Eight Yorkshire Sayings That Will Baffle Americans


These clogs have seen better days. (ECW)

As a Yorkshireman residing in’t Big Apple, folk can’t fathom me reet often (Translation: In New York, nobody understands me when I speak).  Consequently, everyday activities like ordering a sandwich can become embarrassing, stressful affairs, particularly if I ask for it on a bap.

Here’s a list of phrases from the third best region in the world that bamboozle Americans and, to be fair, a decent number of Brits.

1. ‘Eee by gum
The brilliance of this expression is that it perfectly captures a sense of shock or bewilderment whilst simultaneously making no sense whatsoever. It is quite literally gibberish. Although by no means a direct translation, it’s probably best summarized as being interchangeable with “Oh my God!” Some users choose to drop “eee” and go directly to “by gum.”  It’s a matter of personal taste.

2. Aye up
This versatile phrase is most commonly used as a way of saying hello. It’s usually accompanied by a nod of the head and a sip of real ale. In this context it would be akin to the American greeting “What’s up?” However, it also functions as a means of getting attention. “Aye up lads! Freddo’s here!” you might say when old Fred walks into the pub.

3. Put wood inth ‘ole
If somebody enters a room and neglects to close the door, this is what you say to them (Translation: “Put the wood in the hole”).  It is mainly used by great uncles and people called Archie, but the expression appears to be in less frequent usage than it once was. The reason for this is that in the old days, if somebody entered a room with a fire going and didn’t put the wood in the hole, the heat would escape. Nowadays, because of central heating, it’s not necessary to trap heat in one room by closing the door.

Check out The Four Yorkshireman performance starring Harry Enfield, Alan Rickman, Eddie Izzard and Vic Reeves which helps illustrate Yorkshire life:

4. While
In Yorkshire time, the word “while” replaces the word “until.”  So if your plumber tells you, “I’ll be gone two while six fut game,” it means that between the hours of two and six he will be attending a football match instead of repairing your leaking toilet.

5. On Ilkla Moor Baht’at
“On Ilkla Moor Baht’at” (Translation: On Ilkley Moor without your hat) is a folk song that many consider to be the anthem of Yorkshire. With underlying connotations of cannibalism, the song tells the tale of a hatless young man courting his lover, Mary Jane, on Ilkley Moor. The singers tell the young man that without a hat, the cold winds of Ilkley Moor will result in his death from exposure. Then, the singers chant, the worms will feast on his corpse, then the ducks will eat the worms, and finally the singers will eat the ducks and it will be like they have eaten the young man.

6. That’s a threp in’t steans
That’s a blow to the most delicate and pain-sensitive portion of the male form.

7. Topped his clogs
In the industrial towns of Northern England where many workers found employment in mines and mills during the 1800s, clogs were the footwear of choice. The verb “to pop” is the old expression for pawning goods. So if a man popped his clogs then he had no further use for them. This spawned the expression “popped his clogs” as an idiom for implying that somebody had died.

8. ‘Ear all, see all, say nowt.  Eat all, sup all, pay nowt.  And if ever thou does owt fer nowt – allus do it fer thissen
Yes, that is English. Sort of. This is the Yorkshireman’s motto and translates as follows: “Hear all, see all, say nothing. Eat all, drink all, pay nothing. And if you ever do anything for nothing—always do it for yourself.”  It doesn’t reflect too kindly, does it?

In some parts of rural Yorkshire old English words like “thou,” “thee” and “thy” have remained in common usage. An example of this can be seen and heard in the movie Kes, which presents the Yorkshire dialect in all its incomprehensible glory (note: subtitles may be required for the untrained ear).

Here’s a good example of Yorkshire dialogue with this “Yorkshire Airlines” clip:

What are some of your favorite colloquialisms and regional expressions?

See More:
8 American Sports Idioms Brits Won’t Understand
10 British Words That Baffle Americans
10 Surprising British Words for Familiar Things

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Jon Langford

Jon Langford is a British expat living in NYC where he is often asked if he’s Australian on account of his Yorkshire accent. He is a freelance copywriter and journalist, and has been published in many sports and pop culture outlets including Major League Soccer, Time Out magazine, Inked magazine and Smitten by Britain. As bassist of alternative rock group The Chevin he has toured the world over, appearing on Conan, the Late Show with David Letterman and Last Call with Carson Daly. Follow him on Twitter at @Jon_LangfordNYC.
View all posts by Jon Langford.
  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Toni Hargis

    Brilliant. Don’t you also say “Well I”ll go t’ foot of our stairs”?

    • maggie

      My grandmother did and she was a VERY proud Yorkshire lass.

  • maggie

    When I went in the navy a lot of girls in my nursing class had a hard time understanding my accent (Derbyshire). Thee and thou were still used there when I was growing up.Some expressions are common also to Yorkshire and Lancashire. Here’s a few Derbyshire ones
    Ay up mi duck = hello there
    It’s black ovver Bill’s mother’s = looks like rain
    Eh’s gorra munk on = he’s in a bad mood
    Chunter = complain.
    Causey edge = pavement, sidewalk, edge.
    Tha what? = what did you say. This can be a threat or a joke
    Do lally tap = mad as a hatter.
    Tha nowse nowt = you know nothing
    Thadnoneed ta bother thysen. No need to bother yourself.
    We tend or tended to string several words together.
    Bobo = horse or pony
    Hegiditme = he gave it to me.
    there are so very many more :)

  • Me

    Speak proppa like wot I dus

  • David

    The object isn’t in the metal container.
    Heseshenoes burredunt tha noes
    He claims to know the answer, but I’m sure he really doesn’t

  • alex

    The only one i understood (as an american) is “by gum, because I’ve heard people say “by gum, by golly!” in the same vein. Also i guess i use “while” is a similar way? like “I’ll get the drinks a while, then we can decide on meals etc.”

    • crd

      I often heard “Dadgumit” or “Dadgum” by my grandpa, who was from Arkansas… I wonder if it came from that as well?

  • Ian, under Ilkley Moor

    I recently learned that the tune to “On Ilka’ Moor Baht’at” is actually called “Cranbrook” and was written by a man from Kent. (Shock! Horror!). This was revealed by South Yorkshire folk songstress Kate Rusby who sang the tune on her Christmas Tour. However in the grand tradition of South Yorkshire carols (sung in pubs rather than churches) the words were “While Shepherds watched their flocks by night” which rather messes with your head initially if you are only familiar with ‘Yorkshire’s National Anthem’. However, the words do fit beautifully once you’ve got your ahead around it! (Kate reckons that there are about thirty different South Yorks variants of “While Shepherds..”but claims to only know 18, and performed three on the same evening’s concert!)

  • Teresa Vandegrift

    The Monty Python version of “Four Yorkshiremen” is better – Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Jones

  • YorkshireLass

    Hilarious! As a YorkshireLass living in central New Jersey it warms the cockles of me ‘eart to read this!

  • Conflict Diamond

    #5…oh, go on!
    Pull the other one! Quit takin’ the piss

  • Red

    No one ever says ‘ee by gum’, that’s a total myth!!

  • dene

    Red,,, we do say em-by-gum in the Barnsley area

  • dene

    Red ,,, we do say ee-by-gum in the barnsley area