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Picturing a World

Chimbley sweepers

A Spitalsfield Life post on old London trade cards includes this image of a card for a "Chimbley Sweper." For an historical fiction writer, all the cards are worth looking at (who knew that chimneysweepers even had them?). But what struck me particularly about this one was the spelling chimbley. That pronunciation can signal lack of education; but like many non-standard pronunciations, it should instead raise interesting questions about regional dialects and word history. An article on "The Elizabethan Influence on the Ozark Dialect" notes that "[t]he Ozarker will often use an "l" sound instead of the "n" in chimney so that it sounds like chimley or chimbley. This is an old pronunciation, for Sir Walter Scott in Rob Roy refers to a "kirk with a chimley in it."

 

Aside from possible use in dialectical dialogue or historical fiction (and a loosening up of schoolmarmish value judgments), I find such old words good inspirations for rather Dickensian names. Nicodemus Chimbley, anyone? Maybe Nicodemus Chumbley?

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