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John J Graham’s Shetland Dictionary

(for Shetland words only)

John J GrahamWelcome to the online version of The Shetland Dictionary by John J. Graham (1921-2008).

First published in 1979, The Shetland Dictionary went into its third edition in 1993 and was last revised in 2009.

John Graham’s intention was purely to set down words and expressions that he himself had heard in use, and thus create a record of the dialect of the central mainland of Shetland.  The book was not meant to be a definitive dictionary of the Shetland dialect.  However, it is an invaluable asset for everyone with an interest in the dialect.

Included in this electronic version is John Graham’s introduction, reproduced here in sections:  HistoricalGrammarPronunciation and  Spelling.

John Graham kindly gave his permission for Shetland ForWirds to create the online version of his Dictionary.  Shetland ForWirds would also like to thank the Graham family, and the publishers, The Shetland Times Ltd.

John J. Graham, MA, OBE was born in 1921 in Shetland where he grew up and was educated.  After serving in the RAF in World War II he read English at Edinburgh University before returning to teach at the Anderson Institute until 1966.  He became headmaster of Lerwick Central School and then headmaster of the Anderson High School.  Retiring in 1982 he was a member of Shetland Islands Council from 1982-1994.  He remained actively involved in Shetland life and letters until shortly before his death in 2008.

He was joint author of Grammar and Usage of the Shetland Dialect together with T. A. Robertson (1952, reprinted 1991).  He wrote two novels, Shadowed Valley (1987) and Strife in the Valley (1992), and a history of Shetland education A Vehement Thirst After Knowledge (1998).  John J. Graham co-edited several volumes of the Shetland Folk Book; and Nordern Lichts (1964).  He and his brother Laurence (Lollie) Graham were joint editors of the New Shetlander magazine (1958-1998).  The Graham brothers also co-edited the 1998 poetry collection A Shetland Anthology.

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