A Suffolker, a fair-maid or a ‘Silly Suffolk’ – What are people from Suffolk called?
PUBLISHED: 15:30 09 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:59 09 August 2020
© Stephen Waller
We all know Geordies are from Newcastle and Brummies are from Birmingham, but the name for someone from Suffolk remains unsettled.
The identity of Suffolk has several aspects: A proud Anglo-Saxon history, a booming agricultural trade, the beautiful cost and heaths, a huge number of churches and cathedrals and a rivalry with Norfolk
There are some, especially Ipswich Town fans, that may say they are a Tractor Boy or Girl.
But the debate over what Suffolk natives should be called goes on.
There are a few suggestions from throughout history that may answer the question.
Popular cartoonist Carl Giles, whose work is memorialised in Ipswich town centre, regularly referred to the county’s people as Suffolkers.
This is the most recent attempt to establish a name, but there are older names dating back to the 1600s as well.
Thomas Fuller, born in 1608, attempted the first geographical dictionary of the country in a work called the Worthies of England, published in 1662 after his death. In it he talks about the people of Suffolk as ‘Suffolk fair-maids’, inspired by how beautiful the women of the county were in the Middle Ages.
The 19th Century writer John Greaves Nall, of Great Yarmouth, shared an extract from Fuller’s Worthies in his own book, Glossary of East Anglian Dialect, that read: “It seems God of nature hath been bountiful in giving them beautiful complexions.”
Another 19th Century writer tries to name Suffolk after the incredible church architecture in the county.
In the 1877 work, Some Account of Stoke-by-Nayland, Charles Torless says the name ‘Silly Suffolk’ started as ‘Selig Suffolk’, as Selig means holy or innocent, and the nickname was pointing out the “number and style of ecclesiastical buildings” such as the Abbey in Bury St Edmunds, later being adopted to refer to the people in Suffolk as well.
It is not clear what exactly caused the change from Selig to Silly, however one 1817 publication, Concise Remarks on Game-Mania, claimed it was to do with the attitude of people in east Suffolk when hunting.
It reads: “Game-Mania... chiefly confined to the Eastern part of Suffolk, proverbially called ‘Silly Suffolk’, from the imbecility, cupidity and folly evinced in many of the public acts which have emanated from its notorious Aristocracy.”
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