I would like to know what "Hoo's fully resolved t' sew up meawth an' eend" means in the following stanza:

Eawr Marget declares had hoo cloo'as to put on,
Hoo'd goo up to Lunnon an' talk to th' greet mon;
An' if things were na awtered when there hoo had been,
Hoo's fully resolved t' sew up meawth an' eend;
    Hoo's neawt to say again t' king,
    But hoo loikes a fair thing,
An' hoo says hoo can tell when hoo's hurt.

- Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Mary Barton, Chapter 4

In this novel which is published in 1848 in the United Kingdom, Alice hosted a tea party at her own house, to which Mary and Margaret were invited. During the party, Alice asked Margaret, a very good singer, to sing "The Oldham Weaver." At this request, Margaret began to sing this Lancashire ditty.

(This song is about a very poor cotton weaver, who lives with his daughter Margaret (or Marget). They are very poor so that they have nothing to eat, and they are being driven to starvation. That is why Margaret is determined to go to London to see "the great man" to explain their circumstances.)

In this part, I could not understand what the stanza in bold means.

1 Answer 1


The main difficulty is the pronoun “hoo” meaning “she”:

hoo Now English regional (chiefly west midlands and south-western).
A. pron. The subjective case of the feminine third person singular pronoun.
1. The female person or animal previously mentioned or implied or easily identified; = she pron.1.

Oxford English Dictionary

The third person singular personal pronoun in Old English was declined like this (according to the OED):

nominative accusative dative genitive possessive
masculine hine him his his
feminine hēo hīe, hī hire hire hire
neuter hit hit him his his

The nominative feminine form “hēo” developed into “hoo” before being replaced by the new word “she”. The old word survived longest in remote rural districts like Lancashire.

With this in mind, we can rewrite the verse in standard spelling, substituting “she” for “hoo”:

Our Margaret declares had she clothes to put on,
She’d go up to London and talk to the great man;
And if things were not altered when there she had been,
She’s fully resolved to sew up mouth and end;
    She’s naught to say against the king,
    But she likes a fair thing,
And she says she can tell when she’s hurt.

That is, if Margaret had suitable clothes, she would travel to London to petition the king to relieve the people’s hunger, and if this did not work then she would (threaten to) sew up her mouth and put an end to herself by starvation.

The ballad was also collected by John Harland, who gives more combative words for this verse:

Eawr Marget declares, if hoo’d clooas to put on,
Hoo’d go up to Lunnun to see the great mon;
Un’ if things didno’ awter, when theere hoo had been,
Hoo says hoo’d begin, un’ feight blood up to th’ e’en,
Hoo’s nout agen th’ king, bur hoo loikes a fair thing,
And hoo says hoo con tell when hoo’s hurt.

John Harland, ed. (1865). Ballads and Songs of Lancashire Chiefly Older Than the 19th Century, p. 227. London: Whittaker & Co.

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