Nottingham Dialect and Sayings

by Jimmy Notts

The following is a transcript from an interview conducted in the 1980’s from a group of people from St Ann’s (‘proper Nottingham Folk’). The group discussed their memories, shared stories and talked about Nottingham dialect and sayings:

(1.) “I am Nottingham born & bred (1947) and have never lived more than 3 miles from the Market Square”.

(2.) “When I used to come home from school and ask “What’s for tea?” I would be told: “A run around the table and a kick at each leg”.
“Bread and if it”, meaning if it goes round you will get some”.

(3.) Due to the houses and families of West Bridgford giving an outward view of being better off than their pockets could actually support, the area was called “Bread & Lard Island” because it was believed that’s all they could afford at meal times.

The ladies from West Bridgford were often referred to as having “all fur coats and no knickers”, indicating that having bought the coat they could not afford the under garments.

(4.) Yer daft bat = don’t be silly.

(5.) I’ll bat yer tabs = I will give you a clip around your ears.

(6.) My Grandmar would say, when we went out to play – “Keep on the corsie & stay off the hos road”. Locally the pavement was refered to as the “corsie” a derivative of the Roman raised causeway.

(7.) When things got so noisy that you could not hear yourself think, someone would say – “Sounds like Billy Ball’s tap room in here”. Billy Ball ran the Black Swan (locally refered to as the Dirty Duck) public house (pub/bar) in Goosegate, where the Tap Room at the back was very small and noisy.

(8.) When being sent for a sheep’s head you would always say to the butcher – “me mam ses can yer leave the eyes in, so it’ll seus throo the week”.

(9.) After coming home from school one of my “pocket money earning jobs” was to fetch Granmar’s medicine – a trip down to the Beeroff (beer off sales) with a quart jug to fetch it back with Shipo’s (Shipstones, a local brewery) Nut Brown in it.

(10.) One of my “pocket money earning jobs” was cutting the old newspapers up into 8 inch squares and threading them onto string for the privy/loo/ (toilet) at the bottom of the yard.

(11.) Another “pocket money earning job” was winding the handle of the big wheel on the mangle (a device for squashing the water out of the clothes after they came out of the boiler or the Dolly Tub [a corrugated zinc tub used with a Ponch and a glass or zinc washboard]) on wash day.

(12.) If you went about “clopping in yer boots” (banging your feet noisily) you would be told you were a “clodhopper” an under-educated worker on the land.

(13.) Whenever the old coal fire died down me mam would say “Give the fire a poke and brighten the room up” or “Draw the fire and brighten the room up”; to draw the fire (get the fire burning well) meant either using a home-made bit of tin with a handle on it, or the evening paper, and holding it up to the fire opening to accelerate the draft to the fire. Many times the paper – if not watched – would scorch or catch alight.

(14.) Incidents like the one above might lead to you being called a “Wassek” – a twit/idiot.

(15.) Being sent to the grocer to ask for a clean sugar sack meant only on thing, you were going to be cutting old clothes into 2″ x  8″ strips for yer mam to make a new Rag Rug to go in front of the fire (usually because we were expecting visitors and the current rag rug had too many burns on it from the open coal fire spitting hot cinders out and catching it alight).

(16.) Also my Grandad used to say – “I takes two to have an argument, and when I have had a few, I can be both of them”: “had a few” means a few pints of ale, down the pub.

(17.) A common saying around Nottingham, when it is rather cold was – “It’a bit Derby Road”, a local street name and rhymes with cold.

(18.) A visit to the “Cavo” (Cavendish Picture House, St Ann’s Well Road) on a Saturday morning (while yer mam went shopping) was referred to as “the sixpenny rush”, as with sixpence you could get in, buy a tub of vanilla ice cream (with a small wooden spoon and and a box of watered down orange drink (with a straw in it).

(19.) Sometimes you were given a Brooke Bond balloon or a cardboard mobile (a series of cut-outs that you joined with cotton or thin string and hung from the ceiling; it was supposed to twizzle round [rotate] in a light breeze).

(20.) Some of the kids in our street would be fetched in and told to be quiet the day the Rent Man came round.

(21.) On Saturday nights when my mam and dad went to the pub I would have to stay outside with me bottle of lemonade and a bag of Smith’s crisps (the ones with the salt in a little blue bag).

(22.) If you were heard poorly singing or whistling an irritating tune, you would be told “here’s sixpence go and play in the next street”; meaning: go make that noise somewhere else.

(23.) If people were telling you that they were not very well off (hardly enough money to make ends meet) they would often say that they “had not got two pennies to rub together”.

(24.) One of my less well-off pals at school used to be told to “go throw stones at the trains”; steam trains shunted slowly past the bottom of his garden and if he threw stones at the engines the Fireman on the train would sometimes throw coal back, which he would then collect.  In the Nottingham area rubbish is refered to as “Rammel” this comes from the early days of surface mining where a layer of shale (its Latin name sounded like rammel) had to be removed and discarded to get at the coal seam.

(25.) Two miners coming out of Clifton Pit coined a phrase that is still in use today – “It’s a bit black over Bill’s mother’s”. One of them looked into the distance (towards where the Prince of Wales Farm was situated, he [William] never stayed there but his mother did at odd times) and said in a poor version of a posh voice “look yonder at black clouds, for it tells of rain to come”, whereupon his mate retorted: “yer daft bat, it’s jus’ a bit black ov’r Bill’s muther’s”.

About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
This entry was posted in Nottingham Sayings and Dialect. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Nottingham Dialect and Sayings

  1. Kate Turner says:

    thank you for the wonderful article about Nottingham sayings! Brought back many happy memories for me and I only quoted that saying “It’s a bit black over Bill’s mother’s” (pronounced “Mother” not “Muther” in our family) to my friend here in New Zealand yesterday when a black cloud was hovering in the distance! It’s over 36 years since I lived in Nottingham but, boy! I did remember those sayings with some fondness. I remember going to the theatre (was it the Playhouse before the new theatre was built in the vicinity of the concert hall, off Derby Road!) to a great show which was a series of skits about the Nottingham dialect and sayings peculiar to us. It was terrific but can’t recall the name – maybe “Ay oop, me duck” a Nottingham greeting) Thanks again for the article!

  2. Alan Miggin says:

    I lived in and around Nottingham until I was 30 when I moved to Heanor in Derbyshire. I never heard the saying “it’s black ovver Bill’s mother’s until I went to Heanor. It’s a great saying for sure, but is it really a Notts saying? More research needed!

    • Hi Alan,

      The saying is most definitely of a East Midland’s origin and was (still is) widely used in Nottingham. Check our post regarding the ‘supposed’ origins under the section Nottingham/shire sayings and dialect


      The Nottingham Hidden History Team.

  3. Anthony Howarth says:

    I remember if you could see a ladies underskirt showing below the hem of her dress we would say “Charlie’s dead”‘ I never did learn who Charlie was or how he died

    • An old saying referring to flying a flag at half mast when someone dies . In this case flying the underskirt at half mast . I think it was connected to when king Charles died .

  4. Dawn Flett says:

    Yes, we used to say that too.

  5. Mat says:

    Fantastic article!

    Reminds me a lot of the small book – ‘Nottingham as it is spoke’

    Really wish I knew where I left it…

  6. Pingback: Nottingham/English – Phrases in idiomatic form | MumblingNerd's Mumbling Blog

  7. Glenda capon says:

    Stay on the corsey and keep off the hoss road was one of my grandma,s sayings. She was from Old Radford where I was born.

  8. Gary Slater says:

    I’m a Basford lad, and I remember taking empty bottles back to the ‘beer-off’ for ‘me mother’ (rhymes with ‘bother’). You were never ill, but you were ‘badleh’. I’ve lost my accent now, and it’s quite sad that I don’t say any of these colourful phrases any more. Such a rich and diverse dialect …………..

  9. James Attenborough says:

    I lost my accent when I joined the Navy, but a number of the saying are so well ingrained that I still use them over 50 years after leaving Nottingham.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s