Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nottingham Education #2: The Accent

(I wrote this for some student mag last month. Seeing as I didn't get paid for it, and because there are so many twatty youths in the city who are currently spurning their native tongue in favour of trying to talk like somebody from Brixton after a brain haemorrage, I see no reason not to print it here...)

The Nottingham accent is weird. For one, only half the people in the city actually talk like that, as people who live south of the Trent sound like they come from the Home Counties. For two, it’s the most difficult British accent to get right (which is why they never bother with it in any production of Robin Hood, especially the current one. And we won’t even talk about Kevin Costner’s attempt in Prince Of Thieves, which got him laughed out of the UK premiere).

If you want to learn Notts As She Is Spoken (and you should, because it opens a lot of doors, mainly the ones in clubs and late-night bars), you need to learn the following ground rules;


Attempting a standard Northern accent is not going to cut it – the Notts dialect is far too subtle for that. And although we’re in the Midlands, our accent bears no relation whatsoever to the Birmingham one. Moral of the story – attempt to wing it, and you’ll come a cropper.


Trying to find a local accent on the radio or telly is as pointless as looking for a pound shop in Knightsbridge.


In other words, we combine harsh Northern vowel sounds with drawn-out Southern ones, and then snip off a few vowels or add new ones for good measure. It’ll take a lifetime to master it, but here are a few examples;




Up (‘Oop’)

Shirt (‘Shot’)

Down (‘Daahn’)

Bath (‘Baff’)

Work (‘Wok’)

Out (‘Aht’)

Just (‘Joost’)

Home (‘Om)

Sound (‘Saahnd’)

Must (‘Moost’)

Take (‘Tek’)

Town (’Taahn’)

Ergo, a sentence such as “I was about to have a bath before going to town, but realised my shirt was dirty, so I went out to buy a new one” is pronounced “I wor joost abaaht ter tek a baff after wok before gooin’ dahn tahn, but it wor dotteh, so I went aht ter gerra new’un. It’s saahnd as a paahnd!”


If you learn nothing else, this is the rule to live by. You don’t go to Rock City to take in a gig; you go to Rock Citeh to see . Your best mate is not called Julie; she’s called Juleh. You’re not studying at a place of Higher Learning; you’re at Uneh. Quite possibly doing a Joint Honours in Istreh and Sociologeh. Maybe living in Strelleh. Doing a part-time job in Ockleh to mek some extra munneh so you can afford a season ticket at Notts Caanteh. The Nottingham version of ‘The Rain In Spain Lies Mainly On The Plain’ is ‘Toneh Adleh Aht O’ Spandaah Balleh’. Repeat it, in the mirror, at least five times before going out in the morning.


A full list of words peculiar to Nottinghamshire would take up pages and pages and pages, so here are the most essential;

  1. ‘DUCK’
    (‘Dook’) - Term of endearment, regardless of gender or sexuality. In other words, don’t be offended if you’re a strapping Sports student and the bus driver calls you ‘duck’. ‘Duckeh’ can also be used, but only with people you’re particularly close to. Eg: ‘Ayup, me duck’
  2. ‘YOUTH’
    (Yooerth’) – A (mainly male) term of endearment, regardless of age. In other words, if the same bus driver calls you ‘youth’, he’s not casting aspersions on your perceived lack of life experience; he’ll probably call the bloke behind you whose just collected his pension the same thing. Eg: ‘That Yooerth over there wants to flog his iPod’
  3. ‘SUCKY’
    (‘Sookeh’) – Nothing to do with Bevis or Butthead: it’s a disparaging term that calls someone’s intelligence into question. Known in the South as a ‘Plum’, and the North as a ‘Soft Lad’, said person is a bit thick, but in a fairly benign way (if he was outright insane, he’d be Batcheh’). Eg: ‘That Yooerth ovver there only wants a tenner for his iPod – he must be right Suckeh’
  4. ‘COB’
    The local equivalent of a bap, roll, baguette, etc.
  5. ‘CHELP’
    One of the few terms used by DH Lawrence still in existence today. It’s a catch-all term for back-chat, insubordination, etc. Eg: ‘Andeh gen the landlord some right chelp abaaht fixin’ the cooker, so he’s kickin’ us aht’
  6. ‘SNAP’
    Food of any description, which is best consumed when you’re Clammin’ (i.e., hungry). If you’ve got some cobs in a Tupperware box, congratulations – you’re in possession of a Snap Tin.
  7. ‘CHATTY’
    (‘Chatteh’) – Not a description of your ability to talk at length: more a critique of your personal hygiene. It also means you’re extremely Crufteh. Eg – ‘I’ve got to clean up me ‘aase before me Mam visits – she’ll goo Batcheh when she sees how Chatteh it is’
  8. ‘DEZZIE’
    (‘Dezzeh’) – nothing to do with South Indian culture: it’s a description originated in Notts in the 1980s, after Des O’Connor, which casts aspersions on one’s sense of style and fashion. Eg – ‘Ugh! Aah lecturer was in Rock Citeh wearing a tank top over a Spice Girls t-shirt! He looked WELL Dezzeh!”
  9. ‘ONE-O’
    A phrase of indeterminate origin that describes maximum effort and (in some cases) excess. If you bust a gut running for the last bus, overindulge at the SU bar, partake in a 48-hour revision binge, or pursuing a member of the opposite sex, you’re on it like One-O. Eg – ‘This youth in aah year is a right Keeno – he’s been sucking up to lecturers like One-O’
  10. ‘CHIPPING’
    To go somewhere. You may be chipping off to Rock Citeh, or chipping back ‘om ter yer Mams for Christmas. Eg – ‘This club is well Dezzeh and I’m clammin’ for some snap. I’m gonna chip, yer get meh?’


Jon Rouston said...

This is the best post ever.

Nick said...

Brilliant... Lived in Nottingham 26 years and I still can't pass the bath test :(

Ravi said...

This was top stuff youth.

Ah've nah realised that ah use menneh Nottunum words wi aht being aware of it.

Although ah can't do accesnts ah reckon mi Nottunum accent is one-o.

groovychick_465 said...

blimey! i use lots of these words all the time....go to anywhere else in the UK and ask for a chip cob...guarenteed they will look at ya gone out :P

nottsgal said...

This has got to be a site that is spot on about nottunum accent. I have lived in notts all me life, and we do have a mix of north n southern accent. All the phrases above i use everyday. me mam n dad all use the sayings. I went to london a few years back n asked for a chip cob, they looked at me gone out! n they aksed me what one wer,i explained what a cob was, n i got kick out of chippy! saying there ain't no such thing as a cob! so if anyone from london reading this,YES there is such a thing called a cob

TheManOfNotts said...

You got it spot on there nottsgirl. Same thing happen to me yesterday down in Tipton. Went into the canteen in the morning and said "can i have a bacon and sausage cob". lady behind the counter said "whats a cob?".

I thought he was having a laugh.

Anonymous said...

The Leicester and Derby accents are the same as Nottingham, Nottsgal do you get your cob

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Richard Jones said...

You've forgotten something and that is the E Mids pronunciation of -ime or -imb words. The I is held very long, so time comes out a bit like taaime, with the a being what you say when the doc asks you to say Ah when he's got a wooden spatula on your tongue.

Roger Mellie said...

Just stumbled across this post, excellent.

The "aa" dipthong (cow, house, plough etc) is northern as well-- it can be heard in South and West Yorkshire too.

If you head north out of Nottingham, a young person becomes a "yoth" (rhymes with cloth), especially round Mansfield way.