The Crazy Lexicon of Kent – the Garden of England

Well last week I looked at old Sussex words so it seemed only right to take a look at what Kentish folks were spouting in days of yore.

Map of KentBeing in the next county, I wasn’t expecting there to be much difference and thought the same words might resurface but I was wrong (I’ve been wrong before – once in 1977, if I remember correctly).

I was surprised to find that there were even more peculiar words in use than I found for Sussex!  Apparently, the garden of England’s Kentish folk are a breed apart when it comes to the English language. This county cultivated its own bonkers lexicon that still leaves outsiders utterly bamboozled. From salmagundis to bettysnatchers, come take a stroll through some of Kent’s most eccentric and charming words.

Let’s start with some key Kentish nouns. If you’re tromping over the North Downs and get knackered, take a breather on a boodle – that’s a cushion or large sofa and probably in one of Kent’s fine boozers. Don’t sit on a codshead though, unless you fancy a large sack of wool! Meanwhile in Thanet, Chief Bettysnatcher is on the loose, looking to apprehend scoundrels and vagabonds.

Hungry for some grub? In Ashford, you can chow down on some crusty hufflers – potatoes mashed with onions and milk. Or try a luscious bung-poke – a jam doughnut to the rest of the country. Mind the drizzle on your slobbens though, you don’t want tea stains on your clothes!

HorsesKnocking about with your mates? Don’t be a gromwobbler or Groweden – a sulky or grumpy chap who ruins the fun. And be careful not to slip on any cag-mag – horse manure to the uninitiated.

Of course you could always form a molrowing – a crowd of rascal lads up to mischief. And avoid those drannicking wicks – nasty dirty alleyways where any horse-coping codger may lurk.

Had your fill of chawfers (small talk)? Then let’s learn some classic Kentish phrases. If you’re spitting feathers over something, you’re quite angry.  I’ve always used this one to mean I’m thirsty – go figure – maybe some of these words have multiple uses. If you look all feeze, your face is scrunched up in dismay. And take care not to Queach, that’s choking from swallowing too much food.

Going out on the lash with your drouthy mates? Enjoy some lush salmagundi – strong ale and spices to warm your cockles. Once you’re tipsy, you may become proggy-led (dizzy and unsteady). Too much prosperity can make you quimbering or quivering drunk, apparently.

Perhaps you’ll even meet a dapper borocal – a snazzy gent in fancy clothes. Or encounter some leery roister-doistering bevvy of gadabouts causing a rumbumptious commotion!

There are obviously dozens more wondrous words used by Kentish folk of yore. From jolliment to zarums, they paint a picture of English eccentricity at its best. Next time you’re in the garden of England, keep your lugholes open for remnants of this regional language. It’s enough to make you go all translated or completely flapperdashed.

And don’t say we don’t do our best to educate you here at Unknown Kent and Sussex.  You’re welcome.


  • Maria Bligh

    Maria Bligh is a journalist, published author, professional speaker, singer and artist now settled in Sussex, UK, having previously travelled extensively throughout the UK and overseas, including a period living in Geneva. Married to a successful musician and with a background that encompasses working in the music industry, finance, sales and presentations training, she maintains a diverse existence. Her interests encompass travel, nature, animals and the arts: music, theatre, painting, writing and philosophy. Maria now writes for online and print magazines. Having once maintained a regular full page in “A Place In The Sun” magazine, travel is an obvious interest, but her articles also cover a wide variety of subjects. She bills herself as “an observer of the human condition and all that sail in her.” Maria has frequently appeared on radio & TV as well as in print. Her humorous style has seen her travel the world addressing audiences throughout Europe, Asia and Australasia and as a cruise-ship speaker with P&O and Fred Olsen.

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