Ay Up Mi Duck! Do you speak ‘Nottinghamese’?

Posted on: 6. Mai 2011

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to visit Nottinghamshire, then no doubt you will have been greeted with the words ‘ay up mi duck’ (hello) and wondered why on earth someone just called you a duck. Well don’t worry, it’s an affectionate term!

If it’s ‘black o’er by Bill’s mother’s’ then it’s likely to rain soon and, if a child wanders into the road, you might hear their ‘mam’ (mother) shout “gerron corsey!” (get on to the pavement!).

However, if someone describes you as ‘mardy’ or a ‘mard arse’ then you ought to turn that frown upside down because it means you’re sulking like a child! The word ‘mardy’ is now more widely understood thanks to the Artic Monkeys’ song Mardy Bum but before that it was uncommon to hear it outside of the Midlands, even though it can be found in well-known literature from as early as 1913 in Sons and Lovers by D.H Lawrence, who was born in Eastwood in Nottingham.

Having been born and raised in Nottinghamshire, I speak fluent Nottinghamese; however this can cause problems when travelling outside of the county’s borders, especially when you don’t realise that a certain word is specific to Nottinghamshire! For example, in a cafe in the south of England, ordering a bacon ‘cob’ gained me nothing but a baffled stare – apparently I should have asked for a bacon ‘bread roll’; and when I taught the word ‘tabhanging’ (eavesdropping) to a French friend of mine, I was quickly interrupted by a girl from Belfast who had never heard the word before. I explained that it was a perfectly logical expression because when you eavesdrop, you literally hang your tab next to the conversation that you are trying to overhear. This then led to the revelation that the word ‘tab’ is not used by all Anglophones – not even by all British people – to mean ‘ear’. This is a shame because it means that not everyone gets to use – or even understand – such wonderful Nottinghamese phrases as:

–         ‘Cor, that’s a tablaugher!’ (Oh, that tastes sour!)

–         ‘Shurrup else I’ll bat ya tab!’ (If you don’t be quiet, I’ll hit you across the side of your head!)

 The list of Nottinghamese words and expressions goes on and on. Here’s a link to a mini-dictionary that explains a few of our expressions and a link to an article written by a man who has done extensive research on Nottinghamese:

 What are the most interesting expressions used in your local dialect? Has yours ever been incomprehensible to a speaker of the same language (or was someone else’s incomprehensbile to you)?  Please let me know, and maybe soon I’ll unveil the true meanings of ‘nesh’ and ‘jammy’…

Bis bald or ta-ra duck!




4 Antworten to "Ay Up Mi Duck! Do you speak ‘Nottinghamese’?"

Didn’t know that about ‚mardy‘. The OED claims it’s „chiefly northern“ though you can take that by their understanding to mean north of Watford Gap. It’s also a word we use where I’m from, albeit in the form ‚mard‘.

As for interesting expressions, I’d say it’s mostly vowel pronunciations that are different, though occasionally a word will get you an odd look in a different part of the country. Asking for barmcakes at the baker’s or calling your trousers pants raises a few eyebrows down south. We’ve also a few nice choice phrases, like telling someone they make a better door than a window (i.e. get out of the way) or saying someone has a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp (i.e. ugly as sin).

Great how such things only come through when you’re out of your element. It made some of us feel like foreigners when going to university for the first time: in fact, I have a friend from Oldham whose accent was so strong that on his first day in Cambridge, after inviting his flatmate out for a bite („Ista‘ cummin‘ awt ferra bit t’ayt?“) really was asked which country he was from!

So, fancy clearing up nesh and jammy for us?

I like those phrases, I’ve heard my Mum use them before (although thankfully the bulldog comment was aimed at someone else). Would you mind me asking which part of the country you’re from, Fips?

We have a lot of students from the South at my university so, despite staying local, I’m definitely an ‚accent minority‘ there! Though I was never actually mistaken for a foreigner as your friend was; my grandparents, however, went to Canada a few years ago and a man they were talking to asked my grandma if she wouldn’t mind repeating what my grandad was saying because he couldn’t understand a word – think ex-coal miner with a broad Yorkshire accent and you get the idea!

And yes, I was hoping someone would ask…

Nesh is an adjective to desribe someone who is very sensitive to the cold: „What ya got ya coat on for? Are ya nesh or summat?!“

Jammy is an adjective that describes someone who is very lucky, and suggests that the speaker is envious: „He won on the horses (osses) twice last week – jammy git!“. When I looked this word up it was listed as being British slang but it has definitely earned me a few ‚are you speaking English?‘ reactions so I’m not sure how widespread the usage actually is.

Aha! Yeah, we’d also use ‚jammy‘ to describe someone as being lucky (often collocated as a ‚jammy get‘ as you pointed out!). We also use ‚jam‘ on its own for fortunate situations. ‚Nesh‘ on the other hand is entirely new on me! Guess we’d call someone in that situation ‚wet‘ or ‚a Jess/Jessie‘.

As for where I’m from, well I was Lancashire born and bred, but have spent all too long away, sadly.

Ah I’ve never heard just jam being used on its own – I’m afraid the only time I’ve spent in Lancashire has invariably involved a donkey and a tower!

I’ve always classed myself as a Notherner, so from one to another: ‚You can take the bloke/lass out of the North,…‘

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