What I’ve learned since moving to Yorkshire
On the occasion that you offer someone a free – and perfectly fresh – slice of cake (it doesn’t happen very often, let me tell you), you half expect your hand to be very much snapped off. Or at the very least, an ‘It looks lovely ta, but I’m dieting’, accompanied with a sorry pat of the would-be recipient’s stomach.
You don’t instead envisage a disapproving (if not a little bit disgusted, to be honest) glance in your direction. But that’s exactly what happened when I handed a seemingly pretty innocent-looking Victoria sponge to a Yorkshire work colleague a few years ago. Turns out ‘going gash’ (as in something’s going spare) doesn’t mean what I thought it meant when I moved to these here parts at the back end of 2012.
And the mix-ups haven’t stopped there either. As a Lancashire lassie settling in Barnsley (and then later, in Huddersfield) those kind of shame-faced situations were to become a weekly, if not daily, scenario – such are the differences in dialect between the two counties.
We might be a stone’s throw away (my hometown of Lancaster is a mere 1.5-hour drive on the motorway) but the similarities between the two counties stop and end at the fact that we’re all ‘sound as a pound’ as far as British folks go.
I’ve spent four years in Yorkshire and nine with a Barnsley-born boy – and while I wouldn’t have admitted it to him before, the county’s as good as (if not nicer than) the one I call my home. Mum and Dad, you didn’t hear that.
Alongside its rolling hills, delicious cuisine (Yorkshire puds for every meal, anyone?!), and some of the friendliest folk you’re likely to find in the world, never mind the UK, Yorkshire’s got all sorts going for it.
So in celebration of Yorkshire Day (which falls on 1 August) I thought I’d share a few more things I’ve learned since upping sticks and heading here:
No one really says ‘Ee by gum’ – but pretty much everyone enjoys an ‘Eh up’ from time to time
Unless you find yourself ‘supping’ a pint down a traditional working men’s club in Barnsley (perhaps the most ‘Yorkshire’ place on earth!), you’re not going to hear that age-old ‘ee by gum’ (an expression of shock or bewilderment, by the way) Yorkshire’s become known for.
Inevitably, the expression duly gets rolled out when anyone south of Sheffield attempts a Yorkshire accent. Southerners also enjoy putting a random ‘t’ (as an abbreviated the) before every word, in mockery of Yorkshire folk – and let me tell you this: it’s as frustrating as adding a million and one ‘a’s to ‘Barnsley’ when someone tells you that’s where they’re from. ‘Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarsnley, eh?’ Just stop it.
You will, however, catch the odd ‘eh up, cocker’ – at a football match, or down the pub – and let me tell you this too: as a Lancashire lass living in Yorkshire, it gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling every time you hear it. In case you’re nonplussed, cocker here doesn’t refer to a variety of spaniel or anything more nefarious: it’s just a friendly form of address – and eh up is a simple greeting.
Going to Barnsley is like stepping into ‘Kes’ – in a good way
Okay; for those of you who understand the reference to the 1960s Ken Loach film classic, I’m joshing a little here. There are no working coal pits anymore. Or kestrels flying above your ‘ead. But the accents are just as hard to understand (if you’re an outsider, that is), even, perhaps to those who’re from elsewhere in Yorkshire.
Spend a little while in the town though and you’ll discover the people are friendly. Really friendly.
Stand in one place long enough and someone will almost always chat to you. You might have trouble understanding what they’re saying (tarn equals ‘town’, snap means ‘food’, and Laikin translates to ‘playing’) but trust me when I say nothing but nice words will be exchanged.
If in doubt, shorten it!
While there are some similarities in dialect from town to town in Yorkshire, there are a few differences to be heard ‘an all’. As a general rule of thumb, common words, phrases, and expressions are shortened – and therefore can sometimes lose their meaning if you weren’t born and bred here. Some of these have become widely known, though, at least in the UK: owt for ‘anything’ and nowt for ‘nothing’ may not be used in the south, but they’ll be recognized – as might the phrase bringing them together: you don’t get owt for nowt.
Often, two words are squashed together, with a ‘t’ in the middle – ‘on the table’ would become ont table) As aforementioned, however, don’t do what anyone attempting a Yorkshire accent does and add a ‘t’ in anywhere you fancy. The standard ‘t’ isn’t pronounced in a standard fashion, either. It’s almost half pronounced or often dropped altogether, as in ge’i’e’en (get it eaten).
Retaining a load of old words since they were discarded from Standard English, Yorkshire parlance is constantly evolving – as, of course, is language in general. One thing that hasn’t changed much, though, is the fact vowel sounds tend to be made shorter – as in ‘brass’ or ‘bath’, or sometimes even broader as in ‘eead’ (head) or ‘abaht’ (about).
Yorkshire Put-downs Are Some of the Best Around
Want to put someone in their place in Yorkshire? Oh, the selection of insults with which to hurl at them – relatively inoffensively, really – is endless. Barm-pot (crazy person), feeal/fooil (fool), wossack (stupid person), and buffel-‘eead (no, I have no idea on this one either!) are just some of the choice expressions you can wheel out.
Oh, and if someone’s pestering or moaning, they’re mithering you. So interesting is the word that it even sounds a little bit annoying – a tad ‘drawn out’ in terms of pronunciation and almost onomatopoeia-esque. It is actually a variant of moider, ‘to confuse, perplex, bewilder’, which may come from the Irish modartha, ‘dark, murky, morose’.
Reet, am off to Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at, cup of Yorkshire tea in hand!