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East Midlands English

East Midlands English is a traditional dialect with modern local and social variations spoken in those parts of the Midlands loosely lying east of Watling Street[n 1] separating it from West Midlands English, north of a variable isogloss of the variant of Southern English of Oxfordshire and East Anglian English of Cambridgeshire and south of another that separates it from Yorkshire dialect. This covers approximately the East Midlands of England: (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Northamptonshire).


File:Midland Map - 5 Boroughs 912 Ad.svg
The Five Boroughs of the East Midlands distinct from the Kingdom of Mercia in the early 10th century[1]

Like that of Yorkshire, the East Midlands dialect owes much of its grammar and vocabulary to Nordic influences, the region having been incorporated in the Norse controlled Danelaw in the late 9th century. At this time, the county towns of the East Midlands counties became Viking fortified city states, known as the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw. For example, the East Midlands verb to scraight ('to cry') is thought to be derived from the Norse, skrike in modern Scandinavian, also meaning to cry.[2]

East Midlands dialects in literature

The romantic English novelist, and East Midlander, D. H. Lawrence who was from the Nottinghamshire town of Eastwood wrote in the dialect of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Coalfield in several dialect poems as well as in his more famous works such as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Sons and Lovers.[3]

Though spoken less commonly today, the dialect of the East Midlands has been investigated in texts such as the Ey Up Mi Duck[4] series of books (and an LP) by Richard Scollins and John Titford. These books were originally intended as a study of Derbyshire Dialect, particularly the distinctive speech of Ilkeston and the Erewash valley, but later editions acknowledge similarities in vocabulary and grammar which unite the East Midlands dialects and broadened their appeal to the region as a whole.

"Ey up" (often spelt ayup / eyup) is a greeting thought to be of Old Norse origin (se upp) used widely throughout the North Midlands and South Yorkshire, and "Mi Duck" is thought to be derived from a respectful Anglo Saxon form of address, "Duka" (Literally "Duke"), and is unrelated to waterfowl.[5] Non-natives of the East Midlands are often surprised to hear men greet each other as 'Mi Duck.'[2]

Dialectal words

In recent years, humorous texts such as Nottingham, As it is Spoke have used its phonetically spelt words to deliberately confuse non-natives to the region.[6] For example:

Alrate youth?

Are you alright young man?

Avya gorra wi'ya?
is the wife with you? (lit. "Have you got her with you?). The pronunciation 'wi-yer' is more common in the Nottingham and the South East Midlands. Pronunciations with th-fronting may be more common elsewhere, particularly if influenced by the common youth speech of southern England.
It's black ovver Bill's mother's
it looks like rain. (lit. "It's black over Bill's Mother's." q.v.) – a common, if somewhat old fashioned, Midlands expression implying impending bad weather.
Thez summat up wee im
I think he may be ill. (lit. "There's something up with him.")
Yer norrayin no tuffees!
You aren't having any toffees (sweets)!

However, there are many words in use in the traditional East Midlands Dialect which do not appear in standard English. The short list below is by no means exhaustive. More comprehensive glossaries exist within texts such as Ey Up Mi Duck by Richard Scollins and John Titford.

easy job (used in certain coal-mining communities based on watching a conveyor belt)
to cry/weep uncontrollably (i.e. "Stop your blubbing.")
In many dialects, this has the sense of ‘looking well’ often referring to a healthy plumpness.[7] In Leicester and Nottingham, a transferred sense of overweight is derived from this sense.
(There is a yet older sense now only commonly used in Scots, Northern & some Midland dialects meaning 'beautiful' generally rather than of individuals having a pleasing embonpoint specifically.)[8]

causie: pavement (presumably from 'causeway')

throw (Chuck us 'ball, (South-East Derbyshire)).
The word has the Standard English literal sense of to gently toss a light object and the Standard English extended sense of to easily or contemptuously throw a heavy object. The OED does not record a distinct regional use but does say that workmen (manual workers) use it in their trades to mean throw generally. [9]
trousers (usually pronounced claarts), or used in the verb form, "to clout", which means "to hit"
(i.e "Ill clout thee raand tab", translating to - "Ill hit you round the ear")
an (illegal) crossbar ride, "two-up" on the crossbar of a man's bicycle
a bread roll (bap),(as verb:) to throw
duck's necks
bottle of lemonade
stuck, caught e.g. /ʔz.ɡɒrə.fɪnɡər.fæst/ (who's got a finger stuck)
roundabout (road junction)
to cover with (usually a thick substance)
grumpy, sulky (i.e. "She's a mardy one!")
to make a pot of tea (i.e. "I'll go mash the tea.")
a weak person, or one who feels the cold
ice cream (common in Leicestershire) see Hokey cokey
to beat, he got a good pastin' the other night, often used interchangeably with larrup
falling liquid as rain or urine (i.e. "It's piddling down with rain" or "A dog's just piddled on the wall" or I gorra go fer a quick piddle)
The OED records this as a Standard English colloquialism rather than a regionalism.[10]
to pick at a scab, spot or a skin irritation (i.e. "Stop piggling that scab!")
to pour out uncontrollably[11] usually of smoke, steam or dust
a plaster cast
to cry/crying[3]

sile: rain heavily

Mean or unfair
lunch/food,tekken ta werk[12]
covered/infested, (DH Lawrence used the word 'Snied' in a description of an infestation of mice in Sons and Lovers.),[12]
iced lolly
sweets, confectionery
a useless person.
fool (used across the East & West Midlands)
to throw
Dead Fit '(handsome or beautiful)'
Dead Ace '(great, as in that games dead ace)'
Cos '(can you)'

The greeting 'now then' (as 'Nah theen') is still in use in Lincolnshire and North-East Derbyshire, used where other people might say "Hello".[citation needed] 'Nen mate' can also be heard instead of "now then mate".

It is very common to hear people replacing the word "of" with "on". "There were two on em'" (There were two of them). "Get hold on em'" (Get hold of them).[citation needed]

People from Leicester are known in the popular holiday resort Skegness as "Chisits", due to their expression for "how much is it" when asking the price of goods in shops.[13]


Those who speak traditional regional dialects are not trying unsuccessfully to speak Standard English. East Midlands English follows a series of distinct grammatical rules. Some examples follow below.

Formal address

Up until the mid 20th century it was not uncommon to hear the use of informal forms of address, Thee and Thou, as compared to the more formal Yo or You. Use of the informal form of address is now uncommon in modern speech.

Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns differ from standard English as follows:


Example "It eent theirn; it's ourn!" (It isn't theirs; it's ours!)

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are characterised by the replacement of Self with 'Sen' (From Middle English seluen)

Y'usenYourself, MesenMyself, ThisensThemselves/Yourselves, UssensOurselves

Example "We sh'll ay to do it ussens." (We shall have to do it ourselves)

Dialect variations within the political region

Southern Northamptonshire

Northamptonshire is in the East Midlands region defined in the late 20th century, and has historically harboured its own dialect comparable to other forms of East Midlands English,[11] particularly among the older generation. However, more recently its linguistic distinctiveness has significantly eroded due to influences from the western parts of East Anglia, the West Midlands, and the South as well as the 'Watford Gap isogloss', the demarcation line between southern and northern English accents.

The Danelaw split the present county into a Viking north and a Saxon south. This is quite plainly heard, with people in the south speaking more like people from Oxfordshire or Cambridgeshire and people in the north sounding more like people from Leicestershire.[citation needed]


Also of note is the anomalous dialect of Corbyite spoken around Corby in the north of Northamptonshire, which reflects the migration of large numbers of Scottish and Irish steelworkers to the town during the 20th Century. The dialect is often compared to Glaswegian.[citation needed]


The dialect of Coalville in Leicestershire is said to resemble that of Derbyshire because many of the Coalville miners came from there, and the dialect of Glossop in North West Derbyshire has similarities with Manchester dialect due to its close geographical position to Greater Manchester.[citation needed]. The dialect of the Derbyshire Dales is near identical to that of the bordering North Staffordshire.

Lincolnshire and East Lincolnshire

Lincolnshire has long been an economically relatively homogeneous, less industrial more heavily agricultural county and is in part naturally separated by the River Trent divorcing its largest market town, the City of Lincoln from Nottinghamshire. East of the Lincolnshire Wolds, in the southern part of the county, the Lincolnshire dialect is closely linked to The Fens and East Anglia, and, in the northern areas of the county, the local speech has characteristics in common with the speech of the East Riding of Yorkshire. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of the land area of Lincolnshire was surrounded by sea, the Humber, marshland, and the Wolds; these geographical circumstances permitted little linguistic interference from the East Midlands dialects until the nineteenth century when canal and rail routes penetrated the eastern heartland of the county.


Minor variations still endure between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Though all native speakers sound similar, there are noticeable differences between the accents of residents of, for example, Nottingham and Derby[citation needed], or Mansfield and Bolsover which is pronounced locally as /bzə/.

In North Nottinghamshire [and North-East Derbyshire], the dialect is very similar to South Yorkshire, including occasional use of the pronoun thou amongst older people. See Stephen Whyles's book A Scab is no Son of Mine for examples of speech of the Worksop area.[14]

Counties in which East Midlands English is spoken


  • Evans, Arthur Benoni (1881) Leicestershire words, phrases and sayings; ed. by Sebastian Evans. London: Trübner for the English Dialect Society
  • Wright, Joseph (ed.) (1898–1905) The English Dialect Dictionary. 6 vols. Oxford University Press (appendices include dialect words grouped by region)
  • Skeat, W. W. (ed.) (1874) Derbyshire lead-mining terms, by T. Houghton; 1681 ... Derbyshire mining terms, by J. Mawe; 1802 [with other texts]. London: N. Trübner for the English Dialect Society
  • Mander, James (1824) The Derbyshire miners' glossary. Bakewell : Printed at the Minerva Press, for the author by G. Nall (High Peak and Wirksworth districts)
  • Pegge, Samuel (1896) Two collections of Derbicisms; ed. by W. W. Skeat & T. Hallam. London: for the English Dialect Society by H. Frowde, Oxford University Press

External links

Links to East Midlands dialect in literature

Notes and references

  1. ^ Also termed the A5 or London – Shrewsbury road
  1. ^ Falkus & Gillingham and Hill
  2. ^ a b "BBC Inside Out – Dialect". 17 January 2005. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  3. ^ a b John Pavel (23 April 2008). "Dialect poems by D.H. Lawrence". Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Murphy, Arin. "Ey Up Mi Duck!". Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "History of the Potteries dialect". BBC. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "books". Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed. (1989) Bonny, adj., 2. b.
  8. ^ Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed. (1989) Bonny, adj., 1.
  9. ^ OED 2nd ed. (1989) chuck v.2 2.
  10. ^ Oxford English Dict. 2nd Ed. (1989) piddle, v.; 2.
  11. ^ a b "Local Dialect Words and Usage". Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  12. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  13. ^ Leicester Mercury, 16 July 2004
  14. ^ Whyles, Stephen (18 September 2014). A Scab is no Son of Mine. Xlibris UK. ISBN 9781499089585.