Do you use or remember jearse/jess or dow, words for “yes” and “no”? If so, I would like to hear from you.

I am interested in the Eastern English dialect that my grandparents spoke, my father speaks and that I can speak. I grew up near Cambridge in the East of England but teach at a university in Japan. My research is funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. 

I am also researching the words for “no” and “yes” in New England and other parts of the U.S. and Canada settled by people from New England. Ayuh is already quite well known, but colonists from the East of England brought dow and jess/jearse to New England in the seventeenth century. Four hundred years later, these special words for “no” and “yes” still survive in England and Northeast America today.

In the East of England, we still use dow and jearse today. However, these words for “no” and “yes” are not recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary or the Survey of English Dialects. Nor were they recorded by the Linguistic Atlas of New England; but the Dictionary of American Regional English cites daow, daowddow, doh or day-oh in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as New York State. There is also daow in New Hampshire. For “jearse or jess,” informants in my survey cited jass in Upstate New York and possibly Vermont, jearse in New Hampshire, jyesdjess or jess in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In fieldwork in 2019, I recorded dow and/or jess/jearse in all states of New England except Connecticut, as well as in New York State.

I am writing a book or article on dow and jearse in England and America and would like to hear from you. The aim of my research is to find out how widespread dow and jearse are in England and the U.S., how people use them, and where they come from.

To take part in the survey, click here. To read more about jearse/jess and dow, click here. And to read more about yes and no in general, click here.