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You are in: Nottingham > Features > About Nottinghamshire > Origins of Nottinghamese

Nottinghamese - John's favourite phrases

John Beeton's favourite phrases

Origins of Nottinghamese

Local language expert John Beeton, from Cotgrave, explains the origins of Nottinghamese and why it's changing now more than ever.

The accent and dialect of Nottingham is unique.

There are dialect words and expressions which are specific to Nottinghamshire, but the accent changes slightly as you move around the county.

I once had a chap say to me: 'I can always spot a bloke from Hucknall by the way he speaks.'

He was a resident of Bulwell and these two places are only about five miles apart.

They were using the same words and expressions, but there was a subtle difference in the accent.

Language by its very nature is dynamic and constantly evolving, new words and expressions are almost daily being absorbed and some older words are falling into disuse.

Evolving language

With communication and travel nowadays being so easy and fast, language is evolving more rapidly now than at any other time and some people are commuting daily over greater distances than they would have considered travelling for an annual holiday 50 years ago.

People are moving house more often and settling in new areas and regional lines are becoming blurred. 

Having said all of that, the Notts dialect is alive and well, although it has so many sub-divisions of accent as to be almost uncountable.

It is difficult to assess who has the strongest accent in Nottinghamshire. 

From the flat vowels heard around the Meadows, Sneinton and Clifton, if you move north-east to the Newark – Retford area you can hear an influence of rural Lincolnshire.

Go north to Mansfield or Worksop and a Yorkshire twang becomes evident. 

Head west to Kimberley or Eastwood and Derbyshire begins to affect the accent.

European influence

Nottinghamshire has many dialect words heard only within it's borders. Many of these words originate from close European neighbours. 

During mediaeval times, Nottingham was a huge trading centre and merchants from France, Denmark and the low countries set up businesses in Nottingham and foreign communities grew around these businesses and some of their language was absorbed into the local dialect.

Here are some examples:

'Gizza glegg' – meaning 'May I see that.'  From the Danish 'glegg' – to look.

Also:  'Gizza a gozz' – from the Dutch 'goss' – to look.

'Jitteh' – meaning an alleyway or cut-through between houses. From the colloquial French 'jetez' – a small step or short cut.

'Rammel' – Anglo-Saxon – meaning waste from a building site, i.e brick ends, timber off-cuts etc. Now used to mean rubbish generally.

'Mazzi-watter'

There are many other examples of foreign words which have been adapted for local use, but one whose origin I have as yet been unable to find is 'mazzgi,' a dialect word for a domestic cat. 

John Beeton

John Beeton

This is not a word used throughout the county and seems localised around the Meadows, St. Anns and Sneinton areas. 

A variation on this word, that of 'mazzi' is also used in the Beeston and Chilwell areas ie: 'This beer's like mazzi-watter.'

There is a story concerning a vet who, having recently qualified, took a position in Nottingham and was confused when informed that a Meadows resident had brought in his 'mazzgi' to be 'sawtuddaht.' 

Having finally established that this was the man’s pet cat, he asked: 'Is it a tom?' The man replied: 'Nee-ow, av gorritt wimmee in this box!'

Severiano Ballesteros

Severiano Ballesteros, the famous Spanish golfer had come to Nottinghamshire to play in a charity golf match. He had been paired with the club professional, a Nottingham lad.

At the first hole, the club golfer had the honour and drove first. 

He hit a wonderful tee-shot down the middle of the fairway, got a favourable bounce and his ball rolled on to the green, coming to rest within inches of the hole.

"That's a fabulous tee-shot." said Sevvy graciously

"Ta very much," said the club pro, "Burrittint a tee-shot, it's a pullova!"

Slang?

Too many people dismiss Nottinghamese as slang or as a lazy or slovenly way of speaking. I regard it more of a form of vocal shorthand. 

It has pace, attack and above all humour. It doesn't beat around the bush, it gets straight to the point; if you are ever subjected to a volley of Nottinghamese, you know where you stand, there are no gray areas.

Nottinghamese, spawned in the furnaces of the industrial revolution is part of our heritage and should be treasured.

Find out more about John Beeton >

last updated: 11/03/2008 at 10:38
created: 04/01/2005

You are in: Nottingham > Features > About Nottinghamshire > Origins of Nottinghamese



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