The normal language we learn when we study English online is known by a number of names. It is called standard English, or the Queen’s English, although this term is now seen as being a little old fashioned. This standard English is sometimes called Received Pronunciation, although this term tends to refer to English as spoken in the South of England.
Standard English is the form in which nearly all English is written, and it is a form that should be understood by all native and fluent speakers in the country. It is really important to learn standard English if you wish to communicate well in English.
However, while almost everybody will understand you if you speak in standard English, it is the case that in different parts of the country, people may speak to you in different ways, depending on which part of the UK you are in.
This is because of accent, the voice in which a person speaks, and dialect, the words used that are native to that area. Fifty years ago, Britain was a different place when it came to language, with some areas almost seeming to have their own language. As we see below, some examples still exist, but better roads, non-stop television and the Americanisation of English is leading to some of these dialects disappearing. It is a shame. The colour of the language disappears with them.
So, in this article we will look at some of the most common variations you may still come across if you are living in, holidaying or working in various parts of the UK. Here are some terms you may hear in everyday conversation, and their meaning. It is good to know what is being said to you, but best to avoid trying to use the phrases yourself, at least until you have developed the accent of the region.
‘Ah dinnae ken’ – I don’t know. For example: ‘Ah dinnae ken the way to your hotel.’
‘It’s a dreich day’ – it is a miserable day. For example: ‘You’ll need a coat, it’s a dreich day.’
‘Boggin’ – disgusting or dirty. For example: ‘You’ll need some boots, the field’s boggin.’
‘Crabbit’ – moody or bad tempered. For example: ‘Take no notice, he’s a crabbit old man.’
‘Drookit’ – Soaking wet. For example: ‘It’s a dreich day and now you’re drookit.’
‘Haud yer wheest’ – Be quiet. For example: ‘Haud your wheest while I think.’
It probably won’t come up in conversation, but a tall think person is known as ‘Skinny Malinky Longlegs.’ – at least in some parts!
‘Dead on’ – Good, proper. For example: ‘It’s a dead on pub.’
‘Grand’ – good. For example: ‘It’s a grand pub.’
‘Let’s go for a dander’ – Let’s go for a walk. For example: ‘If you fancy a dander.’ (If you feel like a walk…)
‘a melter’ – To get on one’s nerves. For example: ‘That roads a melter.’
‘we’ans’ – Babies or young children. For example: ‘Your we’ans will love it. It’s dander.’
‘Oul doll / oul lad’ – Old lady or old man. For example: ‘It’s a grand pub, great for the we’ans. Ask my oul lad if you don’t believe me.’
‘lush’ – Really good, or brilliant. This is also a slang word among the young of the whole country. For example: ‘Try that beach, it’s lush.’
‘Beanfeast’ – A great meal. For example: ‘Try the pub down the road, they serve a beanfeast.’
‘Wit-Wat’ – Unreliable. For example: ‘Don’t get your car fixed there, it’s a bit wit-wat.’
‘Grizzle’ – Moan. For example: ‘He had a right grizzle.’
‘Tawch’ – A bad taste in the mouth, usually not literally, but after an argument or a bad event. For example: ‘It leaves me tawch. I’ll not ask again.’
‘Wanged out’ – Exhausted. For example: ‘You must be wanged out after travelling that way.’
The North East – Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham etc
This is one of the hardest dialects to understand in English, but the sound of a true Geordie (the name given to a person born and raised in this region) is great to hear.
‘Netty’ – Toilet. For example: ‘Does your little babby (baby) need the netty?’
‘Parky’ – Fussy. (In most of the UK, ‘parky’ means cold.) For example: ‘Don’t be parky. Sit where you can.’
‘Mebbies’ – Perhaps. For example: ‘Mebbies I will and mebbies I won’t.’
‘Champion’ Good, pleasant. For example: ‘Aye (yes) that’ll be champion.’
‘Gan canny’ – Be careful. For example: ‘Gan canny crossing the road.’
‘Heyem’ – Home. For example: ‘Follow that road and you’ll get heyem.’
‘Nithered’ – Freezing cold. For example: ‘Be careful if your plodgin (going for a paddle in the sea) it nithered.’
‘Aa winnet say nowt’ – I won’t tell anyone.
‘Hadaway man’ – You are joking, or, I don’t believe you. ‘You’re plodgin? Hadaway man, still aa winnet say nowt.’
North West – Liverpool, Blackpool, The Lake District, Manchester
‘Ar-eh, that’s proper arlarse that!’ – From Liverpool, meaning unfair. For example: ‘Yous (you) were only going thirty five and got a ticket? Ar-eh, that’s proper arlarse, that.’
‘He’s got a right cob on’ – Moody. For example: ‘I wouldn’t talk to him, he’s got a right cob on.’
‘La’ – Friend. Apparently, the Beatles well known song ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ relates to friends.
‘Slummy’ – Loose change. For example: ‘You’ll need some slummy for the car park.’
‘Nesh’ – Cold, or tired. For example: ‘I’m going to sit by the fire, I’m reet (right) nesh.’
‘Owtelse?’ – Is there anything else. For example: ‘Is there owtelse you need?’
This is the region that includes Birmingham, Coventry, Stoke, Leicester and Northampton. As we head South, we will see that there are fewer phrases and words unique to the area.
‘Clemmed’ – very hungry. For example: ‘There’s a great pub there that does dinner if you’re clemmed.’
‘Gorra bag on’ – In a bad mood. It is interesting that most regions have a phrase for a bad mood.
‘It’s black o’er by Bill’s mothers’ – It looks like rain.
‘Quit ya belly aching’ – Stop moaning. For example: ‘ It might look black o’er by Bill’s mother’s, but quit ya belly-aching, why you gorra bag on.’ Or, ‘it might look like rain, but don’t moan. I don’t see why you are in a bad mood.’
South East, East and London
We don’t hear too much cockney rhyming slang these days, but you might come across a bit.
‘Barnet’ – hair, from Barnet Fair.
‘Adam and Eve´- Believe.
‘Aunt Nell’ – Smell
‘Blether’ – To talk nonsene. For example: ‘What a load of blether.’
‘Hey Ho!’ – Let’s get on with it. For example: ‘I suppose I’d better do my work. Hey ho!’
‘Moysen a bit’ – Light, but annoying, rain. For example: ‘It’s moysen a bit. I’d better get my coat.’
‘Using your loaf’ – Thinking about something, especially if you got it wrong the first time. For example: ‘Come on, use your loaf.’
‘Gordon Bennett!’ – An exclamation of annoyance, apparently from a Victorian playboy whose party trick was to the pull the tablecloth off a table without disturbing the plates. He often failed.
Rest assured, if you come across a native West Country person speaking in dialect, you won’t understand them. Nobody does. That’s because you are a…
‘Grockle’ – A tourist.
A final note, there are different methods of greeting in different parts of Britain; so, don’t be put off if you are talking to a stranger and their response to you is not as expected. This is very general, but in the north of Scotland don’t expect too many words, whereas in Wales and Northern Ireland, greetings can be quite effusive (more than expected.) Central London can seem unfriendly, whereas in some of the Northern cities a bit of a joke might be thrown at you.
It is a wide mix, you’ll get used to it in time. Mebbies.