Thursday, 5 May 2011

The language you are about to hear... is disturbing

Title quote attributed to Dave Chappelle

There are many things that marriage can teach you: love, trust, patience, humour, compromise, humility, how to take deep breaths instead of choking someone to death... you know, all the important things in life. However a relationship between two people who hail from different areas, especially different countries, can teach you even more besides. You learn about things like the history of different communities, cultural differences and different social etiquettes.

This is all very interesting. I now know, for instance, that Maggie Thatcher is not exactly a celebrated political leader "oop Nawth". I have learned that, in Yorkshire, Rugby League is the only "proper" form of the sport, whereas Rugby Union is "for pansies who like sticking their fingers up each others' arses". I have learned that, for Yorkshirefolk, complaining is not only a popular passtime but indeed an art form, especially when it comes to money and work. However my favourite differences hark from a bottomless pit that is simultaneously age-old and yet ever-changing: language.

In high school I remember being taught about colloquialism - words, phrases or expressions which are used informally in conversation and are often unique to a certain group, for example people from a certain area. We had to come up with some examples of Belfast colloquialisms but I remember thinking that we weren't quite so unique as some other areas of the UK - we had nothing on the Cockneys for example. In fact, for the most part, I thought we were a pretty dull bunch. However the Yorkshireman and I have known each other for about 9 years now and during the course of that time it has become apparent that I underestimated the complexities of our local language. It has also become clear that Yorkshire can be its own little world in some respects.

These are some of my favourite gems from each side of the Irish Sea that at first perplexed each of us and then tickled us a little.

Northern Ireland

Boke/boak - to gag/vomit ("I'm going to boke in a minute!"); also used to describe something sickening ("Katie Price? Boke like!")

'Bout ye? - literally "what about you?" but mainly used as an alternative to hello

Dead on - alright/sound, ("Yes that plan sounds dead on" or "aye she's dead on like!")

Do you think I came up the Lagan in a bubble? - do you think I'm gullible enough to believe what you've just said?

Eejit - idiot

Foundered - to be very cold, freezing ("Flip, it's cold out there, I'm foundered!")

Keep 'er lit - phrase used to spur on and encourage, especially when things are already goin well ("C'mon Crues, keep 'er lit!")

Meet - kiss/snog

Wee buns - easy to do

Wick - rubbish/crap/disappointing ("The Blair Witch Project was totally wick!"); also an expression when something goes wrong ("Aww wick!")


Gee over - instruction to stop it (known as "give over" usually but the alternative pronounciation threw me at first!)

Ginnel - a passageway, usually between the front of a row of terraced houses and the alley behind them

Gizza ring - please telephone me

Flower - term of endearment, seemingly mainly from South Yorkshire

Owt - anything

Put wood in t'hoile - instruction to close the door

Tarn - a lake (I know, not specifically a Yorkshire term, more of a geographical one, but apparently mainly used "oop nawth" so I feel justified!)

Thissen - yourself

I had written the start of this post a couple of weeks ago and never quite got around to finishing it. However this evening I received the required inspiration, as my mother, sister and I choked with laughter at a Facebook status update from my evidently perplexed English-born-and-bred cousin, whose Belfast-born-and-bred mother had just told her that for dinner this evening she would be having "shite with sugar on it!" The Yorkshireman looked equally perplexed and also a little (quite rightly I suppose) disgusted, perhaps even more so when we explained that it was something said by stressed-out Irish mammies whose kids are whining about what's for dinner. My sister and I were threatened with this tasty-sounding meal on more than one occasion but yet it caused such consternation for those not brought up hearing it. Ain't language grand?

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