Counting sheep, notably Herdwicks and Swaledales, in the Cumbrian dialect has been practised by farmers in the Lake District for generations. The particular terms used are thought to have a Welsh, Danish or Celtic origin [1].

Cumbrian Counting Sheep

Sheep Counting Scheme

The sheep counting scheme goes from one to twenty. When twenty is reached a notch was made in a stick and the counting process began again from one. When one hundred was reached, five notches, then a pebble or small stone was placed in the pocket.

Cumbrian Dialect Counting Sheep

Lakeland Dialect Variations

Different areas of the Lakes have a slightly different spelling and pronunciation [2]. For example, the number three in Borrowdale is written ‘Tethera’, while in Westmorland it is ‘Teddera’ and in the Coniston area it is ‘Tedderte’. Whereas the number 6 is written as ‘Sethera’ in Borrowdale, Settera in Westmorland and ‘Haata’ in the Coniston area.

You will often find that holiday cottages in the Lake District are named after one of the Cumbrian dialect numbers, such as Yan Cottage or Tethera Cottage.

 

References

1 The Lake District, The Ultimate Guide”, Gordon Readyhough, 2004, Hayloft Publishing Limited ISBN 1 904524 11 7

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_Tan_Tethera#Cumbria,_Cumberland,_and_Westmorland

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