As I Was Saying: An A-Z of Yorkshire dialect

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A selection of authentic Yorkshire sayings, contributed by our readers and taken from the pages of the Country Week supplement with the Yorkshire Post every Saturday.

All my eye and Peggy Martin

An expression my father used to describe anything he considered to be a load of old tripe was: “It’s all my eye and Peggy Martin.”

Gerry Vickers, Poole Lane, Burton Salmon, Leeds.


A word my granny used to say was “bide” as in someone who couldn’t bear not to be first or included. As in Elsie can’t “bide” because Mavis won’t tell her.

Mr Dallenby, Hunsworth, Cleckheaton.


I grew up in the North Riding at Redcar. My father, after enjoying a satisfactory dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding would say he was “nigh brussen” - nearly bursting. “Whisht” was used when rocking a fretful baby to sleep, hush a crying toddler or to stop a quarrel. Do any readers remember the late Austin Hyde, a former headmaster of Pickering Grammar School? He was a very enjoyable and amusing speaker, and also broadcast on the ‘wireless’ on a northern programme. He had a fund of anecdotes about Yorkshire dialect. One I remember was about the use of the word “call.” A small child, reluctant to give her name, was asked what Daddy called her Mother, to which the child replied: “He doesn’t call her - he loves her.”

Mary Hay, Shireoaks, Near Worksop, Notts.


In Skipton, capt was used more as “pleased” or “pleasantly surprised” at something, often with “reet” or really. On “moydered” - my mother-in-law in Ripon would say: “don’t moider me...”

Barbara Gatford, Grange Park Road, Ripon.

I was visiting a friend in Mytholmroyd near Halifax recently and she said a word that I haven’t heard for a long time. She said “capt” meaning that she was surprised.

M Gunn, Harvest Road, Wickersley, Rotherham.


Our dad (there were seven of us) used to call us “doy” - (“come on doy” or “goodnight doy”). Is this instead of darling?

Mrs M McGowan, Immingham.


I remember well being given an old wind up gramaphone plus about six records in the late 1940s One of the records was a sort of monologe by Gracie Fields called “Fred Fanakapan” and told the story of sister Mary Anne who had a boyfriend called Fred Fanakapan who was invited home to be looked over by the family who had gathered and put on quite a spread.Fred never opened his mouth to either eat or speak and it was ultimately discovered he had lost his teeth. On the subject of oyls our old neighbour used to ask “As ta bahn tut fish oyl”? or “As ta bin tut fish oyl”? ie fish shop.He was a very strong dialect speaker and I spent many happy childhood hours with the whole family and although my own family were not dialect speakers I grew up from birth understanding both perfectly.

Marjorie A Ward, Bawtry Doncaster


I have certainly used the word “felted” for hidden.

Mrs C Kirkbright, Elm Green, Helmsley, North Yorks.


IN response to the correspondence on dialect I recall my late mother, who was born in 1910 and raised in Bridlington’s old town, using the following words.

“Fondbrasent” (or fombrazent) meaning lewd or lecherous and “daitless,” meaning stupid or lacking common sense. Others, I recall, include the adjective, “sheeny” - to describe an untrustworthy or unpleasant individual; “thresh” - to be scared or frightened and “skane” - to shell (mussels etc). My mother also used the term “prickly hodgson” to describe a hedgehog. Indeed, locals with the surname Hodgson are still invariably nicknamed either “pricky” or “prickly.” The use of “hodgson” for hedgehog could be derived from urchin which is the old Anglo-Saxon name for hedgehog. And urchin pronounced with a broad East Riding accent comes over as “otchin.” Although these words were commonly used during my childhood, over 50 years ago, I rarely, if ever, hear them spoken today.

Barry Short, Sewerby Avenue, Bridlington.


My late father who was born and bred in Holbeck, Leeds. He used different words for most things, particularly clothing. He too wore a “ganzy,” his vest was a “singlet” or a “shimmy.” His trousers were “kegs” and his scarf was a “muffler,” to name but a few. His favourite saying, when anyone asked where he was going: “I’m off to see a man about a dog.”

Janet Clamp, Springbank Avenue, Gildersome, Leeds.


I THOUGHT you would be interested in my daughter’s experience. She lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Lesley was trying to explain to her friend a shortcut to the shops. She told her to go down the road until she came to the ginnel, this would save time. But first Lesley had to explain the word “ginnel.” So Yorkshire words do travel!

D Webster, Southdene, Filey, North Yorkshire.

Jane Bakebread

My mother was Scottish and lived in Thornaby, then Yorkshire. Some of her sayings were anyone with a peculiar hat was a “Jane Bakebread” or a “Muldoon’s picnic”. Anyone a wee bit slow “Queer as Dick’s hat band.” Talking to my sister and me as “Canny” or “Bonnie”.

Mrs L Carr, Wighill, Near Tadcaster.

John S Driver’s tuppenny rabbit

When I was a boy in Thornton the use of broad Yorkshire dialect was commonplace especially with the older generation. Quite often it was used in an amusing way such as disparagingly describing the puny physique of a young lad by saying, ‘he’s got shoulders like a John S Driver’s tuppenny rabbit’ or ‘he’s got a behind like two boiled eggs in a jock hankie’. The best I remember was someone boasting about his wife’s catering by saying, ‘Ivvry Sunda she meks enough yorkshire pudding ter flag a pig-ooil’ (Every Sunday she makes enough yorkshire pudding to pave a pigsty).

Jack Doyle, Dimples Lane, East Morton, Keighley


My grandfather, born and bred in the Spen Valley area, had a considerable fund of Yorkshire dialect words as well as some others which we thought might have been of his own invention. One of these was “kallifudging,” meaning chicanery or underhandedness, a word I never heard from anyone else. However, many years after grandfather’s death we were involved in the sale of our house in the North Riding and the purchaser hailed from the Calder Valley area. Progress towards completion was slow and the purchaser, having made a substantial deposit, was understandably not best pleased. “Seemingly,” he said, “there’s been a bit of kallifudging going on at the solicitors.” Perhaps one of your readers may have come across this word for - seemingly - it wasn’t one of Grandad’s creations.

Pat Oliver, Dovecot Close, Gristhorpe, Filey.

Keep t’band in t’nick

MY boyhood was spent in the then small village of Wibsey high above Bradford where my father worked at the local mill - Bulmer and Lumb worsted spinners, Prospect Mills. Although it is now over 75 years ago I still remember a remark often used: “Keep t’band in t’nick” (nick was the groove). The band was the cord which drove the spindles of the spinning frames by running over two grooved pulleys. The remark was applied to anyone failing to complete a job, in other words, “keep going.” As small boys all those years ago we referred to the cord as ‘Mill Band.’ Just before bonfire night my father would bring home lengths of Mill Band which had been impregnated with grease during their working life. When lit these would smoulder slowly - the ideal thing to light our fireworks or when held in cupped hands would keep our fingers warm.

Our game, played on the flagstone pavements, was ‘Tors’ being our name for marbles. You had arrived in the marbles world if you had a ‘Blood Alley.’

Norman Ayrton Crossley, Hargill, Harmby, Leyburn.

I KNOW “keep t’band in t’hick,” meaning to keep things running smoothly. It has been in use for some time. In a history of the Rockingham Potter (Swinton, South Yorkshire) a letter to the pottery from the Leeds Pottery is quoted which uses the saying and this was in the early years of the nineteenth century.

R Peter Lee, Church Street, Golcar, Huddersfield.


If I was sat on a cold wall stone I was told I would get “kinkoff.” The other old ‘complaint’ was one known to my father as “gorby ruckles.”

Jack Downing, Selby Road, Garforth, Leeds.


My mother used to call a crusty piece of new baked bread a Knobble. The following probably came from my Uncle Leanard a police Inspector:

It snewed a bit an’t’neet wor dark

A lad ran up bi ‘Orton Park,

A copper said: “Nah then watsta doin ‘ere mi’lad?” “deliverin Paapers for mi Uncle Ned”

“An wots’ee ginthee?

Nobbut orp’ny?

Skinny ol’ de’il, ‘e’orter be deead!”

H.Marjorie Gill, Bridge Cottage, Clarence Drive, Menston


I was born and brought up in Selby and everyone used this word to refer to a maggot in fruit - mainly apples and pears. I am now 80-years-old and I was brought up by grandparents. My grandfather as well as calling it “backside” often referred to one’s nether region as “jeer.” I don’t know if the origin of this word was so spelt, but that is how he pronounced it.

Ron Farley, Croftway, Cambleforth, Near Selby


As a very young girl in the ‘40s I used to stay with friends on a farm near Howden and at times used to help with “mawking” the sheep - ie picking out the maggots from the wool (I don’t think I would fancy doing it now!) Sheep were not common in the area as the land was considered to be too wet for sheep but alright for cattle which were much more in evidence. Another word I recall is “moithered,” meaning harrassed.

Mrs BA Butler-Smith, Flamborough.


Peggy Lambert’s mention of the word ‘nesh’ to describe someone rather soft reminds of my late father-in-law George Woodgett who used the word often, sometimes referring to me - tongue in cheek, I hope! He spent most of his life around Castleford and Leeds. Another expression he used, to describe someone who could not manage a particular job was, “Tha frames like a man med a band,” ie you manage like a man constructed of string! Band was the term he used for string in a work context (he was a colliery deputy) but he knew that it was always twine in a farming context eg bailer-twine.

Eric Houlder, Fairview, Carleton, Pontefract


“Northerner II” in the Yorkshire Post many years ago asked readers to send details of the many “oyls” of Yorkshire. The more obvious are “coil oyl” (coal house), “pig oyl” (pig sty), “cripple” or “snout-oyl” (through walls for sheep), “cawf oyl” (stall for calves), “band oyl” (band practice room). “Penny oyl” was the mill gatehouse where latecomers were fined a penny.

D Laycock, Aire Crescent, Crosshills, BD20.

My grandparents had a property where the woodshed was called the “stick oyl.” However, if I was going outside and failed to close the door the call was made: “you were not born in a barn, put the wood in the oyl,” meaning close the door.

Frances Davison, Kirkby Malzeard, Ripon.

A man from the south visited a Barnsley family for a week. After a week of hearing “door ‘oil,” “key ‘oil,” “pig oil” and “hen oil” he asked his hosts: “When you say oil when you mean hole, what do you say when you mean oil?”

“Grease” came the quick reply.

Mrs Addy, West Street, Hoyland, Near Barnsley.

I was born and raised in Doncaster. My dad was a railway engine driver. If we left a door open when we came in to a room, he would say: “put ‘wud in oyl” meaning shut the door, or “Wo tha born in a field,” which means the same thing.

DW Gardom, Pearson’s Close, Herringthorpe, Rotherham.

I GREW up in a mining village some 70 years ago. “Wod it oyl” was a general term to close a door.

It originated when pit boys were employed down pits to open and close wooden doors which were used to control ventilation to the coal face. In times of blasting at the coal face the lads were instructed to put “wod it oyl,” ie close the door.

JA Barr, King Lane, Leeds.


Nesh is to feel the cold - the opposite of tough? To feel “nithered” was to be perished or really chilled. If my husband was unable to find something he would say: “Some one must have ‘felted it.” I wonder if anyone else knows this word for “hidden?”

Peggy Lambert, Springfield Avenue, Ilkley.

Phummock peeping out of an ivy bush

As a lad I remember my grandfather, on several occasions, remarking about any male with tousled, untidy hair, ‘Tha looks like a phummock peeping out of an ivy bush’. I assume that ‘phummock’ refered to sort sort of bird. Have any readers come across this word?

Colin Ella, Westgate Road, Belton, Doncaster


My Grandma was born and bred here in Hunmanby which in those days was in the East Riding. She used two words that I have never heard any one else use: Pissimires, ‘sum fowk calls em ants’, and firkinrobin, otherwise known as an earwig. Does anyone else know these? I have no idea of the spelling. Another word she used often was ‘a sen-night’ for a week. Two phrases still used by those born and brought up here are ‘ower end’, and ‘ower set’. Grandma would say ‘I sat ower end i bed’, (I sat up in bed) and ‘ower set’, meaning too hot or flustered, ( ‘ower’ being over). I often think how much closer to the natural world folk were in those days, grandma was a very simple lady of little education but she always knew what the phase of the moon was, waxing or waning, full or new.

Sue Walker, Alma Square, Hunmanby. Filey


I HAVE lived in the Barnsley area all my life but was moved from Cawthorne Works of my employer to Denby Dale, a very different Yorkshire lingo. “Poise” was to kick - as “al poise cat off arson” (I’ll kick cat off the hearth)

Mr K Kilner, Norwood Drive, Barugh Green, Barnsley.


The saying I remember is: ‘Pudsa, where t’ducks fly back’erds to keep muck art o their eyen.’ i.e. Pudsey, where the ducks fly backwards to keep the muck out of their eyes. The plural of eye, ‘eyen’ is probably Old English similar to the ‘en’ plural of oxen and children.

Dorothy Penso, Lastingham Terrace, York


I was interested to read in Country Week (17/10/09) of Mrs Carol Snow’s use of the word “rawky” to mean foggy. In my family we use the word “rawky” to describe windows that have dried streaky after being washed. I wonder if Mrs Snow’s words “rawky” (foggy), “roaky” (misty) and “reek” (smoke) all share the same root as the modern German word ‘rauch’ which means smoke?

Derrick Rooke, Lower Hopton, Mirfield

Run up a shutter

My boyhood was spent in a small village north of Sheffield and there were phrases which were regularly thrown at us, particularly if we were being a little tiresome. For example if we were whining about what we could do next we were told to “ run up a shutter and pump thunder.” Similarly if we kept asking what we were going to have to eat at the next meal we were told “chums and chairlegs.” Strange phrases which I have never come across since. If any readers can throw light on them I would love to know.

John Pickering, Blackwood Mount, Cookridge, Leeds

Sim shams

One of my mother’s sayings when she tired of answering my often asked query: “What are you making?” Back came the reply: “Shim shams for meddlers and crutches for lame ducks.” Although I spent my early childhood in Bradford my mother came from a very old Bolton Abbey family.

Christine Atkins, Banks Lane, Riddlesden, Keighley.


Playing Duplicate Bridge, members of the Olicana Bridge Club use a kind of box (known as a board) with slots for the hands dealt. These are made of a heavy plastic and having been in use for a few years are a little out of shape. Last week when I was tournament director, I asked the players not to rest the boards on end as the tops have become ‘skellowed’ and the cards sometimes drop out or get mixed up. One lady called out, “That’s an old Yorkshire word Marjorie”’ and to my astonishment no other members had ever heard this expression.

H.Marjorie Gill, Bridge Cottage, Clarence Drive, Menston


In our town, Knottingley, the term sneck-lifter referred to the amount needed to buy one drink in ones local, giving one access to the bar. An old hand could be heard to exclaim, ‘I’ve just enough for a sneck-lifter’. Another term was a ‘cheeker-in’. My maternal grandmother and my late mother often used the term pad- rolling. If one was seen out and about in pouring rain for example, you would be asked, ‘Whats tha doing pad-rolling about i’ this lot?’ A term to illustrate a heavy blow being struck, ‘He gave so and so a real cauf (calf ) knocker’, akin to the blow needed to knock down a calf in the old time slaughter houses. Another term used to illustrate a blow was, ‘a fetcher-up’.

Kenneth Burden, Oak Cottage, Primrose Vale, Knottingley, West Yorkshire.


IN the days before combine harvesters when binders were used to cut corn, when my father was preparing to make a stack of sheaves outside, he would make a “steddle” out of loose straw as a base for the stack. To sharpen the cutting blade for the binder he would use a “bulson”. I have only heard these terms used in the Holderness area.

Wynne Bramley, Skipwith Road, Escrick, York.


‘I couldn’t thoile it’ - means being reluctant to pay the asking price or referring to something not being worth the asking price.

David Read, Clare House, Park Road, Grange over Sands, Cumbria ex Idle, Bradford.


I WAS interested to read the letter from Mrs A Peters - “As throng as Throp’s wife.” I looked this up in the Yorkshire Dictionary of Dialect, Tradition and Folklore (Arnold Kellett) and found the following entry: “Yorkshire housewife of whom no details are known except that she was proverbially busy - giving rise to the saying ‘as throng as Throp’s wife.’” To this was once added.... “oo brewed, weshed an’ baked on t’ same day, then ‘enged ‘ersen wi t’dish-claht.”

Pat Kellett, Aspin Oval, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

My mother used to quote the saying: “As throng as Throp’s warf when she hung hersen wi dishclart (cloth).”

Kathleen Dyson, Southgate, Honley, Holmfirth.


I used to like honeycomb tripe served raw with vinegar and possibly salt and pepper. There was a tripe shop in Farsley where Back Lane joins Town Street. My great aunt and uncle lived in the house above it in the 1930s. I never really took to cow heel which my mother cooked on its own. Another meal I remember was being sent to the butcher’s at Stanningley for ‘penny ducks’ which I think were a form of rissole for our tea. How many seven year-olds would be sent nowadays? I wonder if Granville Stockdale who mentioned wheeley band, known to us as ‘burning band’ is the same hairy geology student whose father worked at Moon’s Mill and then Crompton Parkinson’s when I was there? We also put lengths of smouldering band in a perforated treacle tin on a length of string and whirled it around. Not too fast or the string caught fire and broke and you had a missile. Finally, dialect words. May I add ‘lug oyl’ and ‘cake oyl’ to the list and mention that I think that Gracie Fields used to sing a song about ‘Fred Fernackapan’ who, I think, was a reluctant boyfriend. I also recall an expression of an elderly relative describing her son with sickness and diarhoea as being “on’t pot wi’ a blanket round ‘im”

Raymond Nicholson, Half Mile Gardens, Leeds


FROM a book published in 1892 I found these examples: “Sum days ah’s middlin an other sum ah’s waffly (wobbly) as owt.” Of a very old man - “He gans wiv his nooase uppo’t grund.” “When ah wed mah missis she wer a lahtle (little) cobby (chubby?) lass, bur noo she’s a great poshy body.” “Ah’s had a weary wahl (time) on her, but ah’s gotten shot on her noo” - said a man who’s just lost his wife!

Bill Forster, Wellington Mews, Ripon


During the severe post-war food rationing my grandmother used to say, “It’s war n’ t’war war” (it’s worse than the war was)

Robert Fielden, Cross Stone, Todmorden.


A few more Yorkshire words: “He’s a warm (rhymes with harm) un” (has a bob or two, nicely off. “Oh, do stop gennin” (complaining, moaning). “Brussen” is full to bursting after a big meal. Another one - “He’s that bandy-legged he couldn’t stop a pig in a passage.” Most of these I got from my dad who was born in Brig’uss, West Yorkshire

Mrs AM Crossley, Roughaw Road, Skipton.

Warty clothes

I remember my grandmother telling me to “put tha ‘warty clothes’ on if tha’s laikin out” which I assumed to be weekday clothes, but never had it confirmed. I also remember it became common knowledge that a local chap had recently gone through a costly divorce after he realised he had married the wrong person. The old man who lived next door had tried to explain to him that: “experience was a very good school, but the fees were high.” The way he put it was, “bow’t wit’s allus best when tha’s paid well fo’t.” You can say that again!

Ken Atkinson, Edgerton, Huddersfield.


Sithee! Larn thissen. I’ t’ West Rahdin’ it’s spelt ‘wisht’ net ‘whisht’ or onny other rooad. Always used without rancour or impatience. My mother used ‘nushah’ quite frequently.

David Loxley, Hartoft, Pickering

Willy call your father

My father,who was from Middlesbrough, would call very weak tea “Willy call your father” Presumably because “father” was last in for his tea,or asleep. Last of all,my late father in law,who was born in Eston,would say that a poorly child was “bad in bed on two chairs” I think that this was a reference to poorly children being kept downstairs in the warmth (bedrooms in the old days were freezing in winter)and they were put to bed on two armchairs pushed to-gether. I have just remembered a saying from a villager here in Newton on Rawcliffe. When asked how his wife was,he said “she’s off her legs” meaning that she was in hospital.

Sue Cuthbert, Newton on Rawcliffe,N.Yorks.


I WONDER if you could throw any light on a saying my grandmother had. If I asked her what something was, she’d say: “It’s a wigwam (or wimwam) for ducks to peck on.” Also round here instead of saying, “Ger ‘od o’ this” we tend to say, “sam ‘od o’ this.”

MD Addy, West Street, Hoyland, Near Barnsley.

My aunt used to say: “It’s a wimwam to ducks to peark on (perch) to see if their hats were on straight.” My mother used the expression: “As queer as old Dick’s hatband - it went nine times round and still it wouldn’t tie.” Also Throng as Throp’s wife: “She weshed, she baked, she brewed all in yon day - and was so throng she hanged herself with a disclout.”

Gweneth Atkinson, Thirsk Road, Northallerton.

Both sides of my family, originating in the Wakefield area, have left me with similar sayings: A wimwam for ducks to peek on; moithered - for when one is Throng; capt - for being surprised.

Also, a rhyme:

Went rent man comes seeking,

E’ll never find us,

‘Cos weer reet doon int cellar-oil,

Weert muck slarts on’t winders.

Miss R Rayner, Main Street, East Ayton, Scarborough.

We used to say a wimwam for ducks to peark on (presumably meaning to perch on). I think the “capt” to which M Gunn’s letter referred is probably “capped” because if we said: “Well, I am really capped,” it meant really surprised. As for Throps wife (Mrs Peters’ letter) an old name for a thrush was a throp. So Mrs Thrush would be “throng” (busy) feeding her young. One of ours is a “hezzle” as in “hezzle her on,” meaning get the car, for instance, moving as far as possible, or get a move on. Not really relevant to dialect words but as a saying my mother, if asked what was for dinner would reply, “Once round the table and back in time for tea.”

Michael W Brown, Beech Tree Court, Linton-on-Ouse, York.


My wife and I are both from Barnsley. My mother was a great worryer (wittler) and invariably expected the worst. She would say she was “moydered” about whatever it was that was bothering her. Today is when a young woman appears on television with her hair falling over her face, my wife will remark, “That hair would moyder me to death”.

Richard Smales, Barnsley Road, Dodworth, Barnsley

You owd lass

THEY and their families had exchanged visits many times in the past. He greeted her one day in the post office, but was met with a stare of unrecognition. “You owd lass, shoo’s gett’n fair yonderly,” he told his wife on his return. “You” and “yonder” (archaic, provincial) appear in my Oxford Dictionary, but not “yonderly” forgetful.

Douglas Hartley, Irving Terrace, Clayton, Bradford.