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:
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?