This book will help you understand the unique and ancient Newcastle upon Tyne dialect and have you talking like a native in no time. The book includes a dictionary to help you develop an altogether new vocabulary, plus a wonderful collection of tales and anecdotes, all chosen to illustrate different aspects of the delightful local dialect.
We were standing on the platform in Nuremberg Railway Station in September 2012, with heavy showers battering on the roof, when we struck up a conversation with another couple from the North East and fell into a discussion of how many words in the Newcastle upon Tyne area dialect sound very similar to the same words in German. Travelling by train onwards to Brussels and then by Eurostar to London, similarities to Scandinavian languages were noted, such as the Danish and Norwegian words for home being hjem, spelled differently but with the same pronunciation as the Newcastle dialect word hyem. Brian Johnson and my husband John, both born and brought up in the city, considered the changes in dialect from when they were lads and from when Harold Hill and Son Ltd., founded by John’s grandfather, published A Northumberland and Durham Word Book – The Living Dialect by Cecil Geeson in 1969. On returning from his trip, Brian was laid up in bed for a while and started listing dialect words he thought were still in use, a pastime which led to the beginnings of this book.
In times past, Newcastle’s quayside was full of international hustle and bustle as it traded with many parts of the world, exporting coal, cement, chemicals and machinery and importing grain, meat, fruit and butter along with many other goods. The old Baltic flour mill, still standing proud on the Gateshead quayside, is a testament to this and it is still in use today as a contemporary art space. The Tyne saw seamen and workers from the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia as well as ship’s crews from London’s East End, Liverpool and Glasgow.
Coal on its way abroad often went through Amsterdam in the late eighteenth century, and herring fishing also encouraged workers from different countries to visit the North East as they followed the route of the herring. Quite a few of the bonny keelmen who loaded the coal from the staithes on the Tyne onto the collier ships were Scottish, and this may be why some words used in Newcastle are also familiar in my native Glasgow.
It is quite difficult these days to say exactly where this dialect begins and ends because of the movement of people, the influence of television programmes set in the North East and the tradition of passing words and phrases, as well as songs and stories, from one generation to the next. The last remaining pit at Ellington closed in 2005, so Pitmatic, the dialect of the coal miners, can no longer be used in its original setting. However, many of the words have come into general usage and are included here, as well as others that may be useful if reading old poems and books.
Why has Geordie not been mentioned? The dialect spoken in Tyneside was called Geordie by Scott Dobson in 1969, in his very humorous book, Larn Yersel’ Geordie. However, this leads to the very controversial subject of who can rightly call themselves a Geordie. Everyone has their own opinion and reckons they are right, whether their decision is based on being born within sight of the tidal section of the River Tyne, being born in Newcastle, being a follower of King George, or perhaps it is after George Stephenson, or even St George on the back of gold coins!
Collecting reminiscences of Newcastle has been a rewarding experience with interesting conversations, detailed discussions and, of course, generous hospitality. Brian Johnson believes that the Newcastle dialect varies, even within the city. “The location is important. I recall a song in a pantomime at either the Royal or the Empire, to the tune of ‘If you ever go across the sea to Ireland’: ‘If you ever go across the bridge to Byker, it’s a very lovely place to which to go. And the folk who live across the bridge in Byker, speak a language that the Jesmond folk don’t know’. And Benwell folk might have struggled a bit there as well!”
Released: April 2013
Publisher: Bradwell Books
Size: 180 x 110mm
Author: Kate Sanderson