Yorkshire: a place where your mush can be reight mardy (translation: your friend can be in a bit of a bad mood). As with all English dialects, the origins of this particular one can be traced back to the Saxon Era. However, as a dialect from the North of England, there was also considerable influence from the Vikings, who settled heavily in this region, incorporating the area that constitutes modern-day Yorkshire into the Danish-ruled region Danelaw.
The Yorkshire dialect arguably contains some of the most obvious traces of Old English out of any British dialect. Anyone not familiar with it might be rather confused by two words which crop up frequently – owt and nowt. No, these aren’t noises you make when you accidentally walk into a door on your way out of the pub, rather the Yorkshire variants of “anything” and “nothing” respectively. Seems a bit, well, foreign? Not when you compare them with the Old English a wiht and ne wiht…
Want to speak like a Yorkshire native?
The first thing you should work on is how to pronounce the vowel “a”. Rather than the long “a” sound common in Southern England, pronounced as if it were followed by an “r”, if you want to sound like a proper Yorkshire native, then you should opt for a short and sweet “a” sound, and practise saying “bath” and “grass” until you’ve perfected it. Next, chuck “the” out of your vocabulary – no more definite articles! “The” is often shortened to simply “t”, essentially becoming a glottal stop. For example, if you were really proud of yourself, then rather than saying “I’m very proud of myself”, you could instead employ the Yorkshire phrase “I’m chuffed t’bits!” (notice how the word “to” has been shortened to ‘t’).
Yorkshire phrases (for a night out in Leeds)
- Yorkshire: “How do?”
Standard English: “How are you?”
When to use it: This is the perfect phrase to use when you enter a pub and are desperate to make a great first impression on the barman in order that he A, serves you quickly, and, B, lets you sit in “old Jack’s seat” next to the fire.
- Yorkshire: “Put wood in’t hole!”
Standard English: “Slam the door on them!”
When to use it: When someone mocks your excellent Yorkshire pudding making skills and/or accuses you of being from Lancashire.
- Yorkshire: “Everyone’s been faffing me around.”
Standard English: “Everyone has been messing me around”.
When to use it: When your mates turn up late to meet you, can’t decide on which pub to go to, and then spend 10 minutes at the bar “hmmmming” and “arggghing” and trying to decide which drink they want!
Which famous folk speak Yorkshire?
Popular culture is peppered with examples of Yorkshire-accented speakers, a famous example being the band Arctic Monkeys (who hail from Sheffield). But, if you’re looking for more light-hearted examples of authentic Yorkshire-speak, then you can’t go wrong with the famous Monty Python The Four Yorkshiremen sketch or this over-the-top homage to the Yorkshire dialect from Michael McIntyre.