Saturday, September 30, 2017


English was, of course, the language of my childhood, but with a few words not universally recognised. Some are, or were, found in children's speech elsewhere in the country, others seem to be exclusive to our area. Some words are dialect, some slang, some are words whose meaning has changed. One word on the list is merely a local pronunciation of a word in common use. Here are the words that I remember. Perhaps more will be added over time.

BADLY, means 'ill', two words of the same meaning, but I've only heard badly used for 'unwell, 'sick' in Hull.

BAIN a child, local version of 'bairn'.

BAWK (BALK?) to bawk is to retch, to feel sick. "It makes me bawk" = "it makes me feel sick". The Scots have a word of the same or similar meaning, bock.

BOGIE a kids' basic transport; board or planks set on four pram wheels, the front pair pivoted for steering. Operated by pushing. The vehicle has the same name in some parts of the country, but others have different names, e.g., guider.

BOOLER, a hoop, usually a bicycle wheel or tyre. To bool is to roll (bowl?), dialect.

BRAY, to beat - "You won't half get brayed when you get home". A northern, possibly a Yorkshire, expression.

CHOW - to berate, to scold. Getting chowed at was preferable to a braying. From 'chew'?

CUSHY COO LADY I don't think is a Hull expression, but I heard it once or twice. It means 'lady bird', and looks like the dialect of the East Riding, where 'cow' was pronounce 'coo'. The kids I heard using it might have had country-dwelling relatives. The 'cow' identification of the lady bird is common to several languages and cultures. It seems that only we English associate it with birds.

FIREBALL (verb) how to define? To ingratiate oneself for mercenary purposes. Children showing (insincere) affection in hope of a reward would be accused of fireballing. I know nothing of the distribution of this term It may be widespread.

FOGGY first, see yags

FRAME to show progress. A child who learned a new skill was framing. "You frame like a pig with a muck fork" was a saying of my mother-in-law. Her parents were country people, so the word cannot be exclusive to Hull.

GOODIES sweets. Does anyone apart from Hull people say goodies for sweets?

GRID a bicycle, juvenile slang, I guess.

HONGKONGS horse chestnuts. The common name is conkers, but I don't think 'hongkongs' is exclusive to Hull and district.

HOWDEN FAIR "a house like Howden Fair" was in a mess, usually caused by kids left to their own devices for a while. In fact Howden Fair's reputation was one of drunkenness and licentious behaviour, but our parents wouldn't have known that.

KINGCOUGH (KINCOUGH, KINCOFF?)tricky one this. if you were sitting on a doorstep or the pavement edge ('flag edge') older people would say "You'll get kingcough sitting there." I assumed it was another way of saying a bad cough. Now I think it might have meant haemorrhoids, though I've yet to find confirmation.

KINGS used to call a break in a game, say if someone's out of breath in a chasing game. "Kings a minute!" Sometimes with a show of crossed fingers. Elsewhere the word "fainites" is used. No doubt there are other expressions.

LAG urination, juvenile slang, I suppose. "I'm off for a lag". Once at school we were reading a poem containing the line "a lame duck lagging on the way". The teacher couldn't understand what the class was sniggering about.

MAUNGY mean, miserly, miserable. Someone who wouldn't let you borrow his comic, take a ride on his bike, was a maungy dog. My wife has used the word to complain about the weather, "another maungy day".

NAB an apple core. "Save us your nab", a kid would say to a mate eating an apple.

RECKON pretend. "He's oney reckoning." we'd say of some lad who might or might not have been hurt in a fight and was writhing on the ground. "Reckon you're gonna stab me with a knife", was the introduction to a demonstration of unarmed self-defence.

ROAR pronounced 'rooer', to cry. "Give over rooring" a mother might say to a crying child, "or I'll give you summat to roor about".

ROMANCE telling a tall story. A mother's reply to a child fabricating an excuse for some misdeed or mishap; "You're only romancing. Now tell the truth."

SLOP a police officer. Juvenile slang, or perhaps back slang - polis, silop. (addendum: slop, 'policeman', is in Eric Partridge's, Dictionary of Historical Slang. He says it's back slang).

SAINT VITUS' DANCE "Stop fidgeting, Have you got St Vitus Dance?" I still don't know who St Vitus was.

SMILER the drink commonly known as a shandy. Half Hull Brewery mild, half lemonade; my reward for going to the "beer-off" (off licence) on a Saturday evening. I was eight or nine, but they'd sell me beer and cigs. Other times, other customs, as they say.

SPELL a splinter. this was our word. Different words are used in different areas. 'Spell' is not exclusive to Hull.

SPRAG to inform. "I'm spragging on you". Juvenile slang in this sense, but also used by adults in another sense. To be spragged is to be barred from a pub or club. "I can't go there. I'm spragged."

TARTING courting, used, mainly, to annoy some lad who hung around one girl too much.

TOD a turd. Just local pronunciation, also 'bod' for bird, 'shot' for shirt, etc. This pronunciation seems to have died out, except in the case of 'tod'.

TWAG truancy from school. "Playing twag" was what we said, but my sons said "twagging off". Twag had become a verb. We called the council's truant officer "twag man". It seems from a Victorian newspaper article I read that the original phrase was "playing the wag", which is strange, because we don't use that dialect form of the definite article. Either "t'wag" was introduced into Hull from the West Riding and assumed to be one word, or Hull people DID once use that form. If the latter is true, only this one example of its use survives?

YAGS "I claim", Yags foggy = "me first"; yags seggy = "me next"; yags laggy = "I want to be last", the choice of the less enthusiastic. "Half-yags", was used to claim, seldom successfully, a share in something found or stolen. Your mate picked up a sixpenny piece in the street. "Half-yags!", you'd cry, hoping to be given threepence.

YON a word of limited use. Yon end (the other end), yon side (the other side). Never used, to my knowledge, in any other context. "You grab yon side, I'll get this side, and we'll shift it." "She lives at yon end of our street."

YOUKNOW Whatsisname; used to address someone you DON'T know. "Oy youknow, wanna play on our team?" "I saw that lass, youknow, yesterday. She's right mad at you."

5 & 20 25 in time-telling. Five and twenty to one; five and twenty fast three. Otherwise 25 is 25, as it is everywhere. Digital timepieces will have killed off that little eccentricity.