Dumps s. the twilight, ex. Dumps of the yavening ;Dumpsy towards twilight
(1873, Jones, W.A & W.P Williams)

Yer, tis gettin a bi' dimpsey ou', inni'?
Yer, tis gettin a bi’ dimpsey ou’, inni’?

The first in my posts of older Somerset words.

‘Dumpsey’,  is still in use in some parts of the county and may be more recognisable today to Somerset-folk as ‘dimpsey’ – meaning ‘the quality of light at dusk’.

Other counties in the South West have claimed these – Dorset apparently uses ‘dumpsey’ quite regularly, and Devon and Cornwall have had ‘dimpsey’ attributed to them.  In both cases, though, they give definitions of ‘dimpsey/dumpsey’ as a noun.  Personally I have only ever heard or used ‘dimpsey’ as an adjective, as described by our 19th century scholars, Williams and Jones.

E.g. ‘it’s getting a bit dimpsey’.

The definition given by Williams and Jones, however, lists ‘dumps’ as the noun, and gives ‘dumpsy’ as a description of twilight (the adjective form).  So why is there a difference in use?

There could be a few explanations for this:

  1. The use of the word has shifted in its grammatical function.
  2. The people who wrote these definitions for Dorset, Devon and Cornwall weren’t from the area and didn’t fully understand their usage; or
  3. Them’s gert funny either side of us, and Somerset’s surrounding Counties do indeed have a different usage for the word.

Of course, the following is further evidence towards my own theory of the word.

Consider these excerpts from the West Somerset Word-Book, by Frederic Thomas Elworthy in 1886:

Dumps WSWB Dumpsy WSWB

‘Dumps’ is clearly the noun form, whereas ‘dumpsy’ is described as both an adverb and an adjective.  I seriously question the use of dumpsy/dimpsy as an adverb.  I’ve only ever heard a noun form being described as ‘dimpsy’ (the sky, the weather, the quality of light, or even the pronoun ‘it’ which is often used in place of any of these), but never heard a verb or another part of speech being described as such.

So, I think perhaps it might come under reason number 2 – the people who wrote the definitions for Devon and Dorset hadn’t quite understood the use of the word.  Still, it’s interesting to see where it came from!

What do you think?  Do you still describe the light as ‘dimpsy’?  Do you come from Dorset or Devon and really do use dimpsy as an adverb or noun?


4 thoughts on “Dumps

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