's spelt - it can be pronounced more like sempt) is common in Rotherham, Sheffield and Barnsley, tha’ knows. They also use tret (for treated).

So I think I must have heard this form correctly.
And I in turn can say that I have heard tret for the past of treat.


  1. I like that. I favour "dreamt" and "leapt" (or should that be "lept"?) over "dreamed" and "dreamt", myself.

    Can't give any reason why, though.

  2. I've not heard "sempt" from living in Yorkshire. I looked in the Upton/Parry/Widdowson volume of SED and in the Dictionary of the Scots Language, and didn't find it anywhere. That's a new entry for me. However, I have heard "tret" frequently. Similar forms include "selt" (sold) and "telt" (told), which extend from Yorkshire northwards into Scotland.

    It's good to see a bit of Yorkshire dialect on the blog, although I should point out that Grimethorpe, as an isolated ex-pit village, is likely to be very conservative in comparison to the rest of West/South Yorkshire speech.

  3. And Jack Windsor Lewis points out (p.c.) that Americans have "pled" as the past tense of "plead".

  4. This is my dream,
    It is my own dream,
    I dreamt it.
    I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
    Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it

    ~ Ogden Nash

  5. BrE is pretty vast and wide, I had studied it before but never to the depths of the many different ways some words can be pronounced or spoken. In deed much more deep and rich than AmE.

  6. My Dad was from Clowne in Derbyshire, and my father in law was from Wentworth between Rotherham and Barnsley, and they both used the word sempt, plus many other pronunciations like tret etc, and my own children have picked up some of these sayings from there Granddads ?


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