Here’s How People in Hetton and County Durham Spoke in 1896, Which Words Do you Recognize?

The land of County Durham has existed since the early Middle Ages, originating as the Land of the Prince Bishops centered upon the mighty Cathedral city itself. However, the area did not evolve into its modern form until the 18th and 19th centuries, whereby it transformed from a series of manor estates and farming communities into the heartland of the British Industrial revolution bringing forth a booming mining industry.

The growth of industrial Durham seen a mass migration follow as people flocked from afar to find new work, particularly from Ireland and Scotland. Whilst the North Eastern or “Northumbrian” dialect of English has always held unique characteristics from that to the South, the influx of people nonetheless had a significant influence on the way people talked and by the end of the 19th century, that was clear.

In 1896, a study was created “Rev. Francis Milnes Temple Palgrave” to explore the local dialect, titled: “A List of Words and Phrases in Every-day Use by the Natives of Hetton-Le-Hole in the County of Durham Being Words not Ordinarily Accepted, or But Seldom Found in the Standard English of the Day”. Here’s the highlights of what he reported, with a full list being available here. Which ones do you recognize?

  • And all- i.e “He was there and all”
  • Baff- When fornightly wages were not paid to the miners
  • Bairn- Child
  • Bait- Food
  • Betimes- Sometimes
  • Bloody
  • Bonny
  • Bray- To beat up
  • Bullet- Sweet
  • Buzzer- The whistle for miners to return to work
  • Canny-
  • Clarts
  • Cuddy- Donkey
  • Da and Ma
  • Daft
  • Deave- To trouble or bother
  • Delve- To dig
  • “Been across the doors”
  • Duds- Clothes
  • Duff- Fine Coal
  • Dwarmy- Faint
  • “Eh! A dinna!”- “I don’t know”
  • Feck- Portion, quantity
  • Fend- I.e To fend for yourself
  • Fiddy Faddy- Uncommon
  • Fley- to scare
  • Get away!”- To show disbelief
  • Give Over
  • Gowk- A soft person
  • Gulley- bread knife
  • Ha’woy- A Call to Horses to come
  • Hew- To hack away at the coal down a mine
  • Hoit- Slut
  • Hoy- To throw
  • Jumly- Muddy
  • “How are you keeping?”- How are you?
  • Ket- Sweets, or not good for food
  • Lass
  • Lug- Ear
  • Marra- Mate
  • Pompey- a small boy/dwarf
  • Reek- Smoke
  • Sackless- Foolish, senseless
  • Shot- as in “get shot of”
  • Spelk
  • Spew- To vomit
  • Teem- Rain
  • Tig- game by kids
  • Wad- would
  • Wag- truant
  • Wey ay- To be sure