English Dialect and Idiom

Every country has their ‘official’ language . Likewise every country has location specific variations which may be simple accent derived pronunciation or sentence/grammar use or completely different

vocabulary .These variations also produce region specific phrases.

England is particularly blessed in this respect. Often regarded as uncouth and common (in an English elitist way) they offer a treasure trove of history, humour and interest.

This post is about those I’m familiar with from the northern county of Yorkshire. Some will be Yorkshire specific, some northern England specific and some just English.

For example: a narrow path between buildings in Leeds is a Ginnel, in Rochdale a Gennal (pronounced Jennel) and in Leicester a Jitty.

The following are often strange and crude, sometimes the words are conventional but used to describe things in a wonderfully quirky way others are amusing, many maybe familiar but all are a rich source of imagery to be valued and appreciated.

“ Pack it in or you’ll feel the back of my hand !” – which doesn’t seem much of a threat.

“You look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards” – you’re scruffy

“Tha walks like dead lice are droppin off ya” – you walk really slow

“As bright as a sixpence in a sweeps arse “ my Grandad the poet

On seeing a young couple stealing a kiss driven by first love Nana would say

“ look at them daft buggers, swapping spit, they’ll be tuppin soon if they don’t knock it ont ‘ed’

( the kissing will lead to intercourse if they don’t stop) I’d like to point out how her use of words resembles Shelley or Byron but can’t.

On recalling how close his team had been to winning or when describing a very small amount Grandad would describe it as a ‘cock hairs width ‘ !!!!!

“As cold as a witch’s tit” are they cold ? I’ve no idea.

“less of the lip lad “ you try holding a conversation with minimum use of the lips.

“she ad a face like a slapped arse “ pleasant


“he had a face like a bag of spanners” equally pleasant


“she looked like a Bulldog chewin’ a wasp “

“He’s seen his arse” he’s sulking, miserable

“Neither use nor ornament” – useless often applied as an insult.

“Well I’ll go t’foot of ower stairs “ – expression of surprise or disbelief.

“he couldn’t stop a pig in a ginnel “ – bow-legged

“he couldn’t tell his arse from his elbow” – stupid

“nicked int head” – mad

A few dialect words:

Laikin (LAY-KIN) – playing

Kaylied (KAY-LYED) – drunk

Mythered ( MEI-THED) – to be bothered or flustered

Nesh – weak, feel the cold

Cadge – borrow

Chunter/witter – mumble or talk about nothing without stopping

Mardy – whining or bad tempered

Scran – food

Tosspot – male to male insult



  1. There is great beauty and humour in the English dialects Nigel. You can imagine the conversations in my house, I a Cumbrian and my good lady a Cockney. Tracing the origins of some of these dialects and the words is an interesting journey. Keep up the great posts marra.


  2. I didn’t recall this when it showed up in ‘More in Voices…’ so I read it again, and as I read, some of it seemed familiar so I probably had read it before, but I enjoyed it again anyway, possibly even more. Love learning about you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.