So you think English is complex? Try getting to grips with regional dialects

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 11:15 AM

“Could a new phonetic alphabet promote world peace?” asked a recent BBC online article. Apparently backers of the idea believe it will ‘make pronunciation easy and foster international understanding.’

Well,l I don’t know that simplifying language would promote world peace but I’d be the first to admit that the English language can be a nightmare. I have no idea how people from other countries ever get to grips with its quirkiness and complexity. And then there’s our rich and varied regional dialects…

When I was growing up in the North-West, Mum had a fruit and veg shop. How I dreaded working there on Saturdays and in school holidays especially when I was confronted with customers with a heavy Lancashire brogue.

“Five parndapraters please,” requested one chap. “Uh?” was my response. (Don’t forget, I was a sulky teenager). Someone stepped in to translate that he was asking me for five pounds of potatoes. Ah. Of course. Silly me.

I discovered not long ago that Dad and one of his workmates, Frank, had kept a book of old North-West words. I felt very honoured when he solemnly presented it to me for safe-keeping.

Here are a couple of my favourites. Please note, the spellings are probably Dad and his mate Frank’s interpretations.

Ahter Flunther

Unbelievably this translates (according to Dad and Frank) as, ahem, not working. I can only imagine that ‘ahter’ derives from ‘out of’ as in ‘out of order’. As to the origins of ‘flunther’ I have no idea.


Um, that would be boiled ham.


Without. I don’t think the North-West can claim this as it’s mentioned in the famous Ilkley Moor song of course – “On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At” (They don’t write them like that any more. Thank goodness).


To irritate






To repair

Mither (pronounced ‘myther’)

I love this one. It means to constantly ask someone something or to nag them, as in “stop mithering me.” It can also mean you’re a bit stressed as in ‘I was reet mithered abart it.”

It’s one of those words that really expresses what you’re feeling when you say it.


Another favourite. It means to gesticulate wildly at someone. Who will no doubt feel very mithered by your antics.


Fed up.


Heave or put in effort


I adore this one! It means belongings or your bits and pieces.


Ache as in…

Yed warch


So there you go. I’m not sure they’ll never promote world peace but they may help you make yourself understood by people of a certain age in the North-West of England. That would be my Dad and Frank then.

I’d love to hear from you with your favourite regional words and sayings!

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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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