Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / Word Lists /


This list derives from Fred Wade's typescript The Story of South Moor: a mining village situated in the north western part of County Durham, which includes a glossary on pp.187-190. This is introduced as follows: "Many dialect words appertaining to the early days of coal mining are still in use and are now referred to as 'Pitmatic'." While the list was apparently constructed in 1966 (or just previous), it contains a few words like 'corve' and 'cavil' that are clearly historic.

baff weekend - then fortnightly pays were the custom, the baff week was when there was no pay.
bait - a packed meal.
baitpoke - a bag to carry the meal in.
bait time - a stop for a meal.
bank - the surface.
barney's bull - anything broken beyond repair was said to be like barney's bull b------d.
bat - to strike a blow with the fi3t or a hammer.
blogged up - a pipe stopped up with dirt.
bonny gan on - serious trouble.
bord - a working place in the pit.
brat - a black inferior sort of coal.
bray - to beat or punish. "you cannot bray him back with a mell" (large hammer) described a pushing inquisitive person.
bump the set - anyone taking unnecessary risks was described as "he'll bump the set some of these times". a set is a number of tubs or trucks pulled along by a rope from a fixed engine.

canch - the stone below the thill or floor of a narrow coal seam that has to be removed as coal-getting proceeds.
cankery water - impure, poisonous water, red in colour.
cant - anything leaning over is said to be "on the cant".
carvinarce - a smooth backed fossil easily dislodged.
catheid - a nodule of iron ore found in coal seams.
cavil - a working place in the mine selected by a draw.
cavilling-day - the day the draw takes place.
chinglees - pieces of coal the size of a marble.
clacks - pump valves.
clag - to stick.
clarts - mud.
cogley - unsteady.
coin - to turn from the straight.
corve - a wicker basket used in coal mines prior to the tub era.
cow - a device attached to the back of a set of tubs to prevent them running back if the rope breaks. crab - a winch used in sinking operations.

dab-hand - a capable or efficient worker.
dad - to hit as, "i'll dad the lug".
daddin - to beat the dirt out of pit clothes.
deputy - an underground official.
deputy's-end - the easy or lightest part of the work.
deputy's kist - the box in which he keeps his tools.
devil - a device for detatching the rope from a set of tubs whilst in motion.
dogs - nails for fastening down tram rails.
dollyshutting - blasting down coal without undercutting.
dreg - a wood or iron stave put between the spokes of a tub wheel to prevent it from turning thereby retarding its progress.
duds - clothes.
dunched - to run into with force as "tubs dunching".

ettle - to arrange beforehand. nb#

fairly - steady.
fash - trouble.
fast jenkin : a bordway driven in the middle of a pillar.
femmer - weak or delicate.
fernenst - opposite to.
fettle - to repair or mend.
fizzle - a faint crackling noise caused by gas escaping from the strata.
fizzled out - the end.
flacker - to flinch or turn back.
flackered - finished, unable to do any more.
flayed - frightened.
flusher - a squip that fails to do its work.
forbye - besides.
for-fairs - no trickery or underhand work.
fullick - a blow with great force.
fullen - full tub.

gar - to make or force anyone to do something.
get-thi-blaw - to rest, to regain the breath.
gis-a-low - give me a light.
glinters - curved sails to guide a rope on to a sheeve.
graithe - to make ready or repair.
grove - a space in a seam from which coal has been taken.

hacky - dirty or filthy.
hedgehog - if a strand of a wire rope works loose and gets fast, it coils in a mass of wire on the rope. this is a hedgehog on the rope.
hinny - a term of endearment.
hitch - a fault in the strata.
hoggers - shorts miners wear in the pit.
howk - to dig or scoup out, or punish.
hoy - to throw.
hunkers - the buttocks. a favourite posture of pitmen is sitting on their hunkers.

inbye - to go from the shaft bottom into the workings
insence - to make someone understand - "insence it into him".

jealoused - anticipated, something would happen.
joley - shakey, unsteady.
jowl - to test the roof in a coal seam by tapping it with the end of a stick, also a threat as "al jowl tha".

keeker : surface foreman who deals with the coal.
kenner - the end of the shift.
kep - to catch.
kep-clack - the foot valve in a pump suction pipe.
keps - props on which the cage rests at bank while the tubs are being changed.
ket - filth or rubbish.
kibble - a large iron bucket used in sinking operations, also a small low tub with open end.
kink - a twist in a coil of rope that would damage it if pulled tight.
kip - the highest point on the rollyway where the tubs are detatched.

laid outs - if a tub of coal contains more than a certain amount of stone it is confiscated, the stones and the hewer's token numbers are laid out for inspection.
limmers - wood shafts with an iron bow and a catdh to clip on to a coal tub carried on the harness of a pit pony.

marra - when two men work together each calls the other his marra, meaning equal.
mell - a large wood or iron hammer.
met - a measurement marked on a stick.
midgey - open fronted naked flame lantern.
mizzled-off - gone away.

nigh-hand-gannen - a shorter way.

onsetter - the man in charge of the cage at the shaft bottom.
outbye - travelling from the face to the shaft.

plote - pluck or bring down.
plunger - the piston in the water end of a pump.
powder-reek - smoke caused by firing a short in the pit.
progley - prickly.

rammel - stone that gets mixed with the coal in the pit.
rid - to clear out or tidy up a place.
rising main - the pump delivery pipes in a shaft.
rive - to tear.
rolleyway - engine plane.
roven - torn.

scapipen - getting coal without blasting.
scrush - crush.
scumfish - to suffocate.
shine a low - shine a light.
skeets - guides for the cages in a pit shaft.
slush hewer - a hard working coal hewer.
smart-money - compensation.
snore holes - holes in the strainer that make a snoring noise when the sump is drained.
spangued out - a prop forced out by pressure.
spelk : a splinter of wood that has stuck into the skin, also a small person.
spigot and faucet - a type of pipe joint.
spiting - storing up loose stone after a place has closed to make a way through.
sprag - a wood or iron stave put between the spokes of a pit tub wheel to retard its progress.
stowbord - an old working place into which refuse is put.
strum - the strainer on the end of a pump suction pipe.
stub and feathers - the stub is a wedge driven in between two tapered wedges in a bore hole to break down stone.
stythe - bad air.
sump - at the bottom of the shaft, a standage for water.
swapes - tub rails bent to go round a turn.
swalley - a dip or hollow on a roadway.

tageing - a hard fatiguing time or job.
tarry towt - a tarry rope.
tewed - fatigued as "it's been a tewing job".
tokens : pitmen's tallies.
tommy hack - a combined hammer and chisel ended pick used by rolleywaymen.
tuemmen : empty tub. usually pronounced chummum.

varney - very near.
viewer - obsolete term for an underground official.

wedger : anything large or outsize.
weeken - lamp wick.
whimsey - a turntable from which a rope is uncoiled.

yard-wand - deputy' s stick measuring one yard.
yebbel - able.