• Nicola Chilton

What y'on about? A useful Yorkshire glossary to understand exactly what we're saying

We have a particular way of speaking in Yorkshire. It's colourful, it's fun, it's creative, it often gets us mocked by Southerners. It's not just the way we say things with our flat vowels and dropped "h"s, but it's also our rich and playful vocabulary, unfamiliar to many. There are regional differences within Yorkshire, and those with particularly attuned ears can recognise the differences in accents from one town to the next.


In honour of Yorkshire Day coming up on August 1st, here's a glossary of words I grew up around to help you understand just what it is we're goin' on about next time you find yourself in God's Own Country. I'll keep adding to this as more words come to mind, but if you're looking for a translation for any confusing words or phrases please do send them my way and I shall do my best to translate. This list is not in alphabetical order as that would make too much sense, and frankly many of these words and phrases don't make any particular sense at all.

Ey up - this phrase has a double meaning, being a friendly greeting at any time of day, or an alternative for "hang on a minute" when something's not quite right or displeasing, e.g. "Ey up lad, tha wants to watch thissen wi' that", meaning "hang on a minute Sir, you should be careful of what you're saying/doing".


Ee by gum - an exclamation of incredulity, often accompanied by a shake of the head. The "Ee" can be dropped at will.


By 'eck - same as above, but with a little more exasperation, e.g. "By 'eck lad, tha's mekking a pig's ear o' that", meaning "gosh, you're not doing a very good job of the task in hand".


Chuffin' - our alternative to the f-word, and perfectly suitable for polite company, as in "Chuffin 'ell, tha's seventy", the particular greeting on the birthday card I chose for my Mum this year. Also often used in the combination "Chuffin' Nora", making it even safer to say in front of elderly relatives and children.


Nobbut - "nothing but", as in "I nobbut eat cheese sarnies", meaning "I don't eat anything other than cheese sandwiches" (said to my grandmother, or "me Nan", by one of my school friends at a childhood birthday party).


Spetch - plaster, or Band-Aid for my North American readers. E.g. "Tha wants to put a spetch on that", or "You should put a plaster on that", said to me by the farmer I worked for at the dairy when I cut my finger.


Baht - not the Thai currency, but meaning "without", as in the unofficial Yorkshire anthem "On Ilkla Moor Baht 'At", or "On Ilkley Moor Without a Hat". The long and short of the song is that if you go to Ilkley Moor without a hat on you'll catch your death of cold and be eaten up by worms, which will then be eaten by ducks, which will ultimately be eaten by the singers of the song. A cheery little ditty.


Mardy - grumpy or sulky, something my Nan often used to call me when I was little, usually followed by "pants" - i.e. "don't be such a mardy pants".


Nesh - another favourite of my Nan, meaning soft or wimpy, often used when I complained that I was cold (usually due to being dressed in shorts when it was only 12 degrees).


Mither - one more Nan-ism, pronounced "my-ther", used when I was being particularly irritating and annoying or pestering her for something, e.g. "Stop mithering, will you". Can also mean "to complain or moan about something".


Owt/Nowt - Anything and nothing, e.g "you can't get owt fer nowt" meaning "you can't get anything without paying for it".


Sithee - goodbye, often used in the combination "A'll sithee", literally meaning "I'll see you".


Lek - to play, often written as "lake" or "laik" but pronounced "lek", e.g. when you go and knock on your friend's door to ask "Is John lekkin?", i.e. "Is John allowed to come out to play?"


Kegs - trousers, e.g. "you've got summat on your kegs", meaning "you've got something on your trousers". Sometimes written as "keks".


Back end - not actually referring to the back end of an item, but to the end of the year, i.e. winter. "Ee, it's like the back end" can be used on a summer's day when the weather is unseasonably miserable.


It's black o'er Bill's mothers - it doesn't really matter who Bill is, or his mother for that matter, but this phrase is used when the sky in the distance is very dark and it looks like it's going to rain.


It's like Blackpool illuminations in 'ere - a reprimand, usually from a father, for leaving too many lights on in a particular room. In some households this could stretch to having one dim reading lamp on as well as the main light. In short, turn those lights off, you're wasting money. Referring to the annual light festival, often simply called "The Lights" in the seaside town of Blackpool, a popular outing for Northern families since its first incarnation in the late 1870s.


A proper brew - a good cup of tea, Yorkshire Gold in my house, our national beverage. You can ask your friends to "mek us a proper brew" the "us" in Yorkshire referring to the first person singular.


Dinner - lunch.


Tea - dinner. Confusing, isn't it?


Flags - paving slabs, often used when it's hot and sunny in the context of "Ee, it'll crack the flags", meaning "it's so hot the paving stones might break".


Gi'oer - literally "give over", meaning "stop it", or "stop doing that".


Wi'bits - not a techie gadget, but said when ordering fish and chips to ask for all of the broken bits of batter to be put on top. Sometimes called "scraps". You can order "twice wi'bits" meaning "two portions of fish and chips, with batter crumbles on top, please."


Jammy - meaning lucky, e.g. "the jammy bugger just bloody went an won t'lottery" or "the lucky fellow just won the lottery".


Sen - meaning self, e.g. "I'll do it me sen" or "I'll do it myself".


Chuddy - our word for chewing gum, e.g. "giz a chuddy", "giz" meaning "give us", hence "give me a piece of chewing gum, please".


T' - our abbreviation for "the". Often more of a glottal stop rather than an actual "t" sound, but Southerners insist on pronouncing it as a hard "t" and inserting it before practically every word when imitating us. Daft 'apeths.

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