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More about Mots

Readers who were intrigued by his reference at page 13 to a fancy 'Mot' in William Davies's Crimea letters published in Vol. VI of The Carmarthenshire Historian may be interested in the following observation by T. H. Parry-Williams in his article on 'English-Welsh Loan-words' which is included in Angles and Britons (University of Wales Press, 1963), pp. 47-48:

There is a very local dialect or patois impregnated with a peculiar argot or slang prevalent in the town of Caernarvon and, to some extent, in the surrounding districts. At any rate, it seems to have been confined at one time to the lower level of society in that town, centred around the quayside and such places. Today, it has become something of an oddity or linguistic curio and the use of it something of a joke. It has a peculiar adenoidal intonation associated with it, as well as a loose kind of enunciation, so that it has developed into a special lingo. The exact provenance of this strange element in its vocabulary is unkown; but it may have drawn upon the jargon, cant or slang of gipsies, thieves, and tinkers . . . . Some of the words of this argot are certainly English in origin, or at any rate they are found in English also. The two best-known words of the 'local dialect' are mod or modan (bad or bodan) for a girl or a woman, Cof or cofi for a man. Curiously enough, in the volume entitled Comic and Curious Verse (in the series 'The Penguin Poets'), selected by J. M. Cohen, first published in 1952, there occurs a ballad called 'A Leary Mot' ( A knowing or fly wench), by an anonymous author, c. 1811. The first line contains the word mot, another form of mort 'wench':

Rum old Mog was a Leary flash mot, and she was round and fat.

In the second and third verses we have the word cove and covey:

For he [that is Mog's 'flash companion'] valued neither cove nor swell...


Her covey was an am'rous blade...
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