In my never-ending discovery of new words and phrases belonging to the English language, I've discovered several that seem to be local to the East Midlands, or even just to Nottingham. Local dialects flourish in England. According to Bill Bryson, that Iowa-born, Yorkshire-dwelling, bestselling Anglo-American ambassador and astute language student:
"A paradox of accents is that in England, where people from a common heritage have been living together in a small area for thousands of years, there is still a huge variety of accents, whereas in America, where people from a great mix of backgrounds have been living together in a vast area for a relatively short period, people speak with just a few voices." (Mother Tongue, published in the U.S. by William Morrow, 1990)
Here a few gems I've learned since living in Nottingham, suitable for mixing it up next time you're bored at an office party.
'Ay up m' duc?
Short for: Hey up, me duck?
Translation: How are you? or How's it going?
Pronunciation: Say it very fast in the front of your mouth.
Notes: Do not be offended if a stranger calls you duck, or love, or chicken. Variations include ducky, lovey, lovely and chickie. They're all friendly terms given to a stranger, although sometimes can be patronizing, as doctor Max Pemberton wrote in this newspaper column.
Standard UK Translation: What's up? used as a greeting, not expecting a real answer.
Nottingham Translation: That's OK.
Notes: As proof that even the English don't always understand each other, my English friend Jack tells this story about when she first moved to Nottingham from London and was working as a checker in a grocery store.
"I'd literally been in Nottingham a couple of weeks and I was packing a customer's bags. She said, 'You all right?" and I answered, "I'm fine, thanks," as I was packing her bags. She said, "You all right?" again and I answered, "Yeah, I'm fine." So she finally said, "No, you're all right, I'll pack the bags myself."
You can imagine how this is confusing to me, who still feels the need to answer the question, "All right?" with "Of course, I'm all right, why wouldn't I be?" instead of the standard, "You all right?" back.
Translation: People who feel the cold excessively.
Notes: This one also comes from Jack, who learned it from her Nottingham-raised husband.
"Because I like to sit next to the radiator all the time, he says I'm nesh," she explained. "They're nesh, all those people who are always saying, 'I'm cold.'"
Translation: Alleyway between houses. Known as gangways in Chicago.
Common usage: "To get to the door, just go up that jitty."
Translation: Cobble, craft, whip up, as in "I'll mackle something together."
Mash as in "mash the tea"
Standard UK translation: brew or stew. "Brew the tea" or "Stew the tea."
US translation: steep. "Steep the tea."
Notes: Anybody else think, "Mash the tea" sounds funny?