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”.