Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / News....                   


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September 2005


Every two years the dialect societies of the North get together for a joint open meeting with lecture and performances. This year the Northumbrian Language Society will be organising the event, at Stamfordham Village Hall, west of Newcastle, on Saturday 15 October, starting approx 1 p.m.


Passing ower the question of whether the BBC has been one of the major suspects in the decline of dialect, we pass on the following message:

“The BBC's Wordhunt appeal was launched on Friday and can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/wordhunt. This appeal is at the heart of a major new series for BBC 2, in conjunction with the Oxford English Dictionary, which explores the origins of the English language. We are appealing to members of the public to help us rewrite the dictionary by identifying the origin and first usage of 50 words. The OED is particularly keen to get hold of dated documentary evidence that the term 'Mackem' existed before 1991. This could be in the form of an unpublished document, fanzine or letter, so we are hoping to get the people of Sunderland rooting through their bookshelves and kitchen drawers. Fame and glory awaits anyone who finds dated evidence, not to mention inclusion in 'the greatest book in the English language'! Readers can send their evidence and suggestions to BBC Wordhunt, 132 Grafton Road , London , NW5 4BA or via www.bbc.co.uk/wordhunt or wordhunt@bbc.co.uk …”

From Melanie March, the phrase “When I fell ower I jarped my wrist” (bashed, banged) re Crook/Willington – an interesting use for summat other than eggs.
From Margaret Bond: the phrase “away with the show-folk” meaning not right in the head (Jarrow/Cramlington); plus a variant “away with the mixer” (D'ton).
Bill Lancaster has supplied the phrases (Blaydon c.1958): “ye're like a drip that never dropped” and “ye're like one o'clock haaf struck” – for someone who is not achieving.
If you were over curious about where Mam was taking ye, the response could be “Whee'r we going? Byker Sands” – conversely, if you did not care to answer “Whee'r ye been?” you could say “Buck Sniook” (an old mine).
From Alan Myers:
“My mother used the words 'well hanted' to me on the phone - meaning that a crowd of card and domino players were well settled in at the Marsden Grotto. She also says (I now recall) that someone is'not used wi' nowt' meaning in effect unsophisticated, not adequately blasé.”
From Gerard Crinnion (Hexhamshire): 'deeks' – to look at something e.g. “Give us a deeks”. (This is surely Romany – 'deek' , to look at.)
From Bill Thomas: “The other day a word came into my mind from my Teesside childhood. I was jinker for a chamber pot. It may have been a family coinage….”
From Dave Neville, quite a batch of dialect terms and phrases, like “Shy bairns get nowt” (Don't ask and you won't get.) He writes:

“Jolly Boys. Is this North Eastern? I've never heard it anywhere else. The context I knew this in when young was when a group of miners played a charity football match dressed up in costumes (usually female). They were called the 'jolly boys'.
Go-as-you-please. Again I've never heard this anywhere else. In the local club if there wasn't a “torn” booked, they'd have a “go-as-you-please” – a talent contest – often good cash prizes which would attract singers from some distance. If the club was reduced to relying on its own members to get up and sing (unpaid) that was a “free and easy”. Nowadays it's all “karaoke”!
Snaabaal. In the club a “snaabaal” (snowball) was the numbers draw whose prize increased weekly if there was no winner (like the lottery). In Johnny Handle's 'Stoneman's Song' he has the great lines
“Aam aalreet the neet for a sup aa knaa
Cos me marra's reckoned up that he's won the snaabaal draa”
Leek Show Monday. While in 'clubland' Leek Show Monday used to be a tradition when leek broth was made for the members from the leeks in the show. Many used to “be idle” that day and celebrate in the club.
Ivor Lee contributes an interesting scene:
“Sharp knocking on the door. 'Bye lad, that's a ready money knock!' - A confident knock - it must be the rent collector, get thee money ready lad.”
Anne Kirkman wonders how we pronounce some commonplace-names:
“My version of 'Newcastle' which is very roughly N'jcassl (j pron. y and put an upside down e between J and C) but I get blank looks if I have to mention Sunderland, which I realise I pronounce Sundlund or possibly Sund'lund. Then there's Middlesborrow to think about, and Derram and Jarra as well… I'm still practically physically incapable of saying 'Wheel-barrow'.”
She adds:
"What do people say in relation to where things are kept? My husband commented the other day on my saying 'the knives stay in that drawer' that it was a dialect usage. I said that if I was talking broad I would say 'the knives stop in that drawer' …”
From Peter Elliott: my father would say of anyone who was awkward that he or she was like Nan Abbs; any thoughts?
For 'candyman' (in the sense of secondhand dealer) we have, from Esh Winning, 'scoury-men – who offered scoury stone (to whiten front doorstep) in return for unwanted goods'.
Lastly, from Seaham, “That's reet – get them tellt!” – humorous encouragement to a Mum to control the bairns. And a comment from a visitor from Hartlepool, who said the rain was “tanking it down.” (Local form, “hoying it down hyel watter.”)


Some of you may have catched that awkward programme on telly (Channel 4, August 9th) about the ten best places and ten worst places to live in England. Easington District opened the programme as the tenth worse (even worse it seems were Middlesbrough and – worst of worst – Hull, where they cannot pronounce the word hyem). The reasons given were the poor education achievements and low employment prospects. They had the mense to mention quite a low crime rate in the district, but forgot to show the grand coast or the grander countryside like the denes at Hawthorn, Crimdon and Castle Eden. Easington was likely only included atall because they came here and could not understand the langwidge.


Some fresh new fish words have been contributed by John Patrickson of Seaham:
'nancies', 'jinnies', 'nits' for undersize lobsters; 'nancies' also reported from Sunderland – and compare 'nannycocks' for the same in Umpleby's list for Staithes ca.1930;
'bleg' for a scotch haddock; 'creel' for a lobster pot; 'sprag' for a big cod “only two sprags to a box” – unlike Umpleby's “sprag – codling”; 'doggers' – green crab, only grows to about 6 inches;
'foy-boat' – took line off ship to shore, to aid docking.


Carl Dinsley has written in with some interesting comments. Like on the pointless stoking of Sunderland/Newcastle rivalry.

“What bothers me is the parochialism I see as a result of NUFC/SAFC/MFC rivalry - nothing to do with language. As a region the North-East should stand together and from Tweed to Tees feel united in our dialect, though local differences do exist across the region, because to outsiders we all have a "Geordie" accent.  We must be one of the last bastions of England preserving such a wealth of local dialect in real everyday usage - we should be proud.  Learn Geordie folk songs and teach them to your children!”
(And many thanks to Carl for sending in a CD of Dennis Weatherly singing the old songs!)
He continues:
“By the way, tomorrow, me and my wife will celebrate Geordie Day (9th June) - listen to the old folk music, eat white pudding & stotty (if we can find 'em), and just generally muse about the region. Do you know if anyone else does this? We kinda made it up because we are away from our homeland.”
In Seaham it is Burns' Neet that tends to be celebrated rather than the Blaydon Races, but it would not be easy to find a date that would please everyone.


Just room for a thought on the usefulness of dialect words. 1. they express sentiments/ideas/ meanings not readily available in standard English e.g. 'ettle', 'canny', 'fettle', 'bleezer' – nothing quite equivalent to. 2. they sound wonderful – 'stot', 'clarty', 'squallymash', 'lowp', 'sneck', 'tappy-lappy', 'hoy'…3. they represent a long regional tradition – often directly back to the Vikings and Anglo-Saxons – which would be shame to loss.
A somewhat plainer justification was sent in by Peter Hull (formerly of Sunderland):
“The only way we used dialect at school was to annoy the teachers.” Their response? “They said that if and when we met someone 'important' they would say we had just dropped out of a tree. Quite right – they did.” But how times change! (See the para on the BBC, page 1.)

Jun 2005

Events and Talks

In 2005 already, we have given talks at Lanchester, Ireshopeburn, Bede's World (Jarrow) and South Shields; talks at Esh Winning, Hendon and Seaburn are planned. If you are a member of a local history or community group, why not suggest they invite us to give a talk? We don't charge, because meetings like this are a great opportunity to collect new material and get some input for our projects.

Meanwhile, so much new information has come in, there are some 30 pages of extra quotes and new terms to be put in! Most of these are easy to understand, but if anyone has further information on the following rarer words, it would be very useful just now:


We have tended to concentrate on words (vocbulary, lexis) rather than on sounds (accent, phonology). Some of the major variations in dialect around the region occur in the way vowels are pronounced. While more work has been done on this than the vocabulary, and more is available on the internet nowadays (e.g. at the British Library website), that is no reason for us to ignore this aspect of local speech.
Now Bill can handle sound on his computer, there is no excuse for members not to get out their tape recorder (or minidisc or DAT recorder) – or borrow one – and make a short recording to send in to us. We have a mini-archive of about 12 recordings so far, and would be happy to store, conserve and publish dozens… or hundreds more. If you have a good local voice, then it should be easy to make a short recording – an anecdote, a memory of child-hood, school, family, friends, games, sports, entertainments, places, whatever; and post it in. We can transfer the recording from tape cassette or minidisc onto the computer, and return your original. We can also make recordings in Seaham or Newcastle, if you like to phone and arrange a date.

Loss of Charles Trelogan

One of our first and most enthusiastic members, Charles Trelogan of Sunderland, passed away in May. He was untiring in listing words for the dictionary and making useful contacts for us; he also wrote down and recorded some fascinating dialect passages about his life as a youngster in New Herrington. Our sympathy to his widow, Mary, and their family.

A Tale of the 2 slices

“Young lad started down the pit. His mother put his bait up consisting of 2 slices of bread and jam. When he finished his work and came home his mother asked him how he had enjoyed his work. He said alright, but he wanted more bait. So she put 4 slices in the next day. She asked him if he had plenty when he returned home, but he said he could eat more, so she cut a loaf of bread into two and put it up for him. On returning home she asked if he enjoyed his work and was his bait alright. The lad replied yes his work was alright but I see you have gone back to the 2 slices.”

Visit to Museum

The talk at Ireshopeburn mentioned earlier, meant a visit to the Weardale Museum, and very glad we were to see this remarkable project. If you dinnaa this building, it is an early Methodist Chapel, finely restored, with the adjoining manse reconfigured as a small museum of 18th century life in Weardale. A really impressive volunteer enterprise, worth all the support you can give (like paying a visit yourselves). More information (including opening hours, etc.) at their website: www.argonet.co.uk/users/dtheatherington/
Bill's talk traced the possible links between William Egglestone's comic character Betty Podkins and a similar aad wife in Arthur Sketchington's travelogues, called Mrs Brown. You can see the resemblance in the drawings below, but which came first..?

Your Words

We have had an excellent (champion!) input thes last few months, including…

A vast of information from Dave Neville:
“When I went to Morpeth Grammar School we had an interesting mix of cultures – us from South Northumberland colliery villages, kids from Ashington and Northumbrians from Rothbury, Warkworth etc. The Northumbrian lot used to say muckle, not mickle for great, large. They also used two words for something really good: barry (rhyme with starry) and kiff. So something really good would be “muckle kiff”. I always assumed these were Northumbrian but maybe they were “school words”
Gin-gan – the round building in farmyards where the horse walked round in a circle to produce power. I think these were only found in Northumberland and Durham
Laverock – skylark (source of the name Laverock Hall near Blyth??)
Hoafie – The Northumbrian Language Society use this in a version of “Call My Bluff” called “Whe's Tellin' Hoafies.” I assume it means tales or lies but I've never come across it.
Backshift dinner – many people call a big meal a backshift dinner. I guess because the time you got a decent dinner was when you were on backshift My Gateshead grandmother would say something would happen when the ship comes up Bottle Bank – to mean it's not going to happen. Bottle Bank leads down to the Tyne
My wife's family (Cramlington) uses the term hard as the hobs of hell to describe someone who is tough, ungiving. I have a friend who uses the term I'll bet a pund tiv a hayseed meaning a certain bet. Again I think this was passed down in the family.”

Michael Makepeace sent in some words from Amble and district:
“spoach - to look around or search for
nooled - a wife under the thumb of her husband, or oppressed or over-ruled by him, but not, apparently, the other way round.
rumption - untidy, messy, as a room might be in a rumption.
please your Bessie - to please yourself in the sense of , 'well, if you don't want to do that, please yourself, take it or leave it'. 
And from Washington, Co.Durham:
kittley - just on the edge of, as to set the mousetrap kittley, so it's almost ready to go off or be sprung.” 

From Alan Myers, who has his own fine websites on North-East facts, figures and personalities at http://pages.britishlibrary.net/alan.myers/ . Words here relate to South Shields:
“tanker - metal marble (ball-bearing) usually large.
snadger, snadgie - turnip
They take a lend of you - take you for granted; presume and exploit
They pick the soft out of you – take advantage of you
Run up a shutter - run away and play. (Shutters or Venetian blinds have 'rungs' like a ladder, so this was a more inventive version of run or hadaway and play)
Fur coat and nee knickers
Clay caad
Hard as the hobs
He'll be down on ye like a bag o' hammers
Black as the lum
Never in the creation (of craas) (cacky) 
twank - beat (a child)
lobakittie - this is the game described in Frank Graham's New Geordie Dictionary as 'Mountiekittie'
Three doors past the broken spyut – when you don't know the precise location or where someone lives and don't much care”

Margaret Bond (Darlington):
coggled – balanced (upon)
and (Newcastle?:) 'X is away with the show folk'

E. Reynolds re M'bro:
“Messages – from written shopping list
Steel-workers going home at the end of their shift who had unwanted food in the Tommy boxes and did not want to take it home in case it upset their wives who had shopped for the good handed it over to children who called to them 'Have you any soreyes?'. I have never heard the word anywhere except in Middlesbrough.”
[Curiously, Umpleby's list of Staithes words from the 1930s has a similar concept: “Wowtin-ceeak - food that is not eaten at sea and returned in a wow-tin.”]

From Jack Gair:
“In a book written by Petty Officer Robert burgess written in 1943 he writes: scran bag – A despository for lost articles…
In another book Sailors have a word for it by Gerald O'Driscoll also 1943 he writes: scran bag – The lost property office of the Royal Navy. It is usually a cell into which all clothing left lying about and all unclaimed belongings are dumped. The tax imposed for the redemption ofeach pieve of clothing is one square inch of soap.” Jack also recalls scran bag being used in this sense on scout outings and the like, in Co.Durham, in the mid 20th century. All of which makes the history of scran = food more and more mysterious.

From George Darby:
“When we we younguns we niver turned corners, we always coined them. It was great to see [in the Dictionary] summit I hevent heerd in yers…”

Peter Elliott:
The D&S Times recently mentioned the word crammel, to walk badly; is this North Riding or further north as well?
Alison Bond (USA):
“I was particularly interested to note the use of the word pagged, in the contribution from Helen Hemmingway of N. Shields.  I don't know if you remember that a little while back I wrote to ask you about the word "pag", and you were not familiar with it.  Nor, indeed, were a couple of other Northeasterners whom I questioned.  I'm more familiar with it in the form of a noun-- "it's a right pag", or "It's a bit of pag", but it's clearly the same word.

Phil Cheesman:
“muckle has come to mean more than just "big" where i come from, it's more like "very" so something could be "muckle big" or "muckle little" or, one of my wife's favourites when she's taking the mick, "geet muckle little" or even better "geet muckle little, how!"

Neil Adamson re Alan Walker (Newsletter 14):
“He talks of gansey for 'jumper.' My Scottish sister-in-law from the far North West also uses gansey. She claims it's derived from 'Guernsey' though I had to compare and contrast the sort of brightly coloured jumper she knitted for her daughter in a Fair Isle style with the harsh, invariably navy blue and distinctive pattern of a Guernsey. So I find her position difficult to support.”
[There is an alternative theory that gansey relates to Norwegian word 'genser' if that helps]

Neil Forster writes:
“My sister Ada and I spent a great deal of time with our Grandmothers in Jarrow and Primrose in the '30's (me) and 40's (both). (I was born in Jarrow). The complete expression used a lot by our father (Langley Park: Jarrow etc.) and Mother (South Shields; Jarrow etc.) was 'He (she) can just go run up a shutter and play with the sneck!' Meaning 'He or she can just go run up the shutter and play with the fastener (lock)". A mild pejorative like 'he can go jump up a rope' when irritated.”

Margaret Ward re her mother from Darlington:
“there's nothing spoiling to say not to worry about being late, and such things as 'the kettle has gone off'. gone off in the sense of 'has broken'! - so also the TV, toaster, etc.”

Frederick Short:
“With reference to your word tash, yer, the lads used to go tashing to the dance hall.”

…and many more!

Mar 2005


As we said in our last newsletter, the next ambition – having accumulated a goodly store of dialect words – is to arrange words in subject groups, and make new insights from studying them together in this context. For example, it shows up alternatives like 'ness', 'nab', 'snook' for a headland or point. Nouns can be compared to physical objects (e.g. 'penker', 'alley' etc. for marbles). And processes can be related to their historical and social contexts – how did means of transporting coal change from the 18th to the 20th centuries? And so on…
To study the whole vocabulary this way is more than we can handle, but the current aim is to single out the topics Mining – Kitchen & Cooking – and Fishing – all areas with a good proportion of dialect terminology, and with practices varying from place to place and from one period to another.
If you are interested in this project, do get in touch with Bill, even if you only like to deal with a small groups of words. For example, the subject groups available under mining are: surface features, underground directions, shafts & cages, passages, ventilation, drainage, coal strata, types of coal, pit officials and workers, shifts, work practices, disputes, food, clothes, hand hewing, tools, ropes, mechanical coal-cutting, hand putting, pony putting, vehicles, transport, the broken workings, dangers and safety issues, lighting…
Areet, it's a year or two's work, but if any part particularly appeals to you, we can send on the list of words for comment – and we'd welcome any notes or explanations you can add, about when or how terms were used, and what practices in the North-East were…
We also want to expand and reprint the booklet on regional cooking we brought last year (now selled out). More memories of kitchen ranges and how to cook on them very welcome!
A study of fishing dialect is only at thinking-stage so far. There are a range of dialect words for fish, sea-birds, parts of boats…and certainly no lack of tales about the sea. Ye're very willing to start contributing, if owt comes to mind. We're hoping to get some good advice and input from the Coble & Kellboat Society on this group of words.


Unfortunately, we have had no response from the schools circulated just before Christmas, in the hope they would encourage pupils to enter a dialect writing competition – with prizes! Either they cannot be fashed, or – likelier – the new tight rules on the curriculum (a Latin word!) exclude such topics. A sad comment on the barrier that tends to operate between education and dialect – for a little exercise like this would surely have helped the young'uns think about the relationship between spoken and written English, local and national practice, in an entirely constructive way.
It's not all lost effort, however, as the Culture & Leisure Services of Co.Durham have written to us, expressing their interest in following up the initiative… We were also contacted by a local teacher who is encouraging his pupils to take a general dialect option as part of their A-level English Language course. This is new to us but sounds as though the importance of dialect is gaining a bit recognition at the more senior school level.


“But if you hear us on the radio why man it's a fine thing to me
We are who we are and we de what we have to de.”
So ends a poem sent in by Liz Outlaw, Sunderland (it's a bit long to fit in here, but you can read it on-line at www.pitmatic.co.uk – go to 'poems' and T for tark). It serves to introduce the better luck we've had with radio time, like a 'dialect day' on Century FM 9 Feb 2004, which brought lots of interest.
Bill also provides taaks and tarks for community groups in the region. In 2004 this meant visits to Christ Church (New Seaham), Crook Local History Club, Chester-le-Street Library, Wheatley Hill History Club, Spital Tongues Community Centre, Newcastle PROBUS and occasional airtime on Radio Newcastle - a valuable way to collect opinion on local word use and let people know about our work. For 2005, visits are arranged to Lanchester, Esh Winning, Weardale, Teesside and Newcastle... and dinnut miss the big Local History Day at Durham County Hall on 14 May.

From Alan Myers, a pointer to a discussion on the word 'scran' in the pages on The GuardianUnlimited website. As follows:

'The Royal Marines and Royal Navy at meal time say they are "going for scran". What is the origin of this word?' Roger Winyard, Canvey Island, England.
'In the North-East of England, scran is a dialect word meaning food. I haven't heard it in recent years however.' Alan Myers, Hitchin, England [and adds: 'I'd never heard the word myself as a youth, but a lady from Hexham in the 1990s referred to policemen 'scranning' in the back of their van.']
'It can still be heard around Hull. Mind you, the chaps I know who use it are ex Merchant Marine; where scran is pejorative for provisions. Partridge says that scran means broken victuals and derives from scrannel, itself one of a group of Nordic words that also includes scrawny/ scranny.' Peter Brooke, By Kinmuck Scotland
…which sounds very convincing. His reference leads us to the Oxford English Dictionary's entry for 'scrannel', where the Norwegian word 'scran' meaning 'lean, shrivelled' is given for comparison. However, if this is a common Nordic or Germanic word, and part of our Anglo-Norse heritage, it is odd that it is not recorded here before the 19th century, and there often in a 'cant' i.e. slang context. Its inclusion in Romany word-lists led us to give this as a possible source in our Dialect Dictionary, but the hint in The Guardian about maritime use, sent us to check out Dutch. The Dutch verb schransen 'to gorge oneself' seems a more promising link than an assumed Old Norse word meaning 'lean, scrawny'. It would also explain the Icelandic word 'skran' (rubbish, odds and ends) dating to the 18th century: that, like the English word, could be derived from sea-faring Dutch. In North-East dialect the first use of the word is in Thomas Wilson's Pitman's Pay of the 1820s, where it is used of economical family food. In meaning, scran seems to overlap with bait (an authentic Old Norse-based word), but whereas bait is a general word for food, scran seems to imply improvised or casual snack, leftovers, fast food and the like. A small word, with a lot of history!

Nov 2004

THE DIC'SHUNRY IS HERE! Replacing our North-East Dialect: Survey and Word List is the new Dictionary of North-East Dialect. This is more than just a new edition of the 'word list' – it is very much expanded, thanks to all the words and phrases you have sent in – and follows a new format, with quotations illustrating the word entries.
Northumbria University Press is the publisher – itself a new venture in the North-East – and copies are available at £9.99 plus £2.50 p&p, from 1st December. If you wish to order by post, make cheques payable to 'Northumbria University', and send to Northumbria University Press, Trinity Building, Northumbria University, Newcastle NE1 8ST. Phone orders by credit/debit card can be made on 0191 227 3700. And it should soon be in stock at major bookshops…


Jean Crocker, who has long been organising courses in appreciating, recording and writing dialect, is offering a new course of dialect workshops in early 2005. Sessions will be held in Newcastle at Joseph Cowen House, St Thomas' St, off Haymarket (though they are organised through Sunderland University). Exact dates and fees (concessions are available) are not arranged yet, but could well be by the time this newsletters circulates. If you are interested, contact the Centre for Lifelong Learning on 0191 515 2800, or e-mail Jean at Lifelong.Learning@sunderland.ac.uk.
Jean's courses in the past have resulted in some excellent dialect writing – poems, reminiscences, word lists and oral history – suited to what individual course members want to work on. The work you do can end up published in booklet form – examples are Accent on the North East and Lore and language – copies should be in local (North-East) libraries. An excellent opportunity to learn about dialect or make your contribution to the dialect record.


Alan Myers has republished some of his fascinating collections of data on the North-East on the internet. Strarting with 'Myers Literary Guide' – notes on authors born in or connected with the region – on the Centre for Northern Studies website (www.c-n-s.org.uk), he has moved on to publishing new work on his own website (http://pages.britishlibrary.net/alan.myers). This includes 'The Great North' (a list of facts and firsts often overlooked), 'The North-East Hall of Fame' (biographical notes), 'North & South' ( a satire on media attitudes to the North), and two detailed essays: on Auden, and Zamyatin.


With encouragement from Helen Hemmingway (formerly of North Shields) we have been compiling a list of terms suitable for operating a North-Eastern computer. To be known as 'Computermatic' or perhaps just 'Putermatic, it provides a new way of approaching your Micro-kist (Computer), including:

'skemmies or muck' for spam (unwanted e-mails)… 'hoy it on th' midden' for delete… 'upaheight' for go to top of page… 'back ower' for go to previous page… 'click heor hinny' for plain click… 'gaan doon heor' (or 'ower heor') for local links… 'pick-chas' for pictures… 'the smit' for a virus (misfunction caught from the internet)… 'fettlin' things' for running an anti-virus check… 'howay!' for send an e-mail… 'squallymash' for when the computer crashes… 'thrang jis noo' for please wait while we connect to site… 'clip it' for cut… 'clag it heor' for paste…
Mare terms could be usefully borrowed from the mining world:
'maingate' for the internet… 'crossgate' for a link to another website… 'hingin' on' for booting up (starting up)… 'rollyway' for scrollbar… 'inbye' for open a file… 'ootbye' for close a file… and of course, 'lowse' for shut down. Extra equivalents welcome…

You may have heard of this – a set of CDs prepared by folk-singer and writer Johnny Handle. Sets are available for loan through the Co.Durham library service. The CD entitled 'Canny Wylam' was particularly impressive – not least because it contains two songs written by Albert Gibbons: 'Canny Wylam' and 'The Bad Haaf Croon'. These were composed in the 1910s or 1920s, and eventually noted down by Brian Watson, who writes us as follows:

“Albert Gibbons was writing poems during the 1914-18 war at the front, these were made into card form and sold to raise funds for the local lads to receive cigarettes and other necessities. He was still writing poems during the 1926 strike, one of which was titled 'Edgewell Blue'. Local miners dug up this poor quality coal at near by Edgewell, for their own use.
The songs you mention in the Anthology, also another local song 'The Place Where The Prudhoe Lad Was Born' I am led to believe were the work of Gibbons, mainly  through hearsay over the years. I don't know of anyone else who wrote poems or songs at that time . If there had been I surely would have heard of them as I am over 70 now.  'Tucker' Huddleston, my wife's uncle, sang these songs whilst concert chairman at the British Legion Club, and he understood that they were Gibbons' works. He died quite a number of years ago and it was from him that I got most of the words. I have over the years managed to find other of the missing ones but have had to improvise to a small degree…”

('Odds and ends'…)
An early example of the word 'hap', meaning cloak rather than overcoat or blanket – since we are in the 15th century – is recorded in the jingle about rags-to-riches figure Roger Thornton:

“At the Westgate came Thornton in
With a hap, and a halfpenny, and a lambskin.”
Thanks to Mrs Heale (now living in Uxbridge) who sent in photo of the Vane Tempest band marching through Durham to the Big Meeting, early 1950s… and commented “pat'n-can was often used in our house where seven children lived, especially when our aunt Mary called round: 'Ee, this hoose looks just like a patt'n-can!' Happy days…”
Meg Stephenson from North Shields writes in with 'pan-can' as an alternative to 'pat-n-can': “The place looks like a pan-can” (is in a mess).
In Seaham terms it would be “this place looks like a tip!”
A joke from Bowburn: “Durham is the only county in which a marrow (marra) can win a leek contest.”
A note from Helen Hemingway: “…did you know that people from Newcastle, 'The Townies', call people from Wallsend (Waals'end), Shields and the coast 'The Coasties' and that the townies can spot a coastie because they are very modulated in the way they talk - they say ' coastie sing' and the ends of sentences are nearly always higher pitched that the start!”
From Winlaton, Bill Lancaster recalls 'Scenty Eddie' – a term used in the 1950s of anyone effeminate. It is believed to refer to Edward VIII when he visited the North-East as Prince of Wales in the 1930s. Obviously he was thought to be rather too free with the aftershave.
A pleasant form of greeting, from Nelson Dunn, Evenwood: “How's the makking out?”
A saying from Sunderland: “'e wants owt f'nowt” (he wants everything without the effort).


Barbara Snowdon of the Castle Eden Heritage Project has brought to our attention a book by Elizabeth Burdon, Before my Time and Since: being a selection of weird, winsome and waggish tales culled from the annals of the Burdon family and other sources… (1922). The Burdon family, you will recall, built the first iron bridge across the Wear as well as building Castle Eden and the lovely church of St James. The book contains several interesting anecdotes – a sea monster seen off Blackhall in 1850, long before 'Nessie' became popular; and the tale of an unfortunate man who, due to a mix-up, was provided with cat's eyes in place of his own after going into hospital for an operation. “Nex time I seed him I says, 'Well, them eyes o'yourn be quite comfortable?' An he said he'd nowt to complain of 'cept that he couldn't sleep o' nights for watching t'mice.”
(Which brings to mind the story of some local councillors, years since, when 'cat's eyes' were first introduced as a safety measure in the centre of the road. This councillor listens carefully to the debate and then makes his own contribution: “Weel, what Aa wants te knaa is this: whee's gan te pay fer th'electric?!”)
There are in Elizabeth Burdon's book one or quotes from the Durham Quarter Sessions records of the 1850s and 1860s. One Durham witness, for example, was heard to comment (on a very petty larceny?): “Aall I say is t'wax wur i't watter dish an t'watterdish wer i't windy” (the soap was in the soap-dish and the soap-dish in the window); and some socially unacceptable behaviour was recorded when “A vast o' bairns an ha'-waxed folk dingt doon t' steg's hoose wi steans an clarts” (A number of half-grown folk and children knocked down the goose house with stones and peats).

That's it for this time. Thanks to all who have written in and helped. Seeya!

Aug 2004


The booklet on cooking, promised two newsletters ago is finally available. It is cannily entitled Stotty n Spice-Cake: The story of North-East cooking. It is not a straight recipe book, but an account of the different types of cooking appropriate to an open fire and a kitchen range (with a bit on the gas cooker and after). It includes many of the comments and some recipes kindly sent in, but we hope ye'll not think us unappreciative if we do not send out free copies to 'contributors'. It's cheap enough to buy, and we need to keep costs down!
Copies are available for £2.50 post-free – cheques to 'Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group' at the above address.
This is a preliminary edition, rushed out for the Miners Gala in July 2004, so there's still a chance for comments and extra material to be added when we reprint. It was hoped to include a glossary of historic dialect cooking terms at the end, for example, but we ran out of space. Still, there's a good 40 quarto-size pages of information in this first edition!


We heard at the start of June that the Heritage Lottery Fund has turned down our application for a grant to undertake a major survey of North-East dialect, on the grounds that there was insufficient community involvement or relevance (!). This has been a long process of application, going back nearly 2 years; initiated by the DTDG and the Centre for Northern Studies, Northumbria University; about a year ago, Newcastle University joined the bid, but even their added weight has not convinced the HLF of the worth of the project.
Nae matter! It has not been wasted time, as it has made us think through strategies for working in dialect, and encouraged us to set up networks of contact that will be of the greatest use in the future. Without funding, future surveys will take longer to implement, but clearly there is no lack of local enthusiasm, which is the main factor keeping us going!


Arrangements have been made to publish a much enlarged edition of our North-East Dialect: survey and word list, under the new title A Dictionary of North-East Dialect. It will incorporate many of the 'new' words sent in by our members or noted down at various local talks and meetings. Word use is illustrated this time through copious quotations, past and present. A new introduction is supplied, giving a clearer account of the historical development of the dialect. It should mark an important advance in dialect work in our area, and a more accurate starting point for surveys of current usage. It should be ready by Christmas, so we'll send out details then on how to order.


The Miners Gala was held on 10 July this year, and we kept a narvish eye on the weather forecast during the week leading up to it! The Saturday started off rainy, but improved to be merely cloudy and didn't stop a good crowd turning up, including as many bands and banners as ever.
The DTDG had a stall on the riverside and did reasonably well on dialect booklet sales – these do better at the Gala than local history. There was a good range of other stalls including socialist presses and some smart souvenir gear. And of course lots of fairground rides, to suit all ages and stomachs.
Not the Gala of olden times, but well worth supporting, nonetheless.


A delightful set of reprints of the Weardale stories of Wm Egglestone from the 1880s have been reprinted by the Weardale Museum, featuring Betty Podkins and her ever hilarious projects (like moving Cleopatra's Needle to the top of Weardale). The dialect writing is varnigh inpenetrable, but there is a translation provided. Here is Betty's summary after seeing the marvels of Bishop Auckland Flower show:
“There wez far grander seets ner that, b'd az grand az t'seets waz yan gat tired, 'n' mony a time Ah wish'd Ah wez back ta Wardle-heed, 'n' ta mi onn fire side… “Y, noo, Peter, Ah wad rather breeth t'mountain air, cut peats, wi'ad amang snow ta fodder t'sheep, milk t'key, 'n' be blist wuv a Wrdle hi'am, ner leeve in a toon 'n' be obleege'd ta weer kid-gloves, thin bi'ats, 'n' talk proper. Hi'am's hi'am! Peter, if its iver see hi'amly…”
The booklets are £2 each. The easiest way to get extra information will be to ring Mr Heatherington at the Museum – 01388-517433. Highly recommended.


Giving a talk on dialect to local groups or societies has proved another good way of collecting dialect information. It's Bill usually undertakes these, starting with a summary of dialect history and then handing out questionnaires to fill in together and talk ower. Discussing dialect in a group seems to help joggle people's memories, and produces as near a consensus about local usage as we're likely to get – plus some interesting new insights.
So far in 2004 there have been talks to the Christ Church Mothers Union (Seaham), Crook Local History Club, Chester-le-Street Library, Wheatley Hill History Club, Spital Tongues Chapel, and the West Newcastle PROBUS Club – a grand variety of audiences and input! It's proved a good way to make contacts and raise a little enthusiasm for 'wor tongue', so if you are a member of a local group in the region, feel free to suggest a talk and put them in touch…


We may have expressed before a certain scepticism about word boundaries: invisible lines that once you step ower, 'muggles' changes to 'alleys' or whatever. A more useful way to approach the mapping of dialect would seem to be in terms of loyalties to major towns – in the sense that towns offer a focus for surrounding areas that is likely to affect dialect. For example, if you live in a pit village, which town do you go to for special shopping – or to see a film – or a football match – or for a night out at a club? In southeast Durham the answer seemed to be Hartlepool rather than Teesside or Durham City; in northwest Durham, Chester-le-Street or Newcastle… If you feel motivated to draw up a map to show these local centres, please feel free - and send it in! In olden days, it would have been market towns that filled the role, but today we are less certain…


The origin of 'yack' in pit-yacker, farm-yacker and the like has been a puzzle for some time. It didn't seem possible to derive the word from 'yark' or even from 'hack', while 'yacker' for acre hasn't got much industrial feel about it. The 1950s slang 'yack' for silly, interminable talk doesn't fit here either. From Vic Wood on Teesside:

“Certainly a yakker to us on Teesside is a rural worker - hence  farm yakker or semi-rural  pit yakker.  Perhaps connected is the name for residents of 'California',  a Victorian settlement attached to Eston village to accommodate  miners. (It was named California as was a similar attachment to Great Ayton because the great iron rush of the 1850's was fancifully likened to the Californian gold rush.) In the Eston area residents of California are called Calliyatters.  In the Eston area, Eston and Normanby were the iron mining villages and South Bank and Grangetown nearer the river are the iron worker settlements.  To South Bankers, 'yakkers' are specifically Eston folk.  Harry Mead, of the Northern Echo, went to school in Redcar. He once wrote me a pupil from Yearby (a small hamlet) was always known as the 'Yearby Yakker'.“
Here the meaning verges on 'inhabitant' or 'local person' – Vic also records 'Steeas yakker' as a name for someone who lives in Staithes (or a fisherman?). From Kevin Richardson comes an alternative possible origin and a useful date indication:
“In Evenwood, there was an area of housing known as the Oaks, (now demolished c1958/9) - or the "Yaks" in local parlance. Those who lived there were called "Yackers". The terraces were built to house pitmen working at Evenwood colliery, c1834 - 1898 and Norwood colliery at Ramshaw. They were built prior to the 1851 census, probably mid 1840's. Could it be the origin of yacker?
I'm 50 and from St. Helens Auckland originally and pit yacker and farm yacker have always been in my vocabulary.”
Alan Myers (connoisseur of all things North-Eastern) has pointed out to us that 'yakka' or 'yakker' means '(hard) work' in Australian slang (where it was first noted in 1847). This would fit our dialect need if we could assume 'yakker' also came to mean 'worker'. Quite a lot of slang terms did come into English through the meeting of troops in the World Wars (like 'O.K.'), but the history of 'yakker' remains obscure. It serves at least to remind us how little work has been done on dialect in the last half-century.


Margaret (no surname given) sent in two intriguing extracts from newspapers, one a letter to the Durham Chronicle in 1863 about the problem of middens at Thornley Colliery (“ah knaw when the Bishop cam te se us the houses wer ah witned an the midens ah tyen to the quary hole”!) Ivor Lee sent in a friend's poem about Humpty Dumpty on Hadrian's Wall. Jack Gair sent in a copy of a Lingford's booklet, The High Level Tyneside Song Book (1949). Anne Kirkman sent in a song about an early 19th century hermit in Sunderland – a rare piece of dialect writing for that town. And there have been many fascinating letters on individual words and phrases. We try to answer them all, but apologies if we miss occasionally. All the information is highly appreciated and put to good use – it's just a pity there isn't more room to give details here. The last word to Betty Podkin, admiring the market at Bishop Auckland: “there wez berries 'n' grozers ev a' kinds…'n' cabbish! Y, there wez kaert li'ads a' them as green as gers, 'n' ez yallow ez a marigowld… Yis, when yan gans away inted world yan gits yan's eyes oppend!”

Mar 2004


There have been two welcome mentions for our dialect work in the North-East press recently.
An article by Janis Blower in the Shields Gazette of 4 February combines text and a range of traditional photos; she concentrates on our word survey of 2001 with examples of words “rubbed out” and others “wearing well” and others still “buoyant” (like the coble!), plus a welcome mention of our website. A second article by Nick Morrison in The Northern Echo of 9 February gives a useful account of our work “collecting and recording the use of dialect English in the North-East.” He gets many points over, like the mixed origin of the dialect, its clear decline over recent decades, and the hopeful survival of a core vocabulary. Of the many strange local words for 'turnip' he comments, “you may have thought it was just a humble vegetable but it seems it goes under more names than a secret agent.”


February was clearly a good month for dialect: the British Library chose it to launch their dialect website with a set of recordings from the North of England. This is online at www.bl.uk and well worth a visit, as there is a real variety of voices from all over the region to explore. The short recordings derive either from the Survey of English Dialect at Leeds University in the 1950s and 60s, or from a collection made as a Millennium project more recently. There is no intense dialect content to these excerpts, but you will surely enjoy listening to your local twang and comparing it with accents from around the North.
As part of the publicity for this launch, the BBC did a short item on dialect in their 'Look North' programme in mid February. This opened with the telling point that if a respected and valued building were in need of repair, there would be an instant campaign to raise interest and funds to secure its renovation. But we seem content to let the dialect decline unchallenged…


Dave Bowen from Darlington has sent in some interesting words that mostly have a Romany background: 'rakli' for young woman, 'yog' for a fire, 'jiggies' for a door, 'nisgil' for the runt pig in a litter (more usually a 'recklin'?). We would be interested to know whether people can report these from around the North-East or whether they remained the 'private' language of the Gipsies.
Dave issues two tapes of his poetry: 'Travellers Joy' (about the Appleby horse fair) and 'Halcyon Days' (on countryside themes). Copies are available at £5 each from Dave Bowen, 7 Rydal Road, Darlington DL1 4BH.
Another tape was sent in by Nelson Dunn of Evenwood near Bishop Auckland. This is 60 minutes of local dialect phrases with a bit comment on each – a really useful and entertaining way of recording and publishing dialect. The tape was made to raise funds for Christmas parties for village schools in 2002, so we are not certain if copies are still available. But here's a sample: “he hesnt haaf some wool on” – translation: he needs a haircut.
[Note: Copies of this cassette are still available at £3 (inc. postage) from A.I.R.House, 17 Clyde Terrace, Spennymoor, DL16 7SE – cheques payable to 'Bullseye Music']


Thomas Wilson of Gateshead was the author of a long dialect poem 'The Pitman's Pay' which appeared in three parts in the 1820s originally. It is long! And uses a difficult combination of dialect, technical pit terms, and 19th century 'slang'. It is not therefore a prime candidate for reprinting. But at the same time, it is wonderful poetry, with vivid portraits of pit and family life in his youth, with a strong plea for reform and improvement. Our solution has been to present an edition of the work on our website at www.pitmatic.co.uk. It is arranged so that if you hover the mouse over a dialect word, its modern equivalent appears – a nice solution to the problem?


Bill Stephenson of North Shields has sent us a note on the source of the term 'Makems', pointing out “There were more shipyards in this one town of Sunderland than anywhere else. Likewise there were more sailors and crew to take the vessels to sea.” His explanation is that the shipyard workers 'mak' the ships, the crews 'tak' them to sea, and thus Mackems & Tackems are (or were) two important and populous local groups.


Robert Craig has sent in some neat suggestions for naming language:

“Might 'Folk-English' be a nice kontrast to 'Book-English'? It has the same kozy feel az 'Folk-dancing' and 'Folk-singing'. There iz the possibility of refinement e.g. 'Northern Folk-English' and 'North-Eastern Folk-English'. 'Median-English' (i.e. 'of the media') might be a Sunday-best way of referring to 'Book-English'.”
As you will see from the above, Robert is interested in realistic spelling, for dialect also (could we call it 'Inglish'?). This links to his concerns for the unity of the North and language “as a political statement.” While this is outside our own remit, he is happy for anyone interested in this aspect of dialect to get in touch with him at 20 Priory Rd, Weston-super-Mare BS23 3HU.


An important comment on the source of that most useful word 'hoy' comes from Pete Cain in Holland. Previously it has been supposed that 'hoy' could be a reduction of 'hoise' from Dutch 'hijschen'. He writes:

“Your sources for hoy fail to mention the Dutch verb gooien. The g is gutteral, but in some parts of the Netherlands it becomes h I'll never forget the day I was on a beach in the Netherlands when I heard one lad shout to another "hoy it man" - they would have written it "gooi het man!" and the Dutch for a hoy-in at the match is "in-gooi".”
The word provides an interesting hint as to how Dutch words came into North-Eastern dialect. It might be supposed that maritime contact would be commonest when Holland was at the peak of its power in the 17th century; but 'hoy' is not recorded in our dialect till the early 19th century. This suggests the possibility that smuggling contacts with the Dutch around the 1800s could have been the opportunity for transferring this word into English… [But it is also pointed out that Holland was the centre for coal distribution to the res of mainland Europe, so trade links with Newcastle were direct and increasing - legitimately - during the 18-19th centuries.]
Now Pete Cain also supplies us with a good source in Dutch for the word 'stot', another late-comer into the dialect. “Stuiten certainly exists but has a slightly different meaning. The verb "stoten" is closer… the [Dutch] word for 'tappets' by the way is 'kleppstotters'.”


We pass on the sad news that Lord Dormand of Easington (known better to some of you, mebbies, as Jack Dormand) died on 18 December 2003. His secretary has written us:

“He was always very enthusiastic and interested when the Durham and Tyneside Dialect Group Newsletter arrived as he had a great interest in the subject. “Jack worked hard in the Lords until a few weeks before his death, but had suffered ill health for a long time. He was a very popular Member and will be greatly missed.”

Dec 2003


We are glad to be able report that both meetings in September went very well. Our own day at the Morden Tower, Newcastle, made some useful new contacts and tried out some new approaches to dialect questionnaire design. The traditional (by now) big Dialect Day organised by the Yorkshire Dialect Society was indeed a 'delight', and as well as an interesting talk on the sounds typical of Northern dialect, and a second half of recitations and vocal spots, there was an impressive collection of dialect publications on show.
We would especially mention Kathleen Teward's extensive list of words from Newbiggin-in-Teesdale, titled Teisdal' en how twas spok'n. As it runs to 191 pages, you can imagine it is a very detailed list of words and meanings; also there are some dialect poems of her own, and some historic photos, making this a very attractive paperback publication. It sells for £9.95, plus £1.25 postage, from Kathleen direct at 4 Rock Terrace, High Dyke, Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Norman Stockton's East Riding Dialect Dictionary is also well worth mentioning. This is a simpler 65 page stapled booklet, with a straightforward word list. Notable, perhaps, this list lacks such North-Eastern delicacies as stot (bounce), hoy, and kets, but has many splendid country terms to offer like uggrum (pig), bessybainworts (daisies), stoggy (woodpigeon), and mullock (to make a mess of things). It is available from Norman Stockton, 36 Gibson Street, Driffield YO25 6ED for £3.75 (including postage – cheques payable to 'East Riding Dialect Society').
Not forgetting – if you are new to our mailing list – our own North-East Dialect: Survey and wordlist and the parallel North-East Dialect: The texts. Either is available at £8.95 (post-free) from the Centre for Northern Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle NE1 8ST (cheques made out to 'Northumbria University' please).
Not ready for the meeting, but due out some time soon, is the Northumbrian Language Society's new offering The Moody Book, which covers “the dialect of the area Alnwick to Morpeth and from Rothbury to Amble, as spoken during the first half of the 20th century.” More details as available.


A new internet project is Alan Myers Literary Guide, with over 300 entries for North-East authors from Anglo-Saxon times to the present. Though this is mainly about authors writing in 'book' English, there are some useful entries for dialect writers too, and the whole makes a fascinating reference resource. Online for 2004 at www.unn.ac.uk/cns/ .


...This brings us to a question raised by Robert Craig, as to what is a valid 'dialect word?
For example, during a recent discussion it emerged that pot for a plaster-cast was also used in the West Midlands. So what makes a word a part of North-East dialect? The best answer would seem to be: a word that is or was in use in the North-East that is not recognised in 'standard' or 'media' English. Very few words are exclusive to the North-East; that words are used elsewhere does not make them any the less part of North-East speech, in contrast to 'standard' written or spoken usage.
Where it gets a bit ticklish is with 'new' words (disparaged usually as 'slang'). Cushtie for 'good' comes from Romany and can be heard in the North-East – but is it a genuine local term or has it been borrowed from Only Fools and Horses on TV? Diss ('to be disrespectful about') has no North-East roots and is surely a borrowing from the media. Starting with army slang in World War 2, and moving on to 'buzz' words from film, TV and the pop world, there are a lot of new words fleeing around and national commonplaces catching on. For example 'mate' seems to be taking over from 'marra'. Perhaps we should ask, in these cases - Do they add or detract from North-East dialect, in terms of its special identity?


One dialect-collecting activity we've been trying out is offering talks to local history societies and community groups. These open with a summary of North-East dialect development and then involve the audience in filling in word questionnaires and talking over the results. This has provided a good means of checking local usage as a group context encourages a consensus view and prompts the remembering of extra terms too.
If you are in touch with a local society that has a programme of guest speakers, why not ask them to get in contact with Bill and arrange a talk on these lines?


We regret to report that the much valued magazine The North-Easterner is closing down with issue 38 in July 2005. Michael Southwick, its enterprising editor, was of the greatest assist-ance when we were setting up our dialect group, and his publicity brought in many new supporters. At least his stock of booklet publications will continue to be available, like North East Repositories which lists the holdings for family and local history research in the region's libraries and record offices. For further details, visit the website at www.north-easterner.freeserve.co.uk .


David Simpson has written in with an interesting appraisal of the varying use of beck and burn. He writes, “I think stream-names are a great topic of study because they show the strong link between place-names and dialect…” He goes on to comment on

“…the geographical transition from the Viking beck for a stream to the Old English word burn. I have found that (according to the maps) the change takes place in lower Weardale near Hamsterley - where we have the Bedburn Beck - Spennymoor, the Deerness/Browney valleys, Pittington and at Crimdon/Peterlee on the coast.
Of course the map makers (which show beck used as far south as Norfolk) may not necessarily have consulted the local people. For example is the word beck used by people in Seaham or do people say burn as indicated in the map? Perhaps they use both? [Yes, but beck is the commoner form]
Whenever I do talks in Chester-le-Street people say burn, but in Durham City and area they always say beck. In Lancashire and into West Yorks. as far as Huddersfield they use brook in southern fashion as they do in Suffolk. Cumbria says beck and occasionally (according to the detailed OS maps) neighbouring Dumfries has a number of becks which is rather ironic for the homeland of Robbie Burns!…”

What? Why Christmas, man! Here's a bairn's Christmas Eve from Charles Trelogan:

“Afore w' gan t' bed an' th' fires damped down ar's ganna send a note t' Santa. If mi motha an' fatha 'll help us spell an' a can hev a small piece o' paper arl tell'm wat best gift a want then fowld it tight an hoy it up th' chimla. If it dissent come down e'll hev gorrit. If it diz come down arl try again till it dissent.”

July 2003


Thanks to Morden Tower, Newcastle, we will be joining this year's 'Heritage Open Days' with a special day devoted to dialect in one of the few medieval towers still standing on the city wall. The Morden Tower is in Back Stowell Street, a cobbled lane behind the Chinese restaurant quarter (or the big 1930s Co-op, if that helps). The room we will be using is not large; it is on the first floor up a short flight of external steps – but we will hope to have a good range of our dialect books on display, and a collection of earlier dialect publications and material to look through. We will hope to collect whatever dialect words the public bring along – and will have a minidisk recorder waiting for anyone who fancies making a short recording for our archive!

Oh, and the date – Saturday 13 September, from 11 am to 4 pm.


This is the title of the second 'grand get-together of North of England Dialect Societies' organised by the Yorkshire Dialect Society. The date is Saturday 6 September 2003, starting 1.30 pm. The venue is Boldron Village Hall, off the A66 just south of Barnard Castle – not easy to reach except by car, but if you are interested in turning up – or offering a lift to others – phone Bill on 0191 581 6738 and we will try to arrange transport. (We managed two car-loads last year, but with a total audience of over 100, that did not seem much!)
The first half of the meeting will be a talk by Stanley Ellis [Clive Upton took his place on the day] of the Yorkshire Dialect Society on changes in dialect over the last 50 years. Then a break - with some wonderful home-made refreshments! In the second half, dialect societies do their own 'turn' – last year we offered Tom Richardson singing a song of Barrass's – this year we hope to enlist folk-singer Roly Veitch to do the honours for us. There will also be a considerable range of dialect publications from all over the North on sale and mair folk to crack on with than ye'd credit.
In short, it's a grand afternoon out – and an important move in bringing the North together over dialect, so if you can get, please come and support your local dialect!


For the Gala specially, we have produced a new booklet – Spider:and other tales of pit villlage life. 'Spider' is a pit pony, and the tales were originally telled by James Hay of Bearpark Colliery. They relate to the period around World War I, when James had started work in the colliery and then enlisted in the army; they are strong and realistic rather than sentimental and artistic, but we hope you will agree that is how it should be.
The stories were taken down by James' grandson, Les Morgan, and then posted on the internet by Jim Hollingsworth, who agreed to them being punblished, and we have done an initial 100 copies to coincide with the Miners Gala. If you like to obtain a copy by post, it costs £2.99 (plus 50p. post-n-packing, cheques to 'Northumbria University', either to Bill Griffiths' address or to The Centre for Northern Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle NE1 8ST – our joint publisher).


We have made good progress with the cooking project. Many thanks to those who sent in many useful recipes and comments, notably Vivien Ripley for an excellent Pea Pie recipe of her grandmother's, and Anne Brown for the loan of a 1930s booklet of recipes compiled by Shildon Church Methodist CIrcuit; and other hints from Les Gorse, Charles Trelogan.
A number of 'Geordie' or North-East recipe books have already been published, but we hope to give ours more of a historical and dialect slant. It'll not be ready until later in 2003, but here are some interim points we could do with help on:
When do/did you clean your grate?
It seems that in the (very) old days of wood fires, it was useful to let the ashes lie on the hearth retaining heat. Mind, the hearth would then be a round space bordered with stones in the centre of a cottage floor. Whereas coal fires need a good circulation of air – with ashes cleared away every day – the ash of a wood fire could be left to compact, and the hearth might only need major cleaning (and relighting) once a year, which turned into something of a ritual.
In some parts of the country this cleaning of the hearth would take place at Easter, but it seems likely that the same custom lies behind the North-East tradition of cleaning the house and relighting the main fire at the New Year. The odd thing is, that whereas the North-East has been using coal as a fuel for many centuries, this custom appears to go back much further – to the times of cottage hearths and wood fires. In East Durham, in the mid 20th century, the custom was for fires to be let die out, and the house given a general clean on New Year's Eve. Then as midnight approached, the men of the households would collect outside at one end of the terrace row, and on the stroke of midnight return to their own homes and relight the fire.
Do please let us know – was the custom the same in the rest of the region?
When did you get a cooker with a regulo number control?
The North East seems to have been slow to adopt gas cookers. Though gas lighting was common in towns by the mid 19th century, gas cookers were only popular from the 1920s on (the regulo control for the thermostatic oven regulator was invented in 1915). But because coal was free to mining families, the typical oven remained the kitchen range longer in the North East than elsewhere.
Now it seems likely that the council house estates of the 1950s would have coincided with the popularity of the new-style gas cookers; but many estates were also built in the 1920s and 1930s – would the householders then have preferred coal-fired range or gas cooker? A small point perhaps, but if you have information on this, or can help on the general timing of the switch to domestic gas ovens, do get in touch.


Early in 2002, following on the enthusiastic response to our dialect questionnaire in 2001, we approached Northumbria University with an idea for a grander dialect survey, to cover the whole North-East region, via questionnaires, interviews, displays, local talks and recordings, with the results published on the internet, in book form, and on CD.
A year later, the application is still gannin, and growing in scope. Newcastle University has joined in, and support from many local groups has been building up. It may take several more months to reach a decision, but keep your fingers crossed!

February 2003


In collaboration with the Seaham local history group, dialect material will be on show at the prestigious two-yearly 'Yesterday Belongs To You' event at Durham County Hall on Saturday 5 April; and at the ever popular Durham Miners Gala on Saturday 12 July. Both events are well worth visiting, and you're sure to spot us if you come along.


Bill Lancaster has supplied us with our earliest reference yet to 'Pimatic', or the very similar term 'Pitmatical', specifically for the speech used by miners. Our previous earliest reference was in Co.Durham for the 1930s; this new occurrence dates from 1873, when Durham miners were taking part in a major rally, marching through Newcastle…

"A great many of the lads, especially from the Durham district, had evidently never been in Newcastle previously, and the air of wonder with which they gazed at the crowds, at the buildings, and especially at the fine folks who occupied the windows, was very amusing. If the quality criticized and quizzed them, the lads returned the compliment, and it was entertaining enough to catch snatches of criticism on the manners and customs of the upper ten thousand of Newcastle, reduced to the purest 'pitmatical', shouted across the streets, as the men and lads belonging to collieries swept by where I stood in the crowd."
A wonderful glimpse of the different worlds of city and pit, and the confident good humour of the miners themselves. And significant when you remember that the first reference to 'Geordie' as a type of dialect speech would seem to be Scott Dobson's Larn yersel' Geordie in 1969? It certainly seems (no rivalry intended) as though pitmatic/pitmatical was the original name for the industrial speech of the North East, and that the term was already associated with Co. Durham back in the1870s.


Jerry Steinberg, M.P. for Durham City, gave us the following welcome mention last year:

“Community initiatives in the villages of Brandon, Shincliffe and Bowburn in my constituency have greatly benefited from the regional initiative. The same project [Tomorrow's History] has encouraged the Durham Dialect Association to survey communities spanning all age groups to illustrate the survival of the local vocabulary, pitmatic included. The expression "Whey aye, man" will, I hope, continue to be used for many years to come.”
Thanks, and let's join him in hoping there's a long future for wor bonny tongue.


The key to dialect research would seem to be working out what words were used where at what time. (And trying to detect the patterns formed.)
Many of you will have helped us already with a questionnaire and comments, but there's bound to be more information out there. No word too small, no word too modern, no word too out-of-date – they all help build up a wider picture of the currency of dialect, especially if you let us know how they were used, when, where…
With the circulation of the newsletter topping 200, it can be difficult to keep up with correspondence. We'll do our best – or phone in your ideas/comments - We're particularly interested in a personal word lists (with place and date). That sort of list can take a little time to put together, but is a project well worth undertaking.
Word contributions are always appreciated – our thanks to all who have helped already!

October 2002


Just too late for the last newsletter, we learned of Vic Wood's dialect questionnaire project on Teesside. He's hoping to find out more about where dialect boundaries lie and the transition between Yorkshire speech and 'Pitmatic'. There's still time to join in – and Vic is especially keen to have some input from Hartlepool. Send a stamped adressed envelope to Vic Wood, 3 Home Farm Cottages, Yearby, Redcar TS11 8HQ for the questionnaire form. He's hoping to put results up on a website, but that may take a while yet. [Now online - see on our links page.


An interesting group of dialect memories from the earlier 20th century are now available on-line at www.geocities.com/jim_hollingsworth/hay.htm. They cover mining, enlisting in the army, and so on, from the recollections of James Hay, and form a rare record of the spoken dialect of Co.Durham itself.


A new venture in performing the folk songs of the North East comes from Roly Veitch, native of Winlaton. The result is a gentle sound, his own warm singing voice accompanied by expert, light guitar playing. There are many favourites included in the 18 tracks: 'Keep your feet still Geordie hinny', 'The Weshin' day', 'The Lambton worm', 'The Blaydon Races', and songs by Jack Robson and Norman Turnbull from the 20th century. What is distinctive about this production is the new settings for the tunes, more harmonically adventurous than the usual chord patterns, but sounding a treat in this excellent recording.
The CD is available from Windows in Newcastle, W.H.Smith at Gateshead Metro Centre, or from Roly direct at 9 Beweshill Crescent, Winlaton, Blaydon NE21 6BW . (Send check for £11.50 – that includes UK post & packing – payable to 'R.Veitch'.)


A recent find was an interesting pastebook of letters in response to Eldon's (J. R. Robison's) column in the Newcastle Chronicle on dialect matters. As they are dated and usually bear an address, they are producing useful locatable information on dialect words - though more centred on the north of the region. A short example (referring back to around the 1880s, as the lady was 60 in 1938), not dialectal but pleasing enough:

Granny took me to the hirings at Alnwick sometimes, and we got lots of 'fairings' from relatives and friends that day. We loved to take the men's tea to the fields and to meet them coming home from work. My uncles lifted us on to the horses in front of them, and we rode home with them.
And a strange example of Muggers' speech from around Berwick:
Deck at the gadgie wi' a shaun oni on, jinkin roond the corner wi' a manniske on his airm and a jugal at this heel.” This is explained as: Look at the youth with a tall hat on, trotting round the corner with a woman on his arm and a dog at his heel.
Not ancient Northumbrian, but Romany, in large part. The informant adds: “More than 100 years ago [i.e. early 19th century] a band of Gypsies made their winter quarters at Spittal making horn spoons and basket ware and travelled found the country in the summer selling them and a 'gadgie' was their lingo for a youth or man, and some of their lingo is in vogue yet round Berwick.”


Me and Jake: the experience of some Durham miners, collected by John Salisbury around World War 1 time has come to us as a text kindly made available by Beamish Museum.
It is a set of pesonal accounts from the Coxhoe area about giving up drink (“the evil beast that's brokken lowse and ruining England to-day”) and turning to God. Inevitably, some of the most graphic descriptions talk about the times before they were reformed:

Only two years ago Aa used to come in drunk, and my wife was lucky if she managed to settle me on the couch. Aa often fell on the mat. But during the neet, especially in winter, it was miserable when Aa waked up as shivvery as a dothery duck. Ne mair of that for me!

July 2002


One bit of progress since the last newsletter has been the printing of a new edition of Alexander Barrass' dialect text The Pitman's Social Neet. This was originally published in 1897 and contains a series of songs set in a public house as part of lively evening's events.
After an opening man-and-wife dispute (“boot a small pay”), the landlord sets them all to do a 'turn' – some spoken, some sung. The characters who take the floor include a putter, a hewer, the wife of a brakesman, and the sweetheart of a set rider. Some of the songs (like 'The Driver' and 'The Putter') are still performed by folk singers, but it has taken some time to recover the original tunes that Barrass intended for his verses.
By luck almost, the last missing tune was found in a volume called D'Alcorn's Musical Miracles, published in 1871, and we have gone ahead with the printing of a small edition of the Barrass to test reactions. It is in the form of two booklets – one containing the text, tuther the music, so they can be used side by side. The price of the two together is £4, and if you would like to receive a copy please send us a cheque (payable to 'University of Northumbria' - our posh publishers), and we will pass payment on and see to the dispatch. If you don't know the text, it is worth the price just to read that; but it will appeal especially to anyone with an interest in 19th century popular music (not quite 'folk' music, not quite 'parlour ballad', not quite 'musichall'). And though it might seem a tadge sentimental in places, it at least avoids the excesses of drink; as Barrass puts it:

"Aw hate as much as Marshall, here,
Thor sloppy neets caal'd 'beery uns';
But lads, Aw de like social cheer,
An' sangs dash'd with experiance."

We're almost ready to start the next big project – recording examples of dialect speech. A major hitch has been working out the best medium – minidisk, DAT recorder, or what. It needs to be a machine compatible with a computer, so sound files can be edited, copied, etc. We hope to have this sorted out by the time this newsletter is circulated, so the next step is for volunteers to come forward! We have a base to make recordings in either Seaham or Newcastle, or could roam about (to almost anywhere in the region accessible by public transport). If you're interested, phone Bill on (0191) 581 6738 to make arrangements.


While there are several varieties of turnip, developed since the 17th century, the main division seems to be whether they are harvested young (and white) or full-grown (and yellow). This complicates the naming game considerably. Originally the word 'neep' applied throughout England; 'snarter' (from Old Norse) meaning 'sharp (flavoured)' was presumably the Viking alternative; and 'turnepe' (first recorded 1533) was the slightly up-market Anglo-French version of the name. In 1629 it is noted “There are divers sorts of Turneps, as white, yellow, and red.” Other local terms – 'snadger', 'snammy' etc. remain obscure – but are presumably nicknames devised by many local workers needed (until recently) to harvest the crop.
Meanwhile Peter Dixon of Darlington has sent in a useful drawing of a snagger or snacker, as used for snagging or snacking the turnip (or snadger). Redrawn below, it shows a metal blade about 10 inches long, a spike at the tip some 1½ or 2 inches long and a wooden handle at the friendly end.

Now 'snag' comes from the Old Norse (Viking) word meaning a spike. A snagger, as pictured above, seems not to be an implement to get rids of snags, but a cutting tool with its own snag or spike. A helpful farmer came up with the following information: if the ground is hard with frost when it's time to harvet, you cannot simply pull the turnip up by any top-growth. You drive the spike of the snagger into the turnip itself and pull it out that way. Then the blade is used to top and tail it. Is this the source of the word 'snadger' for turnip?


From Bob Hedley at South Shields on the gud aud/bad aud days (“The verse goes way back in my family and possible beyond that! As I will be eighty this month, you will imagine how far back!!”)… When I was a laddie
I lived with me gannie
And many a good hammering
Me gannie gi me
But noo am a man
I can hammer me gannie
and me and me gannie
Can nivva agree.

Jan 2002


The dialect questionnaire project in 2001 attracted considerable attention. Some 500 people sent in completed forms, and 180 of them requested the Report, so there was quite a job gerrin' that posted out. Thanks to the Centre for Northern Studies at Newcastle, we now have extra copies printed if anyone needs some. But these will need to be charged for, at £2.95 (post-free) – e-mail or phone 0191 581 6738 for details.
The questionnaire is now deed; in some measure, the Report will take its place, and we welcome further comments/additions to the list given there. No material is wasted: comments as they come in are entered on the computer for use in future editions of the larger Word List (see below). The questionnaires themselves will be a resource for word-miners and other researchers for years to come, and will be deposited in a suitable archive when the time comes.


You were asked to comment on the new title for the group. Most seemed happy with 'Durham & Tyneside Dialect Association' which we provisionally adopt with the slight adaptation of 'Group' for the more formal 'Association'. A few were concerned that this risked being drawn ower much to the north, and/or neglecting Teesside. In fact, the membership is well balanced; the centre of operations remains Seaham, half way up the coast; while the title of course is meant to be descriptive not exclusive. Practically, the reasons for favouring this name were the support our questionnaire received on Tyneside, from public, libraries and the Centre for Northern Studies; similar patterns in word preference between Co.Durham and Tyneside; a belief that the historic pattern of industry is likely to make it much more practical to study Durham taak in relationship to that of Tyneside; a knowledge that Tyneside shared with Co.Durham a high level of immigration in the 19th century; and a wish to avoid the artificial segmentation of speech into county packets, that are no realistic basis for dialect study.


One interesting initiative is a new free monthly magazine circulating in Newcastle, called Newcastle Stuff. This includes a column headed 'Charver Dictionary', which explains terms like 'waxa', 'ladgeful', 'radgee' and 'monged'. The word 'charver' itself is apparently from Romany: chawvo 'a young person, a friend' - as is that other favourite gadgie (Romany gorjo 'a non-Gipsy, anyone else'). But in this context a charver is a pub- and club-goer, and the taak is part traditional, part known slang, part private invention. Wonder if it's reached Sunderland yet…?


One of the big surprises in the dialect questionnaire returns was the range of words for turnip. 'Snarter' is seemingly based on the Old Norse (Viking) word 'snart' meaning 'sharp or severe'.
Charles Trelogan explains 'snagger' as follows:

The name snagger is the name of dual purpose tool used, for the laborious work, to first dig up the crop, then top and tail it and left to be gathered in.
While George Alderslade from Billingham wrote in with this comment:
There are two vegetables concerned, a large orange one and a small white one. To buy them in Asda we have to use 'Swede' for the orange one and 'Turnip' for the white. In Thornley/Wheatley Hill the orange one was the Turnip: the white one was not eaten by us, but was at least sometimes called a Swede. My father-in-law in Consett refused to have such 'cattle food' in his house, but the orange one was called a turnip. My friend fron Horden knew the orange one as a Snagger – but when talking posh it was called a Turnip, as the white one was at all times. Your reports from East Durham of Halloween expeditions with turnip lamps obviously refer to the large orange ones, not 'Asda turnips'. Perhaps you have more names than you expected for the turnip because these names are referring to two different vegetables.
A good point. Technically, a Swede (or 'bagie'?) is a slightly improved variety of Turnip, but I had always assumed the white ones were the young of the orange ones.
It will be very useful to collect more information on where the various names are/were used: snarter and snagger seem to be the commonest words for turnip, but if you can remember where and when they were used (or any alternative words), this would be a fascinating study.
Indeed, if you are looking for something to do at the weekends, you might like to mount your own mini turnip survey in your area and find out who calls what what. A way to go about this, might be to ask your local greengrocer for his/her comments, and then call on other shops not too nearby and make a note of the responses. Write or phone these in and we should be able to make up an interesting map. The prize will of course be…


We already mentioned a range of alternative words for various animals and insects. One correspondent wrote in about:

another tricky conept with a very large range of synomyms – the state of alcoholic intoxications. 'Palatic'…appeared in my Newcastle childhood in the form 'politic'...with the emphasis on the second syllable. It now occurs to me that it should be spelt 'palitic' as it is after all a contraction of the word 'paralytic'. An incident which amused my father in the 1940s occurred when a drunken woman subsided into his lap on the bus with remark 'Ee dear, Aa's mortal.'
It was Scott Dobson who translated the phrase 'Ah wes palatick' as 'I enjoyed myself', followed inevitably by the lament 'Aa's bad wi the beor'. A little research might be in order here, but mind we cannot pay expenses.


A note sent in: "In Teesside 'mawky' is used to describe a miserable, depressing person. In fact they can be called a mawk. I've heard a colour scheme described as 'mawky'. I don't think Teessiders realise they're actually saying 'maggot' and 'maggot-like.'"
From East Durham: 'Pot' as meaning an earthenware mug (for coffee or tea), and the cast on a broken leg. 'Hogger' meaning hose-pipe more familiar than 'hoggers' meaning work-shorts. 'Egg-taggle' – something that's a waste of time.
From Middleton in Teesdale: 'Vage' – something that's an effort or a struggle to do; 'to rowk' – to look or search through; 'rack out' – of weather going to improve. (A hopeful note to end on.)

Jul 2001


A grant has now been obtained to promote the dialect questionnaire, which is a major step forward. There is enough to cover printing, postage and a published summary at the end, though the processing will be done on a voluntary basis still. Thanks to your various suggestions, additions and responses, the questionnaire is in a viable condition for circulation (I believe) and has already been handed to the printer.
As before, the only personal details it asks for are approx age and district, and we will hope to make sure it reaches various age groups and as many different parts of the County as possible (not wilfully excluding Newcastle and the Tees area). It was suggested that employment/class might also be useful information to ask for, but they would seem more tricky to handle. It is more if we go on to make individual tape recordings of speech that that sort of detail would help. Again, the differences (if any) between men and women in their use of dialect, would be interesting. But for now, we will stick to a general survey, seeking to find out what words are in use, whether there are any significant variations of usage based on area or age is probably enough info to be getting on with.


Ted Relph, the dedicated editor of the journal of the Lakeland Dialect Society, has proposed a 'Gatherin' of North of England Dialects' to be held in the Parish Hall, Bowes, 2 pm Saturday 8 September 2001. As the name suggests, this would be a joint affair, with other Northern dialect groups lending their support. The programme will feature a talk by Dr Graham Shorrocks of Newfoundland University. But there will be time also for a mention of our dialect questionnaire, and it could be a very useful way to make contacts in the ruraler part of the county. It would be good to get a carful or two to attend, so please phone Bill (0191 581 6738), nearer the time, if you either want to attend or can offer a lift to a few people.


Johnny Handle, who you may have heard of as a well-known (and very excellent) folk-singer and dialect researcher in the North East, has sent in this note on the project he is currently engaged on:

The Northumbria Anthology
"This project was set up in September 1999, using a Millennium/Lottery grant. The object is to build an archive of songs and recitations from the North East of England. The information is to be stored in two forms:
1. a website set up through Newcastle University.
2. a series of CDs featuring different kinds of artists, from classically trained performers to solo folksingers.
A series of five concerts presenting the material is planned to be held in July/September of this year at the Caedmon Hall, Gateshead, and the Kings Hall, Newcastle University. I was appointed as research officer to do this work, reporting to a committee drawn from the University, Tyne & Wear Museums and Archive services, Folkworks, Gateshead Libraries and Arts department, and Windows Music Shop; Brian Mawson, of this shop, had the original concept. He also donated the initial 10% towards the funding, and is using the Mawson and Wareham recording catalogue to assist in producing some of the material for the CDs. I have identified 20 zones in the Region from Berwick to Darlington and across to Brampton. Using books, manuscripts, broadsheets, and in some cases oral sources, I have assembled between 30 and 40 items for each zone. There is a strong dialect element in the material. Some of the older songs have to be edited, due to the use of obsolete words.
The first stage is nearing completion, which will be a pack of 20 zone CDs complete with a booklet of words and introductions. These will have 12-15 tracks to illustrate the type of material typical of the performers/composers in that area. They will be given (free) to all the libraries, colleges and universities in the North East. The website should be running from August. I will pass on the relevant details to those interested via this newsletter once we have more definite dates, together with some examples of the varied and interesting songs and poems."



Charles Trelogan of Sunderland, who has sent in considerable dialect material - lists of words, notes on games, a dialect conversation written out, etc - has come up with this description of a miner's street garb:

"Miners' familiar dress was dark jacket, trousers, waistcoat, socks and boots. White collarless shirt with white silk type scarf with broad face passed back from front of throat to be crossed at back and returned to front to be crossed with loose ends passed under armpits. If collar worn, with black tie, it was white and starched and held in front and back of shirt with studs.
Cap was grey or black."

Charles' other scripts are perhaps ower long for a newsletter, but we hope to make some of them available on our website soon.

Mar 2001


The Dialect Project will be able to share a bit space with the Story of Seaham (a local history group) at the forthcoming History Day at County Hall, Durham, Saturday 7 April. It really has built up into quite an occasion - held every two years – with all manner of stalls and displays, costume enactments and music. If you are in the area, you are strongly recommended to attend - everyone else will be!
Beyond that, the Dialect Project will certainly be taking a stall at the Durham Miners Gala - assuming it will be possible to hold one this summer. The date is yet to be fixed. If you have visited this, you will know that rows of stalls are set up along the riverside walk, to provide space for little presses, peddlers of memorabilia, charities, and even the occasional gipsy fortune-teller. We have had a stall there for 5 or more years now, and so far - please touch a bit of wood for us - the weather has been wonderful each time.


In the last newsletter, I speculated that Newcastle Utd fans were called 'maggies' (magpies) in view of the increasing commonness - and therefore high profile - of the bird itself. But seemingly the name was noted as far back as 1895. It may be significant here that the familiar black-and-white stripe shirts were first adopted in 1894. Thanks to Anne Kirkman for this information.


Anne also sent in copious notes on playground games and “taunts”. She writes:
"As well as skipping games we played what I think of as ring games, such as 'Wallflowers', where we would all hold hands in a circle and move slowly round singing
Wallflowers, wallflowers, growing up so high
We're all little children, we're all going to die
Except --- ---, she's the only one
Turn your face! turn your face!
Turn your face to the wall again.
The child named would then turn facing outwards but still holding hands, and the game would go on until every girl was facing outwards. It was then reversed, with the words turn your face from the wall being used, until everyone was facing inwards again."
If I've got it right, most children's rhymes are common through the kingdom rather than local and dialectal. Nonetheless, Charles Trelogan has sent in an intereseting list of games and a dialect conversation between two lads wondering how to entertain themselves. I excerpt:
Bill: Let's get some tarry towt fro' the wire rope when we're here so's we can play Jack Shine The Moggy t'neet cos the's nowt o' the flicks.
Jack: Ar likes a jam jar an'a cannel missel, it macks a berra low.
I think this game is also called 'Shine a Low' (but 'low' rhyming with 'now'). The player who is 'it' carries a torch or a lamp of some kind, and has to let it show once every few minutes. The others are hunters/trackers who have to find him before he moves on. Obviously best in a wood with lots of trees to hide behind, though I know some concrete shopping centres and underground carparks might do.
Charles' list of games includes Tippy Cat, Duck Stone, Kick the Block, Mounty Kitty, Kick Bonny White Horse, and more.


This note on the lifestyle of early 19th agricultural labourers was made by John Bailey, 1810:
"The food and mode of living of the labouring classes are very simple: the bread generally used is made of maslin, leavened, and baked in loaves, called brown bread: the most usual breakfast is bread and milk, and in winter when the latter is scarce, hasty pudding or crowdy is substituted for it: for dinner, pudding, or dumpling, and potatoes, with a small portion of animal food, or bread and cheese, with milk, and very often bread and milk only: for supper, bread and milk, or potatoes and milk, and when the latter is scarce, treacle beer is used in its stead."
'Maslin' means a bread made from mixed grain. 'Mæstling' is an Anglo-Saxon term for the alloy brass, which comes later to mean anything of mixed ingredients. In Durham, the more expensive wheat flour would probably be mixed with oatmeal. Though the final product is not available nowadays, it is worth trying adding a bit fine oatmeal if you make your own bread, as it gives an excellent flavour and texture and is probably political correct too.
Any recipes for crowdy?


Margaret Reed who lives in Seaham has supplied the following note on New Year customs between the Wars. Any comments or additions?
"There was a lot of preparation... A special shop for a start - if there was any money left over from Christmas. Our best supper was an ox tongue with pease pudding, but there would also be freshly baked mince pies and so on, depending on funds.
From morn till midnight, everything was geared to welcoming in the New Year. Everything that could be polished, scrubbed or cleaned was brightened up. The floors would all be swept - to get rid of the year's accumulation, as it were. For us children, the treat was being allowed to stay up. We were bathed, and dressed in our 'second best' - not quite the very best, but smart enough.
By 9 pm, the fires would have been let to go out, then the ashes cleared out, and the cold grates left ready to receive new fire. The best plates and wine glasses would be set out, even if it was for a little ginger wine or the like. There would probably not be enough money to spend the night celebrating in a pub if they wanted to - and New Year's Eve was more of a family event then, anyway.
About ten to twelve, our father would set out, with some coals and sticks (kindling) with him - to make sure (on return) there would always be fire in your hearth for the coming year. All the family men would gather at the bottom of the street, and await midnight. The New Year would be signalled by the church bells ringing, and the ships in harbour would blow their whistles, the pits too, while we waited silent indoors for the first footer. This would be our own father of course.
The fire would be lit, all the doors to the rooms through the house opened, everyone within wished a Happy New Year! There would be a little cake and a drink; the front door would be left open for any callers, and people would go round and visit, but especially family. I think it was during the War that it became less of a family occasion, more of a general gesture of goodwill to your friends and so on.

Nov 2000


Through Northumbria University, my North East Dialect: survey and word list, that first appeared Christmas 1999, will be reprinted shortly, and along with it, a new paperback, North East Dialect: the texts. This is a reader or anthology - that is, a collection of poems, prose extracts and anecdotes covering Durham, Tyneside and Teesside: a balance of old favourites and some lesser known examples I have unearthed. Each volume can be ordered through your local bookshop, and yes, though serious books, they do make unusual and interesting Xmas presents!


Although we ideally need several hundred responses to the questionnaire from all over the region to get a significant picture of local usage, responses already highlight the better known terms, and point a way forward to more detailed study.
For example, it is worth looking more closely at the group of dialect words for animals. No obvious local variation emerges so far; rather it seems that some terms are widely familiar, others already rare. The familiar are the everyday and domestic animals, and the names going out of use are those of wild animals. (Perhaps this picture may change slightly if we have more questionnaires in from rural areas, but the division is clear in results so far. But as wild animals become themselves rarer, and our environement becomes more and more sophisticated, the lack of special words is not surprising. We are likelier to come across a badger in a book than a brock in the hedgerow.)
Well-known still are galloway and cuddy. Among yard animals, gissy or gissy-pig is popular (from the Old Norse, i.e. Viking), and there are several terms for a hen: banty, chucky (often in the combinations chucky-hen or chucky-egg), and clocker (or clocking-hen). This variety presumably reflects the importance of this familiar and useful animal - though few people now raise them in an urban yard.
Banty is a short form of 'bantam', originally a Javanes or Japanese word describing a particular strain of fowl. Forms in chuck- and clock- imitate the clucking noise of the broody hen, and may be imitative in origin (like the word 'chicken' itself?). But however humble their source they have a long pedigree, for cloccian is the Old English for 'to cluck', and there is even a nice illustrative quote: "seo brodige henn sarlice cloccige" ('the broody hen sorely clucks'), from about 1000 AD.
There do not seem to be any special (dialect) terms for dogs, but queenie is well attested for 'she-cat', again from the Old English (cwen, which referred not just to a queen but any woman - compare Scottish 'quean').
The insect world is well represented in lop, blackclock, bummlor and cleg. The words for butterfly are more confusing: flutter-by seems to be a modern childish or humorous variant of 'butterfly'; but logger-head and lowy (or butter-lowy) may have more significance. Someone has suggested logger-head as special to a moth; yet the 'log' element parallels the 'butt' in butterfly, and could be a general term.
While some dictionaries explain 'butterfly' as coming from butter + fly, others point out that the 'butter' element could come from 'butt' i.e. the end of a log, branch or stump. Now 'butterfly' is a word also attested in some German dialects and certainly used already in this country in Anglo-Saxon times. But 'log' is a word of Viking origin. So it is possible we have here two parallel words (synonyms) from two cultures.
I have relatively little interest in the craze for genetic history; Vikings are after all basically late-arriving English-folk, and if Northumberlanders like to claim that there are no Vikings in their midst, the loss is probably theirs. Whatever the merits of such arguments, language is separate from race: you do not have to be a Viking to use a Viking word, and in the North East it seems likely that English and Norse words mingled during the Middle Ages and no useful chart distinguishing the two will ever be made.


Anne Kirkman who grew up in Long Marton and then in Newcastle, has written in with a wealth of material. She starts with a version of Bill Walton's jingle from the last newsletter. Here is the original:
Me and granny and a greet lot mair
Went to the market to buy a hare
When we got there, there was neebody there
But me and me granny and a greet lot mair!
Among words (new to me) sent in by Fred Stainthorpe are nantling 'messing about on one's own', kep 'to catch', boily 'a concoction of bread and milk, given to invalids', and the phrase 'Aa's sair felled'.
Peter Greig, in Hartlepool, has sent in his comments on the word tew: "There was a great vogue some years ago for a word I always heard as chew - 'too much chew' - 'too much of a carry-on (to do something).'
Or: 'stop chewing me about' - 'stop messing me about.'
Or simply chewy - an adjective for a task difficult to perform.
I'm assuming here that tew is the same word. I always thought is was (office) slang rather than dialect." Tewing with the sense 'teazing, disordering, harassing' is recorded in the North East at least as early as 1810, and ought to derive from Old English tawian 'to work on, harrass'. Maybe it will come back into vogue yet again…



This is being posted out in response to/interest in the dialect questionnaire currently being distributed. The number of replies has been encouraging if not overwhelming - around a dozen so far - but it becomes increasingly difficult to acknowledge and write individually to those who have been in touch. A circular letter (in effect a 'newsletter') would seem the solution, and I hope this may prove a useful way of informing everyone of progress and just keeping in contact. A nucleus of people with an active interest in dialect studies and dialect promotion is a good start for any project, and the ideal base to build on.


This is not strictly predictable or capable of being influenced - but at a guess it looks as though a core dialect vocabulary will survive, along with a modified version of the local twangs or accents (especially important in the case of long vowels e.g. neet or night, biuk or buk or book). Local identity always find expression in language - so new word building is to be expected, new slang, new inventions. Perhaps some 'out of date' words will come back into favour - dialect terms are often vigorous and there are some graphic images (I thought 'hoying it down' was pretty good till someone came along with 'hoying it up').


So far we are very much an amateur i.e. non-commercial, venture. Indeed, my own feeling is that subscriptions etc are so fiddly and take up so much effort that they are likelier to fash than help. What we will have, then, will be a mailing list composed of those who have getten in touch - and we will aim at circulating 2 or 3 newsletters a year. (Back issues can be posted on a website in due course...)
Some meetings might be possible, but with many correspondents living out of the area now, this is not going to be so easy.
What I would ask, if you can manage, is to send me a few postage stamps when you can, and this will cover any immediate costs on the newsletter.
P.S. does anyone still call stamps 'Queen's-heeds'?


Among many notes introducing me to new terms and phrases, the following may be of interest:

- some minor changes I have incorporated in the questionnaire (e.g. twitchy-bell for earwig, rather than twitch-bell), but it is probably better to carry on with the existing form than start over again.


Les Gorse, now in Morecombe, has come up with a description of the game of Pitch n Toss:
"Pitch and toss, known as The Hoy, was very popular with miners in the fifties, perhaps later, and had a little specialised vocabulary of its own. The hoyer or chucker of the two pennies sometimes had an assistant who collected the coins after each throw. He was known as a bevver and for his bevving might get a little tip if the chucker made a profit. The three possibilities were known as 2 heads (chucker wins), 2 tails (chucker loses) and 1 head, 1 tail (no one wins). The last combination, I never knew why, was called '2 bikes'.
If more than one gambler wanted to be the chucker (this could be a very expensive business, as the odds are even on winning and there could be several big bets against) then the choice was made by having the candidates throw a penny towards a marker on the ground. The mark might be a piece of paper, a little mound or a stone showing through the soil...
Information on games tends to be about manly sports like football and bird-nesting, which makes me wonder what pursuits the girls favoured. Skipping? Games of tag? Hop-skotch? Dolls? And whether these involved any special words or rhymes?

 b u i l d  a  d i c t i o n a r y !

 s e n d  us  a  p o e m !

 m o r e  a b o u t  u s

 d i a l e c t  w o r d l i s t s

 d i a l e c t  l i t e r a t u r e

 s o u n d s

 p u z z l e s  &  g a m s

 p u b l i c a t i o n s

 a r c h i v e :  n e w s l e t t e r s

 o n  d i a l e c t

 l i n k s

 h y e m