[DWJ] Brigstow/Bristol (was Big Bad Read)

shawyer at mail.utexas.edu shawyer at mail.utexas.edu
Sun Jun 25 13:21:13 EDT 2006

Quoting Jon Noble <jon_p_noble at yahoo.com>:
> --- Charles Butler <charlescbutler at btinternet.com> >
> > > "Where's us to now then?" is something I have also
> > heard, said by a schoolgirl on a bus in a fog. It
> > isn't just an accent, there are times it's a whole
> > 'nother language.
> >
> >   That one confused me when I first moved to
> > Bristol. For a long time I assumed it translated as
> > 'Where are we going?', whereas (as you'll know) it
> > actually means just 'Where are we?' I'd be
> > interested to hear from anyone knowledgeable about
> > such linguistic matters what the 'to' is doing
> > there.
> >
> In Broken Hill, in just about the centre of Australia,
> there is a similar use of "to". The locals* would say
> "where's it to?" meaning "where is it at?" I
> understood it was a usage from the Cornish miners who
> settled the area.
> * to be a local in Broken Hill you had to be born
> there, while we were living there the local paper ran
> an obituary of someone who had lived in the town since
> 1910 which began "although not a local,..."

This sounds so familiar. . .

In Newfoundland, which was settled by Irish from the south and English from the
West Country, we also might say "where's it to?" instead of "at."
We also say for (unhelpfully) giving directions: "if you comes where I'm to,
you'll knows where I'm at." And the most common greeting: "whaddya at?"

[And another similarity to Broken Hill then: you are not a Newfoundlander unless
you've been born there for several generations. Otherwise, you'll always be a

I couldn't tell you the linguistic why this happens, but it's certainly strong
enough (or old enough?) to have left its mark across the British Empire.


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