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Expert takes a light-hearted look at Nottinghamshire dialect


Visitors to Nottinghamshire, especially those from overseas, are often slightly bemused when they first encounter words such as ‘duck’ (affectionate greeting) or ‘cob shop’ (sandwich shop). Despite its flattened vowels, the accent is not quite northern – but then it’s definitely not southern. Notoriously, it’s also rarely been been portrayed accurately on screen (think of Albert Finney’s Lancashire accent in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning).

Now a linguist from Nottingham Trent University has published a new book which brings together some of the words and phrases associated with the region. Dr Natalie Braber’s new book, called Nottinghamsire Dialect, takes a light-hearted look at some of our favourite colloquialisms, from ones that are still in use to others long forgotten.

Originally from Glasgow, Natalie moved to Nottingham a decade ago and was surprised to find out that little had been published on the distinctive local lingo.

“I noticed the language when I first came here but there was very little written about it. It seems that the East Midlands has been over-looked,” she said.

But rather than producing something academic, Natalie decided to write an entertaining book which everyone could enjoy. Much of her research comes from speaking to local residents, including those from former mining communities where the accent tends to be broader and a dialect known as ‘pit talk’ is still used, albeit often now.

She said: “A lot of these words are dying out so it was nice to include them. Some have stayed though and things like ‘duck’ and ‘snap’ (packed lunch) are still used around the county.”

Some of the words are simply ones which are pronounced in the Nottinghamshire accent, for example, ‘watter’ (water) and ‘oss’ (horse), and I was surprised to see some rhyming slang in there, such as ‘Derby Road’ which means cold or ‘code’ in the local tongue. Like all language, it is continually evolving and you might notice how the younger generation speak differently to their grandparents. Natalie attributes this to the fact that people move around a lot more than they used to.

“Language is always evolving and the Nottinghamshire accent has a lot of influences,” she said.

“People move around and come into contact with people from different parts of the country. They watch television and films, which exposes them to a lot more accents.”

This book is as much about Nottinghamshire life and culture as it is language so there are references to literary greats such as D. H. Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe – who both brought the dialect to life through their characters – as well as Boots, Trent Bridge, Goose Fair and, of course, Robin Hood. Another highlight is a section on place names which looks, among other things, at the endless debate over whether the town of Southwell is pronounced ‘South-well’ or ‘Suthall’ (in my opinion it’s the former) and why Beeston has nothing to do with bees.

Nottinghamshire Dialect will be available to buy at the Nottingham Tourist Information Centre on Smithy Row, priced at £3.99, and makes the perfect souvenir. Look out for it arriving later this week.

Posted on 02 June 2015
Featured author: Catherine Allen Marketing Assistant

Arts fan, runner and cyclist who has been living in Nottingham for more than a decade. Loves real ale, craft beer, good food, travelling and sausage dogs.

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