The British Geordie Dialect – From Another Planet?

"Yes, of course" in Geordie dialect. (Photo via Carl Heyward's book via Northern-Heritage.co.uk)

“Yes, of course” in Geordie dialect. (Photo via Carl Heyward’s book via Northern-Heritage.co.uk)

It’s fair to say that, as with Yorkshire, the dialect from the far Northeast of England is unique; some might say totally incomprehensible.  People from this region, (basically the banks of the River Tyne,) are called Geordies and the accent and dialect is also Geordie.

When Geordies (like Sting) relocate to other parts of the U.K. they often have to soften their accents and drop most of the dialect. When they come to the U.S. they might as well be from another planet, as beloved Brit Cheryl Cole discovered when she was allegedly fired as an X Factor judge. Here she is talking in a fairly regular Geordie accent:

Not only do Geordies pronounce English words their own way (scroll down and listen here), they have completely different versions of many standard English words. For example, I might say “Am gannin yem noo” to a group of friends. Any idea what this might mean?

Am = I’m
Gannin = going
Yem = home
Noo = now

If I’m telling someone to go carefully, I’d say “Gan canny” and if I’m complaining about being hungry I’d say “Eeeeeh, am clammin man.” Geordies say “Eeeeh” a lot for emphasis and stick “man” on the end of anything and everything.

Interestingly, they also overuse the word “like” but not in the same way as Americans. Where an American might say “I was like totally bummed”, a Geordie would stick it on the end of a sentence thus, “Eeeeh, A was stottin mad, me like.” The “me” is inserted anywhere the speaker wishes to emphasize a personal viewpoint. “I was hevin nowt to dee with it, me like.” (“Personally, I was having none of it.”)

A lot of Geordie words are actually old Angle words. The Angles invaded England around Hadrian’s Wall after the Romans left. The Geordie dialect is about 80 percent Angle in origin, compared with Standard English which is 30 percent Angle. The verb “to gan,” mentioned above, is actually a direct Angle word.

“Bairn,” the Geordie word for a child, is Anglo-Saxon and Viking in origin, and the modern-day Swedish and Norwegian word for child is “barn.” Geordie pronunciation of many words also follows old Anglo-Saxon, for example “deed” (dead), “wrang” (wrong) and “hoos” (house).

Here are some of the more notable Geordie words and phrases:

“Howay!”
Pronounced How-way, this is a word with quite a few meanings. Basically, it means “come on” as in “Howay, let’s gan noo” (Come on, let’s go now.) If you stick “man” on the end however, it becomes more of an expression of irritation. If someone bumps into you and spills your Newcastle Broon, you could say “Howay man” either in a joking or menacing way, depending on how much beer was lost. The most famous phrase including “howay” is “Howay the Lads” which is the chant heard at Newcastle United Football Club to cheer the team on. The team is often referred to as the “Toon” (town) and the fans are the Toon Army.

“Champion”
This is the positive answer when you ask a Geordie how s/he is. When a Geordie is expressing delight with something, such as a meal or a pint, you’ll hear “Eeeeh, that’s champion man.” (The “man” when pronounced by a Geordie is a quickly enunciated word, unlike its Californian cousin, which can go on for several seconds.)

“Aye”
As in Shakespearean times, this word means “Yes” in Geordie, however it’s often coupled with “why” for emphasis. (Why, yes.) So, in answer to the question “Are yi gannin oot the neet?” (Are you going out tonight?), your typical Geordie would respond thus “Why aye man. Worra daft question.” (“Why yes of course. What a silly question.”)

“Hadaway”
Possibly my favorite Geordie word, it means “away with you” and has multiple uses. If you’re in a conversation and someone says something fairly stupid, the dismissive, yet friendly, response could well be “Oh, hadaway yi daft bugga.” If you’re going for a slightly more offensive response, it would be “Hadaway and Shite”. I actually have this on a Christmas ornament, from a fabulous Geordie merchandise company.

“Hoy a hamma owa heeya”
If you can say this phrase, you’re well on your way to mastering the Geordie accent. Use it as a warm up whenever you attempt it. Breaking it down:

Hoy = throw
Hamma = hammer
Owa = Over
Heeya = here

“Hoy” can also be used as with “Hoy the kettle on.” (Put the kettle on.) Here’s the Geordie version of the well known “Keep calm” merchandise.

So there you have a sampling of Geordie. If you fancy having a go (or “hevin a gan,” as they say), this guy’s instructional video is decent—for a Southerner, that is!

Do you speak Geordie, Brits in America? Give us your favorite phrases below:

See more:
10 Common British Expressions That Baffle Americans
10 Common American Expressions That Baffle Brits
8 American Sports Idioms Brits Won’t Understand