There’s something really wonderful about the English language’s history of regional slang. It came from this tiny island and has been affected by Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans (and I am still putting together my latest in this series so I won’t delve into this aspect too much). What is had done though, is brought rise to some wonderful regional dictions and colloquialisms.
Let’s take my home country of Wiltshire for example. It has recently been deemed sexist to refer to somebody as “my love” or “my darling”. Around here when you talk to real locals and not the recent arrivals coming as overspill from some of the big cities, you’ll find that practically everyone calls everyone “my love”, “my lover”, “my darling”. And that’s true of pretty much the entire west country and southwest peninsula (by west country I mean Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall).
When I lived in Exeter, I heard it from older locals. My girlfriend lives in Cornwall – that pointy peninsula at the far south west – and I hear it there too. In other parts of the country “sweetheart” is used in much the same way with no sexist connotation. It’s no more sexist for a northerner to call somebody “sweetheart” than it is for a midlander to call the same person “our kid”.
Anyway, that particular bug-bear aside, I want to talk about some of the other inflections you might come across in and around the west country.
Down: Often used in place of “to”, like “I’m going down the shops” or “we’re going down Broadmead”.
Dreckly: A Cornish word that can mean “directly”, “right away” or “immediately” but Cornwall works on slightly different time frames than the rest of the country. If I tell you I will do it right away, I will do it right away. “Dreckly” can mean “soon” and that is anything up to a week!
Gert lush: Firmly a Bristolian phrase, “gert” means something large and “lush” means something good. When used together, it is a term of approval for a thing (not not a person). So a pub that sells your favourite beers or does good food is “gert lush”. I use the term when my main character is talking to his Bristol-based daughter in Salmonweird.
I lives up (place name): Adding an superfluous “s” when you are telling somebody where you live and to use “up” instead of “in” is a common Wiltshire inflection.
Hark at ee!: Translated, roughly means “listen to his / her cheek!” or “you’re exaggerating” and sometimes “you are having a joke at my expense”. When you cotton on that this is the case, you’ll tut and say “hark at ee!”
Ideal: We know what this really means, it’s something that’s perfect or near perfect so try not to correct the Bristolian or Wiltshireite when they tell you that your suggestions for what to do at the weekend are “a really good ideal”.
Me ‘ansum: Rarely heard, but it’s an equivalent to “my love” or “my lover” or “sweetheart”. Don’t confuse this with “ansum” on its own. “Me ansum” refers to a person but “ansum” refers to an object or situation. An attractive landscape is a “right ansum view”. “If you could put one sugar in my coffee that’ll be right ansum”
Mind: Added to the end of a sentence, it basically means “do you understand what I’m saying?” As in “I told her last week, mind.”
Or summat / or zummit: How this is pronounced depends on where you are but either way it means “or something” as in “I think he said his name was Jones or something.”
Proper job: A term of agreement, or affirmative. Person 1: “Shall we go down the pub now?” Person 2: “Proper job!”
Them there: Usually used in place of “those”. This is used across the west country but more common in Somerset.
Wazzon: This is a Cornish phrase that I assumed was used ironically but I have since heard it use by locals on my trips to see my girlfriend. “Wazzon” sounds like “what’s on?” It can mean that, but it can also mean “how are you?” “how are things?”
Where’s that to?: Where is that then? Where can I find that?
Yertizz: When somebody asks you for something that you have or they have asked you to fetch something. When you retrieve it you say “yertizz” which means “Here it is” or “here you go”